I had decided the second day of the fall edition of my Sleeping Bear Dunes vacation would be the hiking day. I love the big lake and the beaches but there's more to the park than that, and I wanted to spend some time in the interior. The Platte Plains trail network is on the south side of the park, north of the Platte River Campground and south of the town of Empire. I chose the Otter Creek loop to hike, being a manageable 4.6 miles, and I had read in the park's bird guide that it was a good area to see warblers. I had already seen two the day before so hoped to see more here.
The day was gray but quiet. Some blue sky poked out but I didn't see much sun until later. I parked at the trailhead near the beach, and walked to the top of the dunes to catch the view.
|The dunes near Otter Creek trailhead on the Platte Bay|
|Empire Bluffs and South Manitou Island|
While I was enjoying the scenery a bird got in the way. They are always getting in the way, grabbing my attention like little feathered magnets. This sparrow posed prettily in a brief shaft of sunlight.
Here is a great example of one of the reasons why I take photos of birds--I am lousy at identifying them. I don't recall what I thought this was when I shot it--a song sparrow, probably. But when I started looking at some of the other photos, I found one that shows a very definite eye-ring, so I did a bit of detective work.
|This image is underexposed, and the bird's face is in shadow, but the eye-ring is clearly visible|
The first bird was joined by a second. I looked through Sibley's and did a search in iBird.
Now here is a good example of why I should never delete images that maybe aren't so good. The shot below is the one that finally verified for me this is a vesper sparrow. The bird in flight, who is facing the camera, has shown us its rust-colored lesser coverts (top of the wing) and white tail feathers on the outside of the tail. Yay! Another new bird--and I didn't even know it when I saw it!
|Vesper sparrows on the dunes|
|Otter Creek loop in yellow. Campground is to the left.|
Heading south along the west arm of the trail I crossed the creek on a narrow dirt road. I saw some big fish here--trout? salmon?--but couldn't get an image.
|Otter Creek. I just love the mix of black spruce and white pine--pure North Country!|
The two-track followed the creek for about a mile, with several parking areas along the way and signs that reminded folks that nudity was still a crime, even if you were on a secluded stretch of beach. I thought the signs were odd, since this isn't really all that close to the beach.
I have to say now that the name of this trail is a bit misleading. Yes, it encompasses the creek and Otter Lake--but this is the only place, other than the bridge, where I could see any part of the creek.
The area was amazingly quiet too. I saw a few squirrels, and the usual suspects as birds go--chickadees, nuthatches and titmice--but not a single warbler. I did spend a few minutes watching this creeper. I think they are marvelous little birds, with such amazing camouflage. Perhaps this winter I will draw one.
Next: the rest of the Otter Creek loop.