Lake Michigan, Mid-January 2014

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Four weeks after my Christmas Eve walk around Kirk Park I returned to Lake Michigan to see what had changed, and to try out my new camera.

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The extreme cold of the past few weeks increased the ice cover dramatically, and now the lake is covered out to near the horizon.

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The large piles of ice roughly correspond to where the sand bars or shallow regions near the beach appear in the summer.

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I walked out to the first large piles. I am certain the ice would have held me out much farther, but it was difficult walking; slick ice interspersed with patches of snow which might also be deep holes.

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After an hour here I drove up to Grand Haven State Park, where many people (comparatively) were enjoying themselves on the ice.

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The mouth of the channel was apparently the only open patch of water in this area, and therefore there were ducks in abundance.

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You can see the entire set here on Flickr.

Kirk Park, Christmas Eve 2013

By Christmas Eve the ice had stopped falling and we had an inch or so of snow taking the edge off. This made it fairly easy to drive out to Kirk Park in time to catch the sunset over Lake Michigan. I have the entire set available for viewing on Flickr.

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The dune path leading to the water was covered by a shell of ice at least two inches thick. This was not obvious until I stepped on it and slid, feet out front like on a toboggan, to the bottom of the dune. Anyone on an actual sled probably could have easily made it to the waterline.

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The clouds came in from the west in two distinct layers; the higher ones which flowed to the horizon, and the lower ones which formed over the water and dropped lake-effect snow farther inland.

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On the beach the ice made for treacherous footing. Out in the water I could see some small chunks of ice floating and growing, and tiny ice crystals forming where the cold air pulled the heat from the water.

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On the shoreline the beginning of what would become huge piles of ice began to form.

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As they day wound down the sun came through at an oblique angle and created spots of brilliant color in an otherwise muted landscape.

A Walk Around Pickerel Lake

The sky north of Grand Rapids looked blue, so I spent the late morning and noon hours wandering around Pickerel Lake. If you haven’t been, I recommend it highly. Pickerel Lake Park and Fred Meijer Nature Preserve is near the Cannonsburg Ski Area in the northeast part of Kent County.

I arrived at the park around 10:00; mine was the only car in the lot, and as far as I could tell, the first visitor of the day. There was some cloud cover, but it was thin, with the occasional shaft of light wandering across the lake. Everything was bright and shiny, but not blindingly so. And it was quiet. Barely any wind, and few cars to disturb the calm.

Pine trees along the northwest shore
From the boardwalk the ice was so bright against the trees on the north shore that the pines looked black.

Berries in ice
The only color to be had was that of the berries frozen to their branches and protected from the animals.

More ice
Many of the branches had ice coats so thick that the actual wood parts looked like imperfections in otherwise flawless crystal sculpture.

Looking southwest
The lake itself was perfectly smooth; the only details the remnants of dead trees and places where the wind had swept the ice clean of snow.

Southeast shore
About halfway around the lake the sun came out and turned the entire south shore to diamond.

Branches and ice
In among the trees the sun began melting and cracking the ice in the trees, and it sounded like wind chimes and electricity.

Ice and leaves
Instead of darkening the sky, the ice contrast made it the most brilliant blue imaginable.

See the entire set here on Flickr.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

This is a Great Horned Owl which was chased into my yard by a red-tail hawk. It stayed in a freshly-budded cottonwood tree from late afternoon until after dark.

Great Horned Owl and Crows

Two crows periodically stopped by to harrass the owl, but it did little other than to flinch and hiss at its tormenters. I think it might have been injured by the hawk, but there was no evidence that I could see, other than its unwillingness to leave the tree until after dark.

Click either of the photos to see the rest in the set over at Flickr. Over on YouTube I also have a couple of videos of the crows and the owl. Video 1. Video 2.

Photos From A Walk Around Seidman Park

Yesterday was beautiful, and for the first time in WEEKS I had nothing in particular to do, so I spent a good chunk of the afternoon wandering around Seidman Park.

There were many patches of green, growing things, taking full advantage of the unusually mild weather this season.

Photos follow. Each, when clicked, will take you to the full set on Flickr. Or you can skip all that and just start by clicking here.

Moss and lichens

Haircap Moss

Frozen pond

Stream

Skunk Cabbage peeking through the snow

Reindeer Lichen

Hardy Dam Rustic Nature Trail

Hardy Dam Rustic Nature Trail sign

Back in mid-August my girlfriend and I spent an afternoon in Newaygo, walking along the Muskegon river just downstream from the Hardy Dam. The local Boy Scouts worked with Consumer’s Power to mark out an interpretive path called the Hardy Dam Rustic Nature Trail.

Stream from the woods

The trail is short – not quite three miles, round-trip – and is reasonably well marked. When we went the ground was wet from several inches of rain over the previous couple of weeks, so we got a little muddy. Still – a beautiful walk in the woods.

Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

One of the highlights was the discovery of at least a dozen red-backed salamanders. There seemed to be at least one under ever fallen limb. Since they are an indicator species, I take that to mean that the ecology of the Muskegon River is quite healthy.

Click on any of the photos to see the rest of the set on Flickr, or click here to start at the beginning.