A Fascinating MNA Odyssey Tour Through Parsons Memorial

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Group of hikers

The group, including young members Gaby and Gwen, hike through Parsons Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Tina Patterson

Wow, mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere!  What fun to see all the different colors and kinds of mushrooms that can be found at the Alta Warren Parsons Memorial Sanctuary.  After 15 sanctuaries we finally had a proliferation of fungus, and what fun to share the day with our youngest participants so far: the Sherwood girls of Farwell, Michigan. Gaby and Gwen showed great interest in all they were seeing and learned to follow a trail by looking for the blue diamonds. We were lucky to have the participation of so many knowledgeable hikers, helping the girls learn about what we saw along the trail. This was the first sanctuary that we visited where the hike was led by a family member, Buzz Parsons, whose parents, Mahlon and Alta Parsons, determined that these 80 acres should remain free from development. It was a special treat to be escorted by Buzz, whose sense of humor and knowledge was an invaluable asset. Continue reading

A Fascinating Dragonfly Hike at Black Creek

By Nancy Leonard

Bob Marr Leads the Group

Group members of all ages gather around Bob Marr as he teaches about dragonflies. Photo by Nancy Leonard

Bob Marr was joined at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary by 21 eager participants of all ages on the sunny first day of September.  Bob has been interested in dragonflies for several years and has submitted information to the Michigan Odonata Survey. He has completed species lists for Black Creek Nature Sanctuary and for the Robert T. Brown Nature Sanctuary in Houghton County.

We gathered in the parking area at the Black Creek trailhead and within minutes, Bob had captured a couple of Saffron-winged Meadowhawk dragonflies. He pointed out the yellow coloration on the leading edge of their wings as one of their primary identifying characteristics. How amazing to see the female deposit her eggs on his finger, the rich yellow eggs tiny but still large enough for us to observe!

The group didn’t have to go far on the trail to find a perfect spot for netting and observing.  The vernal ponds have dried for the most part, but small pools remain behind with vegetation providing egg-laying surfaces for dragonflies and damselflies.

Bob Examines a Dragonfly

Bob examines a dragonfly. Photo by Nancy Leonard

Participants that had nets practiced their technique with Bob’s instruction. The Meadowhawks were present in great numbers, many of them identified as the White-face Meadowhawk.  Several species of darners were noted, including the Canada Darner and the Shadow Darner.  Species of damselflies were also observed, including the Spotted Spreadwing Damselfly. Other creatures sharing the place with us were discovered and included a number of Northern Leopard Frogs, plus a juvenile Solitary Sandpiper, busily feeding on a mudflat.

Some in the group lingered with Bob to discover even more species while others continued hiking the trail toward the spectacular creek-fed lagoon overlooking pristine Lake Superior shoreline. Everyone agreed that Black Creek Nature Sanctuary had to be the perfect place to enjoy such a beautiful day in the Keweenaw.

If you’d like to take part in an educational field trip, visit the MNA Events Calendar for a list of upcoming trips near you.

MNA Odyssey: A Church’s Mission and A Looking Glass Sanctuary

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Photos at A Looking Glass

Members of the tour group pause to take photos of some of the beautiful prairie plants at the sanctuary. Photo by Johanna Swanson

The skies cleared after a rainy night as we gathered on August 27. This was a very special Monday for both the Odyssey Tour and members of the Church of The Fellowship For Today as we came together at A Looking Glass Sanctuary. With much to be proud of, the members of this small church fellowship had decided that preserving the 13.63 acres along the pristine A Looking Glass River was of more importance to their mission than building a structure to be used “two hours a week”. What a joy to meet the people who made the decision to make a commitment to the greater community, as well as the future, by protecting something so very special. Under the leadership of minister emeritus Beth Monteith, funds were raised to purchase what was to become A Looking Glass Sanctuary and in 2006, it was entrusted to MNA for protection and stewardship. Still very involved in the care of the sanctuary, the members of the Church of the Fellowship For Today have much to celebrate. Special recognition must be given to our oldest participant up to this point on the Odyssey, Leon Harris. Mr. Harris, who will soon turn 95, walked part of the trail with us, and it was an honor to meet this gentleman who was instrumental in finding the property that we all can enjoy in perpetuity. We hope there are many more hikes in his future!  Continue reading

