Saturday, June 30, 2012

WEST NILE VIRUS: It's back in SE Michigan

Feeding mosquito - CDC image

Hot dry weather may have created uncomfortable conditions for many residents of SE Michigan as the 4th of July Holiday approaches, but it has also created favorable conditions for the transmission of West Nile Virus.
This week, West Nile Virus has been identified in both Saginaw and Washtenaw Counties.

SAGINAW:   A mosquito submitted by the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatemenet Commission has rested positive for WNV at Michigan State University.

WASHTENAW:  A wild turkey found in in Washtenaw County displaying neurological signs has tested posiitve for WNV at Michigan State University.

West Nile activity has also been detected in other Great Lake States as the summer season gets underway. These findings all confirm that the virus is once again circulating in mosquitos and birds in Michigan and presents a clear and present risk to human health.
 The  Michigan West Nile Virus website ( includes up to date surveillance informtion as well as the ability for citizens to report sick or dead birds 
 Additional excellent information on WNV :

Thursday, June 28, 2012



My invitation from the Michigan DNR to document the banding of osprey chicks in this nest led to a surprise photo, an intruding male osprey swooping in low and fast at the nest of a female osprey with three chick huddled low among the sticks.  He was not her mate.
Here is what happened.
About an hour before the project started I drove to a roadside vantage point to look over the lake and see if I could spot the osprey. I did.  There was something of a commotion of osprey chatter in the air. The osprey in the nest and  one flying overhead seemed restless.  Another observor told me that there had been an intruder osprey in the area.
I zoomed in on the nest with my hand held camera and just as I focused I noted a blur of motion.
I managed one click and made the capture.
Lesson learned: Expect the unexpected in the world of nature and keep the camera ready.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lucky photo: Red-bellied woodpecker X Two.

photo by Jonathan Schechter  June 22, 2012
Kensington Metropark in SE Michigan

I would like to claim it was skill. I would like to say I waited for hours, perhaps days for this shot.
 I would like to even boast about my camera settings, tripod work and all sorts of technical camera  things I know nothing about. But none of that would be true.  Here is what happened to capture this image of an adult red-bellied woodpecker passing a seed off  to her begging youngster.

I was walking a nature trail with my friend Amanda, an avid nature-wise birder and she was showing me how to hold morsels of nuts and seeds in my hand to let chickadees land and feed. That happened. But I was a sloppy holder of seed and a few fell to the ground.
The adult red-bellied woodpecker in the picture swooped in and snatched a seed off the trail and headed straight for the nearest tree.  I raised my camera hoping to snag one good shot of the bird perched on the dead tree, a tree of life for woodpeckers. And just as I started to squeeze the button on the camera --set on auto focus mind you - I noted a slight blur and the eager juvenile zipped around the trunk.
I captured the food passing and did not even realize it at the moment.
A very good day in the world of nature.
But the best news of all is this was the second unplanned action capture of bird life on the same day.  Come back to the blog in a few days for the photo of the "intruder osprey" and the dramatic story behind the story.
The best adventures in life are in nature and unplanned!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WILDFIRE SEASON: Do you have defensible space?

 Michigan's Duck Lake Forest Fire is now 100 percent contained.
GPS data show the fire stands at 21,069 acres.
all photos by Jonathan Schechter

The south end of the fire was 14 miles north of Newberry and 7 miles west of Tahquamenon Falls State Park campgrounds. The lighting-strike caused fire, which was first detected on Thursday, May 24, was  long and narrow and stretched 11 miles north to the Lake Superior shoreline. In all, fire crews constructed more than 42.6 miles of contained fireline.
Help  for the fire crews of our Michigan DNR wildland firefighters and local departments came from far and wide and included but was not limited to  the Michigan National Guard, Michigan State Police, Michigan State Police Emergency Management, Luce County Sheriff’s Department, Red Cross, Luce County Emergency Management, Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Wisconsin DNR, Minnesota DNR, American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the  Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.
In all, there were 141 properties within the perimeter of the fire. Of those, a total of 136 structures were lost (with a breakdown as follows):
49 homes/cabins (including a store and a motel)
    23 garages
    38 sheds/outbuildings
    26 campers
    The Duck Lake Fire is now out, but the summer fire season has hardly begun. As I write these words another wildfire is churning across Colorado consuming homes in its path. There is something in common with the loss of Michigan and Colorado homes:
    Lack of Defensible Space and lack of becoming 'Fire Adapted'
    Whether you live deep in the forest or at the edge of smaller woods right here in Oakland County, defensible space and situational awareness might make the difference of coming home to an intact home or just nails and fragments of what was your home after a wildfire.
    Want to know more? Open the National Fire Protection Association and FireWise  links and discover what you can do to protect your home from a wildfire.


    Duck Lake Fire outer perimeter roadblocks above and below

    Even a field fire can lead to destruction of a home, if you are not "Fire Wise"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

For The Love and Taste of Day Lilies

All photos by Jonathan Schechter
June, 2012 (my meadow)

Day lilies are delicious.  I've been munching on this beautiful naturalized wildflower since my neophyte naturalist years as an inquisitive nature-hungry, tree-hugging, bearded hippie on the campus of Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont.
 I still eat them
I aways will.
About the only thing that surprises me are the number suburbanites and even some park naturalists that give me a puzzled look and say something like, "You eat them?"  And then of course when they find I use the petals and fresh earthy tubers in salads I sometimes get comments about how they get their greens from the store, a testament to our societies sad disconnect from the healthy abundance nature's offerings.
With that said here are my three basic 'wild edibles' rules and one reminder:

NEVER eat a wild plant based just on what someone told you.
AWAYS be 100% sure of identification.
NEVER  collect roadside where chemicals are sprayed, same for your lawn!
REMINDER: Your stomach may be sensitive to a new pant, even though it is edible.

