May 24, 2013
Boardwalk gives you access to rare sightings.
Have you seen me by the new Point Rosa Marsh boardwalk? I’m a Least Bittern. I am a relatively rare (and shy) bird that has found a new home in the marsh. Sometimes, people see me from the boardwalk. I need to live in a wetland, and when wetland habitat is destroyed or damaged, I lose my home and our population goes down. Since they have been busy here at Lake St. Clair Metropark restoring the marshes, there are new places for us (and many other animal species) to live now. So, keep an eye out for me, and maybe you will see me if you are lucky!
If you are interested in exploring wetlands in greater depth, join us for one of our Voyageur canoe trips into the North Marsh (June 1, 7, 14 or 22; July 9 or 17; visit the park’s website for details) or come aboard for a Summer Discovery Cruise into Lake St. Clair (for information and registration, go to www.discoverycruises.org or call us at 586-463-4332).
Thanks to Mike Dee for all of these images.
Green Night Heron Sora Rail
April 30, 2013
Bird watchers and photographers were coming out like crazy to see these rare birds on the beach. These are American Avocets. 55 of them were on the shore easily seen. We have had an occasional one in past , never 55! The bird is not a rare bird but they are seen in the west. They are quite rare to be seen in the Great Lakes area.
Images courtesy of Heather Slayton
April 19, 2013
Spring is here!?
Photo courtesy of Mike Dee
Well, at least the wildlife thinks it is. Shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds are all moving through the park right now. Though many will pass through this “waystation” on their way to more northerly breeding grounds, others will stay and raise their families here.
How do we know who is here? Many avid birders walk the trails daily and come in to the Nature Center to record their sightings. They may also post them on places like e-Bird or an Audubon listserv. A number of photographers also help us keep track of who’s in town. Check out this photo of a Virginia Rail from Mike Dziadosz (thanks, Mike!)
At least twice a week during spring and fall migration, Allen Chartier and his band of stalwart volunteers set up mist nets to band birds and keep extensive records on what species (songbirds in particular) are migrating and resident in the park. Check out Allen’s blog at:
If you want to find out more about birds, birding, and how you can help birds, stop by our Migration Festival open house on May 11 between 10am and 3pm. There is no registration or fee for this program – just drop by the Nature Center and participate in bird-related crafts and activities, and take a hike with a naturalist along the trail to see which birds are around.
We are pleased to have photo's of our three owlets submitted by patrons.
Robert Gault was able to get some shots of our 3 hatchlings.
More images will be posted as they are available.
April 1, 2013
NEWS FROM OWL WATCH 2013:
Exciting spring happenings from the wonders of the Nature Area!
Observers report that at least one owlet has hatched and, at times, can be observed from the nature trail. It is now estimated that the hatchling is around three weeks old.
The metal washtub seen below was mounted in the Nature Area several year's ago. Please see the picture posted below of this year's Owlet. The fuzzy fellow in this image is often tricky to spot. The sides of the washtub sometimes shield the hatchling from view. Click on the picture to open a much larger image of the nest.
You can see the owls during interpretive tours this Friday, April 5 from Noon - 3 PM. Staff Interpreters will be leading walks on the Nature Trails from which participants can witness the owls in their nesting tub. Come out to enjoy the spring and learn more about these mystical raptors.
Please plan on attending the the Lake St. Clair Metropark Owl Festival this Sunday, April 7. Participants can get a first hand view of the nesting owls during interpretive tours, experience fun activities and enjoy the outdoors. Live Owls and raptors will be presented in a special program by Joe Rogers. Call to reserve your seat(s) in this program. 586-463-4332. ($)
Click here for more information on our the Owl Festival
2013 Owl with hatchling
The boys are back in town!
Photo courtesy of Mike Dees
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are back from their southern sojourn and flocking to our feeders. They have returned in this chancy weather to establish territories, which they will defend by singing and flaunting their red wing patches, through spring and the breeding season. When the females arrive, usually later this month, they will examine both the male and the habitat for suitability before deciding to settle down. A male with prime habitat often has more than one female. This is called polygyny. It may also occur among the Marsh Wrens and Yellow Warblers that call this park “home” in the summer.
