A Big Buck

It promised to be a pleasant mid-October day with little wind. Cool 45F morning air was the price of admission as we started our paddle on a local reservoir. Seeking the sun’s warmth we headed for the western shore as the canoe moved through the still water with a graceful confidence. The outing was prompted by a forecast for warming temperatures and light winds as the day progressed, and the realization that, given the time of year, one never knows how many nice day’s are left. Leaves still adorned trees with subtle hints of central Ohio’s fall color. In a month, should we be blessed with a equally warm day, branches would be bare the landscape brown and gray.

Exploring the shoreline of Griggs Reservoir.

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The west side of the long narrow reservoir is populated by numerous large homes set back (for the most part) a reasonable distance from the shore. A few small interspersed wooded areas provide a nice habitat for deer, beaver, mink and various species of birds. As we headed north, warblers, blue jays, and robins flitted about at waters edge in trees warmed by the morning sun, none cooperating for a photograph.

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However, we hadn’t gone far when a young male Wood Duck was spotted. It wasn’t sure which way to go as we approached and it’s ever changing direction caused it’s blue wing feathers to light up.

Immature male Wood Duck, (Donna).

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Other things were also seen during our paddle and as we briefly explored the north end of the reservoir on foot.

North end pull out.

We watched this Downy Woodpecker spent quite a bit of time working on one particular tree, (Donna).

A warm October afternoon and a smiling Map Turtle, (Donna).

This Great Blue Heron had something to say, (Donna).

North end landscape.

Fiery Skipper, one of the few butterflies seen, (Donna).

Field Sparrow, (Donna).

A beautiful White-crowned Sparrow, our first sighting of the season, (Donna).

A pile of turtles enjoy the autumn sun, (Donna).

Previous frosty nights had done little to curb this Monkey Flower’s enthusiasm.

One of the numerous Great Blue Herons that took flight during our paddle, (Donna).

A north end “paddlescape”

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We have seen our share of Whitetail Dear along the reservoir. In fact they are so common we hardly take notice. But at one point during our paddle what we saw stopped us in our tracks. At first, with only the tip of one antler visible, it wasn’t clear what it was, but as I slowed the canoe, and my wife got ready to shoot, it looked up.

The big buck, at least 14 points, White-tailed Deer, (Donna).

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We had never seen such a large buck and it made our day!

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Nineteen mile an hour winds will keep us off the reservoir today so perhaps I’ll actually get some things done around the house. Thanks for stopping by.

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Neighborhood Migrants

Warm days, now noticeably shorter, are giving way to colder nights with the landscape increasingly graced with the colors of autumn in Ohio.

Autumn reflection in central Ohio.

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During the past couple of weeks we’ve made a concerted effort to look for birds passing through Griggs Reservoir Park on their southern migration. We’ve avoiding the temptation to travel further afield thinking it would be fun just to see what is or isn’t passing through our “neighborhood”. There have been reports of birds that have eluded us, such as the Blackpoll and Yellow-throated Warbler, but all in all the effort has been rewarding.

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The Black-throated Green Warblers were very cooperative:

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Only one Cape May Warbler was seen:

Female Cape May Warbler

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A fair number of Northern Parula Warblers were spotted:

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This Yellow-throated Vireo is not sure he wants to eat a stink bug:

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We had only one sighting of a Black-throated Blue Warbler:

Good enough to ID the bird but that’s it.

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The fairly common Yellow-rumped Warblers are often seen eating poising ivy berries:

***, (Donna)

 

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A Nashville Warbler was also part of the mix:

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One Ruby-crowned Kinglet tries it’s best to hide while another jumps right out and poses. To date more kinglets have been heard than seen.

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Contrasting with last year, this has not been a good year for seeing Black-crowned Herons on the reservoir. However, on a resent paddle we were rewarded:

Juvenile, (Donna).

Adult, (Donna).

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While looking for warblers a group of very active Blue Birds was hard to ignore:

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A young male Wood Duck has been hanging around the park for the last couple of weeks. By it’s association with a group of mallards it appears to think it’s one:

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the other birds that have fascinated us while we looked for fall migrants.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk seemed curious about what we were up to.

Something has this Juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker’s attention, (Donna).

A Mallard Duck, bathed in autumn light, swims across the reservoir.

