Thursday, July 26, 2018

Two Rides On The North Central State Trail

After changing our minds about riding at Cuyahoga N.P. Boneless and Hop-a-long had been getting itchy and threatening to jump off the rack if we didn't take them out.  Admittedly, we were getting pretty itchy ourselves and were missing some time in the saddle.

So, when we discovered the North Central State Trail not far from our route it seemed like a good idea for everyone.

Our first jaunt on this trail was out of the town of Gaylord, Michigan.

It was a pleasant ride on a very quiet trail.

Interesting new plant... Silene vulgaris - Bladder Campion

There were some wonderfully wide open spaces where we saw some familiar things.

IMG_6895a (1)
The beautiful Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum

IMG_6896 Viceroy Butterfly (4)
A Viceroy Butterfly - Limenitis archippus

IMG_6896 Viceroy Butterfly (10)
who has been around and is a tad weathered at this point.

121 miles to Bay City - we're not going that far!

Nicole was focused on riding and filming this trestle overhead and completely missed

this little booger which, after she had passed him with a near miss, Darlene pointed out.

IMG_6918 Common Wood Nymph Butterfly (3)
We spotted a new butterfly!  This one is called the Common Wood Nymph - Cercyonis pegala.  Very pretty.

Along the way, we spotted a few other things...

A mama deer and her two little babes were frolicking in the field.

This lawn mower was attached by a long chain to a stake and would eat in a circle pattern and then be moved to another location in a large field.  There were obvious circles all over the place.

A little while later Nicole was riding along and looking at everything but the path when she suddenly ran off the edge.  She happened to glance at the ground as she went to put her foot down and saw


What a pretty creature.  Needless to say, she was fortunate that she thought quick enough to not put her foot down.

The shape of that head usually indicates an interest in striking out.

Later as we rode along, there was a bird circling in the fields.  Then suddenly it came within twenty feet and landed on a post.

IMG_6942 Upland Sandpiper Bird (2)
He stared at Nicole and Nicole stared at him and thought to herself that he sure did look like a sandpiper but it couldn't be as we were in a prairie.

IMG_6942 Upland Sandpiper Bird (1)
Indeed though he was a sandpiper.  He was an Upland Sandpiper - Bartramia longicauda - and that makes him not only beautiful but also a LIFER!

IMG_6944 Red-spotted Purple Butterfly (3)
As we continued our return trip we saw a Red-spotted Purple Butterfly,

some Sandhill Cranes

in an open field,

an Orange Sulphur Butterfly,

more wide open

and a vacationing goose from Canada.

It was a nice little ride.


Our second day on the North Central State Trail we started off from the town of Topinabee, Michigan and took a short ride.

We were by the water the whole time; next to Mullett Lake. 

The views of the lake were interspersed with some wooded sections.

We saw lots of birds like this female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Got a nice shot of the underwing of Nymphalis antiopa, the Mourning Cloak Butterfly

and a fairly decent top shot, as well.

Pleasant riding conditions...

This is a song sparrow telling Darlene, "catch me if you can".

This is Darlene telling the sparrow, "stop moving so much I am old and slow".

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A nice shot by Darlene despite an uncooperative sparrow.

IMG_7013 Scopula Immutata, Lesser Cream Wave (4)
We spotted a Scopula Immutata, Lesser Cream Wave Moth - a new one for us.

Also, saw some Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora).



Our first shot of a male Purple Finch

That concludes our time on the North Central State Trail in Michigan.  Two very nice rides and it was great to be back on the bikes!

See you soon...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

We Enter Michigan And Explore

After a brief stint in Ohio we headed into Michigan. 

First stop.... to meet an old friend for the first time.  Nicole and Ram4ever have been online pals for nearly eight years now.  Both are members of an online vanning group.  Ram is quite knowledgeable and has been a big help and support on more than one Annie issue occasion.  So, it was totally awesome to finally meet in person, see his van and spend hours TALKIN VANNIN. 

It wasn't until we went our separate ways that we both realized no commemorative photos had been taken. 

Ah, well!  Next time.

The next morning we continued our journey north and set our exploration sites on the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary.  What is most significant about Loda Lake is that it is the only Wildflower Sanctuary in the National Forest system.  We had heard varying reports of anywhere from 200 to 400 different plant species having been identified there.

There is a really nice trail set up and we were happy to be back in the forest.

Unfortunately, despite the reported high numbers of plants in the area, July is not the best time to view them.

We did see a few familiar berry bushes and even some Indian Pipe which we hadn't seen since our time in Idaho.

In the end though our most exciting discoveries at the Wildflower Sanctuary were two new butterflies.