Though winter is usually a quiet month, the calls of the Red-winged Blackbirds echo throughout the park now. As more bird species arrive, the trails will be inundated with bird chatter and, as spring warms up, frog song. Latter, insect hums and buzzes will fill the air. This is music to our ears!
If you are looking for a way to enjoy these recent arrivals and spring happenings, come and join us for some of our upcoming programs. We will be hosting free guided nature walks on April 5, from 10am to 2pm, in honor of National Public Health Week. Our Owl Festival will be April 7. See our website for more details at this link: OWL FESTIVAL. Or, if you want to help us keep our park beautiful and our wildlife healthy, sign up for our annual Clean Up Day (CLEAN UP DAY FLYER).
What are these crazy birds doing here?! Don’t robins eat worms?
Well, yes and no. Robins will eat worms, but that is not their only food source. They will also eat insects and other invertebrates, as well as fruit. The University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web cites a study that indicates up to 60% of an adult robin’s diet is fruit. Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that robins particularly enjoy “chokecherries, hawthorn, dogwood, and sumac fruits, and juniper berries.” We have also seen them eat small crabapples, and they will use fruit from some cultivated plants and ornamental shrubs. Since some of these fruits are persistent (stay on the tree or shrub) through the winter, a small population of robins often sticks around where that fruit is available.
Here at the Nature Center, we have a stand of staghorn sumac along the Meadow Loop of the nature trail, so we often have robins here throughout the year. It is startling to see a robin in the snow, though!
Want to help out over-wintering robins? Make sure they have a source of clean, ice-free water. They will not only drink the water, but also bathe in it. Also, plant native Michigan shrubs and small trees, such as chokeberry, dogwood, red cedar, winterberry, various viburnums and American mountain ash, to help resident and migratory flocks. Some of these plants are currently available through the Macomb County Conservation District spring tree and shrubs sale. Download a flyer and an order form from: http://macombcd.webs.com/
For more answers to your robin questions, check out:http://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/robin/ExpertAnswer11.html
Who is that handsome dog?
A coyote, Canis latrans, a member of the dog family. This one was sighted Monday morning in the field and woods adjacent to the Nature Center.
Right around Valentine's Day, these animals start pairing up. The park likely has one mated pair of coyotes and some of their descendants. They feed primarily on small mammals (mice, voles and rabbits), birds and other small animals, as well as insects and plant material.
Do you have anything to fear from this animal? No. Coyotes in the eastern United States have a maximum size of 35-45 pounds, and are rather wary animals, so they don't pose any threat to you. Please keep all dogs on a six-foot leash (and in the appropriate areas of the park) to avoid coyote-dog interactions. If you want to insure that they do not approach you or your pets, carry a small cannister full of coins or pebbles and shake it vigorously to make noise.
At home, if you have a small pet, keep them within the boundaries of your yard and go out with them. Your presence will discourage any coyotes (and they are found in every county in Michigan).
Also, please do not attempt to feed these animals (or any others in the park, actually). Feeding habituates animals to people and to food from humans, which can become unhealthy and harmful for them.
If you are walking in the park in the early morning or late afternoon, you may actually get a chance to hear or see these graceful animals. The Native Americans of the southwest called them "song dogs" for their many vocalizations - so keep your ears open, and you may get a chance to hear them!
If you want to learn more about coyotes, stop by the Nature Center and see our display (and our taxidermied, mounted coyote), or check out these websites:
Wow! That’s a big bird! Is that an eagle?
You bet! This time of year, when food becomes scarce in more northern regions, several bird species visit southern Lower Michigan in search of sustenance. This is called an irruption.
Some of the species that we occasionally see at our feeders include Pine Siskins and Redpolls. Other, more showy birds that might be hanging out around the park or the general vicinity of open water are Bald Eagles and Snowy Owls.
