Lakeville Swamp Sanctuary: A Sacred Place of Cedars

From the Wilder Side of Oakland County on the Oakland County Blog

By Jonathan Schechter – he is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.

img_6460

“I enter the swamp as a sacred place”— Henry David Thoreau.

img_6488       img_6464

Cedar swamp habitat takes on a special beauty that is mysterious, captivating and full of wonder in winter. It’s also a vital place of survival for rare species of flora and fauna, functions as a water storage location, and often as an aquifer recharging site. The Lakeville Swamp Sanctuary, managed by the Michigan Nature Association, is one the highest quality wetland complexes found on the Wilder Side of Oakland County. One week has passed since I trekked into that swamp under a light drizzle laced with wet snow flakes. I emerged with mud caking my boots, ankles, knees and backside. I was a bit bruised and slightly scratched, rather wet and tired, yet exceedingly happy and eager to return on a day when the sun shines.

img_6563      img_6569

A northern white cedar swamp is a nature-lover’s dream, no matter the season. The scent of cedar on a moist wintery day is exquisite. However if you want to hike on a well-marked paved trail, or if you worry about hiking over extremely slippery planks and boardwalks, this swamp trail is not the place for you. Lakeville Swamp Sanctuary is also an excellent eastern massasauga rattlesnake habitat, but a few more months will slip by before these reclusive reptiles, our only venomous snake, will emerge from the moist crayfish burrows where they now hibernate. Poison sumac is present and remains volatile in winter.

img_6478 img_6505 img_6523

The trail is a narrow and primitive twisting footpath. Colorful and slippery exposed roots of cedar and birch trees grow across the trail – seemingly waiting to trip the unwary. Small diamond-shaped trail markers can be found along the route, but it’s easy to make a wrong turn. I did, but another hiker, the only other hiker I encountered, quickly ‘turned me around’ and my exploration continued. Off-trail hiking at this sanctuary is difficult to say the least, especially when entering thickets of white cedar, some standing, some bent low from storms, and others in their final resting places after succumbing to storms. Stepping around the blowdowns brings another challenge, mucky soil that struggles to suck hiking boots off feet. It also brings discoveries.

img_6500 img_6532 img_6525

I hiked slowly, stopping often to look and listen. The rewards were endless. Turkey tail fungus edged many of the fallen trees. Lichens clung to the trunks of standing trees along the banks of a tributary of Stony Creek. Owl pellets, most likely from the swamp loving barred owl, were under one tree, and another tree was the obvious roost for wild turkeys. How do I know that? A mat of turkey poo covered decaying leaves confirmed their night roost. Soft, green, moisture-holding sphagnum moss grew on sedge hummocks, and I suspect wood frogs and salamanders hibernated underneath the adjacent decaying trees.

img_6507

Exposed tree roots were a special attraction. The presence of the sphagnum moss facilities, the formation of adventitious roots and “branch layering.” When a cedar tree falls, the lateral branches often take over and grow upright as new trees. The result gives the impression of cedar trees locked in romantic trailside embraces, sometimes being joined by nearby yellow birch trees.

img_6538

It’s a site worthy of being protected, and it is. The Michigan Nature Association, established in 1952, is a nonprofit conservation organization working to protect Michigan’s rare, threatened and endangered species by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Lakeville Swamp Sanctuary is one of their sanctuaries, and is located on Rochester Road just south of Lakeville Road in Addison Township. The pamphlet at the small kiosk at the Rochester Road trailhead states, “MNA’s members, donors, and volunteers have built a remarkable network of more than 170 nature sanctuaries across the state – the largest network of natural areas established and maintained by a nonprofit conservation organization in Michigan.”

img_6560

The section I explored is on the west side of Rochester Road, and has a very small roadside parking area. A flatter, more open swampy area with no trails is on the east side of Rochester Road. In addition to the cedar swamp, a magical wild kingdom for those that appreciate its wonder, the 76 acre preserve, one of the most biologically diverse sanctuaries in Oakland County, also has prairie fen, southern wet meadow habitat, and a small area of oak barrens.

img_6458

The sanctuary is open to the public without fees or vehicle permits. The trailhead and informational kiosk is located on the west side of Rochester Road. No facilities are present.  Stewardship and maintenance at the site is supported in part by REI Outfitters. For information on all Michigan Nature Association Sanctuaries, including six in Oakland County visit michigannature.org.

For more about the Oakland County Blog, find the latest county news and events, visit their website and use #OaklandCounty on their FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn pages.

