Category Archives: nature center

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Photo by Grace Grogan

Entrance to the Bird Trail – Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

This little bird spent a lot of time hopping from tree to tree, keeping all entertained with his antics. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend my husband and I decided to drive to Magee Marsh in Ohio to take photographs of birds.   Located on the southern side of Lake Erie, this is where North American Warblers gather during their spring migration, making it a prime spot for both bird enthusiasts and photographers.  People travel from all over the United States and other parts of the world to visit during the prime migration time, which is the last weekend of April thru Mid May.  A birding festival is held during the highest point of migration.   We visited after the festival had ended, but there were still a large number of bird watchers and photographers visiting and we were able to enjoy both the sound of the birds “singing” and the ability to capture them on camera from various points along the boardwalk.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Sitting on a limb enjoying the sunshine and showing off his plumage. It was almost as if he knew I was taking many photographs of him. Photo by Grace Grogan

Although the boardwalk is only about a mile long, Ron and I spent approximately six hours making the walk.  In addition to the birds there are also other items of photographic interest, as this is a nature preserve and nature holds its own beauty.  There are two distinct differences between the photographers and the bird watchers.  Photographers are obviously carrying cameras, often with huge lenses and on tripods.  Their primary focus is to capture hundreds of shots of the birds which they will later sort through, choosing the best and identifying them as they do their photo processing.  The bird enthusiast are usually carrying binoculars, bird books and note pads in which they meticulously record the birds as they see them.   While you will see some bird watchers with cameras, I don’t recall seeing any photographers with binoculars, as your camera and lens serve the same purpose.   Because bird enthusiasts are used to spotting these small creatures they were a handy resource, a groups of bird watchers with their binoculars all pointed in the same direction

Photo by Grace Grogan

Taken from the top of the viewing platform. Photo by Grace Grogan

generally meant a good place to direct your camera lens as well.

The Magee Marsh boardwalk is well maintained, with periodic benches where you can rest if needed.  There is also a raised viewing platform and other side trails you can take for additional viewing.  The birds are frequently quite close to the boardwalk, so even with a small camera lens or point-and-shoot camera you have a good chance of capturing a nice photograph.  Camera’s click in rapid succession, people scribble notes on their pads of paper, and everyone enjoys the view.  Photographers and Birders are friendly, enthusiastic groups of people.

If you haven’t been to Magee Marsh and love nature, birds, or photography, this should definitely be on your list of places to visit.

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photography by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo!  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Peek-a-Boo! Photograph by Grace Grogan

DSC_0215-2

Photograph by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me.  Photograph by Grace Grogan

Scared the heck out of me as I was zoomed in to take a photograph when he started straight at me. Photograph by Grace Grogan

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Filed under birds, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, travel, Uncategorized, Writing

THE CRYING INDIAN

Back in the 1970’s there was a commercial with an American Indian standing beside a highway as litter was thrown from a car.  A close-up of the Indian’s face showed a tear coming down because the American landscape was being destroyed by such careless action.  That is what came to mind this past weekend as I walked along a nature preserve on Harsens Island.    For those who may not be familiar with the Blue Water Area, Harsens Island is accessible only by boat or car ferry.  There are a lot of natural areas on the island along with residential and commercial property.  We were parked on a dirt road that runs between two nature preserve areas taking photographs.

Litter CollageAs I strolled down the road looking for items to photograph I was appalled at the amount of trash that had been thrown into the water filled “ditch” between the road and the nature preserve.  Not only is litter unbecoming to the landscape, but plastic, paper, and other pieces of trash can be harmful to wildlife if swallowed.   I feel that if you are capable of transporting the cups, wrappers, bottles, etc. from where ever you acquired them,  you should be able to transport the remaining packaging or wrapper back to an appropriate trash container.  It was at that time that I decided to take photographs of a small portion of the litter I saw and create this blog on littering.

