MNA Supports Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat With a $500 Grant

By Chelsea Richardson

Brenda's Butterfly Habitat

Photo courtesy of Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat

Brenda Dziedzic has been a nature lover all her life. After over 28 years working for AT&T, butterflies were all she could think about.

In 2001, Brenda wanted to see butterflies again like she did when she was little, so she created a butterfly garden. She also wrote a self-published book “Butterflies in the Garden.”

Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat in Westland, Mich. is a butterfly haven.  While other places, like zoos, have exotic butterflies, Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat is full of native Michigan species.

She spent over $20,000 of her own money to create her beautiful butterfly house that starting out had nine types of butterflies and one moth.

As of June 1, she had over 70 butterflies in the structure. Now anyone who visits can see the entire butterfly life cycle. While the majority of caterpillars roam throughout the house, Brenda has a number of showcases that have caterpillars with their host plant so you can see them up close.

This spring was the release of the first batch of butterflies from the house.

Brenda wants to educate people about butterflies and how important they are to the ecosystem. She also wants to encourage people to plant flowers that will attract butterflies so that the species will continue to thrive.

Brenda says that she will give away caterpillars when she has an excess of them to those who have the right host plants.

It takes a lot of work to raise butterflies, but Brenda has the passion for it. The Michigan Nature Association has noticed that passion. MNA has made a $500 grant to Brenda so that she can continue her hard work in the protection of Michigan butterflies and educating the public about them.

Brenda said, “What a cool thing to do in retirement, right?”

We would have to agree with you, Brenda. For more information on Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat, visit Brenda’s website and Facebook page and check out a recent Detroit Free Press article on Brenda’s work.

Lichen Hike at Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff

By Nancy Leonard

Karena Schmidt examines lichen

Karena Schmidt examines lichen at Grinnell Memorial. Photo by Nancy Leonard

On August 4, nine hikers joined Karena Schmidt for a day of hiking and learning at Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff.  This sanctuary is the home of a giant stone monolith known locally as Bare Bluff and rising almost 600 feet above Lake Superior. The hike followed the loop trail in a counter-clockwise direction allowing us to enjoy the rugged lichen-covered rhyolite bluff early on in the day.

At one point as we stood below the soaring cliff, we could observe an amazing colony of Umbilicaria lichen that covered many square feet of the pinkish-colored rock; some specimens were larger than a saucer. Other lichens included the reindeer lichens, (Cladina or Cladonia), lungwort (Lobaria Pulmonaria), and dog-toothed lichen (Peltigera species).

Bare Bluff, even though exposed to the harshest of Lake Superior weather, is home to a wonderful array of unusual plants.  The unique environment supports several Western disjunct plant species including small blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora) and the Oregon cliff fern (Woodsia oregana).  The fern-lovers in the group found many other specimens here to enjoy, including the holly fern (Polystichum lonchitis), the black spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) and the state-threatened male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas).

Spectacular view

The spectacular view from Bare Bluff. Photo by Nancy Leonard

By the time we had reached the top of the bluff, it was time to rest.  Picnic lunehes and an incredible view from our vantage point high above the lake were enjoyed equally.  It was nice to have the time to talk over what wonders we had seen, including dozens of lichens, unique plants, several newly-hatched spring peepers, and an aerial acrobatics display provided by peregrine falcons.

The return trip took us down on a gently-sloping trail through the park-like woods.  Along the access road, we were granted one last treat as we grazed greedily upon the ripe thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus) and wild raspberries.

If you’re interested in joining a field trip at Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff, keep an eye on the MNA Events Calendar.

The Odyssey Tours Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Bender Creek

A glimpse of Bender Creek running through the sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

Yes, on July 18 we woke up to thunder and rain, but no one was complaining. How wondrous in this July drought to find ourselves going on a hike after a welcome thundershower. The rain stopped 10 minutes before our hike, and everyone’s spirits were up and we were excited to visit the 53-acre Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary in Oceana County. With the smell of wet grass and pine needles under our feet, another special Odyssey day had begun. Our guide John Hendrixon, steward since 2008, was waiting for us, and once again, we were happy to welcome three first-time participants to the Odyssey, including MNA Life Members Robert and Clarice Williams, who came all the way down from Higgins Lake to join our hike!

John began by sharing the story of Genevieve Casey and how this sanctuary dedicated to her came to be under the protection of MNA. As we entered the sanctuary we passed through one of the pine groves that Genevieve Casey herself planted years ago. If you come here in June, pink lady’s slipper can be found among the pines. When we entered the barrens, John explained how this land was lumbered and once farmed until the thin top soil was blown away following a series of very dry years that left only barren sand.  He stated that this area looks a lot different now than when Genevieve Casey owned the property. Indeed, you can envision the succession that has occured as you stand on one of the few bare sandy areas left in the sanctuary. There are large areas where hair-cap moss and various lichen have stabilized the sand.  Here can be found rein-deer lichen, British soldier lichen, and the earth star mushroom. In other areas are large patches of club moss and bracken fern. The three club mosses that are found here are common club moss, blue ground cedar, and southern ground cedar. As the soil stabilized, the trees and shrubs started moving in and are now well on their way to reforesting the barrens.


A little rain didn’t slow this group down! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

John then took us through the new 2011 addition to the sanctuary, guiding us along the proposed new trail that he had flagged. This addition, which doubled the size of the sanctuary, contains a large area of floodplain forest which gave a sharp contrast to the dry barrens.  We were able to hike along sections of the meandering Bender Creek which flows through the sanctuary and eventually into Stony Lake, and then into Lake Michigan. MNA is proud to protect Bender Creek and its floodplain along with the sensitive freshwater species that live within the creek, including trout, sculpin, and stickleback.  The find of the day had to be discovering several orchids growing in the floodplain!

With two loop trails that are well-marked and a new trail under development, the Genevieve Casey Nature Sanctuary will long be remembered by the visitors who shared a morning in its quiet beauty. We also remember Genevieve Casey herself, who recently passed away, and the wonderful contribution she made to MNA and nature itself.

[Ed. note: This entry was updated on August 15, 2012 to correct two spelling errors. Our apologies for the mistakes.] 

July 17: The Odyssey Visits Newaygo Prairie With a Bonus Hike

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling


Tina with Chuck and our new intern friends at Newaygo Prairie! Photo by Marianne Glosenger

Could it be any hotter July 17th at the Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary? It did not seem all that strange that there were cacti growing in this nature sanctuary as the heat beat down. Gratefully we accepted umbrellas and cold cloths from volunteer photographer Marilyn Keigley and we wondered how the four volunteers who were pulling invasive were going to survive much longer. Three were college students (Rebecca Andrews, Cara Burwell, and Rowanna Humphreys) getting degrees related to conservation and doing internships. How appreciative we are to see young people dedicating themselves to the environment and helping MNA maintain Newaygo Prairie. Chuck Vannette, the steward at Newaygo, greeted us along with John Bagley, the new steward at Karner Blue, and both helped guide the stalwart Odyssey participants that turned out in the almost 100 degree heat. We were delighted to see Regional Stewardship Organizer Matt Schultz arrive to support the Odyssey, and it also meant all three RSOs have now joined us on the Odyssey. Thank you, Katherine, Adrienne, and Matt.

Chuck has been interested in prairies for a long time, and now he lives across the road from the MNA sanctuary. When he is mowing his lawn he has to break for Karner Blue butterflies in his yard! This delicate beauty can only be found in prairie savannas where lupine grows since its larva depend on lupine as a food source. The Karner Blue is a very small butterfly that flits about in an erratic manner and is hard to capture on film. Continue reading