If you are looking to add these birds to your life list, or are just curious to see them, give us a call and we can let you know if they have been hanging around. Or, if you have the technology, you can use the iPhone “BirdsEye” app (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/BirdsEye). Information for this app is generated by birders world-wide who input their sightings into the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon-sponsored “EBird” website (http://ebird.org).
Feeling creative? Looking for some new decorations for the holidays? We have just the program for you! Join us on Sunday, December 9 at 1:00 pm for our “Christmas Tree Ornaments from Nature” program.
Make and take up to six ornaments from natural materials. Call the Nature Center at (586) 463-4332 starting November 25th to register.
As fall gives way to blustery winter, we tend to stay indoors more. But now is a great time to walk the trails and enjoy nature. Some animals, like deer, are more active and visible.
Even winter “weeds” have their own beauty.
We fondly remember our friend Al Fleming, a Lake St. Clair Metropark volunteer. Sadly, Al left us recently but his work will always remain in our memory. Al's love for nature and the park has been well documented. His skill and passion for photography created beautiful images that will last forever.Take a minute to view our video tribute above. Just click the play button to watch.
Fall Migration Wonders
With a chill in the air, our thoughts turn to…snow? No! Falling leaves, and the smell of autumn in the air? Yes!
As the temperature goes down, fall colors begin to appear and the last of the flowers fade. Reptiles and amphibians eat their last meals before hibernation, and birds, bats and other animals that rely on warm-weather food – like insects – begin their southward trek.
Fall migration is a big event at Lake St. Clair Metropark. Birds often use bodies of water, like large rivers and shorelines, to find their way. They also use these waterways as stopovers. Wetland habitats and adjacent fields and forests can provide the water, food and shelter these intrepid travelers need. Like we tell the kids – the nature area here is like McDonald’s and Holiday Inn for birds!
This juvenile black-crowned night heron will be migrating for the first time this fall, traveling at night with a small group of other birds. This bird’s group may land up in Florida, the Gulf Coast, Mexico, Central America or the West Indies.
We find out about which birds go where by doing research. For many years, dedicated professionals and volunteers have been catching and banding birds. We have one such group at our park, led by Allen Chartier. Allen has been posting banding reports from the park since 2007. Check out his website at http://mihummingbirdguy.blogspot.com/
. He also posts great pictures of some of the birds that he bands, and provides details on how to identify them. This site is also a great way to find out which birds have been passing through the park during migration season, fall and spring.
So, fly on over to the park and do some bird watching while enjoying the fall color change. Stop into the Nature Center to let us know what you have seen and take a look at the records to find out what other people have been seeing in the park. Happy bird watching!
Monarch Project at the Lake St. Clair Metropark Nature Center
The unseasonable warmth of spring brought a pleasant surprise this year – monarch butterflies! They were almost a full month early, but there wasn’t much milkweed up for them to lay eggs on. As a result, instead of one or two eggs to a plant, there were up to a dozen on each tiny stem! We harvested many of the eggs to ensure a better chance of survival, and we are raising them in the nature center. Many have become chrysalises (pupae) already and we've released over 60 butterflies!
Stop in and see this amazing process first hand. The first of the butterflies emerged (eclosed) on June 8. They usually come out of the chrysalis in the morning, pump the veins in their wings with fluid and then spend the next several hours letting them harden and dry. When they are ready to go, we release them – and let any visitors who are around help out!
Later in the summer (mid-August through September) we will tag the butterflies for research purposes, as they will be migrating to Mexico. To learn more about monarchs, raising caterpillars, and creating backyard butterfly habitat, sign up for our “Amazing Monarchs” program on August 18 at 1:00 pm (phone-in registration begins two weeks before the program – call 586-463-4332 for details or to sign up). There will also be a "Hummingbirds and Monarchs" festival on September 9 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. During this "open house" style program, drop in and make a craft, take a guided hike, and learn more about these tiny but mighty migrants.
For more about monarchs, their migration and raising caterpillars, check out the Monarch Watch website: www.monarchwatch.org. This non-profit organization helps to promote monarch education and research, and they have lots of great information and monarch-related items.
Photographer Paul warner has given us some views along the nature trail from this past week.