Over the years penalties and fines have been enacted for those caught littering.  There is a considerable amount of variation from state to state on the penalties and fines which are based on the amount of litter that was thrown, the type of litter, and where it was left.  States also vary on the criminal charges imposed, with everything from a civil infraction to a felony charge with prison time.    To find out where your sate rates visit The National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many of these changes that have happened over the years can be accredited to Pollution Prevention:  Keep America Beautiful, an organization that in working to bring awareness to how pollution damages the environment aired an advertisement for the first time on Earth Day in 1971.  That ad featured Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody and had the tagline “People Start Pollution.  People can stop it.”    Chief Iron Eyes Cody became known as “The Crying Indian.”

That one advertisement created by Keep America Beautiful was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century and Chief Iron Eyes Cody has a star bearing his name on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.   The ad campaign resulted in a reduction in litter of approximately 88% in 300 communities, 38 states and several countries.   It is sad to think that now, 43 years later, littering remains a problem.   Whether a small isolated island, the expressway system or city streets, people throw their trash on the ground rather than wait until an appropriate receptacle can be located.    The problem is significant enough that companies and organizations adopt sections of roadways where they perform regular cleanup of trash left behind.  Hopefully someday we will reach the point where this is not necessary, where people take pride in their land and littering is no longer an issue.    If you are a person that litters, please reconsider your actions.  If you are a person that does not litter, thank you for your care and consideration of the environment and landscape.

 

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Filed under environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, littering, nature, nature center, pollution, spring, Uncategorized, Writing

DELIGHTFULLY DRAB

Here in Saint Clair County the weather has reached that delightfully drab level where the temperatures are of a moderate level, the snow has melted, the trees are bare of leaves and the grass is a lovely blah beige.   This past Sunday my husband and I went for a walk at the Lake Saint Clair Nature Center.  While the average walker will find no purpose in hauling a camera into such a lackluster location, photographers abound and are always on the lookout for something to capture.

Leaves and shells captured in ice on a pond.

Leaf and shells captured in ice on a pond.

When out for a stroll watch anyone with a camera, they will draw your attention to the small, unusual, and difficult to find items of beauty in nature where there appears to be nothing.  Moss on a tree, items floating in water, leaves curled on stumps, reflections in the water, or an unusual curve of a tree stump are all items that can be captured and enjoyed.    Look up, look down, look left, look right, and don’t forget to turn around and look behind you.  Just a few steps one way or the other can open up possibilities.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

Red Wing Blackbird strolls down a twig floating on on the water.

While strolling over a foot bridge I leaned over the rail and looked down.  That is where I found the leaves and shells trapped in a piece of ice that remained on the water.    The majority of people walking over the bridge that day likely missed what I saw because it required leaning over the rail.  Small treasures can be found in the most unusual places.

Watch for movement in the water.  Although I didn’t move fast enough to capture the muskrat swimming in the water on my camera he was there.  I could hear the frogs croaking away in the marsh but couldn’t find them.  A red wing blackbird was happily moving down a small twig floating in the water, and while it is likely he was searching for food the impression was that it was amazed by its own reflection in the water.  Being mating season male birds were also calling out and ruffling their feathers in display, attempting to attract females.  Birds were also easy among old weeds on the waters edge.  Walk quietly and enjoy the moment.

Reflections in Nature

Reflections in Nature

Although the bare trees do not appear to be attractive at first glance, don’t underestimate their appeal.  Look up and notice the unusual displays bare branches create against the sky.    Watch how they reflect in the water and the interesting angles those reflections create.  Beauty is found in unexpected places, you just have to look for it.

It is so easy to walk by beauty and never realize it is there.  Remember that even if if you have walked that path numerous times, changes happen in nature constantly and new things can be found daily, often within a few minutes or hours.

Ice Patterns

Ice Patterns

A frozen trail of water is melting, and as it does patterns form in the remaining ice.  Look at them, notice their unusual beauty, their uniqueness.  Enjoy what is there today for tomorrow the movements of nature may take it away, and you will have missed the moment.  Learn to walk with a photographers eye and you will catch the beauty of nature that can be found in the delightfully drab.

 

               I welcome your thoughts and comments on this and all previous posts

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Filed under birds, Lake St. Clair, Life is a Melting Pot, nature center, Photography, spring, Uncategorized, Writing