IMG_6863 Eyed-brown Butterfly, Satyrodes eurydice (1)
Satyrodes eurydice, the Eyed-brown Butterfly

IMG_6871 Dun Skipper Euphyes vestris (1)
and Euphyes vestris, the Dun Skipper

And, that was our time at the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary.

We'll make this a short one.  More to come as we are seriously behind at this point...

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Lock, A Lake and Living Organisms in Ohio

Our first stop after leaving Pennsylvania was only a short drive away.  Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio had a path that we had intended to bicycle. 

However, the later than originally planned departure from PA had us arriving during some peak heat and rising temperatures made that idea a not so good one.  The park is interesting as National Parks go.  They call it an Urban Park.  Since we had worked in the Ocala National Forest which the Forest Service calls an Urban Forest we had a general idea of what was involved.  Essentially, the park is built in and around homes and roads and county parks and other things.  The result can make for some not so obvious park boundaries and some difficulty with identifying what belongs to the park service and what does not. 

Besides the heat there were people everywhere.  To say we have been spoiled by some really isolated trails and paths is an understatement.  So, save for the talk that we listened to on the Erie Canal Locks and the demonstration of how they worked, we didn't spend much time in the park itself.  Instead we drove through, ate lunch in a city park (which seemed to be right inside the national park) and then moved on to a quieter local.

That's not to say that the Locks, Canals and Towpath were not interesting.  

They've got some interesting history and the Lock design even came from da Vinci himself!

Between Cleveland and Akron there were 44 locks and an elevation change of 395 feet.  Without the Locks, safe navigation of these waters and transportation of goods would not have been possible due to rapids.

The water level on either side of the lock's gate must be the same to be able to open it.

To control the level they use a wicket (small gate within the gate) which the man is opening in the above photo.

Horses and Mules pulled the boats along the canals via the Towpath.  We were not able to have a complete demonstration of the locks on this day due to a blockage somewhere up or downstream.  But we appreciated the partial demo, got the gist of the principals and picked up a few other tidbits of knowledge on our walk through the museum. 

A quieter - more nature oriented - location was calling our names though so we did not explore the park any further and moved on up the line.

Next on our list....

Some time up by the Great Lake of Erie.

It was actually a pretty blustery day and there were waves crashing against the shore.

Even on the great lakes it is possible to find Flotsam and Drift Seeds!

The water was actually warmer than we'd expected.  We dipped our toes and then continued our drive westward along the shore.

Next up, the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. 

We'd barely left the van when we came upon thousands of a new-to-us caterpillar!  And, they weren't just on the plants, they were on the sidewalks and all over the parking lot.  If you stopped to look at anything, you'd have several crawling on your feet in a matter of seconds. 

Euchaetes egle - the Milkweed Tussock (Tiger) Moth Caterpillar is a cute little character.

We also spotted this Red Milkweed (Longhorn) Beetle - Tetraopes tetrophthalmus

Darlene said she watched this caterpillar crawl up onto the rock.  When Nicole got there it played dead and wouldn't move at all despite many attempts at 'encouraging' it.
The official identification of this one is still to be determined...

This unidentified member of the Geometridae family is about the size of a large grain of rice and was not in the mood to stand still for a photo.

And, we saw all of those before we had even left the parking lot!

Eventually, we did leave the parking lot and we took a walk along the boardwalk and through the marsh area.

But before we could reach the water we caught these two Barn Swallows having a conversation.

Once we reached the water we started spotting snakes,

IMG_6666a (2)
little catfish

IMG_6670a (1)
bigger fish (no, he's not dead, the water was shallow and he was determined to eat)

yet, another fish

sparkling eyes over sparkling water


a long shelled snail

well worn wings

a hungry monarch caterpillar

a very big toad with a fly on its head

And, that was our time on the boardwalk.

We then moved on to the wildlife drive.

We had a nice drive along a well graded road past a variety of environments.  There were many familiar things seen but there were also a few new things seen.

Like this Trumpeter Swan!  A LIFER for us.

We've seen adult pied-billed grebes but did not recall seeing young ones like these before.

Our eyes had been peeled all day hoping to spot our first Muskrat.  While eating lunch this little fella showed up.  He sure was cute but he's a groundhog not a muskrat.  So, we kept looking.

The last time we saw an Acadian Flycatcher we only got a front shot so we thought it was cool we got this back shot. 
Funny thing, though.  This is NOT an acadian flycatcher.  It is a Willow Flycatcher and that makes it a new bird (LIFER) for us!  Good times!

We enjoyed our time at the refuge and soaked in some much appreciated quiet time in nature.

And, by the way, we did not manage to see a muskrat.  We'll, keep looking.  Meanwhile it is Muskrats 1 - Nicole and Darlene 0.

Here's a video Nicole slapped together to make it a bit more 'real' for you.  Hope you enjoy...