Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Join Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Fall Owl Banding

Thursday, September 15, fall owl banding will resume at Whitefish Point and continue nightly, weather permitting, through October 31. Information about owl banding is posted regularly by this season's crew at wpbo.org under the owl banding blog. 

Rich Keith, Director of the Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory,, states that WPBO has one of the longest running sets of avian monitoring data in the Great Lakes. Their summer owl banding program is unique in the world; while others have tried to find a place where numbers of owls can be monitored in summer; no one else has found such an area. 
Snowy Owl

A quick Internet search on “Owl Banding” yields information about Wolf Ridge Owl Banding from the McHenry Audubon, Snowy Owl banding in Barrow Alaska, and the Three Rivers Park District (a Minnesota event).  Whitefish Point Bird Observatory just north of Paradise, Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, currently under the administration and support of the Michigan Audubon identifies this region of Whitefish Point has a primary North American bird migration corridor in spring and summer.  Before the long journey across Lake Superior, the birds take advantage of the region's rich natural habitat to rest and replenish.

Northern Saw Whet Owl
The USGS.gov website is owned by the U.S. Geological Survey and includes a lot of information about bird banding and the data that is used both in research and management projects.  According to the site the individual identification of bird species makes it possible to study dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.  The North American Bird Banding Program is jointly administered by the United States Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service dating back to 1923.  Should you find a bird with a band and wish to learn more about the band, this site also offers a means to report the band.

Experience the process of learning more about owls and encourage people to do the same.  Share this information and these resources with your family and friends.  Don't forget that you too, can support these efforts through your financial gifts, just visit www.wpbo.org.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Experience Color

First Signs of Color Along Tahquamenon Scenic Byway, September 3, 2015
As humans, we like color.  If not, we would still be watching black and white television.  As photographers we try to capture the “true” colors of an image; vibrant, beautiful colors.  For many of us, we fail.  The printed image just doesn’t do justice to our memories.  We like colors.  Maybe that is just one of the reasons why we are enamored by autumn colors.  Remember learning about Chlorophyll and photosynthesis in elementary school.  As children we could relate to the leaves.  After all, when they were vibrantly green and it was very warm outside, we were often, OUT OF SCHOOL.  The change of colors was an indication that there would be relief from the heat, and time for studies.

Please note the U. S. Department of Agriculture and the National Forest Service do a fabulous job of explaining why the leaves change color at their website  Why Leaves Change Color.    I highly recommend giving it a read before the grand kids and neighborhood children start asking questions.  Even for children that tend to lean away from science, the change of leaf colors, sparks questions of interest at a very early age.
Bold Colors Against Blue Skies, October 7, 2015

I think that as we age, the seasons become a strong reminder of the seasons within our own lives.  The summer within our lives was busy, stress-fully filled with jobs within and outside the home.  Children presented us with needs and concerns while relationships with our parents and friends needed tending.  Just as the summer changes pace with the onset of autumn through the gradual shortening of the days and the decline in temperature highs, our children grow up, move out of the home and start their own families.  All of a sudden, our pace slows down, and we again, notice the changing of the seasons.  Hiking a trail, or taking a drive to immerse ourselves in color, allows us to slow down and appreciate the seasonal changes within us.

My father was a farmer in north eastern Indiana.  He had a Sunday ritual through the summer months of going for a drive in the car.   He would drive along the county dirt roads, listening to an afternoon sermon.  I didn’t realize until I was older but he was checking on the neighboring farms, Bill’s wheat, and Larry’s soybeans.  He would also check his own fields.  He would stop by the wheat field and roll the head in the palm of his hand to estimate harvest time or he would step in to the corn field and palm a couple of ears of corn.  I was so impatient.  There was no game boy  in those days or even air conditioning.  But as time passed, autumn often meant for me, a time for harvest.  Exploring the colors of autumns often fills us with pleasant memories of times past.

A Mix of Hardwoods and Evergreens
My husband and I have always enjoyed a leisurely drive in the country; if at all possible, no four lane highway, but gently curving roads that provide for a burst of one color and then another on the next curve.  Whenever possible our windows are down to let in that cooler, natural air.  Today we live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, one of the top locations in the country for leaf peeping and gently curving state and county roads bordered by national and state forests of sugar maples, red maples, American Beech, and northern white cedar filled with colors among the many pines that remain green and highlight the contrasts.