A pair of Northern Flickers, (Donna).

A Tufted Titmouse acts cute like titmouse do, (Donna).

A White-breasted Nuthatch goes about it’s day.

One of the many Cedar Waxwings seen in the park in recent weeks.

A female Downy Woodpecker poses for a picture.

A Great Blue Heron strikes a graceful pose along the Scioto River, (Donna).

This Blue Jay has quite a mouthful, (Donna).

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It’s a dark gray rainy morning as I finish writing this so it’s hard to imagine what nature will offer in the coming days and this is the time of year when things tend to wind down. However, if past experience is any indication, it will only take another walk in the woods to again experience the magic. Thanks for stopping by.

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Harbingers Of Spring

After our extended stay in Florida to escape the north’s cold cloudy winter weather I realize we’re not going to get much sympathy when we say that waiting for spring in Ohio can try one’s patience. Walking through the woods we remind ourselves to value each day for the gift that it is, but with autumns now bleached and faded leaves covering a seemingly lifeless forest floor it’s hard not to want for more.

Many of Ohio’s woods lack the conifers that bring color to the early spring woods further north, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The water was running clear but the landscape was no more colorful along the river, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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However, taking a closer look at last years leaf litter one just might find the tiny Harbinger of Spring one of the seasons first wildflowers.

Harbinger of Spring, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Another look.

Profile, (Donna).

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The Snow Trillium is an uncommon wildflower that occurs only in very select undisturbed locations.

A nice group of three.

A group of two, (Donna)

Head on.

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Perhaps one of the prettiest plants to pop up through leaf litter in early spring is Virginia Waterleaf.

Virginia Waterleaf, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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As is often the case while making one’s way back to the trailhead, happy with the wildflowers and the day’s hike, other unexpected and wonderful things are seen.

An Eastern Towhee hides in a thicket, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A number of Golden-crowned Kinglets showed themselves along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam, (Donna).

Walking along Griggs Reservoir we heard a faint tapping and just saw a tail protruding from a newly formed nesting cavity. The tapping stopped and this Downy Woodpecker turned and peered out at us.

We spotted this Blue-winged Teal in a pond adjacent to the parking lot as we were finishing a hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Present in smaller numbers all winter in areas where there is open water, the population of Great Blue Herons has increased as the days get longer and the weather warms.

A Great Blue Heron waits for something edible to appear.

We’ve never seen them over-winter so when Great Egrets appear along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam each spring in breeding plumage it’s a real treat.

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The Great Egrets are the grand finale to this post and our recent time outdoors and they left us with a true sense of  spring’s wonder and magic.

Stump in the early spring woods.

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For those who expectedly seek it along a stream or wooded trail, nature speaks in a language beyond words.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

Enchanted November Woods

A half an hour before, we were standing in a cold wind just below a dam that has created one of central Ohio’s larger reservoirs trying our best to spot, and perhaps photograph, the Black-legged Kittiwake that was reported in the area. A unique opportunity because it’s a gull not usually seen in these parts. We finally did get a very average binocular view of the bird, another one for my “life list”, but in the process managed to journey pretty far down the road to hypothermia. Now we were looking forward to a hike in the woods with the thought that it wouldn’t be windy and the modest exertion might be enough to warm us up.

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Char-Mar Ridge Park, is not far from the dam so it seemed like a good choice. The park is home to numerous species of large trees as well as a pond that usually contains waterfowl. A plus is that next to the pond is a nicely situated observation blind for undetected viewing. This time of the year finds most leaves, a significant portion of which are oak, on the forest floor as the bare branched sentinels, once their home, tower overhead. The lack of leaves on branches promotes a rather barren landscape but made it easy to spot a Pileated woodpecker just minutes into our walk. It insisted on maintaining its position between us and the sun foiling efforts to obtain a really good photo.

Pileated Woodpecker, all photos may be clicked on for a better view.

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Once in the park it was hard not to notice the uniform blanket of leaves. They accentuated the park’s large rocks and fallen trees giving the sense that one was walking through a sculptor garden.

Oak leaves on log.

Large glacial erratic.

Recent rains darkened fallen trees, further contrasting them with the leaves.

Fallen leaves and branches.

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While I was amusing myself with stumps and fallen trees my wife was doing her best to locate fascinating fungi.

