May Day at Indian Pines Park
Friday, May 1st in Mid-Michigan and the forecast called for sunny skies with highs in the mid-seventies. My day job is in human services, and after working from my home for three weeks, I needed to take advantage of the warmest day of the season thus far by taking the afternoon off. I chose to drive to one of my favorite locations called Indian Pines. This Mt. Pleasant City Park is close by and I don’t like traveling far in this current pandemic crisis. Also, it is not as well-known as the other local parks so it is easier to “social distance” from curious onlookers who want to see what I’m up to while I’m sitting on the ground sketching.
Beneath a large oak I sketched this twig with 4 oak galls on it.The galls are usually the swelling caused by some type of wasp larvae. The symmetry is striking and stands out on the forest floor, looking like something that is man-made.
When the sketch was finished, I slowly walked the forest floor, looking for something interesting, especially morel mushrooms to bring home. I didn’t find any morels but there were a few of their look-a-likes that are commonly known as beefsteaks. Many people enjoy eating them but there are documented reports of severe poisonings so I leave them alone.
Near the above fungi, I found a golf ball lying next to the skeletons of last year’s Ghost Pipes. I often come across golf balls but am not sure how they get into the deep forest. Some are from people practicing their swing but I have also read that crows and ravens like to pick them up as curiosities. They fly around with them for a while, and randomly drop them.
Fluttering around the browns and grays of the forest floor were plenty of spring azure butterflies. They are active little insects and the sky blue of the outer wings is delightfully obvious. At rest they fold their wings and seem to disappear by using the much duller outer wing surface as camouflage. The second photo-a bit blurry-I took while the butterfly was airborne and was surprised to see it was flying upside down.
While walking along the Chippewa River I delighted in the large flocks of yellow-rumped warblers on their way north. Spring wildflowers are becoming much more prevalent including the Marsh Marigolds as seen in the featured blog photo. False Rue Anemone, right photo, are also common now.
Gnarly cedar tree trunks-as you know if you have read my blog post Art during a Pandemic”, is one of my favorite subjects. This clump was growing on a hillside bordering the swamp. While drawing, two very loud and active red-shouldered hawks seemed to be everywhere, chasing each other when they weren’t being mobbed by crows.
On my way back to the car I meandered through a stand of pines and came across a rotting White Pine trunk. I thought it might foster morels but instead found a huge pile of porcupine droppings at its base. Porcupines will den up for the winter in a hollow tree and often won’t leave. Their diet is the tree itself, not very nutritious, so they have to relief themselves often of the non-nutritious parts. This may be the winter’s accumulation from one porcupine. I initially spotted the dead tree trunk and hoped there were morels growing around it but was happy to make this discovery instead.
As I got back to my vehicle, I did a final bird count tally on the I-Naturalist app which gives citizen scientists like me a chance to add data that experts may use. Prior to driving off, I stood in the sun for a while, thinking it ironic I just spent the past couple of hours socially isolating, which has been always important to me even before the pandemic hit.