National scenic byways are often designed to enhance that color tour experience. In the Paradise area there are a number of fine color tours. Physically located on the Tahquamenon Scenic Byway, Michigan State Road 123, Paradise is an ideal location for your base camp.  Check your calendar and see if you can start planning your color tour adventure even today.  The region has a limited number of accommodations, making plans ahead of schedule allows you to select the dates that interest you most and the accommodations that you prefer.
North Country Scenic Trail, October 10, 2015, Tahqua Trail

The Tahquamenon Scenic Byway is a dilapidated horseshoe-shape of sorts, starting and ending along M-28 between Eckerman and Newberry, Michigan.  But the drive on the well-maintained M-123 from its origin at Exit 352 off Intersate-75 just north of the Mighty Mac Bridge is a pleasurable drive. The Tahquamenon Scenic Byway offers no less than 10 points of interest along the route including the Tahquamenon Falls State Park and the Whitefish Point Lighthouse.  If you have a four wheel drive, Luce County Road 500 to the Crisp Point Lighthouse is an adventure, but the breathtaking views of Lake Superior and Crisp Point are well worth the trip.  Following the curve of Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay is the Whitefish Bay National Scenic Byway within the Hiawatha National Forest.  This is an ideal drive from just south of Paradise to Sault Ste Marie, check out the Soo Locks, explore Sault Ste Marie and then return to Paradise for a quiet evening reminiscing the day.
October 22, 2015 Colors Are Still Present

The peak season of color change is often mid September to mid October.  The primary factor for color change is the longer nights, decreasing the opportunity for photosynthesis.  So this time frame stays very consistent.  Having said this, other factors have an impact on the length of time colors are present.  If trees become stressed because of a lack of water, or major temperature changes, leaves can change colors as well.  The color may fade quickly or drop to the ground sooner.  The UP Travel website offers some insight as to the progression of colors.  The local weather stations provide insight as well.  This region is served well by 9and10News, Fox32 and Up North Live.  With Internet access you can quickly check on the current status (Start checking in September) for making a quick trip north.  Better yet, give your favorite establishment a call to see what the weather conditions are and  receive a direct, eye-witnessed leaf peeping status update.

906-492-3445 Curley’s Paradise Motel
906-492-3266 Freighter’s View on the Bay
906-492-3770 Magnuson Grand Lakefront Hotel
906-492-3940 Paradise Inn
906-492-3477 Vagabond Motel   

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Make Sure You Stop At the Shipwreck Museum

In 2010 a friend said, “Make sure you stop at the Shipwreck Museum when you go to the UP!”  I thought, “a Shipwreck Museum, seriously?”  I grew up in northeastern Indiana among corn fields and Aberdeen Angus.  The UP was a long trip and although, I do love Lake Superior, a shipwreck museum struck me as a bit morbid.  Why would I be interested in a shipwreck museum?  Two reasons: the scenery is out of this world and the respect and dignity shown to the story of the missing and the lost of Great Lakes Shipwrecks is awe inspiring. She was right, and I don’t tell her that very often.  The Shipwreck Museum is a must see when you go the UP.

Located just 9 miles north of the blinking light in Paradise, Michigan, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, ranked by Destination Travel Magazine in September 2014, as one of the top 10 maritime Museums in the world is an outstanding destination. You will be amazed at the location and the facility.   At Whitefish Point, a land structure on Lake Superior’s south eastern shore directing ships to the entrance of Whitefish Bay, the complex includes a number of historically significant buildings.

Towering above the complex is the Whitefish Point Light Station, established by the US Congress in 1849.  To date, this light station continues to offer a life-saving beam to mariners serving as the longest operating light station on Lake Superior.  At the base of the tower you’ll find a restored 1861 Lightkeepers Quarters, 1861 Oil House, 1910 Alcohol House, 1923 Lookout Tower, 1923 Surfboat House, 1923 Crews Quarters Building, and 1937 Fog Signal Building.  The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society is currently restoring the 1861 Light Tower and a 1929 U. S. Navy Radio Station Living Quarters Building.  Dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Great Lakes maritime history, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society hales the attention of sailors, educators, historians, divers, archeologists, and museum visitors from around the world.  Open from May 1 to October 31, daily from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Whitefish Point is located along a North American migratory flyway, making it a premier site for observing migrating raptors, water birds, and songbirds.  The path to the hawk count platform is to the left of the path to the museum gift shop’s public restrooms. This platform offers a fabulous view of Lake Superior and the Whitefish Point Light Station to your north. Standing east of the museum is the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory’s Owl Roost a quaint little gift shop and stumping grounds of WPBO members, dedicated to researching and documenting bird migrations.

