Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter Events 2011-2012

Despite cold days and long nights there is plenty to do around Kalamazoo during the Winter. Skating, skiing, and sledding are all fun local activities. Or watch a holiday parade, go snow-shoeing, or just enjoy a walk in the woods.

Winter Events near Kalamazoo
November 28, 2011 Marshall's 47th Annual Christmas Parade 7:00 PM Marshall

November 29, 2011 Parade of Lights 6:30 PM Holland

December 2, 2011 Sinterklaas Eve Procession 7:00 PM Holland

December 4, December 11 Holidays at Delano Homestead Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

December 10 Free Admission Day and Local Gift Fair Kalamazoo Nature Center Kalamazoo

December 14 2011 - January 5 2012 Christmas Bird Count

January 6-7 2012 Ice Sculpting Competition Holland

January 11, 2012 Ice fishing seminar Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Mattewan

January 21, 2012 Schrier Park Winter Sports Fest. 12 noon - 3:30 pm Portage

January 26 - 29, 2012 Winterfest 2012 Grand Haven

January 27-30, 2012 Duck Decoy Carving at Kellogg Biological Station

January 31 - February 4, 2012 Muskegon Snowfest Muskegon

February 3-5, 2012 Icebreaker 2012 South Haven

February 17-20 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count

February 18-19, 2012 Free Fishing Winter Weekend throughout Michigan

March 3, 2012 Quietwater Symposium East Lansing

Ongoing events

International Festival of Lights
Battle Creek

Holiday Kerstmarkt Holland

Millennium Park Skate Rink
opens December 3 2011 Portage

See also

2012 Maple Syrup festivals around Kalamazoo

Discover Kalamazoo's event listing

Outdoor Athelete's Winter Sports events

Gazelle Sports Races and running calendar

Kalamazoo in Winter
from CommunityLink

February Events from Pure Michigan

West Michigan Winter Weekends

Sarrett Nature Center's Weekend Programs Benton Harbor

The Department Of Natural Resources shows events in the State Parks for December, January, and February.

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery winter events pdf

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is found throughout most of North America and selected parts of South America. Unlike some of Michigan's birds, Great Horned Owls spend the winter here, nesting in January & February.

It's easier to hear these big predators, than to see them since they are active at night. Their hoot is the characteristic "who who." ( shares some recorded hoots.)

The owl's "horns" are not ears, just distinctive tufts of feathers.

Great Horned Owl territories often overlap with Red-tailed Hawks, with owls hunting at night and hawks hunting in daylight. Owl wing feathers are much softer than hawk feathers, allowing silent night flight. The stiff hawk feathers allow for higher speeds.

The bird pictured here is used in educational programs at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Michigan State and National Parks

Michigan State and National Parks
by Tom Powers

Tom Powers, author of Natural Michigan and other guidebooks, describes 100 Michigan parks with park maps and black & white photos. The National Parks are all up north, but there are several state parks near Kalamazoo.

Michigan State Parks near Kalamazoo

1. Fort Custer Recreation Area
"A little something for everyone and a lot of potential outdoor enjoyment for anyone is packed into the sprawling year-round playground named Fort Custer Recreation Area."
Camping, cabins, hiking, x-country skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, hunting, boating, boat rental, swimming beach, picnic areas, horse trails.

Ft Custer Recreation Area
5163 W. Fort Custer Dr
Augusta, MI

2. Kal-Haven Trail State Park
"The route follows an old, unused stretch of the Penn Central Railroad from South Haven, on the shores of Lake Michigan to Kalamazoo."
34 miles of trail, hiking, biking.

Kal-Haven Trail State Park

Blue Star Highway/ South Haven
10th St/ Kalamazoo

3. Van Buren State Park
"A wide sidewalk leads through a single narrow opening, and it's not until you're almost completely through the sand wall that the view opens to reveal the park's main attraction: limitless blue waters of lake Michigan edged by a broad sweep of fine black-speckled sand."
Camping, beach, picnic area

Van Buren State Park
23960 Ruggles Rd
South Haven

4. Yankee Springs Recreation Area
"There's no doubt, though, that most of the 600,000 people a year who come to the park funnel to the beautiful picnic and beach areas lining the peninsula that juts so far out into the water it almost cuts Gun Lake, the park's largest, in half"
Camping, rustic camping, boating, water skiing, hiking, mountain biking, horse trails, hunting, fishing, x-country skiing.

Yankee Springs Recreation Area

2104 Gun Lake Rd

5. Saugatuck Dunes State Park
""The shortest route to the beach is a l...o...n...g one-mile slog over wooded dunes from the parking lot. That's quite a hedge against overcrowding."
Trails (14 miles), beach, x-country skiing

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

138th Avenue

6. Holland State Park
"Each year a million and a half visitors take advantage of the fact that the long, broad beach that edges Lake Michigan northwest of Holland is one of the most accessible and beautiful along the Lower Peninsula's west shore."
Beach, camping (separate unit), boat ramp, fishing

Holland State Park
Ottawa Beach Rd
Holland, MI

7. Grand Haven State Park
"Essentially, the park is the beach; only a slab of asphalt and a few buildings interrupt the wide, nearly flat expanse."
Beach, RV camping, fishing.