New aquatic invasive species found in Michigan

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

The European frog-bit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The European frog-bit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers have recently discovered a new invasive species in Michigan, the European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae). It is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow, slow-moving water on the edges of lakes, rivers, streams, swamps, marshes and ditches.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division is leading the effort to control the invasive species. Only recently, it was found in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Before statewide monitoring, it was only thought to exist in a few spots in the Lower Peninsula.

European frog-bit was accidentally introduced into Canadian waters between 1932 and 1939 and has traveled to lower parts of Canada and eastern states such as New York and Vermont. The plant is a free-floating, perennial plant that resembles lily pads and grows in extremely dense vegetative mats. The mat covers the water’s surface and shades out submerged plants that rely on the sun to thrive. It threatens native plants’ invertebrate and plant biodiversity as well as disrupting natural water flow and possibly harming fish and wildlife. It has the potential to threaten the $7 billion fishing industry of the Great Lakes in Michigan.

Under the new State of Michigan’s Rapid Response Plan for Aquatic Invasive Species, a response plan was formulated, which includes physical removal of 1,500 pounds of the invasive species and herbicide treatments. The plan also includes assessments of places that have been found to have the European frog-bit.

The European frog-bit has leaves about the size of a quarter and produces a small white flower, usually around June. It can be found in shallow waters within cattail and bulrush stands. If you suspect you have seen the European frog-bit, you can report sightings at www.misin.msu.edu or to Matt Ankney, coordinator of the Early Detection Rapid Response project at ankneym2@michigan.gov or (517) 641-4903.

A recovering falcon, an opposed waste site and a lunar national park: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Image

Peregrine falcons are establishing many active nests in urban Detroit.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Peregrine falcon found injured in Detroit, being nursed back to health (Detroit Free Press): A female Peregrine falcon was discovered walking outside Cadillac Place in Detroit last Sunday, injured and unable to fly. Troopers contained the bird in a cardboard box before handing it over to a Rochester-area rehabilitation facility known as Spirit Filled Wings. The peregrine falcon has been off the endangered species list for 14 years, with some of their most active nests in urban Detroit. Though rehabilitators are unsure as to whether it will ever be able to fly, the bird is expected to survive.

Petoskey paddler set to circumnavigate fourth Great Lake (Petoskey News): Petoskey native Stephen Brede will set out on his canoe to circumnavigate Lake Ontario this week. Since 2009, Brede has circled three of the Great Lakes, paddling by day and camping by night. As an experienced camper, he has mastered a system of pitching a tent over his canoe and utilizing solar panels to charge his cell phone. Brede has yet to venture around Lake Superior, and is still considering the idea of challenging the massive lake.

Macomb county commissioners oppose Ontario nuclear waste site on Lake Huron (The Voice): The Macomb County Board of Commissioners have unanimously voted against a proposed underground nuclear waste site on Lake Huron shores. The site was initially suggested by Ontario Power Generation, and was expected to take place near the Bruce Peninsula. In addition, the board’s resolution opposes all other underground repositories proposed in the Great Lakes Basin, Canada, the United States or any First Nation property. This specific resolution is the second that the board has passed opposing the dump, with the first resolution passed in 2008.

Michigan State gets $14.1 million grant to study dioxins (mlive): A Michigan State University research team has been awarded a $14.1 million grant to investigate human health responses to environmental contaminants known as dioxins. Dioxins have been a prevalent issue in Michigan, as Dow Chemical Co. leaked them through water and air emissions through the 1970s. The chemical has been known to cause health effects such as chloracne and various reproductive issues. The Superfund Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences awarded the University with the five-year grant, which the team will use to study donated human cells and tissue.

Wildlife officials remove arrow from Canada goose that drew attention in Michigan; bird is OK (The Washington Post): More than two months after it was first spotted, wildlife officials have successfully removed an arrow from an injured Canada goose in Bay City. At the time of its discovery, the Michigan DNR believed the injured goose was still healthy, and chose to leave the arrow. However, when DNR officials spotted the goose a second time while banding geese in the Bay City area, they took action. A biologist removed the arrow and bandaged the wound, releasing the bird back into the Saginaw River.

U.S. lawmakers want national park on moon (Mother Nature Network): House Representatives Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, have pitched the idea for the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historic Park, a national park on the surface of the moon. The park would protect artifacts left by Apollo missions from 1969 and 1972, which bill sponsors believe will be endangered with the expected growth of commercial space travel. Though the 1967 Outer Space Treaty restricts countries from claiming territory on the moon, the bill would only protect artifacts left by astronauts, not the land itself.