An 80-Mile stretch of shoreline from the area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to Whitefish Point is known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.  The Shipwreck Museum’s website, www.ShipwreckMuseum.com, reports 200 of the 550 known shipwrecks in that region are located near Whitefish Point.  The most well known loss is the steamship, Edmund Fitzgerald. All 29 crew members were lost when the big ship sank and they are forever memorialized with the ship’s bell holding a place of honor within the museum.

Great Lakes freighters pass by the point regularly carrying cargo up bound or downbound to the St. Mary’s River and then the Soo Locks.  These transport ships have the potential of traversing the St. Lawrence Seaway, reaching any destination in the world.  The Soo Locks have been serving schooners and transport vessels for over 160 years.  Maneuvering a 21 foot drop from Lake Superior’s lake levels to Lake Huron is only possible based on the locks.

The Shipwreck Museum offers insight into the history of the vessels maneuvering the Great Lakes while uncovering the mysteries of the deep for those ships that failed to make their destinations.  Witness the stories of the lost and catch a glimpse of the freighters that continue to pass the point. Stroll the shoreline looking for a unique agate or capture an image of a Spruce Grouse.   Experience the Point, Whitefish Point.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tahquamenon Lower Falls, An Adventure for the Entire Family

Capturing The Ideal Photograph
The Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a 50,000 acre property preserving the grandeur and beauty of the Eastern Upper Peninsula for current and future generations to enjoy and appreciate for years to come.  The park has many recreational assets, the prize of which is the Tahquamenon Upper Falls, spanning 200 feet in width with some 50,000 gallons a second dropping 50 feet to the basin below.  Often considered the second largest falls east of the Mississippi, the Tahquamenon Upper Falls is breathtaking in all seasons.

When tourists to the area face the dilemma of having a limited amount of time in the area, they often plan their visit to stop only at the upper falls.  On a hot summer day, an excursion to the Tahquamenon Lower Falls is an experience the family will never forget.  You may have to schedule additional time to truly experience the power of the Tahquamenon River. Or be sure to come back to the Paradise area again soon to explore the Tahquamenon Lower Falls.   Leaving the parking lot and walking toward the Lower Falls, you’ll pass the gift shop, a concession stand, public restrooms, and then, a fork in the foot path.   The path to the left takes you down a few steps to a rowboat livery. 
Rowing to the island in the Tahquamenon River
The price is $7.00 per person for a boat or $20.00 for a family per boat (2016).  The boat is large enough to comfortably seat four adults.  Life jackets are provided and children 12 and under are required to wear their life jackets.  With a gentle nudge and instructions to steer clear of the buoy to your left (clearly identifying a rapids area), you are on your way, paddling toward the island or further up river to your right to look at one set of falls or cast a fishing line should you desire.  This is the perfect time to give your son or daughter a taste of paddling the family or a young man to flatter his bride as he smoothly handles the oars to the island shore.

After pulling your rowboat securely on the dock, it is time to explore the half mile dirt path around the island.  I encourage you to start to your left.  The temperature in the shade of the American Beech, Sugar Maple, Eastern Hemlock, and Yellow Birch is immediately 10 degrees cooler. 
Cooling Shade on the Island Footpath
Naturally felled trees are covered with moss and overshadowed by ferns providing a prime example of the natural vegetation of the surrounding areas.  Walking this island gives you the vantage point of looking at five separate falls areas, the water is so cooling you might find yourself tempted to walk along the edges of this wilderness river where slippery rocks are enticing you to cool your feet.  Better yet, have a seat along one of the flat rocks near the waterfalls and take in the sounds of the rushing waters and the coolness of the gentle mist.  Be inspired to take the perfect photograph of spring flowers, or moss clinging to the sides of the river.

A Cooling Mist, Rushing Waters

Remember that fork in the footpath?  We took a left to the rowboat livery but If you are interested in even more adventure, take the path to the right.  You’ll find several lookouts to peer over the northern lower falls, but should you continue you’ll find yourself on the North Country Trail hiking along the Tahquamenon toward the Upper Falls.  The total hike to the Upper Falls is 4 miles.  Once you arrive at the Upper Falls, relax, enjoy the view.   Dine at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub Camp 33.  Then you can choose to hike back, mostly downhill or catch a ride with the shuttle.  

