Love nature photography? Enter your photos to win!

By Megan Clute

Calling all nature enthusiasts! Do you love Michigan and all of its natural beauty? Do you love capturing this beauty on film? If so, the Michigan Nature Association has just the opportunity for you! This summer, MNA will be holding its second annual Sanctuary Photo Contest.

Memorial Falls by Neil Weaver

2011 Grand Prize Winner: "Memorial Falls" by Neil Weaver

Winners will be featured in an upcoming magazine and on the MNA website. Photos may also be used in future MNA calendars. Other prizes may include weekend trips, gift certificates, and/or tickets to productions.

One change to the contest this year is that the MNA will no longer be charging participants per entry. This year, the contest will be free with unlimited entries. All participants are welcome, including both MNA members and nonmembers.

Those interested in participating should submit photos taken within one of MNA’s more than 170 nature sanctuaries under the following categories: flora and/or fauna, landscapes, and people in nature. Photos must be in jpg, tif or gif file format upon submission, and they must be received by the MNA by August 1, 2012. They can be mailed on a CD to the MNA office or emailed to michigannature@michigannature.org.

Spicebush Swallotwail by Marilyn Keigley

2011 First Place Winner (Fauna): "Spicebush Swallowtail" by Marilyn Keigley

To enter, please fill out the entry form and follow the instructions listed above. We look forward to seeing your favorite natural photos and all of the things that Michigan has to offer!

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A Leisurely Hike Through Wilcox-Warnes

By Tina Patterson

4/ 18 Wednesday: What a perfect day for hiking: clear blue skies and rising temperatures at the only MNA sanctuary in Macomb County, the birthplace of MNA.  Welcoming us with a big smile to the 45-acre sanctuary was 10-year steward Martha Wolfe. With a brand new parking lot and new signage, Wilcox-Warnes has a fascinating history. Originally part of a land grant signed by Andrew Jackson in 1833 and remaining in the same family until it was transferred to MNA in 1975, this is a very special place to spend a morning or afternoon.  Today’s hike should have been called the “getting to know you” hike as everyone was in a chatty mood and quickly buddied up and made new friends.  Robert Golda, founder of “Hiking Michigan” (a group new to most of us), joined us for the hike and was a most welcome addition. Bob had helped promote the Wilcox-Warnes hike, he knew the sanctuary well, and a number of his members met up with us and learned about MNA. We hope to see them at more of our events. Paul Messing, who is 4 for 4 on our hikes, delighted the group with a Lego creation of the sanctuary – we think he should win a prize for that contribution alone.

Lego Wilcox-Warnes

Paul Messing's very creative LEGO model of Wilcox-Warns. Photo: Dave Wendling

No one seemed in a hurry as we strolled leisurely along the well-kept trails, sharing information and pointing out the many delights that we found.  Martha explained that the southern two-thirds of the sanctuary were never grazed and only saw selective logging, whereas the northern portion was last farmed in 1957 and now serves as an example of a young succession forest.  As we walked the trails, we noticed the transition from the young forest, with trees small in diameter and thick undergrowth, to a more open, mature forest to the south with many larger trees – some of which may be more than 100 years old – including many tulip trees, beautiful beech trees, and large cherry trees.  The largest tree that we saw was a massive red oak.  We also noted many large trees that had blown down and were in various stages of decay, creating many microhabitats essential to a healthy forest. In addition, this mature floodplain forest supports a large number of shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, birds, and amphibians.  We saw many ferns just starting to unroll from their fiddleheads, white trilliums, wild geranium, buttercups, violets, and dwarf ginseng, among others.

Dowagiac Woods

Dowagiac Woods is known for its fantastic display of wildflowers. Photo: MNA Archives

This sanctuary survives in spite of being just 26 miles from downtown Detroit and it would surely have become a subdivision or strip mall were it not for the generosity of Anna Wilcox and Harold Warnes, who gave this priceless sanctuary to MNA for continued protection.

This completes the first segment of the Odyssey, and interest is growing by leaps and bounds. After a brief rest, we will start our second segment in southwest Michigan beginning with the fantastic wildflowers and ferns at Dowagiac Woods on April 29, followed by a BBQ after the hike on Sunday. We hope to see some of our old friends and many new friends, so please RSVP. On Monday we will visit the Hamilton Coastal Plain Marsh with steward Charlie Goodrich, and Tuesday we will be at the Wade Memorial.

For more photos from the Wilcox-Warnes Odyssey visit, check out the MNA Flickr and be sure to read the fantastic write-up in the Shelby-Utica News.

Sweet Water Kayak Tour of the Les Cheneaux Islands

By Mitch Lex

MNA members and supporters are encouraged to join Woods and Water Ecotours on a guided paddling excursion through the scenic waters and shorelines of the Les Cheneaux Island archipelago on Saturday, July 14th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kayak Tours

Participants stop to smile during a kayak tour

Participants will paddle the protected waters of this 36 island archipelago near Cedarville, exploring inner bays, beautiful boreal forests, wildflowers and freshwater marshes. The area has long been a popular summer escape for paddlers, with sailboats and summer cottages around the islands.