Grand Haven State Park
1001 Harbor Ave
Grand Haven, MI

8. Grand Mere State Park
"The dunes, forests, Lake Michigan shoreline and string of small interdunal lakes are part of the reason that Grand Mere is one of only a dozen Michigan areas listed among the country's National Natural Landmarks."
Trails, picnic area, fishing, dunes, beach

Grand Mere State Park
Grand Mere Rd

9. Warren Dunes State Park
"Even if you're a longtime resident who has seen what wind, water, and sand has created elsewhere along our 3,121 miles of Great Lakes frontage, you will be unprepared for your first-time visit here."
Camping, beach, trails, picnic areas, dune climb

Warren Dunes State Park
12032 Red Arrow Highway

10. Warren Woods State Park
"The unique area is the legacy of E. K. Warren, a local businessman who in the 1870s, when most people saw nothing but dollar signs in Michigan's great forests, had the unusual foresight to purchase the virgin hardwood stand with the sole intent of saving it for posterity."
Trail, birdwatching

Warren Woods State Park
Warren Woods Rd
Three Oaks

11. Coldwater State Park

My library has the Third Edition. You can order the Fourth Edition (2007) from Amazon or other retailers.

See also:
Michigan National Parks

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Black Squirrel

Black squirrels are a color morph of the Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) which is widely distributed throughout the Eastern United States and Canada. The black variety is relatively rare, with localized populations becoming something of a tourist attraction. Southern Ontario and Michigan seem to have relatively large numbers of black squirrels. Legend says W.K. Kellogg brought black squirrels to the area. (Personally, I'm somewhat skeptical of this; black squirrels seem too broadly distributed in the area to have come from a single source.)

My backyard is full of Fox Squirrels, Red Squirrels, and Chipmunks so I never see Grey Squirrels (of whatever color) in my yard. But, a few miles south in Portage (near Centre Avenue) I always see black squirrels. The squirrel pictured here was at Portage's West Lake Nature Preserve.

See also: Myths and Realities of the Mysterious Black Squirrel
Michigan's Squirrels
Information on many Squirrel species

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wood Duck

Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) are such striking birds that I still remember seeing my first one, nearly 40 years ago at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in upstate New York. Living in Kalamazoo, I'm fortunate to see them frequently when canoeing on Portage Creek.

Over-hunting and habitat destruction nearly destroyed Wood Duck populations a century ago. [See USDA report pdf] Protection began with Migratory Bird Treaty in 1916 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Hunting regulations and the development of duck boxes allowed the population to rebound. In Michigan, they are now reasonably common.

This is the time of year when many Michigan Wood Ducks migrate south.

Wood Ducks tend to more skittish than, say, Mallards, so I rarely get decent photos in the wild. The bird pictured above was at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Easy Hikes Chicago

Easy Hikes Close to Home Chicago
by Ted Villaire

This slim guidebook presents 18 short hiking trails near Chicago. Each trail description includes an overview, a map, directions to the trailhead, and a more-detailed discussion of the trail. Most of the trails are in northeastern Illinois with a few in Southern Wisconsin or Northern Indiana. All are within a day's drive of Kalamazoo.

The author's website provides more information about the book, including a complete list of the hikes and a few sample chapters.

The trails listed in the book's third section, "South Chicagoland and Indiana" are closest to West Michigan.

Easy Hikes Close to Kalamazoo

1. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Bailly-Chellberg Hike
length 3.3 miles
"Get a glimpse of early settlement life in northwestern Indiana by touring the homesteads of two frontier families. You'll also see wooded ravines, rich bottomland forest that grows beside the Little Calumet River, and a curious old cemetery."
directions: from I-94 take exit 22B to US 20, parking is on the left, 4.1 miles.
Indiana Dunes website

2. LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area Loop
length 5.2 miles
"If you like riverside hikes and sprawling marshlands, you'll find them in abundance on this hike, one of the great undiscovered hikes in Chicagoland." The author also describes this hike in chapter in his guidebook 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Chicago. See this pdf. [West half closed for hunting season Oct 1 - Dec 1.]
directions: from I-94, go south on US 41 until you reach IN 10 (County Road 1000). West on IN 10 about 2.4 miles to sign for Parking Lot 3A.
LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area website

3. Thorn Creek Hike

length 2.5 miles
"This lightly used nature preserve is a gem: after exploring the ravines, the pine plantations, the wooded hills, and the streams,= surrounded by bottomland forest, be sure to check out the former country church that now serves as a nature center."
directions: I-94 to I-57. South on I-57 to exit 339 (about 18.5 miles) to Park Forest [I got confused following the book's directions from this point: I'd suggest Google maps or GPS for the last few miles.].
Thorn Creek Nature Center
247 Monee Road, Park Forest, IL 60466

Available from Amazon, other booksellers and libraries.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Best Fall Color?

Fall in Kalamazoo is always colorful. At times, I'm stopped in my tracks by a spectacular tree. But, I want a bigger picture: a whole forest of colorful trees. I haven't found anywhere that I'd consider a "best place" for fall color near Kalamazoo.

Now, there are many colorful places for an Autumn walk, drive, or float, and I'm sure there must be places with a colorful panorama, but I don't know where they are. I'm thinking of the classic Fall pictures from Vermont or New Hampshire with a hill covered with orange, red, and yellow trees.

West Michigan seems to have all the individual elements: maple trees for beautiful red & orange leaves, rolling hills to display a swath of forest, and water to reflect the colors. Yet, I can't recommend a single spot for reliable breath-taking scenary.

Perhaps, I'm just busy with Fall classes & I miss the peak beauty. Or maybe I'm looking in the wrong places. If you have a favorite spot for Fall Color in West Michigan, please add it to the comments.