Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Backyard wildlife

For some reason, we see more animals in the yard during the winter. I'm not sure if it comes from seasonal changes in their behavior or in ours. We've seen deer every morning this week and an opossum last night.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not so evergreen

Most conifers in Michigan are green year round. The Tamarack (Larix laricina) is the only one that loses its needles for winter. The brown needles remind me of an artificial tree I almost bought by mistake in Uruguay.

Kalamazoo is at the southern edge of this tree's range which extends to northern Canada. Historically, tamarack has been used for many purposes from ships to paper to decoys.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow coverage

While we had a few flurries earlier, this weekend was the first time there was enough snow to cover the ground. Last night the roads were slippery. The pond iced over as well. It feels like winter is here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First snow

Kalamazoo had its first snow of the season this weekend. Not enough to cover the grass, but I did need to scrape my windshield this evening. Winter is on its way.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Peak color

Maples are the star of Michigan's fall color season and they are brilliant now. Unseasonably warm weather made it really pleasant for a walk through the woods.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Each Fall, Sandhill Cranes gather together to prepare for their long flight south. Baker Sanctuary outside of Battle Creek attracts thousands of the big birds. They'll stay in the area for several weeks before migrating to Florida and Georgia for the winter.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pretty poison

Poison ivy is common in southwest Michigan and touching it causes a nasty skin rash that can take weeks to heal. The red leaves in the picture are all poison ivy. Definitely "look but don't touch."

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Sumacs are consistently one of the earliest and most colorful trees of autumn. They don't form dense forests and never grow very tall, so they add bright accents to the landscape.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It's apple harvest season in Michigan and a friend invited us to a cider making party. The process was pretty simple. We dropped the apples into the grinder and cranked the handle. The ground apples fell into a mesh bag inside the wooden tub of the press. After about 15 minutes of grinding, the tub was full of apple pulp. Then the press was screwed down squeezing all the juice out of the apples. And that's it.

Delicious fresh cider.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Over the last few days, more color is appearing in the woods. These silver maples near the Kalamazoo River were almost red while most of the trees were still green. The boardwalk is part of the Kalamazoo Nature Center's trail system.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Early color

While the trees are still green, this Virginia Creeper already shows some Fall color. We've had frost on the grass, too, but not a killing frost yet.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Cicadas are emerging from their years underground and are metamorphosing. We found this one on a tree in the yard this morning. They're singing as I write this.

The first photo shows the wrinkled wings as it first leaves its old exoskeleton.

The second photo, taken about an hour later shows its filled-out wings, with the empty shell of its nymph form left behind.

Michigan has 10 species of cicadas and I think this is one of the common Tibicen species, not the infrequent, but more famous, 17-year cicadas.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Box turtle

This Eastern Box Turtle seemed to be enjoying the pleasant summer afternoon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wild orchid

Michigan's bogs have a number of unusual plants, including carnivorous ones. Orchids don't eat meat but they are beautiful enough that collectors threaten their existence. Many are protected by state and federal laws.

The Snake's Mouth orchid, or Rose Pogonia, [Pogonia ophioglossoides] is blooming now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Redbud is one of the most interesting local flowering trees. The flowers appear in clusters on the bare branches before the leaves open.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Spring Beauty

Mid-to-late April is the beginning of the wildflower season in West Michigan. Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, like many of the other early spring flowers is small and pale. These plants grow in mature woods and bloom quickly while sunlight still reaches the forest floor. In a few weeks, the maples and beeches will leaf out, creating daylong shade.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Spring really feels like it's here now. The daffodils are in full bloom; turtles are sunning themselves after their winter hibernation; toads are hunting for insects and the days are warm.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Winter aconite

Aconites are always one of the earliest flowers in my yard. Only the snowdrops are earlier. These are the first sign of spring colors to come.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Spring in Kalamazoo

After nearly three months of continuous snow cover, Spring is coming to Kalamazoo. Officially, it started with over a foot of new snow about a week ago. Now, there are some signs that warmer weather is actually on its way. These snowdrops just broke through this morning.