I haven’t had much time to experiment with the infrared converted Pentax K10D, but did manage to take a few snapshots while in central Indiana earlier this week. Here’s a semi driving by a row of trees, as seen from the far end of a soybean field:
Category: "Midwestern Landscapes"
It is taken five months, but I finally returned to the fields off 48th street today. When I last visited them in March, logging activity had torn them up. (You can see that post here.) Trees were felled in the nearby forest, dragged across the field, and then cut up in a processing station. The entire field was just one huge scar of torn up earth, plants ripped out by the roots, topsoil blown away in the wind.
I’ve driven by regularly since then. One thing about this particular field – you can’t seem much of it from the road. There is a small parking area and one or two breaks in the trees where you can catch a glimpse, but otherwise it is obscured. But I’ve watched the neighboring forest get thinned, the semi’s coming and going with their loads of lumber – sometime waiting on the dirt road for the next chance to load up.
The little parking area where I used to regularly stop is long gone. It became the entranceway for the trucks, and they tore open the road, creating a huge mud puddle at the entranceway. Since no one has been using it, the parking area is now overgrown, and even if you could get through the mud puddle you’d have to plow into dense, four-foot high weeds to park there. So instead, I pulled over on the side of the road and took a little trail into the north west corner of the field. The trail has been there as long as I have visited, but it is now widened and the prairie grasses leading up to have been mown. I guess it is seeing more use as an entranceway to the field these days.
After last spring’s visit, I was expecting the worst – and was happily surprised to see that things were not nearly as bad as I had expected. Here’s a photo of what greeted me as I reached the top of the small hill at the north end of the field:
Huge surprise – things are green! The bare earth has been healed – at least to a degree. What really surprised me is that most of the prairie grasses and plants have returned. If you look at the photos from last march of the turned up soil – now those same places are – mostly – rich with tall grass, scrubby oak, and wild strawberry. Even ironweed and bee baum are in bloom. A wild grape vine that never failed to produce a few nice bunches of grapes was in one hte hardest hit areas - and i was heartening to see it sprawled over the top of the ragweed. Its roots must be deep…
There are still signs of the disruption. There is a pathway along the west side of the field where the soil was most heavily dislocated. The sandy soil was opened up and laid bare time and time again. That area is now brilliant green and full of lush vegetation – ragweed. In years gone by, I’ve noticed very little of this plant in these fields, but those areas that were most heavily churned are choking with it. Remarkably, there is a very clear demarcation between the areas that were repeatedly disrupted, and which are full of ragweed, and the areas that were not, and where the grasses have returned. You can stand with one foot in a mass of ragweed and another on the grass that used to be there. Here’s a shot that show this – taken at the very end of the run, where the trees were dumped to be processed:
Some areas – particularly the crests of small rises in the land – took a bigger hit than others. There are some bare patches of sandy soil , where nothing is taking hold. Lots of small branches twigs form trees also litter the landscape, as do hundreds of pinecones that fell off the trees that were dragged across the earth. These already are crunching away into dust underfoot – most of the brush seems to have been rounded up and dumped into a huge pile at the northeast end of the field.
One victim of the logging activity is the eastern prickly pear cactus. The large patches of cactus are gone – they were right in the path of the greatest activity, and the ragweed is now growing where they were. An isolated sprig or patch of cactus can still be spotted here and there, but it is hard to imagine it ever regaining its hold.
But, overall, the field has endured. There is still a large processing area in the northeast corner, and all the vegetation there is torn up and gone, replaced with muddy roads and piles of logs and brush. But I’d estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the field is more or less intact. I even spotted a few toads hopping around underfoot – I chalked them up as goners where this whole thing started – but they seem to be around still.
So – what is happening at the pond? I can’t call it the seasonal pond any more; it has been a few years since it last dried up in the summer. I trudge down to it and find that it is doing very well. The logging activity has kept people like me away, and that combined with the very wet summer has resulted in the vegetation around the pond really taking off.
The pond itself is doing quite well. The water level is higher than I have ever seen – as I stand at the water’s edge, I see trees 30 or 40 feet away that used to be on dry land. Many of the trees are dead or dying, as the rising water inundates their roots, and they sit in several feet of water year after year.
The frog population also seems to be doing quite well. Dozens of frogs hurled themselves into the water as I walked along the edge of the pond – often crying out “eeeee!” as they jumped ahead. I even saw a splash in the water – way out, beyond any jumping frog – that makes me wonder if fish have arrived in the pond.