A study of leaves, tree bark, and fungi.

Resinous Polypore, (Donna).

A type of spreading fungi, (Donna).

Lichen and jelly fungi, (Donna).

Common Split Gill just starting out, (Donna).

Colorful Turkeytail.

Perhaps young Cinnabar-red Polypore.

Another look, (Donna).

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It was just a short distance to the blind overlooking the pond and despite the fact that the resident Red Headed Woodpecker was not seen the time spent there did not disappoint. A neighborhood of usual suspects was more than happy to entertain us.

White Breasted Nuthatch, (Donna).

Another look.

Male Cardinal.

White-throated sparrow, (Donna).

Another look.

Tufted Titmouse, (Donna).

What are you looking at?

Downy Woodpecker

Take 2.

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There was also activity on the pond.

Male Hooded Merganser.

Male and female Gadwalls

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It is hard not to be enchanted when one finds color suspended in an otherwise drab gray landscape. Most leaves were down but those on the smaller beech trees hang on and even though their color is no match for the brilliant reds of a maple they did their best to supply color.

Color suspended among slender trees.

A closer look.

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Recent rains meant that some areas still contained “ponds” of standing water on and along the path creating a challenge for dry feet but also provided a unique “looking-glass” into the late autumn woods.

November reflection.

November reflection, black and white.

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November reflection 2.

November reflection 2, black and white .

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In the cold November woods there always is more going on than we know. We move too fast and miss much, wishing for warmer days.

Char-Mar Ridge Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Cold Weather Brings Nature Our Way

Every two or three years a period of unusually cold winter weather results in the land and water north as well as in central Ohio being covered with snow and ice for a prolonged period of time.  When this happens waterfowl and other birds that may not be able to make a living further north are forced to seek suitable habitats in our area. The result is the opportunity to see birds in locations where it would be extremely unlikely other times of the year. A gift to nature lovers courtesy of cold arctic weather.

Ice creeps out into the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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The negative to all of this is that windy 0 F to 15 F temperatures preclude the use of serious photographic equipment on long hikes. Briefly popping out of the car, if you are able to get close enough to your subject, is the only option. If one is set on doing a long hike, stuffing a smaller superzoom under your coat does work but fingers freeze almost immediately when you try to manipulate the camera.

Landscape transformed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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A habitat that attracts birds almost at our doorstep is the open flowing water of  the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam. In the past couple of weeks we’ve been fortunate to observe a variety of waterfowl at that location. Others birds, such as Trumpeter Swans, have been reported but we’ve yet to see them. Timing is everything as the birds move up and down the river corridor. More often than not there is a least one Bald eagle present as the number of ducks and geese make for easy pickings.

Ring-necked Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna).

A closer look.

 

Crowded conditions, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

A Red-headed Duck tries to ignore a rambunctious Goldeneye, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Male Hooded Merganser on patrol, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

This one found a crayfish. Did you know that 21 species of crayfish call Ohio home.

There were no shortage of Common Mergansers, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Male Common Merganser

A nice group of male Common Goldeneyes, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

A little closer.

Three Goldeneyes pose, (Donna).

Canvasback a little too far away for a decent pic, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

Mute Swan, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

 

Cackling Geese, shot is courtesy of our follow birding friend Ed, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

This buck seemed confused about the best place to relax. We thought it might be sick or injured but the next time we checked it was gone, Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

Red-headed Ducks, Scioto River below Griggs Dam, (Donna).

Amazingly, Great Blue Herons continue to make a living along the Scioto.

There is often at least one Bald Eagle observing the activity along the Scioto River below Griggs Dam.

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It’s also been a good year for Snowy Owls in Ohio with numerous birds being reported. The mechanism for that invasion, while perhaps partly due to the weather, also is the result of the past breeding season being a good one resulting in young owls looking for new hunting grounds further south as the increased population puts pressure on resources further north. Other birds such as Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs, to a greater or lesser degree, find their way into Ohio from further north during most winters.

Along farm fields not far from our home a roadside spill of corn attracted Horned Larks, a real treat to see. “The barer the ground, the more Horned Larks like it. Look for them in open country with very short or no vegetation, including bare agricultural fields. They breed in short grassland, short-stature sage shrubland, desert, and even alpine and arctic tundra.” Ref: Cornell Lab.

