Archive for the 'Nature Sightings' Category


Sightings Board – June 2006


Originally uploaded by Camp Naturalist.

Here’s the sightings board for June 2006. The most interesting thing for me was seeing a mudpuppy(aquatic salamander) for the first time.
Here are two daddy longlegs checking each other out at the top right corner of the chalkboard.



Flu Bird Walk at 8pm – March 8, 2006

Walking Flu:

I think I am getting the flu.  My head and body ache, runny nose, but no fever….yet.  My guess is that I was likely given this via my younger daughter via her friend’s…all the way back to asia where chickens, pigs and humans live in close proximity to each other cause cross contaimination(at least this is what I think happens)?  These viruses are very “inventive” and adaptive…..Enough flu musing I've been ponder the flu long enough while I have been holding up inside all day long.   Now at 8pm,  I am ready to make a short walk to the mailbox which is about 8 minutes away and get some fresh air besides.  When I get to the door, I realize it’s raining, which on one hand is not what I want being as sick as I am, yet reading the “Swampwalker’s Journal”, I am inspired to make a similar jaunt to see if I might be able to find some salamanders in an early spring vernal pond.  Since there’s a vernal pond two feet off the trail to the mailbox at main camp I figure it’s killing to birds.

Imposter Wet Leaves and Rattlesnakes:

I can’t see anything it’s too dark at 8pm with cloud cover, even with the waxing gibbous moon. I make it to the pond but it really is hard to see.  My flashlight makes the wet shimmering leaves look to be the shinny skin of a amphibian, but no such luck I only find leaves.  I only stay for about 45 seconds, because I know am coming back this same way so I’ll have another chance.  This vernal pond is just off of massasauga trail, so named because here is a “common” sighting area for the only venomous snake in Michigan, the massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus).  Last year I saw two massasaugas in this area within 15 feet of this vernal pond.  It’s not quite time for these snakes to make there appearance, but it won’t be long(usually by April).  Rattlesnakes are pit vipers which means they have heat sensing organs or “pits” on the front of their heads which helps them to “see” prey by the preys body heat.  That’s pretty cool!  Massasaugas are a species of special concern here in Michigan.  They are not to be collected, handled or harmed.  See Michigan Natural Features Inventory’s great website for more info on this and other species of concern here in Michigan. 

Birds Birds Birds

I get my mail and return to the trail and I look north into the darkness because I hear some restless Canadian geese about 300 yards away on the open water of our Fen.  There’s fog in the air and the orange diffused glow of the security lights from the parking lot cut out gorgeous jet black trees like a stencil.  I am soaking this image in when I look back northward towards the sky and I see a large blur coming my way about 40 feet in the air.  When the bird is almost directly over head I am given another clue about what bird this is other than its large size.  I hear the winged creature making a constant sound that to my ears remind me of someone “clearing their throat” in rhythm with the wing beats.  So I figure this creature must be one of the permanent residents of mute swans.  The bird seems to be making this noise like a professional tennis player who grunts when they are hitting the ball.  I guess the swan is doing this out of the demands that flight requires, or maybe this noise also serves the purpose of communication with other swans?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a swan make a quiet flight?  I wonder if they are even able to fly silently.

I continue on because I am weary, but it is no more than six or seven steps, when I again stop and look north toward the fen because I hear the racket of another large bird, the sandhill crane.  They have been around all winter this year maybe as a result of the very mild weather.  We have had open water pretty much all season and very little snow cover which would make it easier for these birds to find their water and food.  I believe that most sandhill cranes head south for the winter.  Someone has told me they have seen them in Florida in the winter.  Are there studies out there about the migrating patterns of birds as they relate to changes in the winter intensity?  How might this change with global warming?  Maybe it already is?

As I continue back on massasauga trail, I give my own call, a flu inspired cough, which communicates my presence to the birds.  It seems appropriate that I should encounter birds on my “flu” walk, since there’s all this current interest in bird flu.  I wonder what the future holds for bird and human populations if this bird flu does come to a great fruition?  Are we too panicked by this possibility or not enough?  I don’t know?  But it does highlight for me once again that we’re all a connected part of this creation. The health of birds and humans are intertwined. 

You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get

I am at the vernal pond again and I check it out one more time.  I see something that might be a salamander head, but I get down and look closer and it’s a leaf.  So I move on. 

A walk in and around natural areas always reveal something.  John Burrough’s saying, “to find new things, take the path you took yesterday” resonates with me tonight.  I take this trail most every day, sometimes many times a day, and yet tonight’s journey was like none other I have ever had.  Experiences like this help me to realize that there's plenty to see if we just pay attention.  I’ll quote myself this time, “You can plan out what you’re looking for, but you can’t plan what you’re actually going to see”


Nature Sightings March 7, 2006

Didn’t get to see much here at Camp (Cass County, MI) because I was at CCCI (Christian camping) conference at Michindoh(in Michigan).  


Weather:Today, was a beautiful sunny day, but still pretty chilly here in southwest Michigan. 

Redtail Hawks: I did spot about 3 to 4 red tail hawks between here and Mishawaka, Indiana, while I was driving on US 80.  They really seem to love the interstates.

Road Kill: There also seem to be lots of road kill as of late. I’ve spotted many carcasses of raccoons, fox squirrels, opossums, and a couple skunk.  I wonder if anyone has done research on the amount of road kill during different times of the years?

Returning Animals: In recent weeks, I’ve spotted robin flocks, male groundhogs (I assume they are males because they come out of hibernation about 3 weeks before females or so I’ve read), red winged blackbirds in the wetland areas, and a single common grackle that have all made there presence known again here at camp.  Spring must be just around the corner. 

Frogs Will Be Calling Soon: The male Western Chorus, Spring Peeper, and Wood frogs should be heard here at camp soon.  Just last week I signed up with the National Wildlife Federation’s “Frog Watch” program to monitor frogs in our fen wetland.  It seems to be a pretty low key program that can be done at my own pace.  I hope to get some of the school students and summer campers to get involved with this program. 

I think the hardest part of “Frog Watch” will be to learn the sounds of the individual frogs.  Last year my wife gave me the concise field guide “Reptiles and Amphipians of Michigan” by Stan Tekiela, which has an accompanying CD of frog calls.  I’ve found that the differences in frog sound are really quite distinct. I’m pretty solid on about six calls, but still have some more work to do since there are 13 frogs that make their home here in Michigan.


Wetland Book:  Just picked up a wonderful nature book “Swampwalker’s Journal” by David M. Carroll.  I am just in the first few chapters about vernal ponds(these are wetlands that dry up at somepoint – usually annually), and I’m finding it a wonderful read. He writes about taking a flashlight and going out at night to these small secretive ponds in the early spring to look for salamanders making their way to these fishless ponds to mate.  He has inspired me to give this a try and see what wonderful things I can find. 


Hello world!

Camp is located in Cass County, Michigan.  It has a Red Oak preserve, Beech Maple forest, lake, bog type wetland called a Fen, and praire meadow.  What wonderful diverse habitat!

This blog is going to focus on my nature sightings and other nature information that pertains to the Michiana(Southwestern Michigan and Northern Indiana).