Exploring the Water's Edge

Be sure to experience the Tahquamenon Lower Falls, fly fishing the rapids, hiking the island, rowing the river, making memories for the entire family.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Tahquamenon In Spring

      Today, the temperature has reached 51 degrees in Paradise, Michigan. The total amount of snowfall for the season is approximately 140 inches, some 80 inches less then last year's total snowfall.  A lot of snow and ice has been melting, the Tahquamenon Upper Falls is preparing to awaken to spring!
Tahquamenon Upper Falls, May 2014       There is never a bad time to capture an image of the Tahquamenon Upper Falls.  But the experience of the Upper Falls in spring is exhilarating.  The Anishinaabe, the original people to the area, declared the winter season as a time of rest for the earth and a reflection for people.  Spring is a rebirth through plants and wildlife, while for people, there is a new beginning.  
 When you arrive at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Upper Falls entrance, park your car, and start walking toward the falls, you will hear the falls as you approach the public bathrooms on the south west corner of the parking lot.  If you are jamming to some tunes on your earbuds, you might not capture the sound but if you've been quiet, reflective over the winter, you will HEAR the falls.   You still have a little less then a half mile to walk along a paved walkway to reach the upper falls. But you will hear roar of the increased volume of water cascading over that 50 foot drop, a testament to the earth's rebirth.

Tahquamenon Upper Falls, July 2010
The Tahquamenon River is a 94 mile long, blackwater river in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It drains approximately 790 square miles into Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay.  The color of the river, a deep shade of root beer is due to the large numbers of spruce, hemlock, and cedar tree roots within this basin.   The Tahquamenon Falls State Park spans 50,000 acres within this region.  Navigating the changes in elevation, the river encompasses six falls: The Upper Falls, the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and spanning nearly 200 feet across and a series of five smaller falls cascading around a small island. The Upper and Lower Falls are separated by four miles.  The water flow is more than 50,000 gallons of water per second. 
Tahquamenon Upper Falls, March 2015         The Tahquamenon band of Ojibwe spent their winters close to Tahquamenon Falls as shared in Jan McAdams Huttenstine’s book, Remotely Yours.    Images of the falls in winter with its ice stalactites are a spectacle that can’t help but cause you to wonder how they could have possibly survived such conditions. While the view in winter is breathtaking, experiencing the mighty Tahquamenon River as it roars to life in the spring is an experience you will never forget!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

5 Things to do this Summer!


Listen to the roar of the Tahquamenon Falls The second largest falls this side of the Mississippi, the Tahquamenon Upper Falls has a 5o foot drop across a span of 200 feet.  The Lower Falls has a series of five smaller falls and an island that temporarily divides the river.  Paddle a canoe to the island and experience the lower falls much as the first people did hundreds of years ago.  Tahquamenon Falls State Park Website

Snorkel a one hundred year old shipwreck.  Check out the GPS coordinates through the Underwater Preserve website www.michiganpreserves.org/whitefish; the cold waters increase visibility from 20 to 150 feet.  Lake Superior is the coldest of the Great Lakes, you might prefer stopping at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and uncover their diver’s discoveries.

Hike the North Country Trail, Michigan’s Iron Belle Starting along the Tahqua Trail Road you could hike to the Lower Falls, enjoy your packed lunch, continue to the Upper Falls and then enjoy a brew at Camp 33.  Breath taking in all four seasons, elevated pathways and clear trail markings make this section of the North Country Trail and landmark experience.  Make your plans by visiting Michigan’s interactive Trail Map.


Photograph a Downy Woodpecker or one of hundreds of other species from one of the many platforms built on and around Whitefish Point or the walk the shoreline.  Join one of the many planned programs at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory or the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Whitefish Point Unit.  www.WPBO.org     www.fws.gov/refuge/seney

Paddle the Tahquamenon or one of many inland lakes and streams or venture along Lake Superior’s East Water Trail
There is nothing quite like the pristine waters of the Eastern Upper Peninsula.  If you are unsure of where to put in or where to begin, we recommend reaching out to Ken Orlong with The Woods, Tahquamenon Canoe and Kayak Rentals.  If desired they can set you up with a guide taking away all of concerns about paddling in unfamiliar territory.