Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dog Days of Summer, Van Buren County Style, Part II

Checking for more turtles!

Today Storm joined me for a walk on the trails at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery. Storm is our ten year old male Landseer Newfoundland. As he left answers to the p-mail he read on the bushes and posts, I remembered that it really is a lot more fun to walk Shine, most of the time. But after a few minutes, I reminded him that all those obedience titles before and after his name should be good for something in everyday life. Being the good-natured dog he is, he settled in to walk with me.

The big soft-shelled turtle was sunning itself again today. It uses one of the big logs in the small pond immediately south of the viewing platform. If you walk up quietly, as I did today, it might not spook. We ran across another big turtle on the back side of the big pond. Storm was highly intrigued by the big snapper we found sunning itself on the shoulder of the trail. I was relieved to find that I'm younger than I thought, or maybe we're both just equally old, because I was able to drag Storm back before the snapper latched on to him. It had a couple of good chances to get him, but was actually pretty mellow for a snapper. It didn't even hiss much.

After a refreshing stop to soak his paws in the pond, we made our way back to the car. Storm gathered in a few new fans around the visitor's center and parking lot. He loves people and it shows. After we shared a bottle of water, he surprised me by being able to leap lightly back into the car, since often after a walk he needs a boost.We headed home happy that we made the most of this beautiful day, in this amazing place.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dog Days of Summer, Van Buren County Style

The rain the other morning left this field of asparagus plants looking like a family reunion for Cousin It and his relatives.

Shine, the Whippetish girl, and I spent a pleasant hour wandering the trails at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery today.

The birds were definitely in late summer mode, meaning they were pretty quiet, but there were still interesting things to see. A couple dozen Cedar Waxwings were pretending to be swallows, zipping around over the ponds flycatching. Actual swallow numbers were sparse, with only Tree Swallow and Barn Swallow represented. I counted at least 5 Pied-billed Grebes with striped faces, meaning they were young of the year. I saw at least three Belted Kingfishers, a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, and two Double-crested Cormorants out on the big pond. Waterfowl were represented by one Canada Goose, one Trumpeter Swan, and one Wood Duck. Towhees, Catbirds, Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler were skulking in the willows.

Lots of turtles were around. A Painted Turtle was walking one of the trails with us. I spotted a few other Painted and an enormous Blanding's Turtle, but they were all pretty skittish and hard to photograph. I did get this picture of an absolutely huge softshell turtle. I think it was the first one I have seen at the hatchery. You can get an idea of size by comparing to the adult Painted Turtle on the log in front of the softshell.

And another shot.

I will be resuming regular walks at the Hatchery next week. If you'd like to join me, meet at the WLFH parking lot at 9AM on next Wednesday. Restrooms on site should be available. We'll walk the trails and meet for refreshments at That Coffee Place in Paw Paw afterward, if anyone is interested. Note the day change. I have another commitment on Mondays now that makes it necessary to make this switch. Hope to see you there!