Leaving the ick of Bay City behind us, we drove back south to the city of Saginaw. We were a bit perplexed as we drove through town, wondering where on earth one would hide a wildlife refuge in all of this concrete. After navigating the city streets and a major detour we finally pulled into the parking lot for the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. We had opted for the Woodland trail, a four mile loop that we figured we would walk part of and then walk back. When we got there we looked at their trail maps and found several smaller loops were available and decided to take a two mile loop that went along the Tittabawasee River for a spell.
Also on the message board was an announcement warning people not to eat the following: Deer liver, any part of a wild turkey, several fish including catfish and white bass, and waterfowl. Apparently the Tittabawassee River has been contaminated with dioxin. Nice. We could have called this our Toxic Vacation! We tried our best to put the specter of contamination out of our minds and enjoy the scenery.
Shortly after striking out we came to a bridge crossing Bullhead Creek, (another fish on the "Don't Eat" list).
The day was fair even though it lacked sunshine. The turtles were quite appreciative of the heat. Here a painted turtle warms its bones.
There were piles of turtles on nearly every branch, log and rock.
Ah, the unmistakable snapping turtle, with its phallic head. According to Wikipedia a basking snapper is a rare sight--lucky me. Snappers are mean, aggressive and agile, as anyone who has tried to move one out of the road knows--the ungrateful sot--and they smell like dead things. This one has quite an impressive crop of algae growing on its back. They are best left alone--they eat baby ducks, fer cryin' out loud. 'Nuff said.
As we moved on down the trail we came across this fungus. I don't know my fungus, but this one was really interesting. Anyone want to school me here?
We couldn't go 50 feet, it seemed, without something to look at. This comma butterfly landed in the path right in front of me. My books tell me this butterfly is typically shy, so I guess another fairly rare sight.
Not a minute later this red admiral landed in front of me. Both these butterflies were only about 1 1/2 inches long. These butterflies are apparently more gregarious. I fished one out of the laundry hamper this morning, a stow-away on a shirt hung on the clothes line Sunday. I let it out the front door.
Not too far from the creek we found several crayfish burrows. Yes, they really live down there. They dig down in the mud to get to the water table, bringing up pellets of mud that make up the chimney. Snakes will some times take up residence in dried out crayfish burrows so I wouldn't stick my finger down one.
The girls had gone on ahead while I was chasing butterflies. After a bit I noticed they had stopped and were peering into a hole in a tree trunk. I came over slowly and peeked over Lisa's shoulder. I thought at first I was looking at an Eastern screech owl, but then I noticed an ear and fuzzy tail--a gray squirrel, possibly on a next of youngin's. Kind of a risky place to build a nest, next to the trail at eye level, but perhaps all the prime spots were already taken. Anyone got a peanut?