Watkins/Thorn Lake

Yes, it’s another Tuesday morning, and this week the group found itself back out at Watkins/Thorn Lake.  A few days ago this small lake was nearly over-run with waterfowl, including snow geese.  We had to head out to see what was still floating around.

First and foremost, it was cold.  There was a good stiff wind blowing, and everyone was feeling its effects.  Even the birds, which huddled in groups along the far side of the water, where the wind was blocked a bit by the shoreline and trees.

There weren’t as many birds here as the earlier reports had reported.  No doubt they either flew further south, or were out feeding in the various fields nearby.  Even so, we had coots, canvasbacks, hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks, gadwalls.  A Bonapart gull flew in, and we watched a bald eagle that was perched in a tree across the way.  Canada geese were well-represented, too.

My binocs weren’t powerful enough to see most of the birds very well, so I wandered along the road looking for some photo ops, like this large muskrat lodge, the architect of which opted for a modern twist by incorporating three strands of barbed wire into the construction.

Any small child would love this fence, with the knothole just perfectly placed for peering through.

The shoreline was dappled with molted feathers, which in turn were dappled with melted frost.

The fencing that is in the water was erected many years back to keep unwanted visitors from putting their boats on the water.  The land is now potentially up for sale – hopefully it will be purchased as a sanctuary for migratory waterfowl.

The in-coming birds were not as numerous as they were the last time we were here, but I did get a couple shots of some swans,

and geese coming in to land.

Two things, however, were “the big find” for me.  One was this stand of American bittersweet!  This native vine is hardly ever seen anymore.  The primary reason is because oriental bittersweet is such an aggressive invasive that it has pushed much of the native vine out of its habitat, but also the oriental will hybridize with the native.

The difference, when you look at these plants, is in the berries.  Not only are the native berries darker overall, but they also grow in clustered clumps at the ends of the vine branches.  Oriental bittersweet is a brighter orange, and its berries grow scattered along the whole vine.

The other thing I saw today that tickled me was this sign:

Next week the Tuesday morning group will be back touring the grounds at Dahlem.  Migratory birds are now pushing through, so there’s no telling what we might find.  Anyone who would like to join us should be at the Dahlem Center by 9:00 AM on the 29th.  Dress for the weather!

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About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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