Late Summer Along The Rifle River

In northern Michigan, early September weather has a edge to it. Nights can be cold, and even when it’s sunny, mornings are slow to warm. Just a few weeks earlier, the midday sun meant a warm embrace. Now lower, it warms only one side of our face, pierces the landscape, and evokes a feeling of uneasiness and foreboding of things to come.

Early morning on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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We were spending a few days at Michigan’s Rifle River Recreation Area to explore nature and do a little fishing. What birds would we see? How about wildflowers? What other wildlife would be spotted on this later in the year visit? Would any fish be caught?

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Amazingly there were a good variety of late summer wildflowers to enjoy. The most striking may have been the Burr Marigold that lined a creek explored by canoe. On this year’s trip we found a wonderful natural area adjoining Au Sable Lake, a short drive outside the park boundary. The launch site is surrounded by cottages and hardly an encouragement to the explorer, but it wasn’t long before we were exploring a creek flowing from Au Sable to Little Au Sable Lake and beyond. An area with no development and unique natural beauty.

Blue Vervain, not only lovely to look at but a herb that can be used to treat depression and promote sleep, (Donna).

Burr Marigolds along the shoreline of Little Au Sable Lake.

The closed flower of the Bottle Gentian make entrance to feed on pollen or nectar difficult for many species of insects. Those strong enough to enter through the top of the flower include some digger and bumblebee species. The eastern carpenter bee chews a narrow slit at the base of the flower and “steals” nectar without pollinating the plant, a behavior known as nectar robbing. The holes in the petals created by this carpenter bees allow smaller insects to also access the nectar and pollen, including the honeybee, the green sweat bee and the eastern masked bee. Ref. Wikipedia, (Donna)

The fascinating turtlehead is a plant used in natural medicine. Traditional practices create a tonic that is claimed to be beneficial for indigestion, constipation, and stimulating the appetite. It is also an anthelmintic (de-wormer) and a salve from the leaves may relieve itching and inflammation. Ref. USFS, (Donna)

The berries of Jack in the Pulpit.

In the woods, asters add a splash of color.

Exploring a wildflower lined creek that flows into Little Au Sable Lake.

A late in the season water lily showing some signs of wear, (Donna).

The seeds of the Yellow Pond Lily were frequently collected by native Americans as a nutritious raw food source. They were also used in the making of bread by grinding the seeds to create a flour, (Donna).

Brook Lobelia, (Donna).

Near the end of it’s blooming season, the beautiful flower of the Grass of Parnassus, (Donna).

Swamp Loosestrife was found along lakes and wetlands in the park, (Donna).

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Our campsite was in the woods, surrounded by maple, poplar, and birch. In their embrace the light of the late summer morning came slowly, and unlike the openness of the lakeshore nearby, evening seemed to greet us before it should.  Only occasionally would the sun find it’s way through a small isolated opening and warm my face. But as I sat there in the shade of early evening after a good day, sunlight and a soft wind played in the leaves high overhead, and in a quiet voice reached out as if to say, stay a little longer, be here with us, don’t leave.

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It’s just you, the canoe, the paddle, a pole, and the fish. A beautiful aesthetic for those so inclined.

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It was a great time to see fungi, albeit sometimes impossible to positively identify. Recent wet weather was undoubtedly the reason for the profusion. Fortunately, given the cooler than normal temperatures, the rain was very light and sporadic during the day which actually made for good hiking weather.

Along the trail colorful but tiny unidentified mushrooms emerge, (Donna).

Three, what we believe to be, Parasol mushrooms.

Yellow Patches Mushroom.

Different stages of development.

Another tiny mushroom, perhaps Orange Mycena, pokes through the leaf liter.

A bolete with a few friends.

Recently emerged Emetic Russula.

A striking display of Sharp-scaly Pholiota.

Another bolete.

Perhaps a type of chanterelle, (Donna).

Jellied False Coral, (Donna).

Toxic False Morel, (Donna).

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Lodge Lake, Rifle River Rec Area.

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The first few days of our stay, warm sunny afternoons really brought out the insects.

Autumn Meadowhawks were common along the park roads, (Donna).

A Slender Spreadwing perches along the Rifle River, (Donna).

