Redpolls et al

It seems like forever since I joined the Tuesday Morning Group for a walk, so this morning I decided to tag along.  We had a couple newcomers along today – we hope they come again.

The first thing on the list was looking for redpolls.  Redpolls are little tundra birds that head south for the winter.  Some winters “south” may be just across the Canadian border, while other years “south” can be quite a bit further along the lines of latitude than southern Michigan.  These small somewhat striped birds with the little red caps showed up at Dahlem’s feeders last month, and it’s been a joy to see them.  This morning they became part of the life list of several of our Tuesday regulars.

While the group was stopped to discuss yellow-bellied sapsuckers, this rather loose nest caught my eye.  I wasn’t sure if it was a genuine nest or just where a bunch of pine needles had been caught in a forked branch.  So, I reached up and lifted it down, only to find…

…the interior was full of seeds.  Some little bird was using this nest as a larder!

This last weekend the news was full of reports of tornadoes to the south of us, and blizzards to the north.  Here we had some pretty strong winds, but the worst damage was no more than a few trees down.  Of course, this tree also took out a section of railing along our Special Needs Trail.

Redwing blackbirds are back in droves now, and the white-throated sparrows have also arrived.  Spring must be just around the corner.  Even the skunk cabbage is starting to poke up through last year’s decaying leaf litter.

As we walked along, I glanced up and saw these two round mushrooms on a stick – they almost look like UFOs!

Backing up on the bank on the other side of the trail, I was able to juuuust see the tops of these shelf fungi.  I’m not sure what species they are, but I thought they looked rather nifty.

Man-made objects stand out like sore thumbs along our trails.  At first we took this for a collection of garbage, but upon closer inspection we saw that it was the remains of a geocache container.  Geocaching was an activity that came about shortly after GPS units were developed for the average person – it gave them something to do with their new toys!  Containers are hidden on the landscape and their coordinates are placed on-line at the geocache website(s).  Then, searchers go on-line, look for caches that they want to find, get the coordinates, and go searching.  Apparently, there are several caches on the Dahlem property.  There’s now one less.  I brought the contents inside and will be trying to find the owner, in case they want to replace the cache.

Out on the grassland/prairie at this time of year it is soooo easy to see where native and non-native vegetation lives.  Here we have the now-flattened patch of big bluestem grasses bordered by the little bluestem.

The little bluestem then fades into more open areas where some invasives are still present.

But across the trail, where no restoration work has been done (yet), not a stem of native grasses is visible.  In fact, this area is full of solid patches of spotted knapweed.  Note how barren it looks!   The good news is that a burn is scheduled for later this spring along this section of the grassland, and we will also be hitting the patches of knapweed with a species-specific herbicide.

Out along the glacial pond we checked out the native shrubs that were planted last fall.  They are looking good.  Once they are well-established the cages will be removed – then they will be on their own to withstand the pressures of the deer.

Invasive species removal is well underway along the Special Needs Trail.  This trail is slated for renovation this summer – it will receive an entire facelift and will become our new Nature For All Trail, specially designed for people with limited mobility and other disabilities.  Stay tuned for more information.

As you walk along the trail this spring, you will see lots of activity, mostly that of our Cut-n-Dab Society removing invasives, like the large Norway maples below.  We are very excited about this project – it will open up this portion of our property to a) more wildlife, b) more native plant species, and c) people who feel that they cannot get out and enjoy nature.



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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