Take 2.

At the same location, at first looking like some type of sparrow, was a Lapland Longspur, another first for us! They are a common songbird of the Arctic tundra, and winter in open fields across much of the US and southern Canada.

Take 2, (Donna).

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Other creatures have also been braving the cold.

Not far from the concentration of waterfowl on Scioto River this Fox Squirrel was trying to warm up in the 10F sunshine, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Nearby an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was also spotted, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2, (Donna).

Our friend Ed told us about two Eastern screech owls located not far from Griggs Reservoir Park and was kind enough to send some pics our way.

. . . and a red morph, Ed.

Ed and Bob, photo courtesy of Sheila.

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Returning home after a recent outing we were treated to some interesting bird activity right in our front yard.

Dark-eyed Junco. “Dark-eyed Juncos breed in forests across much of North America and at elevations ranging from sea level to more than 11,000 feet. They are often found in coniferous forests including pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and fir, but also in deciduous forests such as aspen, cottonwood, oak, maple, and hickory. During winter and on migration they use a wider variety of habitats including open woodlands, fields, roadsides, parks, and gardens.” Ref: Cornell Lab.

Competing with a Gray squirrel for goodies.

The chickadees love the sweetgum tree.

And so do the goldfinches.

A female Downy Woodpecker also takes advantage of the front yard feeders.

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We feel very blessed to have so many fascinating creatures paying us a visit this winter. A very warm coat, that didn’t get worn once last winter, has come in very handy the last few days as we’ve been out and about. Today, as I finish writing this, the temperature is a balmy 35F. Time to get out and see what else we can find!

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Finally, one of the joys of being a lover of nature is meeting kindred spirits like Ed and Sheila when out in the field. Ed, thanks again for supplying the pics!

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Flowing water and extremely cold temperatures create ice pancakes along the Scioto.

Reluctant Treasures

We enjoy being outdoors no matter what the time of year. However, when it comes to providing a sense of wonder, unlike spring, summer and early autumn, late autumn and early winter give up their subtle treasures reluctantly. One must move slowly and look closely or much will be missed.

With the leaves now gone the convoluted bark of the Osage Orange is hard not to notice, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, (Donna).

Better in B&W?

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A cloudy cold early November morning gives way to the fleeting sun of an unexpectedly warm afternoon and as if by magic things appear not seen a few hours earlier.

A warm early November afternoon and the first sighting of a Variegated Fritillary for the year, (Donna).

A pond quiet in the cold morning air comes to life in the warm afternoon sun, Leopard Frog, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

An Autumn Meadowhawk enjoys the afternoon sun, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A Striped Wolf Spider sunning itself along the trail just avoids being stepped on, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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A sheltered place, warmed by the sun, gives refuge to flowers that should be gone for the year. Fungi fruit in response to more generous rain defying the below freezing nights.

In the low late autumn sun Nodding Bur-Marigold defies the season, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Moss and lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Fruiting lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Unexpectedly colorful Changing Pholiota, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Tinged with green an unidentified shelf fungi, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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More isolated now, some color still remains.

Road through Griggs Reservoir Park.

Sweatgum leaves, (Donna).

Poison Ivy, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The road along the reservoir evites us to walk further, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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Fewer leaves, and a forest canopy of bare branches, allow one to better see the birds that haven’t made their way south.

Against a deep blue November sky a sentinel stands along the Big Darby, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Better in B&W?

Song Sparrow, Battelle Darby Metro Park, (Donna).

American Goldfinch, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Great Blue Herons continue to make a living along the shore of Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

Downy Woodpecker (M), Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

We continue to see Bald Eagles along the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam.

Backing off a bit we noticed a Coopers Hawk watching from the distance.

A dark morph American Robin from further north? Griggs Reservoir Park.

Thankfully, with the migrating warblers pretty much gone, the Carolina Wrens continue to entertain along the Scioto River.

Immature Red-tailed Hawk, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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For the last few weeks almost every squirrel has had a nut in its mouth.

Gray Squirrel, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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It’s the time of year when short cloudy days, a landscapes of muted colors, and breezes often too cool to be comfortable tell us that things are going to be quieter for a while.

