Monday, October 1, 2012

Tallgrass Prairie at Seven Ponds Nature Center

I am back from a too brief hiatus--took another trip up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last week. I was gone for four days, but could have used ten times that. I spent the whole time chasing birds, which was fun but exhausting, and I saw at least two species new to me--but you'll have to wait to see what they were. First I need to take you to a tall-grass prairie.

Seven Ponds Nature Center is located in the eastern part of lower Michigan, north of the Metro Detroit area--you can check out info about it here:   The reason I'd been wanting to get out there is I'd heard they had restored about eight acres of land to tall-grass prairie. I have been dying to get out to the Flint Hills in Kansas, but until I can swing that trip, this was going to have to do.

I don't know enough about a prairie to know when the best time to go is. I imagine that in the second week in September many of the summer resident birds are gone--I didn't see much in the way of avian activity. However, it was quite windy which made hearing birds difficult, and since it is a tall-grass prairie--as tall as seven feet in many places--it was hard to see over the plants, so there may have been many more birds than I was aware of.

But early autumn in a prairie certainly seems to be the best time to see the glory of the prairie plants.

Now I don't know a whole lot about prairies and what grows there, only generally that there are many varieties of sunflowers, goldenrods, asters and other forbes like blazing star and foxglove. Oh, and of course, tall grass.

Not certain but think this is Indian grass.

Big bluestem, also known as turkey foot for its three-branched seed heads.

Flowers were abundant as the prairie seemed to be just reaching its peak.

Bottle gentian

OK, now I am just being lazy, but I don't much feel like trying to identify all of these daisy-like flowers. Pretty pictures will need to suffice for now.

Driving through the state last week I saw an abundance of New England aster and goldenrod blooming along the side of the highway and in the median. I don't think there's a prettier color combination anywhere, and just look at the bright red stems of the bluestem mixed in.

It's not called tall-grass prairie for nothing!

I don't know that we have good enough soil for these kinds of plants here at home. We have lots of sand, and this area was/is a black oak barrens. But one day I hope to turn our property into something close to this, and the work they've done at Seven Ponds is inspiring. Perhaps next year I'll be Flint Hills bound!

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