June 5: The Odyssey Tours Mystery Valley

By Dave Wendling and Tina Patterson

The giant earthcrack at Mystery Valley

The giant earthcrack at Mystery Valley. Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Anticipating 13 people joining us at Mystery Valley, we were slightly giddy to see car after truck arrive at this very special Odyssey stop. As our eighth sanctuary on the tour and kicking off point for Segment #3, the unique geological characteristics of Mystery Valley had been highly anticipated; what a pleasant surprise to get to welcome 27 hikers!

One of our Odyssey goals had been to introduce MNA to more local folks, and this was a huge success at Mystery Valley as we frequently heard, “I have lived here for years and always wondered what this place was like.” We also heard stories of local lore/history about the baseball teams that played on the valley floor and native Americans who once lived on the property, tractors disappearing into sink holes, and even the legend of a man who traveled underground for miles through the caverns and streams and came out in Lake Huron. It is also a treat to meet up with hikers who have joined us on previous hikes; we are beginning to feel like family! We are always happy to see our intrepid photographers and thank them for past work; we are receiving such great pictures from Marianne and Marilyn (thanks ladies).

We also were proud to share this special day with Aubrey Golden, MNA Board Member and President of the Michigan Karst Conservancy (MKC) and also Dave Luckins, whose knowledge of Mystery Valley and sense of humor was a highlight of the hike. Bob Preston, a retired professor, joined us on our hike and is doing a survey of the unique flora and fauna of the karst. What an amazing wealth of information he so generously shared with the group!  We won’t ever forget a perfect day with all the folks who learned about Mystery Valley, and we also recognize the importance of conservancies working together for the shared goal of saving these Michigan treasures. Continue reading

Do Woodpeckers Get Brain Damage?

By Chelsea Richardson

Woodpeckers hit their heads at a speed of six or seven meters per second, which is about 20 times per second, about 12,000 times a day. This is the equivalent of striking a wall at 16 mph headfirst every time.

Woodpeckers do this in order to find bugs in the wood when foods like fruit and nuts can’t be found. They also make their nests in trees by creating a hole

Pileated Woodpecker

A pileated woodpecker. Photo by Rick Baetsen

about eight inches wide and two feet deep. There are several factors and anatomical features that all come together to create a shock absorbent system for a woodpecker’s head.

Woodpeckers’ brains are fairly small and packed tightly in their skull, which helps prevent excessive movement of the brain. Their skull is also built to absorb shock and minimize damage with a bone that surrounds the brain that is thick and spongy. This thick, spongy material, called trabecula, is made of microscopic beam-like bits of tissue that give the bone a tightly woven “mesh” for support and protection. Researchers found that this “mesh” is located in greater amounts on the woodpecker’s forehead and at the back of the skull where it could act as a shock absorber. Their long tongue called the hyoid bone originates from the back of the jaw, passes through the right nostril, divides into two parts between the eyes, then arch over the upper portion of the skull and around the back of the head by passing on either side of the neck, coming forward through the lower jaw, and uniting into one again below the forehead.  This bizarre looking bone, researchers think, acts like a safety harness for the skull and brain, absorbing shock and stress as they peck. Continue reading

Dave Discovers Karst at Mystery Valley

Dave discovers karst!

More details and photos from our Odyssey visit to Mystery Valley are coming soon. Stay tuned!

If you’re looking to get out and explore nature this weekend, MNA is hosting two field trips on Saturday. Join us at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Genesee County or Hiawatha Plant Preserve in Mackinac County!

June 1: An Enjoyable Evening at Redwyn’s Dunes

By Nancy Leonard

The group at Redwyn's Dunes

The group hikes through Redwyn’s Dunes. Photo by Nancy Leonard

On this calm and not-too-cool Friday evening, 18 people (including two children) gathered at the trailhead of Redwyn’s Dunes in the Keweenaw for a walk led by Dr. Amy Schrank, an aquatic ecologist from nearby Michigan Technological University. During the first part of the outing, the group did an introductory hike on the trail that leads up over the wooded dunes and past three ponds.  Blooming Pink Lady’s Slipper were admired along the way and Eastern Grey Tree Frogs were heard singing loudly.

The group then strolled along the sand and cobble beach collecting expired butterflies and trying to identify species.  We settled into a sun-warmed beach stone ridge as Amy talked about the ecology and biology of amphibians and answered the many questions that were asked. Continue reading