Family of Mute swans on the pond
Typical view of migrating warbler
This year we have had more Bullfrogs than ever recorded in the pond and along the canal. They can be seen and heard calling, like this big guy. (Notice the ripples in the water from the vibrations of his call)
Two males fighting over territory.
Wrestling matches for territory
The Bullfrogs were most active last week with calls and territory wrestling matches. Several days we counted 40-50 Bullfrogs in the pond. What a sound with all of them calling! They have slowly diminished in numbers calling and the Green Frogs have begun in earnest. Watch for large tadpoles as the summer progresses.
The two Great Horned Owl babies have fledged and can be found sitting together in the trees behind the nest bucket. They are learning to fly and the parents continue to feed them all summer. However, they are very difficult to find now that all the leaves are out on the trees. We will listen for their begging calls at night as we monitor how they are growing and developing.
The resident Great Horned Owl has been sitting on her nest "bucket" since February 4th. The owl incubates her eggs for 28-30 days so we will be watching for signs that the eggs have hatched in a few weeks. The owl will not sit in the bucket uhless she has eggs or young. Volunteer bird bander Tom Heatley installed the washtub in the trees in 1991 to help provide a nesting site for the owls. Owls do not make their own nest and will seek stick nests built by other large birds such as herons and crows. The nest bucket has been used now for 17 years and each year has produced 1-2 young each time.
The nesting tub and owls can be seen from the trail. Bring your binoculars for a better view. Visitors must remain on the trails to observe the nest to prevent disturbing the female off the nest which could result in failure of the nest.
Learn more about these owls and other Michigan owls at our Owl Festival March 25th from noon to 4pm.
Volunteers will be on the trail with spotting scopes to help you view the nest and activities, videos, kid's crafts will be in the nature center. Joe Roger's , a wildlife rehabilitator and educator will be here with live owls that have been permanantly injured and cannot be released back to the wild. Call for more details at 586-463-4332.
Many other wildife species feed on these insects including frogs, turtles, and many bird species. They are an excellant protein source for birds to feed their young.
Visitors from the North.
With the mild winter weather, the lake has remained open and thousands of diving ducks such as Canvasback, Ruddy Ducks, Redheads have been visible from our shore. Some days it takes a good spotting scope, but the huge numbers are a sight to see. Lake St. Clair supports these species of waterfowl with the abundance of submerged plants such as Wild Celery and with the abundance of fish and invertebrates associated with these plants.
Lake St. CLair is a crucial stop over site for these diving ducks and Tundra Swan.
A rare visitor this year has been the Snowy Owl. They only arrive occasionally down from the Arctic tundra when food is scarce. Several individuals have been seen and photographed on the point of Lake St. Clair Metropark and at the mouth of the Clinton River. They'll hunt for rodents but also ducks that are so numerous out in the lake.
1) Bufflehead Duck
2) Canvasback Ducks
3) Tundra Swan
4) Redhead Ducks
5) Snowy Owl
Another unusual visitor down from the north has been a small falcon called a Merlin. The Merlin has been seen regularly sitting in a tree in the parking lot often with a meal. So it has discovered a good spot to feed and rest. They are common in migration, but unusual that it has been hanging around since October.
There has been regular sightings of Bald Eagles in the park and our resident Great Horned Owls have been more visible as they protect their territory for the upcoming nesting season. Stay tuned.
Fishfly season is here!
Most residents of Michigan call these fishflies but they are actually mayflies.
Its that time of year when the buildings and lights become covered with them.
As adults they emerge all at the same time from their larval stage underwater. They only live a few days and do not feed. At the stage of their life cycle they emerge from the water, molt a second time then they are ready for their breeding flights over the water. After eggs are layed, the adults die and the new generation hatches from eggs underwater. They will remain for several years underwater feeding on decomposed plant material. They are important recyclers of the aquatic plants in the lake. They are an important food source for many fish in Lake St. Clair, including the endangered Lake Sturgeon that feeds heavily on the larvae.
Mayfly during its molt
If you enjoy fishing or eating fish, or take pleasure in watching a Great Blue Heron, you have the mayfly to thank.
