.......and Reflections

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula: Day 2 of the Heartland Tour

Michigan the Territory, back in the day, wanted the port of Toledo in the worst way. Ohio, the State, also wanted the port on the Maumee River. Michigan and Ohio fought a mostly symbolic skirmish about the ownership, but Michigan lost the battle in Congress and the Ohio/Michigan bad-blood spilled over to, as far as I know, as of this writing, The irony of the mostly economic decision, was that Michigan lost Toledo but got the Upper Peninsula. Ohio got the commerce on the Maumee River but the mining of iron brought far more riches to Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula (U.P.) is way different than the rest of Michigan and self proclaimed as different from every where else too. With that said a whole lot of it is in the middle of nowhere....and their winters probably assure their independence from civilization and development.

Seriously, the U.P. is a northerly place that has extreme weather and serious legions of mosquitoes and black flies. In short, if it flies it bites. So this morning there was no wind and it was warm and any venture out of the truck was full-fledged combat. I used a "clip-on" repellent contraption and made a weird humming noise that I am now convinced was a chorus of mosquito laughter.

So morning birding was a challenge. I stopped at Hartwick Pines State Park early to check their nature center feeders and enjoyed seeing Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Purple Finches but no Evening Grosbeaks. This is the most reliable place to see the ever diminishing species from the Michigan landscape but today I left empty.

So I headed north across the Mackinac Bridge and into the fabled U.P.. I checked the sandy beaches and dunes of the north shore of Lake Michigan for shorebirds without success but I found a Caspian Tern and some probably non-breeding Common Mergansers. From the lake shore I headed for the Hiawatha National Forest, Trout Lake Area. This is Michigan's most reliable location for nesting Connecticut Warblers. These upland forests (the change in elevation from the bogs is only a few feet but well drained) are where the Connecticut's like to nest. I traveled about a mile and a half to appropriate habitat adjacent to bogs along Forest Road 3344 and heard a male Connecticut Warbler singing.  I tried to get the bird to show itself but to no avail. Not a failure, but rather a success, considering hearing the bird is diagnostic and about all one can expect.

After locating this bird I ran into two birders from Detroit looking for this species also. The bird I had heard singing quit so the guys from Detroit headed along the forest road. On my way back out the forest road, the same bird resumed singing, so I chased the fellows down and they returned to this location. They then got to at least hear this illusive warbler.

So I have talked about the serendipitous value of birding in previous blogs. Being out there looking for Connecticut Warblers sometimes pays big dividends. Along the same road I walked for a while  (fighting mosquitoes) and as I looked ahead, there standing in the road looking at me was an American Marten. This is a very secretive mammal that is rarely encountered in the wild. It is similar to Mink but larger with a bushier tale and a head shaped like a fox. This is only my third encounter, the other two in the western mountains. It was brief....but beautiful!

Most of the rest of the day was travel but the wind picked up and the sun shined and the mosquitoes found something to do besides harassing birders. So the high point of the afternoon was a 7 mile auto tour of the 7,000 acre Seney National Wildlife Refuge. This is a great refuge that produces lots of Trumpeter Swans and Common Loons as well as much, much more. On this day the refuge birding was slow. I saw 2 Ring-necked Ducks, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Pine Warblers, Trumpeter Swans, and other regular inhabitants.

Along the south shore of Lake Superior near Marquette I found a couple of soaring Broad-winged Hawks and a Red-tailed Hawk. As I checked beach access areas unsuccessfully for new birds I did find a Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. As much as I love birds I still love a good mammal sighting.

And as much as I have portrayed the U.P. as difficult, it remains in my heart a very special place in the middle of nowhere and tomorrow may bring some greater evidence why, as I explore the Peshekee and Spur River regions of Michigan's U.P..

1 comment:

Marie Terrell said...

Have you seen video 'Dial a Prayer"? In the movie the couple talk about moving to 'Somewhere', but nothing is said where that is.
So i googled it and found your site.
I am a virtual traveler so when i view videos i also check out the background landscape. After viewing bits of Michigan i can likely guess people don't live there for the landscape.
Thinking a bit more and reading your blog i realize that people of Michigan must have to dig deep within themselves to find beauty, purpose and joy of life.
What a challenge. Kudos