A professional guide will discuss wildlife and varying habitats, as well as the history of the area, which includes the “grandfather of conservation” Aldo Leopold’s childhood cottage. The cost of the event is $75 for members and $95 for nonmembers. All gear, equipment and lunch are included, and no experience is necessary!

For reservations or more information, contact Woods & Water Ecotours at (906) 484-4157 or by email at info@woodswaterecotours.com. Hope to see you there!

April 17: The Odyssey Tour Visits Two Sanctuaries

By Tina Patterson

4/17 Tuesday morning: The day started with promise, clear and cool as we headed out to meet steward Larry Detter at the Rizor Memorial Sanctuary.  What a nice surprise to see he had made up very professional signs directing people to the sanctuary, and then we were treated to even more surprises as carloads of people kept arriving. Initially we thought that if 5 people joined us for a weekday hike it would be a success, so we were not prepared for the 30 energetic hikers who could not wait to hit the trails.  Larry, a retired school teacher turned out to be a very impressive guide who led us through the beautiful 20-acre sanctuary. A highlight of the tour was seeing a bridge that Larry and a group of friends had built over crystal clear Cornell Creek completing it just in time for our visit.  At one point the group split in two each going a different way up a pine ridge, crossing in the middle and coming back to our starting point.

Rizor Bridge

The new bridge at Rizor Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo: Tina Patterson

A creative and fun way to keep people engaged. Having John Smith, a birder and naturalist, along was an added bonus as he was also able to be an excellent resource.

With its interconnected and well-marked trails, bridges, streams, and multiple habitats, Rizor seemed like much more than 20 acres to us.  This sanctuary is jam packed with interesting plants and animals.  Larry told a story of seeing coyote cubs on the sanctuary and how special that moment was to him.  A screech owl is using the sanctuary as well as many other birds including wild turkey.  We heard a leopard frog calling from one of the wet areas.  The butterflies, especially red admirals’, were flying.  Patches of wildflowers were noted, and the first of the golden ragwort were in bloom.

But the trees and shrubs dominate this sanctuary’s various habitats.  In the southern floodplain forest you can find tamarack, swamp white oak, basswood, blue beech, ironwood, highbush cranberry, nannyberry, elderberry, hazelnut, ninebark, and red-osier dogwood.  In the upland areas are white and red oak, black cherry, big tooth aspen, shagbark hickory, sugar and red maple, serviceberry, flowering dogwood, witch hazel, and maple leaved viburnum.

As soon as our Rizor hike was complete Dave hopped into his car, and thanks to Mapquest, quickly reached the 245-acre Timberland Swamp. The largest MNA sanctuary in southeast Michigan, Timberland is truly a “must see”. There we met up with Walt Kummer, one of MNA’s most dedicated stewards, who has cared for Timberland for more than 27 years! While we had hoped to hike here on Sunday, due to the threatening weather that day we decided for the sake of safety to postpone our visit until today.

The group at Timberland Swamp

The group at Timberland Swamp Photo: Marianne Glosenger

For those who were lucky enough to change their schedules and join us, we found what an amazing experience a swamp hike is, and when it is highly suggested to wear waterproof boots we all learned there is a good reason. Walt certainly knows his swamp, and the group following him was delighted to experience this eco-system with a true expert. Some of the group decided (regrettably) that after almost two hours of hiking they had to head back to the parking lot, but others enthusiastically went on even further with Walt. We saw our first snake on the trail thanks to the sharp eyes of Maura Jung, and after looking the brown snake over we quickly released it back into the muck.  If anyone wants a picture of Tina kissing a snake please contact the office and they will share it with you.  We were sorry to have to say goodbye to the swamp and Dick and Marianne Glosenger who had to head back home and had been our unofficial photographers for our first three showcase sanctuaries.

Walt not only is a dedicated steward but is very knowledgeable about the sanctuary, the forest ecology of the swamp, and the island of beech maple forest that exists here.  He explained how farmers once tried to grow potatoes there but did not succeed because of many wet years.  One can still see their attempts to drain a portion of the swamp by the semi-straight streams that are now again part of the swamp ecosystem.  He explained that once 10% of the trees were ash, but they have all died by now at the hands of the emerald ash bore; and indeed, many of the fallen trees were ash.

White Trillium at Timberland Swamp

White Trillium at Timberland Swamp. Photo: Dave Wendling

He also explained how shallow-rooted trees in swamps were and can be blown down quite easily.  These trees give much back to the ecosystem, as they form vernal pools at the root bases, and as the logs decay they support life and nourish the soil.  This sanctuary was once covered in wildflowers, but they are in decline in large part due to excessive deer browse.  He explained that MNA is now starting a deer browse management program there in hopes of turning this decline around.  In spite of the deer, we saw many wildflowers, including acres of sedges and skunk cabbage dotted with the yellow of marsh marigolds, white trillium, dutchman’s breeches, trout lily, may apple, spring beauties, and violets.

For additional photos from the Rizor Odyssey tour, head over to Parshalville.com and visit MNA’s Flickr page!

There are still many opportunities to join us on the Odyssey Tour! Visit the MNA website for a complete list of upcoming dates. We hope to see you there!