Mayfly from beneath and above
June 12, 2011
Metro Beach has close to 500 acres of wetlands within its boundaries. Since these wetlands are on the shore of Lake St. Clair and a large portion of it is cattail marsh, several species breed in the wetlands that are listed as threatened species in our state. Birdwatcher and photographer Alan Ryff took these pictures earlier in spring of a pair of Forster's Tern , a threatened species in our state, as the male brought fish to the female during courtship.
These terns will nest back in the cattails, sometimes on old muskrat lodges, and can be seen diving for fish in the open areas of the marsh and in the lake . Watch for them diving for food and soon they will be bringing food to their young of the year.
The Least Bittern is another threatened species that nests at Metro Beach and can be seen on the edges of the cattails.
June 10, 2011
SLOW! Turtle Crossing
This sign greets you as you enter the park. The roadway entering Metro Beach divides a large marsh, and wetlands are on either side of the road. Wetland creatures such as turtles, frogs, ducks and geese often cross the orad as they travel to different areas of the wetlands.
Turtle movement increases greatly in June as female turtles seek places to lay their eggs in sunny areas with soft soil. It is not unusual to see a large
Snapping Turtle slowly working its way across the
These road crossings can create a traffic hazard for people and for the wildlife. Metro Beach staff is concerned for the safety of our patrons and the wildlife in the park. Please drive slowly in the park and watch for wildlife in the road or parking lots. Slow down and allow the animals to pass and avoid stopping and getting out of your car in traffic for your own safety and to avoid accidents. Turtles move slowly and when frightened , will stop in the middle of the road and not move. Please report turtles in the road to an employee such as the tollbooth operator or call the park office at 586-463-4581 and park staff will be called to safely move the turtle.
Visit the Nature Center to learn more about the turtles that make their home at Metro Beach and see live specimens on display of the species that live in the park.
Better yet, join us for our "Turtle Talk" program on June 18 at 1pm to visit with these fascinating creatures up-close. Give us a call at 586-463-4332 to learn more about our programs.
April 23, 2011
After the heavy downpour of rain last night and warm sunshine today, the Groundhog that lives by the Nature Center building was stretched out in the grass soaking up the sun and drying off. Common Loon was seen in the North Marsh and several could be heard as they flew over the nature trail on their journey north. Along the trail new migratory birds that have arrived such as Hermit Thrush, Eastern Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Virginia Rail could be seen and heard.
Several visitors have inquired about our nesting Great Horned Owls. The female owl sat on the nest from February 8 to March 22. The eggs should have hatched in 30 days or so. She stuck it out another week and finally gave up on the nest. The eggs had failed to hatch. The adults remain in the trees in the park, so we'll be watching next winter for them to try again.
April 16, 2011 - Let’s Hear it for the Volunteers!
This Saturday dawned – soggy. Still, we readied ourselves here at Metro Beach for our annual clean-up day anyway. Two hundred and fifty hot dogs and buns, potato salad and the morning doughnuts laid waiting, ready to be eaten. The staff and volunteers ran around the maintenance building, preparing for sign-in and registration, with spirits damp but hopeful. Just before nine o’clock, a few folks trickled in and then…a flood! Dozens of people flowed in, received their zone assignments and tools, and trekked out into the gloom. The weather broke for a little while, and much was accomplished in that window. The weather, alas, did not remain cooperative, but our stalwart volunteers stayed afloat. Lunch was a boisterous affair, and some folks decided to continue what they had started, though many called it a day.
These hardy souls picked up bags of fishing line, discarded bait containers, bottles, cans and cups, paper and other trash that is not only unsightly, but potentially dangerous for wildlife. Our thanks to all of those who braved the elements to help us keep our park clean, safe and beautiful.
