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Entries in county parks (10)


County Parks family camp night

Pitch a tent; go on a hike with our favorite naturalist; try your hand at fishing; play frisbee; make a "flower" arrangement, and a cute owl thing; earn your Junior Naturalist distinction; gobble down some s'mores; learn about nocturnal(ish) animals in our county; go for a hike in the dark; have the clouds part just in time to watch the stars with a star expert (and see a few Perseid meteors); fall asleep to the sound of a screech owl. Did I mention pancakes in the morning?

What did you do this weekend?


A wild bouquet

Summer is in full bloom. The meadows and prairires are full of robust, vividly colored blooms and the soft sound of buzzing everywhere. It's 4H fair week for us, but we took a break from the plentiful activities at the fairgrounds this morning for a meander through field in search of posies as part of the Junior Naturalist program. The quiet was a welcome reprieve, and even the heat was enjoyable amidst so many delightful sights and sounds: the hawk overhead, the song birds hiding in the brush, the bees busy at work, the butterflies flitting from petal to petal.


County Parks Pioneer Days


County Parks Tour (Manchester area)

Another installment on our county parks tour. When we printed out our map of the county with the parks marked for easy locating, Calvin and I decided that we would cluster some of the parks together to cut down on the amount of driving. Some of those cluster spots are in the southwest corner of the county, and today we visited two parks that make up one of them: Clark and Avis Spike Preserve and Sharon Shorthills Preserve. The Sharon Shorthills are a geologic phenomenon left behind by glacial activity in our area. They are characterised by long, rolling hills interspersed with broad valleys. The area is in stark contrast to the rest of southeast Michigan, which is fairly flat.

The two parks we visited today illustrate the best of the area for sure. Clark and Avis Spark Preserve is situated in one of the areas valleys. It is a fairly open and flat wetland between farm fields. Vague paths are mowed, marking out less than a mile of trail between the tall grasses. It was a peaceful visit for us. Early in the morning the sun was warming and the dew and mist clung to everything, creating a rather sureal look. We saw several interesting insects, beautiful wildflowers, and two bird species that were completely new to us, and we heard the Boblink again, although we were not able to spot the singer.

After CASP, we drove around the corner to our next stop at Sharon Shorthills Preserve. This park is situated atop and between rises in the hills, giving it the greatest elevation variation of all our county parks. It has only about a one mile trail, but the habit changes from field to wetland and pine forest to deciduous forest throughout. Our order of visits just happened that way, but in hindsight it would have been a great plan anyhow, since it was nice to be in the mostly wooded and shady perserve as the morning warmed up. This second stop also provided great wildflower and insect viewing, and we saw one bird species entirely new to us here as well. We also got to hear and see another wood thrush, and our first American Toad of the season.

Clark and Avis Spike Preserve

Pied-billed Grebe (seen not in the park, but in a pond by the side of the road on the way)

Cedar Waxwing

Willow Flycatcher (a first sighting for us)

Willow Flycatcher

Getting a good shot of some Common Valerian

Common Valerian, Photo by Calvin

Baltimore Checkerspot Caterpillar

Photo by Calvin

Eastern Meadowlarks (Identifiable by the yellow with black necklace: a first ever sighting for us, so worth the poor picture)

Golden-backed Snipe Flies, photo by Calvin

Yellow Coreopsis

Photo by Calvin

Pearl Crescent Butterflies

Spotted Lady Beetle

ID uncertain. Looks like a Little Glassywing Butterfly, but seemed larger and has a white spot under the wing.

Red Admiral Butterfly

Yellow Salsify

Unidentified. This was a flowering bush, not a wildflower.

Eastern Wood-pewee (identified mostly by his call)

Acadian Flycatcher (Identified using markings and call)

American Toad


Horsetail with its fertile cone

Hoary Alyssum


County Parks Tour (Fox Science Preserve)

It has been warm but dark and stormy around here as of late. We've visited a couple of our favorite county parks, sites that we were already familiar with, to fill out the site records for our summer tour project, but only today did we finally visit another park that was completely new to us. Fox Science Preserve is county park land on the site of an old gravel pit. The pit was used to mine gravel for the creation of I94 over fifty years ago, then the family that owned the land closed it to mining and gave the space over to the park system.

The park is starkly different from those that we usually visit. Having been a gravel pit, it is a low, open valley surrounded by wooded hills. In my mind, the terrain is reminiscent of the southwest—a vast rocky landscape dotted with scrubby bushes—only it also has low lying wet areas. Because it was mined for gravel, the area boasts large rock that were uncovered, and a unique look at the geological underlayer, and the park system has used this to its benefit. Instead of the usual meandering hiking trails intended to keep visitors in specific areas, the entire floor of the valley seems open to exploration, and signs describing and explaining the topography and its geologic significance are located throughout. Apparently it is commonly used by local schools for field trips, although I don't remember having ever been here before myself.

We had a really great morning together here. It was cool and overcast when we started out, but sunny and warming as we left. Though the park trails only measure about .8 miles, we spent over two hours exploring everything there was to see, and looking closely for bird and animal sightings. We saw over thirty species of bird, including the Belted Kingfisher and the Northern Flicker, a wide variety of insects, and evidence of mammals, as well: a good haul for such a small area! I was surprised by how much we enjoyed the park, and because it is so close to home, I imagine we'll be back to enjoy walks together when we are short on time but longing for a little quiet space in nature.

Spider web in deer track

Igneous rock

Metamorphic rock

Sedimentary rock

Field Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Eastern Bluebird, female

Golden-backed Snipe Fly

Red-winged Blackbirds, female