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Michigan, May 2002

Part 8: Skegemog Swamp Area

All photographs ©2002 by Mary Beth Stowe

I think maybe I did see a Raven the day previously, cuz the first thing to greet me when I stepped out of the car next morning at the Skegemog Swamp trailhead was a fracas common in San Diego: two Crows assaulting a lone Raven, who was croaking annoyedly! So maybe they are making their way south (although the north wind being what it has been, I wouldn't be surprised if they got blown in...)!

Anyway, the car thermometer said it was 33 degrees out, but the sun was shining, the air was calm, and despite the cold the birds were singing up a storm! This is a delightful little trail that follows an old railroad tie before heading into the bog and eventually to a platform overlooking Skegemog Swamp and, further out, Skegemog Lake. Practically from the start had Nashville Warblers singing all over, duetting occasionally with Black and Whites and Butterbutts. Another friendly (albeit dull) Pine Warbler said hello in the parking lot, and along the rail trail a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers came sailing in to a dead tree! A Blue-headed Vireo sang at the resting spot, and in the wetter areas had plenty of Northern Waterthrushes. A real thrush, the Hermit, sang soulfully from deep in the woods, and Ovenbirds hollered in your face but remained obstinately hidden.

       

The trail to Skegemog Swamp,  once an old railroad tie, with Black-and-white Warblers

   

Boardwalk through the woods and the Swamp itself

Once through the woods and into the marsh, had plenty of Swamp Sparrows and Yellowthroats, and from the observation deck had a nice Merlin scream in, only to be met by an angry grackle! Didn't stop the Merlin from landing and wagging his tail, though... Way in the distance were some cormorants, and a young Bald Eagle lumbered along just over the horizon. More warblers were tuning up on the way back, including both Black-throated Green and Blue and Redstart, and a pair of real live (not Blue Jay-produced) Red-shouldered Hawks yelled at each other. But the real treat was a pair of Brown Creepers working their way up a series of trees at close range! Among the goldfinches and Purple Finches warbling, a sharp cheer! announced the presence of a Pine Siskin flying over. And to top off the place a pair of Wood Ducks came tearing in and made a hard left into the bog!

   

Brown Creepers; in the sun you can see his cryptic patterning


Still had time before I had to head to the UP, so I headed up to nearby Grass River Natural Area, which was a real jewel: they have several nice boardwalk loop trails (although I think they're still working on the Chippewa Trail: I had to cut that one short cuz it ended in a minor swamp with a pile of logs nearby...). I took the Cabin Trail, which runs into the Sedge Marsh Trail, which runs into the Tamarack Trail, which runs into the Fern Trail, making a nice loop through a variety of habitats. (They also have a "rail trail" that crosses the road when you come in, at which was a nice hen Turkey!) A lot of the same birds were on this trail (heard yet another Raven), but the marsh here is much more grassy, and frankly looks great for Yellow Rail! At the overlook a Mute Swan was giving a Canada Goose fits, and a Snipe was performing both his chicka-chicka and nyep-nyep-nyep calls.   Lots more Swamp Sparrows, of course, but also plenty of White-throateds singing away in the more scrubby stuff. Across the water were several private docks, and I thought one old man was standing there getting ready to get into his boat when I realized it was someone's hat and life jacket propped skillfully on one of the posts! Back in the drier stuff was thrilled to hear the drumming of a Ruffed Grouse, and back into the bogs the distinctive song of the Northern Parula filled the air (I normally think of them as a southern bird, but they do nest up here, I guess!). Oh, and the air had warmed up considerably: by this time I was surviving nicely with just the vest over my shirt, not unlike a winter's day up in the San Diego mountains (i.e., starting out freezing and ending up rather warm)!

       

Typical woodland habitat at  Grass River Natural Area (Cabin Trail), with the Official Greeter (Wild Turkey) and colorful trail map

       

    It’s so wet here that most of the trails are actually boardwalks (Sedge Marsh Trail)!  Eastern Chipmunks are in the woods, and an observation platform gives a great view of the marsh!

   

Overview of the marsh, and great Northern Waterthrush habitat along the Tamarack Trail

   

Area along the Chippewa Trail that had been purposely burned to show  how a forest grows back!  At right, large fungus of some kind...

Had to head off after that, making the beautiful but uneventful drive across the Mackinac Bridge (except for the guys working on it; that slowed the traffic to a crawl, of course), and the even lovelier drive down US 2 towards Manistique!

   

Heading across the famous Mackinac Bridge


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