March 19, 2011
Its that time of year. Many of the early migratory birds have arrived such as robins, red-winged blackbirds, and kildeer. Bird watchers help the staff at Metro Beach keep an eye out daily for any new migrants as they arrive, stay or pass through. You can keep up on bird migration by checking out Allen Chartier's blog site that reports his bird banding research here at Metro Beach. He posts sightings and photos of birds banded or observed at the park. This is a continueing study of bird migration at Metro Beach which shows how critical the park is for a stop over site for birds in migration. Metro Beach is situated within the intersection of two migratory flyways and combined with the wetlands habitat and shoreline, the park is recognized as a bird migration "hot spot". Check out Allen's blog at Michigan Hummingbird Guy's with the following link.
There are signs that the Great Horned Owl eggs may have hatched. Mom owl is sitting higher and her feathers appear to ruffle below her. In a week or so we will know for sure, once we see the top of their little white heads start to show above the rim of the nest bucket.
Join us for the Owl Festival on April 10th to learn more about owls and have a guided hike to see the owl on the nest. Joe Rogers from the Wildlife Recovery Association will be here again with his live owls that are permanently injured and could not be released back in the wild. Pre-registration is required to see the live owl programs . Pre-registration begins March 27th and the fee is $3.00 per person. Call the Nature Center at 586-463-4332.
February 26, 2011
Feeling a little snowed in with cabin fever? How about a trip to the nature center to see wildlife signs that tell us that spring is on its way!
Cardinals and chickadees have started to sing their spring territorial calls along the trails and by the feeders.
Red-winged blackbirds have returned from their winter migration spots and have begun calling around the nature area.
The Great Horned Owl is once again sitting in her nest bucket . She started sitting on the nest February 8th. She incubates eggs for 28-30 days , so we'll be watching for signs of new baby owls in a few weeks.
The weather might not show us spring is coming but the wildlife are on schedule with their change in behavior as the days lengthen and they prepare for the changing season.
Several Bald eagles have been seen roosting on the edge of the woods along the nature trail for the past several weeks. A group of 5 eagles have been quite regular. They are most often seen in the morning. The open water of the Black Creek going out to the point is their favorite dining area along with the mouth of the Clinton River north of the park as they hunt for fish, ducks , gulls. They will also feed on dead fish on the ice and other dead animals. 10-12 eagles have been seen out on the ice near the open water areas at the mouth of the Clinton River. These large birds can often be seen even from the road as you drive in the entry road or down the golf road to the day sail area. Keep an eye out for these majestic birds on your next visit to Metro Beach.
December 2, 2010
As the marshlands begin to freeze over waterfowl migration has progressed and the "dabbler" ducks such as Northern Shovelers, American Widgeon, Mallards that use the shallow marshes as stop over areas have traveled on. Now the diving ducks that use the big open water of Lake St. Clair such as Canvasbacks, Redheads, Scaup and Mergansers have been gathering by the thousands in the lake. Lake St. Clair and its marshlands are crucial migration stop over sites for large numbers of waterfowl. Tundra Swans have arrived from the Arctic on their journey to the Atlantic Ocean and they can be heard and seen in large numbers flying over and settling in the shallow areas for the evening. They particularly like the small bay just north of Metro Beach and up in the St. Clair flats.
Winter season brings the birds to the feeders outside the wildlife viewing window of the nature center. Tree sparrows and Juncos have arrived and feed on seed on the ground, Downy Woodpeckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers enjoy suet and peanut butter and the Black-capped Chickadees love sunflower seeds.
Other feeder visitors are Fox and Gray Squirrels, occasional Deer, and opposum and Raccoons at night.
Join us for "Explore Natue in Winter" for the whole family on December 11 at 11am or for "Birds at the Feeder" for 10 years old and up on December 12 at 1pm to learn more about animals in the winter.
You might catch a glimpse of our winter wildife enjoying the day outside and playing at the Metroparks , just like you.
Late Summer and Fall
Shorebird and warbler migration is increasing.
Michael Dziadosz photographed this Whimbrel on the beach here at Metro Beach . Whimbrels nest in the Arctic and pass through on their long journey to the southern U.S. coast to South America. Many shorebirds make this long journey. Other birds seen recently have been Wilson's Snipe, Short-billed Dowitcher, Least sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs.