Milbert’s Tortoishell, a first ever sighting for us, (Donna).

American Copper, (Donna).

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We were concerned that by early September the loons normally inhabiting the park’s lakes earlier in the year would have already headed south. With the exception of the one juvenile seen on Little Au Sable Lake, that proved to be the case. We did see kingfishers, bald eagles, and a few warblers, but the eastern kingbirds, so common around the lake in midsummer, were gone. Fishing on Devoe Lake one cloudy damp afternoon it was a real treat to see a merlin, perhaps a migrant from further north, as it flew from tree to tree noisily protested a group of harassing blue jays. A snapshot in time passing.

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In the late afternoon near weeks end I found myself paddling into a stiff breeze on a wind swept lake having recently left the shelter of a lee shore at it’s far end. A contest between muscle and wind where there there could be no truce, no middle ground. I was glad only a few waves broke near the canoe as spray blew over the windward gunnel. It was such a contrast with the glass smooth surface that had greeted us in the early hours of that day. The cool quiet of the September morning and the wind and spray of the late afternoon, as the sun hovered above the horizon, was once again a summons, a reminder, to embrace the present and live life fully.

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Creek flowing into Little Au Sable Lake, (Donna).

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Thanks for stopping by.

Autumn Reflection

As I write this the temperature has finally arrived at more normal levels for early October. Until just a few days ago it was much warmer and the season betrayed by the calendar was having a hard time getting started with leaves still reluctant to show their autumn color. That wasn’t all bad as we were treated to sightings of butterflies and other insects not usually seen this late in the year. Given the above average rainfall it continues to be a great time to see fungi which seems to be almost everywhere. Below is a celebration of some things seen over the past couple of weeks. Missing is “the picture” of me paddling the Scioto River, fishing for Smallmouth Bass, as two mature Bald Eagles circled overhead. Oh well, some things would be hard to capture in a photograph and must just be experienced.

Leaf.

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The above experience prompted me to consider things that can be photographed, which in this case happens to be landscapes. Specifically, it has to do with the difference between how a scene is seen and how the camera captures it. Or putting it another way, after we have been enchanted enough to take the picture, and after a preliminary look are happy with the results, does the image convey the desired message as shot? This then will have a lot to do with the kind and amount of post processing used and it’s limits for a particular photograph. Such things are often a matter of opinion or taste, there being no right or wrong. With that said, we’ve all seen the over saturated colors in autumn landscapes which risk devaluing the place and experience as if to say it wasn’t beautiful enough. Things worth considering I believe.

O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve.

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As already mentioned it’s been a great year for fungi. Apparently chicken Fungi and puffballs are edible but I think we will just enjoy looking at them. At their peak the colors of some fungi are no less spectacular than the loveliest wildflower.

Turkey tail.

Rosy Russula, Emily Traphagen Park.

Puffballs, (Donna).

Unidentified fungi family with lot’s of character, (Donna).

Shaggy Mane, O’Shaughnessy Nature Preserve, (Donna).

Dead Man’s Fingers, (Donna).

Wrinkled Peach Mushroom, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Close up.

An emergent shelf fungi competes with puffballs and fallen leaves for our attention.

A polypore shows off it’s gills.

Chicken Fungi

Bearded Tooth fungi, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Dryad’s Saddle, note the different stages of development in this cluster, (Donna).

Orange Mycena, (Donna).

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A hint of autumn color along the Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tree roots and fallen leaves.

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Despite our recent fungi fascination other things have been hard to ignore. A number if years ago it took a really spectacular insect to make an impression but as I’ve spent more time looking at them my appreciation has increased. With greater knowledge and understanding it has become much harder to consider them a lower life form less noble than ourselves. They have become part of the beautiful tapestry of life where boundaries between self and the natural world disappear.

Bee on Calico Asters, (Donna).

We had to wait until fairly late in the year to start seeing Common Checked Skippers, (Donna).

Common Green Darner, (Donna).

Yellow-collared Scape Moth is very similar to the Virginia Ctenucha but is slightly smaller, (Donna).

A bee enjoying the same flower gives an appreciation of the Eastern Tailed-Blue’s size, (Donna).

Chickweed Geometer, (Donna).