A shoreline reflection reveals November’s bare branches, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

 

Looking For The “White-throated Sparrow”

In the back of our mind during outings over the past week has been the thought that we might see the season’s first White-throated Sparrow. For us, along with the arrival of the Dark-eyed Junco, this small bird marks the passing of the season and the certain coming of winter. During breeding, they are found further north in either coniferous or deciduous forests up to tree line in the U.S. and across Canada. During migration and during the winter months central Ohio is just one location they call home.

Autumn reflection.

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Recently, walking along the Scioto River looking for White-throated Sparrows, and perhaps a stray kinglet or two, we stumbled across some slightly larger birds.

Bald Eagles along the Scioto River below Griggs Reservoir Dam are always a real treat to see.

Take 2.

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At river’s edge, almost right below the eagles, a young male White-tail deer relaxed. It was apparently not too concerned about the eagles.

White Tail Deer, (Donna).

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The next day, hoping for additional photos of the eagles that were now nowhere to be found, Golden-crowned Kinglets seemed to be everywhere  .   .   .

Golden-crowned Kinglet, along the Scioto River below the Griggs Reservoir Dam.

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.   .   .  along with a few of their close associates with the exception of “the sparrow”.

Male Downy woodpecker, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Eastern Phoebe, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Male Bluebird, Griggs reservoir Park.

Yellow-rumped warblers continue to stick around enjoying the Poison Ivy Berries, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

“Must you take the picture when my mouths full and besides, I’m not a bird!” Red Squirrel, Griggs reservoir Park.

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A tree’s few remaining leaves seemingly slide a slippery slope to the ground.

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Wanting to check out a location not previously explored, we decided on Shale Hollow Park, one of Delaware County’s preservation parks. Blustery cold conditions made birding less than optimal, so while birds eluded us we did find something quiet different and no less interesting, concretions. Probably some of the best examples we’ve seen in central Ohio. For us it was proof once again that one should always be open to the wonder of the day.

For those that are curious, “A concretion is a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, and is found in sedimentary rock or soil. Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the surrounding strata. Concretions have long been regarded as geological curiosities. Because of the variety of unusual shapes, sizes and compositions, concretions have in the past been interpreted to be dinosaur eggs,  animal and plant fossils, extraterrestrial debris or human artifacts.” (Wikipedia)

 

Concretion, Shale Hallow Park, (Donna).

Two concretions that appear to have seen better days.

A concretion that may have been spherical at on time.

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In addition to concretions, with the coming of  wetter weather, there have been other things to appreciate.

Disclaimer: Fungi identifications represent our best effort.

Turkey-tail on log, Shale Hollow Park, (Donna).

Rusty Polypore, (Donna).

Shaggy Mane, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Witches Butter with fruiting lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Split-pore Polypore, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Emerging mushroom, Amanita muscaria var. guessowii, Shale Hollow Park.

Same as above but further along.

Pink polypore with lichen, (Donna).

Red leaf on Turkey Tail, Shale Hollow Park.

Radiating Phlebia on log, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Wood Ear, Griggs Reservoir Park

Another view.

On a fallen branch a, almost too small to see, mushroom pops up through some lichen, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Late autumn sentinels along Griggs Reservoir.

The beautiful patterns of newly emerged Dryad’s Saddle, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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It’s often when least expected, near the end of a long hike, almost back to the car and too tired to care, that what we seek appears. Such was the case with the White-throated Sparrow.

White-throated Sparrow, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Take 2.

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Some may wonder what the big deal is. Why is seeing a sparrow so meaningful? For many who spend time in nature the answer is simple; seeing a white-throated Sparrow brings expression to a sense of connectedness to a world much bigger than ourselves. We usually first hear and then see the sparrow and for the time it sees fit we are in its presence. It in turn acknowledges us in its own unique way. This small, seemingly fragile, creature has travelled perhaps a thousand miles and during this brief fleeting moment we are part of each other’s world. Next summer if we look, we will not find it. It will again be further north engaged in its own dance to the cycle of life. This wonder graces our lives with the appearance of the first spring wildflowers, the larger than life sound of spring peepers, the spring migration of the many too beautiful to imagine warblers, the sight and sound of a distant summer thunderstorm, the call of the loon on a northern lake, the color of leaves as a low autumn sun filters the branches, and the slow quiet descent of  winter’s first snowflakes.

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Concretion, Shale Hollow Park.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

Photos by Donna

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