In addition, bird watchers have reported at least 16 species of warblers moving through in one day along the nature trail.
Monarchs and Hummingbirds
Mid-August to mid-September is a great time to visit the Nature Center.
The plantings around the building and plants along the nature trail are blossoming with flowers that attract Monarch Butterflies and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they begin their long journeys south for the winter.
Monarch on Swamp Milkweed
Hummingbirds have completed their nesting duties and are feeding heavily on nectar as they gather in good number at Metro Beach to follow their migration route along the shoreline. The tiny hummingbird is on its way to the Gulf of Mexico where it will fly 600 miles across the Gulf to Central America. This amazing feat is fueled by flower nectar and some tiny spiders and insects thrown in for protein.
Female Hummingbird at Nature Center feeder
The Monarch Butterfly is also gathering in good numbers at Metro Beach to follow their migration route to Mexico, also fueled by flower nectar. Visit inside the nature center building to see a display of live caterpillars, chrysallis and emerging butterflies that are released. Starting this week the naturalsit will be tagging and releasing the butterflies as they emerge to help study their migration.
You can help these delicate beauties on their journey by planting native flowers in your yard that provide nectar for their trip south. Ask the naturalist for a plant list or, better yet, come to the Monarch and Hummingbird weekend September 11th and 12th to learn more about them . Watch hummingbirds in the garden, observe the Monarch Butterfly life cycle, and take home some plants from the native plant sale that will help these winged wonders as they visit your own yard and garden.
Wild Bergamont is used by Hummingbirds and butterflies
Late Spring in the Marsh!
Various photgraphers got great photos of the Sora in the marsh in May. On the left, Bob Holdreith captured the bird wading and Jan Palland captured the bird with its reflection in the water.
The Sora rail is a small wading bird that is only about 7 inches long that feeds on insects, snails, seeds.
As May merges into June, the cattail marsh is continues to be alive with activity.
Secretive birds of the marsh such as Sora and Least Bittern could be heard and sometimes seen in the marsh.
Muskrats can be seen nibbling on cattail stems and their lodges made of cattails provide other wildife with places to nest and rest. Baby muskrats can be seen on their first adventure out to eat and explore.
New Cattail leaves are greening up the wetlands and white water lilies start to blossom. Red-winged blackbirds are feeding young , using the abundance of Mayflies (mistakenly called fishflies) which have recently merged out of the lake.
Bullfrogs and Green frogs are calling and large tadpoles in various stages of development can be seen on the marsh edge.
Turtles are crawling their way out of the water to lay their eggs on the land. Many can be found quite a distance from the water as they seek just the right place to lay their eggs. The eggs will remain in the soil for 3 months and the baby turtles hatch, dig their way to the surface and find their way to the water.
Swans, geese and ducks swim through the marsh with their young teaching them where to find food and be safe.
Take a hike on the nature trail , or join the naturalist in the Voyageur Canoe to get up close with the residents of the marsh.
June 13, 2010
With the thick lush growth of leaves on the trees and vines, the baby owls are no longer visible. They can now fly and move around more, so they are difficult to find. Mom and Dad will continue to feed them all summer so we will be listening for their begging calls at night. Bird watcher Jan Palland provided the nature center with a picture of one of the baby owls out of the nest just before it started to move around in the trees and become more hidden.
April 25, 2010
Both baby owls have hopped out of the nest and climbing down low on branches in the woods. They are not able to fly, but can climb and hop around. Both parents are staying close to feed and watch for danger. This is typical behavior and an important part of their development.
This picture was taken by Bob Holdreith this past week after the first larger baby had left the nest and Mom owl was feeding the second baby still remaining in the nest. SO, the nest tub is empty but watch for Mom and Dad in the trees and possibly see the fuzzy white babies climbing on the branches.