The Odyssey Explores Lefglen’s Prairie Fen

By Tina Patterson and Dave Wendling

Goldenrod at Lefglen

Goldenrod throughout the sanctuary. Photo by Dave Wendling

A hot and sunny Sunday, August 26 found 18 avid hikers congregating at the Wolf Lake Community Park in Jackson County before heading out to Lefglen Nature Sanctuary.  Many of the hikers were people who cared deeply for this sanctuary; some were neighbors like Sue Miller, who donated an easement to MNA on the north part of the sanctuary. One of the hikers, Val Vance, grew up here and used the sanctuary as her playground as a child.  Stewards Julia Van Aken, Craig Robson, and Heidi Doman, who have worked to make both the north and south trails welcoming, determined the longer south trail, which included a fen, would be of more interest as more would be seen after the hot dry summer we have experienced.

As we ducked and weaved to avoid the poison sumac, we were awed by the beauty of the prairie fen. This time of year is a great time to visit a prairie fen since many of the wildflowers are in bloom.  Shrubby cinquefoil with its beautiful yellow flowers loves calcified sites like this. Two special species of goldenrod thrive here – the Riddles goldenrod and the flat-topped Ohio goldenrod, and to our delight, both were in full bloom. Craig pointed out the dainty flowers of the Kalm’s lobelia. Special treats were finding grass-of-Parnassus and a lone fringed gentian.

Hikers at Lefglen

Hikers along the trail at Lefglen. Photo by Tina Patterson

After the fen some hikers decided they had had enough for the day and headed back for cold drinks and cookies while the rest of us then explored the upland oak hickory forest with its pockets of wet marshes.  The jewel-weed was spectacular along the edges of many of the wet areas. Craig, whose passion is birds, stated that the threatened Cerulean warbler is found here, along with many other birds like the scarlet tanager, pileated woodpecker, and many migrating warblers. Someone spotted a black and white warbler. Val showed us an artesian well that was drilled by her father, Fred Hurford, years ago that is still flowing into one of the marshes on the sanctuary.  We were thrilled to find the interrupted fern growing among cinnamon ferns in one of the marshes.

Our two mile hike allowed us to only see a small part of the 208-acre Lefglen Nature Sanctuary. Hikers were on the lookout for some of the 690 native plant species that thrive here as well as 50 species of birds, eight species of salamanders, ten species of mammals, and seven kinds of reptiles that make the sanctuary their home. One can only imagine how happy Lefty and Glenna Levengood would be to hear people share their personal stories about the Lefglen Nature Sanctuary and that will be cared for and protected for a long time.

We hope you’ll be able to join us on the remaining four Odyssey Tours in the Upper Peninsula  September 23-30! Details are on the MNA website.

Petition Aims to Protect Amphibians and Reptiles

By Chelsea Richardson

A baby spotted turtle at an MNA sanctuary

A baby spotted turtle at one of MNA’s nature sanctuaries. Photo: Amanda Orban

Sometimes we are so worried about larger animals, we forget about the little guys. Fifty-three of our nation’s reptiles and amphibians are in danger of becoming extinct because of threats to their environment including toxins, global warming, nonnative predators, overcollection, habitat destruction and disease.

On July 11, The Center for Biological Diversity made a huge move to protect amphibians and reptiles in the United States. The petition asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to protect six turtles, seven snakes, two toads, four frogs, 10 lizards and 24 salamanders.

Scientists estimate that about 25 percent of the nation’s amphibians and reptiles are at risk of extinction, yet only 58 of the approximately 1,400 U.S. species protected under the Endangered Species Act are amphibians and reptiles. The animals included in the July 11 petition will reap lifesaving benefits from the Act, which has a 99 percent success rate at staving off extinction for species under its care.

In Michigan there are three turtles included in the petition; the spotted turtle, the wood turtle and the Blanding’s turtle. The spotted turtle’s loss of habitat is the main cause for the endangered listing for this species. This species is also very sensitive to pollution and toxins and disappears rapidly with the loss of water quality.  Public education is necessary to inform people that populations are declining and efforts should be made to protect this turtle. Habitat and water quality should be monitored in ponds and other water bodies where known populations of spotted turtles live. The spotted turtle is small and has gray to black skin color. Its upper shell is smooth and has up to 100 yellow spots. Continue reading