And of course, there were dragonflies. Here is a white-faced Meadowhawk, one of the only red meadowhawks easy to identify:
And here is a twelve-spotted skimmer, sitting on a branch near a partially logged area of woods:
I saw other Odonates as well - a few mature male blue dashers - old ones who’s abdomen had turned form blue to pale bluish white. THere were lots of green darners, many unidentified blue darners, and a saddlebags - possibly a Carolina Saddlebags - that buzzed around forever as I waited for him to perch.
Overall, it was a good day in the Allegan forest. After leaving the field off 48th street I visited a few other locations. Off 44th street I managed to get this snap shot of a Monarch Butterfly – the best photo of the day, IMO:
Pam and I spent last week up in Grand Marias, Michigan. It is a little town on the shore of Lake Superior. We rented a nice cabin on Coast Guard Point, and had the big lake on one side, and a quiet bay on the other. People warned us that the black flies might be a problem up there, this time of year. But evening temperatures in the low 40’s (Fahrenheit) and daytime winds in the low 40’s (miles per hours) seem to keep the flies at bay.
It was a great week and we visited a lot of the local waterfalls. Always at mid day, never with an intent to photograph them. Here’s a tourist snap shot of Munising Falls. They are located right in the city of Munising and to get to them you just park your car and walk on a boardwalk to the observation deck. It’s that simple.
Jah is I light and salvation,
whom shall I fear?
Jah de protector of I life,
of whom shall I be afraid?
Dreadlocks At Moonlight, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
The equinox has come and gone. Michigan’s mild winter slips easily into spring. The snow melts, the plants green, the flowers bloom.
I head out to the high banks area in the Allegan forest. There, some of the banks that face due south are the first to thaw and produce hepatica and other spring wildflowers. And sure enough, the first hepatica has broken out of the ground cover and few have started to bloom. It’s early, even for them. Snow still clings to the northern slopes and clear evening still drop well below freezing, but they will be out soon.
I also visit the fields along 48th Ave, which used to be my main destination. The logging activities have taken their toll, and places I used to visit are completely gone. Obliterated.
The seasonal pond is still there – still flush with water and hosting various water fowl – but all around it the logging activities continue. The trees that have been felled have been dragged through the fields to a staging and processing area on the north end. There, huge rows of logs are hauled away, a dozen at a time, by a steady flow of semi trucks. Dragging the trees across the field has completely stripped away the top soil. The tall grass, scrubby oak, prickly pear cactus, wild strawberries and grapes are gone forever. So too are the small creatures that lived in the grass land – the blue racers, toads, chipmunks and tree frogs. It will take years for the area to recover, once the logging stops, and I doubt I will ever again see it the way it was.
A few shots of how it is now:
A a shot I took some time ago, and on impulse named “Tribute.” Maybe its my tribute to the place this is now gone:
But the pond has not silted up, and the dragonflies will emerge from it this spring. If not from there, then elsewhere. And they will fly over the barren field, uncaring, indifferent, and ancient.
Belatedly - the Signature Artist Cooperative has a group exhibit at the Portage Public Library, in neighboring Portage, Michigan. The theme of the show is “Renewal.”
I’m not doing much of anything with exhibits at this point in time - I let the deadlines on all of the early year entries slide away. But, I managed to conjure up this piece for the Portage show. You might have seen in before - from last summer.
Winter arrived a few days ago. It ripped into town at the end of a 50 degree day – blasting winds and a sudden drop in temperatures. Slush snow followed by pure crystalline snow blew in under winter’s skirts. Dragonflies na more.
The cold air came, stayed, and then got colder. Looking at the forecasts we are poised on the edge – and as we dive deeper we go into cold and then very cold in the next few days. I scramble around tying up the loose ends I left undone during the moderate, so reasonable fall…
One loose end is to pull out the *ist-D I use for snow crystal shots, wash up it’s sensor, and get ready for another round of snow crystal photos. But I also use this camera for digital infrared, and as I prep it I dive into the memory card and realize that there are a few shots from the spring there.
And so here is a shot of 115th Ave, all washed out in the spring rains, the dogwoods in bloom (obviously)… Shot taken May 5 - made today.
Saturday, November 28.
Winter gave a slight feint earlier this week. It grew cold on thanksgiving and that night a bit of snow fell – enough to linger for a few hours the next morning on rooftops, cars, and piles of leaves. But it was gone soon and here we are, the next day over, and it’s back to 50 degrees.
I was impressed to see dragonflies lingering-on last weekend – will they still be around now? Do the Autumn Meadowhawks stay until it is too cold to hang on any longer, or are their days numbered by some other measure? It seems that if all the other dragonfly species come and go based on the unknown logic that whirls behind the natural world, then someday the autumn meadowhawks will also just disappear for the season, even if it never gets cold at all.