April 20, 2010
Two and a half to three weeks old
The Great Horned Owls have successfully nested on the wash tub again this year. The two baby owls started to become visible to trail visitors back in late March. They are now about 5 weeks old and nearly as big as Mom. They still need to grow flight feathers before they can fly , but will hop out of the nest and climb around in the trees. Their parents will continue to feed them all through the summer and they will not be hunting entirely on their own until September. Once they are flying, and the leaves are completely out on the trees, they are difficult to find in the woods. However, during guided night hikes in the summer with the naturalists they can be heard begging for food. Bob Holdreith provided the nature center with these pictures of the owls.
Four to four and a half weeks
March 24, 2010
A little spring cleaning.
These photographs taken by bird watcher Bob Holdreith, show this Cooper's Hawk in the process of a nice long bath in a puddle made by spring rains in the lawn by the nature center.
Other signs of spring are the hundreds of male Red-winged blackbirds which have returned from the south. They returned about 3-4 weeks ago. Common Grackles have joined them now and it makes for a very noisy bird feeder behind the nature center. The female Red-winged blackbirds return about a month after the males-so we are starting to see a few females arriving now.
Tundra swans have started to move through on their journey to their Arctic breeding area. Lake St. Clair is a crucial migration stop over site for these magnificent birds. Large flocks can be heard and seen on the move.
Chorus frogs have started to call in the shallow ponds along the trail.
All this and more can be enjoyed as you listen and watch from the wildife viewing window at the nature center or head out on the trail to experience the sights and sounds of spring.
February 14, 2010
Just in time for Valentine's Day, our resident Great Horned Owl is on her nest, or should I say on her bucket. Along the nature trail at Metro Beach, an artificial nesting structure, an aluminum wash tub, was put up in the trees back in 1991 by volunteer and bird bander, Tom Heatley. The Great Horned Owls have used this "bucket" for a nesting site each year since then. (They only skipped a couple of years 2000, 2001 when there was a lack of prey to feed young. ) The Great Horned Owl is the first bird to nest in the year, starting in February in our area. With winter's freezing temperatures, the female must remain on the nest after laying the first egg and the male brings food to her. She will incubate eggs for 28-30 days, then must continue to stay tight on the nest to protect the young from the cold and snow and ice of Michigan's March weather. The young do not leave the nest until they are at least 6 weeks old. Then the parents continue to feed them outside the nest all summer long.
To learn more owls and our nesting pair of owls here at Metro Beach, join us for our public progam "Owls In Winter" on February 21 at 1pm. Pre-registration is required, program fee is $2.00 per person. Give us a call at 586-463-4332.
Other signs that "love is in the air" for Valentine's Day- several year-round resident birds such as the Northern Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse have started to sing their spring songs. This tells us that they are"thinking spring" and where their nesting territory will be. Listen in the morning, especially on a sunny day. This always occurs in early February as the amount of daylight increases. So, if you are feeling the winter blues, just listen and watch outside for signs of the coming spring that wildlife is showing us.
January 23, 2010
The nature center exhibit area and classrooms are a bit in an upheaval as we get a new coat of paint on all the interior walls. We apologize for the disruption but we look forward to a fresh look to the place. The building is still open and exhibits and live animals are still out on display. The wildlife viewing windows are still available to see all the birds, squirrels , and occasional deer using the seed feeders and water. One surprise at the feeders lately has been a small opossum visiting the seed feeders and climbing our crab apple trees for a bite to eat during the day. Although they are more nocturnal, winter cold and scarcity of food can bring them out in the daytime. Cold winter weather is hard on the opossum with its bare feet, tail and ears. This mammal was once more of a southern mammal and does not have the same adaptations the more northern animals have. It is not unusual to see the tip of the tail get a little frost bitten and they may lose that portion of tail. Despite its lack of warm "boots" and "mittens"the opossum can still manage to survive our Michigan weather along with the well dressed mammals such as fox, squirrel, rabbit , and skunk.
Our Nature Trails are open for hikes and nature study. Today they were a little snow covered with icy patches.
Trail hours 7 AM - 8 PM
Trail conditions are subject to change. For latest conditions call the Nature Center.
Nature Center hours: Weekends 10 AM - 5 PM
Weekdays 1 PM- 5 PM
For further information contact a Park Naturalist at the Metro Beach Nature at 586-463-4332