My closest day lily  grocery store is my hillside sixty feet in back of my house.
My collection tool is my heavy duty backpacking knife.  The three main parts I am after are the petals, the closed flower buds and the underground tubers. The knife is only needed for digging and cutting the tubers. There are many ways to prepare day lilies for consumption, raw or cooked and there is nothing new about eating day lilies. The Chinese have used them for centuries, so says the literature ,and they remain an ingredient in some hot and sour soups today.

(These were all consumed the evening of  June 11th)
1. PETALS  picked first thing in the morning are tasty and succulent and add flavor and color to salads. Each blossom only blooms for a day, thus the name day lily.

2. CLOSED FLOWER BUDS (PODS) can be boiled like asparagus, fried like a fritter, or stir fried or steamed with other vegetables.

3. TUBERS are my favorites. They are crisp with a slightly nutty flavor when eaten raw. I think they young ones are best and are delicious raw. But if I was camping  with a want of some fresh veggies, or in a survival situation I would think nothing of digging up the older, drier tubers and preparing them like potatoes or cooking up a stew. I bet they would go well with crayfish!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Isle Royale National Park:Via Isle Royale Queen IV!

 Photos by Jonathan Schechter
May 31st and June lst 2012

"The wild requires that we learn the terrain, nod to all the plants and animals and birds, ford the streams and cross the ridges, and tell a good story when we get back home."
Gary Snyder in The Practice of the Wild

The world of Isle Royal National Park, a wilderness archipelago nestled in the northwest corner of Lake Superior tells its own story. But to know the story you must listen and feel and touch and even taste the landscape and let your days be measured in footsteps.
These photos are meant to accompany the Oakland Press ( )  hiking column of June 10th:  Hiking In The Shadow of the Wolves.  
On the first day of June my conservation ecological conservation/writer friend Amanda Nimke accompanied me on a day trek on the island, but in reality our adventure started on the Isle Royale Queen IV during the lake crossing with the  philosophical and wildlife discussions we shared with Captain Don Kilpela.
 His wisdom, wit and genuine warmth set the stage for our nature-embracing adventure.     .

Captain Don Kilpela and Amanda Nimke

Isle Royal Queen IV docked at Rock Harbor, Isle Royale

Jonathan Schechter,  Amanda Nimke: Armed with cameras and note pads.

Raw primordial beauty is the spirit and life-blood of the road less island.

The outer islands shelter newborn moose calves.

Wolves are the apex predator of Isle Royale. Scat is rich with bone and fur.

Island trails are for minimalist travel and are shared with wildlife.

Kaykers share the bays with loons and on occasion, swimming moose.

Migrating monarchs rest on the lichen encrusted twigs.

Paradise for hikers, nature photographers and all who love wildness in nature.

"In wilderness is the preservation of the world." Henry David Thoreau


Monday, June 4, 2012

Lupines + Hidden Ticks = Coyote Encounter!

photos by Jonathan Schechter  June 3, 2012
Along Highway 28  - northern Michigan
SETTING THE STAGE:  My conservation education/writer friend Amanda Nimke and I were heading back on a 500 mile journey from the northern most tip of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula where we had just attended the annual conference of the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association. 
 And that's when we came upon the most most incredible roadside berm rich with lupines.
Stop the car! was the unspoken thought we shared.
 For the next 45 minutes we crawled on hands and knees and sat in a sweetly scented sea of lupines capturing images of their beauty and the visiting butterflies, bumble bees and dragonflies.
We did not know at the time our presence had been detected by a creature that wanted our blood.
 And it was not the coyote.
We drove on talking of the discoveries we made of the relationships between lupine and the visiting insects and the surprises that nature offers inquisitive insects and humans.

More than an hour passed. Suddenly Amanda was shifting in her seat behaving like popcorn in a heated oiled pan. A look of horror painted her face. 
Stop the car! And this time it was not to see wildflowers. 
 She discovered ticks had taken a liking to her and were on their crawling about on their expeditionary mission, "Where do I attach?" they were thinking.
We raced on to the first place for both of us to de-tick, a rest area not far down the road, a rest area we would not have stopped at had we not needed to free ourselves of our unwanted body-riders with a desire for blood, ours. And that series of rapid fire events led to the coyote encounter!

                                                                                                                                                               We saw movement in  the tall grass just as we pulled out of the rest area, and then we noticed it was a coyote. The coyote turned and darted over the railroad tracks which caused us to pull over to the edge of the road easement.  To our surprise and joy, the coyote popped his head back over and peered back at us over the tracks, sniffing and looking about, panting slightly. (photos above)
This puzzled us as we snapped a few photos. A few minutes passed and the curious coyote turned and dropped back over the berm, out of view.
The only appropriate thing we could think to do was get out and try to see where he went. A few steps off the road easement solved the mystery of this coyote's behavior.
"Ewwwww!" I said out loud wrinkling my nose.
Looking down I saw it - Lunch!

The coyote had been feeding on a road-killed deer, and the movement we noticed was the coyote's attempt to drag it further from the highway. The evidence of drag marks in the grass were clear.
The encounter is something we shall both remember for a long time. The simple act of stopping to photograph wildflowers began the events that lead to perfect timing to meet a beautiful and curious coyote with its own agenda: roadside lunch.

Back home around 2 a.m. I made a discovery:  I too hosted a hitch hiker.
Mine was unfortunately firmly attached.
But I smiled as I thought back to our encounter with the most beautiful coyote I have ever seen.
And now we  have shared that story with you.

Blog by Amanda Nimke and Jonathan Schechter