They Birded, I Flowered

It was just such a beautiful morning!  The air was almost autumnal: in the sun it was warm and in the shade it was cool, and a light breeze danced in the trees.  Who wouldn’t want to spend it outside!

We had a small but interested group today for the Tuesday Morning Walk.  The main objective was fall warblers, since last night there was a light north wind and a cloudless sky – perfect conditions for birds heading south.   The boardwalk along the soon-to-be Nature For All Trail is often a hotspot for warblers.  Very few birds were out this morning.

Not that this slowed me down any.  My binocs were at home on the sofa, so I was focusing on the flowers.

But then something else caught my eye.  Look at all that dew on the leaves!  It’s dewdrop photography time once again!

Then I saw this:

That’s new, I thought.  What do the leaves look like?  Is it a wild lettuce?

I had just noticed it was a vine when I asked Gary what it was.  Had I looked just a little closer, I would’ve seen the answer:

It is wild cucumber.  I’ve never seen it in bloom before – what a delight!  New flower for me.

The slugs were out along the boardwalk, too, enjoying the extra damp of the night and the warm glow of the sun.

More dewdrops.

Great lobelia is in full bloom right now.  Such a cheerful spot of blue in the woods.

But autumn’s colors are close at hand.  We encountered three clusters of Jack-in-the-pulpit fruits that the critters hadn’t eaten yet.

And water is once more in the bed of Crouch Creek.

More dewy orbs.

Within the fields and along the woodlands, asters are coming into their own at this time of year.  Asters are notorious, along with goldenrods, for their difficulty to ID.  If I had to guess, not having my field guide out with me, nor having taking a photo that showed all the pertinent parts, I’d guess this is white wood aster, but the flowers may be just a wee bit too small for that.

But!  It wasn’t all just flowers and slugs and dewdrops.  I, too, looked at a few birds – those I could see – like this wonderful turkey vulture who soared right overhead, tipping away on the breeze.

Even the thistles had a hard time of it this summer.  They bloomed early and just as quickly died back.  Now that we’ve had some rain, though, they seem to have rallied.  And even though most of the thistles we see are not native plants, I do like them for their individuality:  there are very few flowers that look like a thistle.

The same can’t be said for the various sunflowers and coreopsises (coreopses? coreopsi?).  Again, not having a field guide out with me, nor having taken a photo of all the pertinent parts, it is difficult to know which of the yellow flowers this is.  It might be a tall sunflower, a false sunflower, a pale-leaved sunflower, a narrow-leaved sunflower…a greater coreopsis, a lance-leaved coreopsis, a tall coreopsis…I’ll have to go out with a field guide and nail these down.

Still, whatever they are, one must admit that the yellow glow of these late summer flowers is one of the most cheerful colors out there.  The bees were certainly happy they were blooming.

And yellow is definitely the color of the day.  Most of the grassland was lit up with shades of yellow and gold.

A few spots of color were provided by the ironweed, which has got to be the most delicious shade of purple I’ve ever seen on a flower.

Everyone was very excited a couple weeks ago to find this steeplebush (aka hardhack).  Past its prime, this plant of low grounds, fields and pastures is a spirea and has a pink flower head.  This individual had been overcome by buckthorn, but thanks to the diligent efforts of our crack volunteer crew, the invasives in this spot have been removed and the native plants have been set free!  Where there is one steeplebush, more are sure to follow.

We next worked our way over to the fen.  My goal, although my hopes were not high, was to find the ladies tresses and see if I could get a definitive ID on them.  The shrubby cinquefoil was blooming along the edge.

And I was delighted by these graceful pink trumpets.  Thanks to my botany friend, we have confirmed this is small-flowered gerardia (I had thought maybe slender gerardia).

Grass-of-Parnassus is going full force right now – you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting one.  Such cheerful white flowers with their green pinstripes.

The little Kalm’s lobelia is also blooming.  It’s a shorter plant, with its blossoms hidden away in the vegetation, unlike its showier neighbors who thrust their heads way above the greenery.

Alas, for me, the ladies tresses were past blooming.  I thought they would be, but I was hopeful.  Still, they are just as showy now with their red fruits.  And, it turns out there is a whole little colony of them on that hummock in the fen.  2013 – I have a date in early August to return to get a better ID.  Nodding or hooded?  We shall see.

All in all, it was a near-perfect morning.  The group saw at least one warbler, as well as a red-breasted nuthatch, which is not a common bird in these parts (except in the fall as they fly south, apparently).  I added a new flower to my life list, and we all enjoyed the good company of our companions.

Looking for something to do on a Tuesday morning?  9:00AM – be here.  You won’t be sorry.


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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