Save the Birds!

I write this on the eve of the Little Traverse Conservancy’s annual Save the Trees fundraiser. I promised a blog post on birds, and this is the time to do it because birds depend critically on trees –  and forests – and on grasslands, wetlands, shrub lands, and all the other wild vegetation associations we can help groups like Little Traverse Conservancy set aside. Simply put, birds cannot survive living only in our neighborhood trees and eating from our feeders. They are wild. That’s what makes them such fun to watch.   We don’t schedule their appearance each Spring and send Continue reading

UP Across!

When the birds are migrating north for the summer, it’s hard to drive past the Mackinaw Straights Raptor Watch once you know it’s there. But my new-found fascination with birds – and with photographing them – is a subject for another post. My only point here is that the fun of watching birds migrate is partly to blame for being so slow to visits preserves in the Upper Peninsula. In early May, I finally managed to drive past Raptor Watch and across the Mackinaw Bridge  – because I knew there was another counting station for migrating birds at Whitefish Point, and that’s very close to the Vermillion preserve. Continue reading

April, Part 2: The Tunnel of Trees

April is a great time to see places that require driving slowly and parking carefully along otherwise busy roads, like the Tunnel of Trees, as M-119 is called between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. Not that people don’t drive slowly along that road during the summer, but being tailgated and cursed ruins the zen mood of a day spent in the woods. This stretch of road is so narrow that the tree canopy meets over the road.  It has no shoulder; nonetheless, cyclists love it. Tourists drive it slow, and locals, fast. It winds around close to the edge of some steep bluffs. For Continue reading

April, Part 1: Petoskey Countryside

Even by northern Michigan standards, we had  a crazy start to Spring this year. April Fools’ Day lasted until the 13th of the month; that was when it finally stopped snowing. The temperature bounced back and forth across the freezing mark. The ski areas were closed, the trails had no base for cross-country skiing, and there wasn’t enough snow for snowshoeing unless you were willing to trip an awful lot. Locals leave town because they know business in April is slow at best, and Spring is often cold and frustrating. Rather than get frustrated with the slow pace of Spring, Continue reading

Just for Fun

I have been visiting the LTC preserves with my dad and my brother-in-law. They are the only ones who think it’s fun to walk around in swamps in the winter time. Now that it’s Spring – sometimes – I have other willing companions. My sister Perry and her boys Alex (8) and Raymond (6) have come with me twice, and my husband Gary has come along a couple times, too. We’re not nearly as serious about walking the boundaries, but everything else is pretty much the same. We look at interesting trees and plants, look for signs of wildlife, try to Continue reading

An Update with Pictures

It’s time for an update on our travels.  When I stop to count, I realize we’ve made 21 visits! Only 180 or so to go. Choosing one photo from each visit was a challenge, and not always because there were so many great choices. Photography with an actual camera has been – and continues to be – a learning process.  Our choices of where to visit in winter were constrained by the realities of parking. We did not try to visit preserves on a busy road where there was no lot, or where the lot was not plowed. The map shown here – Continue reading

The Nature of the Neighborhood

I am just a few weeks into preserve visits and have begun to understand all that I don’t understand about the property the Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC) owns. I have pored over the maps and brochures and online guides, and I’ve read the conservancy’s mission statement: The mission of the Little Traverse Conservancy is to protect the natural diversity and beauty of northern Michigan by preserving significant land and scenic areas, and fostering appreciation and understanding of the environment. Fine so far, but here’s where my questions arise. The “what we do” page continues: More than 200 nature preserves open Continue reading

Pin Cherry Preserves

To prepare for this grand picnic tour of the preserves, I went to Little Traverse Conservancy’s (LTC) executive director Tom Bailey with a list of questions. First and foremost: how do you choose which lands to acquire and preserve? He suspected my reason for asking; he, too, has seen the academic models used to suggest priorities for land acquisition given a set of starting conditions and constraints. Many land trusts use such models to develop strategies to buy the highest-priority ecologically significant lands. “LTC does not take an academic modeling approach,” Tom said, “because ecologically it’s all connected. Besides, none of that Continue reading

Where the Rubber Meets the Snow: Preserve Visits, January 6, 2016

Winter took its time settling in this year, and hadn’t yet arrived when we started our picnic tour in early January. We used to joke that research is “where the rubber meets the sky.” I was excited about the tour, about being out in the real world, where the rubber meets the road. There was just enough week-old snow on warm ground to cover the forest floor. Dad was busy with work, so it was just John and me. We chose these three preserves for our first visit based on location, between my home in Harbor Springs and my brother-in-law John’s Continue reading

The Grand Picnic Tour

In January of 2016, my research commitment dropped from 30 hours a week to 10 hours a week. That change was not one I had planned for, just a change in research project plans – the kind that happens when you finally sit down and look through all the budgets and the rate at which funds are being spent. Suffice to say, it should have been a planned change. Because it wasn’t planned, I faced an immediate need to find something to do. My first thought was, sit less. I hate being inside, especially inside sitting down, especially when the Continue reading