They probably will – though it will get soon cold so who can tell which from what. But after last week’s successful hunt I ventured back out to the Allegan Game Area today, specifically to the Swan Creek Levee, to see if any Meadowhawks remain. It’s almost the end of firearm deer season (it only lasts two weeks) and the woods were already less crowded, though the road back to the levee was dotted with parked vehicles and occasional parties of hunters.
At 1 PM the thermometer in my car registered 49 F. (An hour later it rose to 52, and then dropped for the rest of the day.) The November sun hung low in the sky as we pulled into the parking area. I figure that the levee area is pretty safe during hunting season – the game preserve is to the north, Swan Creek is to the west, and the area due east of the levee is often flooded (it more or less is now.) There were no dragonflies in the parking lot and none in the field next to it. I made my way down to the levee, with the low hanging southern sun glaring in my eyes. A short way past the dam a dragonfly rose up before me. A few minutes later, two more rose up and then flew out over the water…
And that was it. Three individual dragonflies, but still - three.
I wandered to the end of the levee, and walked back with the sun to my back. One skittish Meadowhawk flit form rock to rock, sometimes landing on the gravel trail. The image above is the one shot I managed to get of it before it too flew out over Swan Creek. I’m guessing, that’s it for this year.
A couple of hunters wandered down to the levee while I was shooting, rifles in hand. Lookin at their orange jumpers and jackets, I felt a bit underdressed in my greeen shirt and blue jeans, with only a faded hunter-orange stocking hat on my head. Time to head home.
On the way back I drove by the field I affectionately call the Old Farmstead to see if the logging had begun. As I mentioned in an earlier post, several of the pines had day-glo ribbons tied to them, and logging activity had begun in the field directly to the south.
Sadly, the logging has started in earnest. The small parking area that I would slip into is chewed up into a rutty, muddy mess. I’m not sure why they bothered to mow the field because it looks like the trees are being cut down and then dragged across the fields. The very sandy soil has given up the plants that clung to it, and now a good portion of the field is just a torn up sandy mess. I’ve seen similar tracts in the other fields around Allegan – swaths were there are just ruts, open sandy soil, and few plants growing. I never knew where they came from – but now I do.
Oh well – they seem to only be taking pines at this time. Hopefully the large oaks will be spared. I can’t criticize the cutting of trees in a place where they were grown to be cut, but it’s sad to see a place that I enjoyed visiting being treated so roughly. I should have spent more time at other places, so to have something to fall back on.
Next summer’s reports will be from new locales…
Stylurus over at the Urban Dragon Hunter’s blog logged a new late-date for Michigan Odonates this year - December 1st. You can read his post here - be sure to read the comments since that is where he updates on his sightings.
November mornings are quiet, cool, often foggy. The rising sun slips through the bare tree branches, casting long shadows late into the morning. Here and then a lagging tree, leaves still red or gold, punctuates the brown landscape.
Dried leaves whirl in morning breezes. No songbirds sing from bare November branches, no insects click and whir. If you are lucky you can hear a chickadee, chattering in the jack pines. But usually only the laughter of crows or shrill cries of blue jay greet the ears.
After a cold October, November arrives unseasonably warm and mild. Autumn Meadowhawks have taken advantage of the warm spell, and fill the fields in great numbers. They land on the rocks along the Swan Creek levee to warm themselves in the sun. They fly as joined pairs over the water and weave up and down, depositing eggs for next year’s brood. They land on the dark brown leaves that cover the ground, and eye the skies above for prey.
As the day warms, grasshoppers tumble through the dried grass and the occasional moth flits over the brown vegetation. Garter snakes sun themselves on the rocks as well. The little snakes are no longer black and gold, but rather a dull dark brown with yellow bands and orange flecks on their sides. No doubt the grasshoppers will offer up a welcome late autumn meal to these little serpents, before winter’s long hibernation.
In my heart I wish it was cold and miserable. The warm sunshine and summer-like temperatures are like a Halloween mask. They hide the realities of the autumn woods…
The rolling hills of the old farmstead have begun to recover from last summer’s mowing. Small oak springs have emerged from the ground, leafed out, and already are shedding their new foliage. The little springs transition from the rich tannin infused colors of new growth and take on almost day-glo colors as they prepare to drop their leaves.
Bare trees reflect in the smooth surface of the intermittent pond. A small patch of lily pads have emerged in the area I once called ‘the heart of the marsh’ back when this was a seasonal marsh. It was the one area that never got completely dry, no matter how long and hot the summer. Now as I stand by the edge of the water I hear the growls of logging activities. A section of the forest just to the south of the pond is being clear-cut. Florescent red ribbons have been tied around the larger pines near the water’s edge, and a pair of tire tracks gash through the sandy soil, running the length of the field. We take things for granted when we expect them to last.