A beautiful but tiny Gray Hairstreak, (Donna).

Orange Sulfur

A not often seen Variegated Fritillary, (Donna).

Giant Swallowtail, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Eastern Comma

Meadow Fritillaries were very common at Griggs reservoir Park this year, (Donna).

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A leaf is framed by reflections In a stream side pool.

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Pausing at water’s edge, rippled reflections dance to the rhythm of wind and light gracing us with a new vision and an invitation to a new place.

Tree branches reflect on the water’s surface, Griggs Reservoir.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

August Rain and Mushrooms

Recently, after several wet days, we decided to take a drive to one of our favorite central Ohio hiking destinations, Clear Creek Metro Park. It’s a park that many frequent when they’re getting in shape for more exotic destinations like the Appalachian Tail or Rocky Mountain National Park. The tails are that challenging.  In our case it was more about seeing mushrooms that we wouldn’t find in parks closer to home, but a beautiful rugged trial lined with ferns that winds its way through old growth Hemlock and oak with a trailhead sign that says something like, “Caution, unimproved trail, proceed at your own risk”, is always a plus. Being located at the southern edge of the last glacier’s advance, on land that has for the most part never been disturbed by farming, logging, or other human activities, has a lot to do with the parks beauty. To optimize our chance of seeing mushrooms we decided to use the Creekside Meadows Trail to access the Fern/Hemlock trail loop. Certainly not the longest hike in the park but given our propensity to stop a look at things it made for a good day’s outing.

Park Trail Map

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Just a short note about the cameras used during the hike. We consider ourselves nature lovers who enjoy capturing the beauty of what we see. Often our outings involve a canoe or long hikes over relatively rugged terrain. For this reason hauling a lot of equipment may not be possible or may take away from the experience of “being” in nature. Recently I’ve been experimenting with a Canon 80D Tamron 18-400 mm combo while my wife continues to rely on a Panasonic FZ200 superzoom for many of her insect and fungi shots. Overall I’m happy with the performance of the DSLR combo and it’s potential for more creative control. However, in the sunny day darkness of Clear Creek’s deep woods, with auto ISO limited to 3200, handheld shots were chancy at best and mostly disappointing. A tripod would have resolved the problem but toting it around as well as setting it up for most shots would have changed the flavor of the hike. On the other hand the FZ200 with its fast 2.8 lens, and auto ISO limited to 800, much more consistently provided usable pictures without the use of a tripod. Something that is good to know because while there is no right or wrong when it come to how we pursue photography it is important to ask yourself what it is you are trying to get from an experience before investing in equipment.

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Chanterelles:

Chanterelle or possibly Golden-gilled Gerronema (Gerronema strombodes)?

Another look, (Donna).

Take 3, (Donna).

A different color variation.

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White Phlox

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Shelf like mushrooms:

Turkeytail, (Donna).

Another look.

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Fall Phlox

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Boletes:

Shaggy-stalked Bolete, (Donna)

Shaggy-stalked Bolete another example.

Two-colored Bolete, (Donna).

King Bolete

Unidentified bolete.

Unidentified bolete

Russula, (Donna).

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A small, yet to be identified, wildflower.

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Other mushrooms:

Destroying Angel, not a good selection for the dinner table!

The fascinating underside of a free gill mushroom, (Donna).

Yellow Tuning Fork

Orange Mycena

Very large emerging free gill mushroom

Further along.

.   .   .  still further.

Unidentified small mushrooms.

Clustered Coral

An unidentified veiled mushroom.

Appears to be a more mature example of the above mushroom.

Unidentified veiled mushroom.

Very tiny unidentified mushrooms

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Pinesap, a parasitic plant classified as a wildflower.

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Along the Creekside Meadows Trail near the end of our day a hiking companion spotted this tiny Ring-necked Snake. The first one we’ve ever seen during our outings.

Ring-necked Snake, (Donna).

Another look, (Donna).

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Finally, I must admit that we are on the steep part of the learning curve when it comes to mushrooms. Using the guides we have available a frustrating number remain unidentified.  Perhaps that is a good thing in the world of mushrooms because if you wrongly identify a mushroom it could be hazardous to your health!

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Thanks for stopping by.

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