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Michigan, May 2002

Part 12: Porcupine Mountains State Park

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe


Entrance sign and the Union Mine Trailhead

Today was just as pretty as yesterday; it actually got up into the 60s!! Was still 30 when I got up, though...! While I was surprised to get no new species for the trip here (after reading the write-up I was at least expecting Goshawk), the scenery more than made up for it! Porcupine Mountains is a huge state park and a backpacker's dream; I really needed two days to explore it thoroughly.

Headed down to the Union Mine Trail first (the Visitor's Center wasn't open yet), where I went through the woods, a little meadow, and then down the hill to Little Union River, feeling like I was back in the mountains of California! The only things missing were the Dippers! Instead had Ovenbirds and Black-throated Greens, by far the most numerous warbler here.


Early morning on the trail along the Little Union River

Headed back to the lakeshore after that, pulling into various picnic areas, picking up another little cluster of Spotted Sandpipers and some beautiful Common Mergansers. From the fishing dock at the campground, I heard a lone Herring Gull giving a single call, and when I found him on the beach I saw why: a big ol' Bald Eagle (a young one) was swaggering down the beach towards him: there was a dead fish on the beach that they both evidently wanted! I cracked up when the eagle walked up to the fish, and instead of simply putting his foot on it to hold it down while he ate, he lifted his foot high and slammed it down as if to say, "This is MINE, buddy!!" I guess I inadvertently helped the gull out cuz when I drove back to the picnic area to get a shot, the eagle took off with his fish, but there were still enough leftovers for the gull to gobble some down...


Birds along the shore of Lake Superior include Song Sparrow, young Bald Eagle making off with a dead fish, and Black-capped Chickadee

I can't remember anything outstanding about the Whitetail Cabin trail (except that I picked up a Merlin on the way there, and some White-crowned Sparrows back at the car), but the Lake Superior Trail was interesting: you start out through deep woods like all the others, but shortly it goes up the hill and you find yourself on what I guess is escarpment rock, with some kind of stunted deciduous trees overlooking the lake. Picked up Orange-crowned Warbler along this trail, plus a singing Cape May, but the Blackburnians just didn't wanna come out. At one of these stops a Swainson's Thrush was singing, which was nice, seeing as most of the thrushes I've been seeing and hearing around here have been Hermits.


The similar White-crowned Sparrow (left) and White-throated Sparrows; note the yellow lores on the Whitethroat.


Grungy White-tailed Deer


Spring hasn't quite arrived yet along the Lake Superior Trail


Mini-boardwalks take you through the wetter stuff, then the trail "T"s along a unique rock escarpment


More views of the escarpment and stunted forest, looking toward Lake Superior


  Black-throated Green Warblers

But my favorite stop was the short little hike up to the Lake of the Clouds overlook: what a scene! You see nothing but rolling trees as far as the eye can see, with the Carp River down below you and Lake of the Clouds to the east! A small family (mom, dad, and the teenager) showed up about the same time I did, and they breezed by me on the trail (dad had a cigarette hanging from his mouth, and he was doing a lot better on that grade than I was), and then left the overlook shortly after I got there; I felt like saying, "Hey, guys; give yourselves some time to enjoy this place!" I could have spent all day here!! (It was one of those places you wish you were an eagle so you could just lift off and glide over the landscape!) Birdwise it was a lot of fun: Least Flycatchers were che-beking all over the place, one little guy throwing his head back with all the gusto he could manage! A flock of Chippies came right up to me, and one little guy literally came up to my feet; try taking a picture from that angle! He did eventually move to a more respectable photo distance... J Probably the most incongruous bird up here was a singing cowbird...


Views from the Lake of the Clouds overlook with the ubiquitous Least Flycatcher



Chipping Sparrow that almost sat on my feet...

On the way back I checked out the Government Peak Trail. This is one of those trails that the hard-core hikers love: lots of little rocks and all uphill! Got my exercise, and don't even recall any special birds, outside of more friendly BTGs. Did have another Blue-headed Vireo come in, doing that same funny little scold!

The Visitor's Center still wasn't open (this was close to ten, and they had the entrance road gated off), so I asked the ranger at the headquarters building about it and found out it's only open on the weekends, but I could park on the side of the road if I wanted to do the nature trail (there was no parking area, really). So that's what I did, and spent the next hour and a half poking along this beautiful little trail, again with nothing out of the ordinary, but did see a nice Broad-winged Hawk through the trees, kicked up a cute little Lincoln's Sparrow on one of the wooden bridges, heard several Winter Wrens and Ruffed Grouse, and a Sapsucker put in an appearance (but they're still the commonest woodpecker around here). Somewhere in here a few Evening Grosbeaks flew over, and where the trail finally did dump out at the VC parking lot, a tremendous Pileated Woodpecker flew in front of me!


Hermit Thrush along the Headquarters Nature Trail     


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker near some "woodpecker spartments"

My feet were shot after that, so I decided (since it was also getting late) to just drive all the way down to Presque Isle to see the falls, so off we went. And what a place! I wasn't gonna go down those stairs at first (cuz I knew you had to come back up), but I finally gave in, and was glad I did: they have a wonderful boardwalk that takes you along the Presque River, and those Hannabezo Falls are spectacular! I wound up going all the way to the suspension bridge that takes you over to Presque Isle itself (which isn't really an island but rather a little spit of land) and walked down to the lakeshore, but not before spotting some stunning Common Mergansers in the little inlet, the sun shining on them perfectly! Down at the beach I was taking a "habitat shot" when I noticed a big bird flying in the picture: a Bald Eagle! His mate was still on the tree, but not for long... There were also Pine Warblers and Chipping Sparrows singing side by side, so that was good for comparison. Miraculously I didn't have a heart attack on the way back up (they have strategically placed benches along the way), but the Blackburnian Warblers were giving me fits; they weren't nearly as friendly as that one the day before! A Northern Parula nearly landed on me, though, and was pleased to find a Red-eyed Vireo in with the crowd! Back at the parking lot a Chestnut-sided Warbler sang and fed and fed and sang, giving me a looking over every once in awhile.


Hannabezo Falls and the boardwalk along the Presque River


More Presque River


Common Mergansers (male left, female right), looking towards Lake Superior


Chestnut-sided Warbler near the mouth of the river, with Bald Eagle pair (above bird is sitting in the tree at left)

It was definitely time to quit after that (was sorry I had to skip the Summit Observation Tower, not that I was gonna climb it or anything), so drove through the beautiful countryside to L'Anse for the night.

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