Most of my 20 hours each week were filled with peace and solitude
Allow me to preface that first title and embellish it as well. Born in New York just north of NYC, I spent my entire adult life in North Carolina. In the spring of 2019, we, my wife Sheree’ and I purchased a home in Marquette, MI. Recently retired from teaching high school science, I found a new (seasonal) job in Marquette with The Nature Conservancy. Outdoors, real outdoors.
My first visit to Echo Lake showed me I had made the right choice. WOW!
Most of my 20 hours each week were filled with peace and solitude as I went about monitoring public use, trail maintenance, and studying flora and fauna of the preserve. Being a “southerner,” it was almost like beginning over again when it came to vegetation, many new trees and flowers. Some of the fauna was easy – initially, I was shocked at the lack of reptiles, amphibians, insects, and spiders. Still, they slowly appeared to me as the summer moved on, except for one, the pesky mosquito, which made its presence known on every calm and warm day.
Calm as in winds less than ten mph, warm as in above freezing. Out they came, but it was never as bad as I feared. The head net only went on for a few particularly bad days in June, but DEET was used liberally almost every day. Sorry, I do not have any photos of the mosquitoes, they being the only living thing I did not try to protect. Maybe next time.
NOTE – This blog is not an official publication of The Nature Conservancy.
Located just a few miles outside of Marquette, Echo Lake Preserve is a serene environment where pristine waters flow unimpeded from surrounding wetlands, creeks and Harlow Lake to Lake Superior. The 480-acre property feature a mixed deciduous and conifer forest. Echo Lake, the primary water source of Harlow Creek, is a 20-acre natural lake surrounded by a landscape of dramatic relief with high bluffs of exposed bedrock. The site also provides watershed protection for several high elevation glacial lakes.
The Nature Conservancy
VISITING ECHO LAKE
Echo Lake is a “nature preserve”. The person who donated the land wants it kept in its natural state, forever. I think that is great, and that requires some strict rules. Please leave your pets at home, clean off your shoes before entering, walk softly, stay on established trails, avoid walking over sensitive areas (moss and lichen rock outcroppings, etc.), please do not remove anything from the preserve, fish with artificial bait only….please read all the guidelines here, or at the entrance kiosk.
As a dog owner who loves walking in the woods with my dog, I needed to better understand NO DOGS policies at certain parks and preserves, so I collected some information in the following (unofficial, not TNC approved) paper
Timing is Everything
When I drove up to Michigan in early May, the bird migration was passing its peak in North Carolina. But in the Upper Peninsula, warblers, in particular, were flowing through, some settling locally, many moving on into Canada. As you might have noticed, if you looked at any of my other blog postings, I bird!
Black and White Warbler
My Lord God Bird of the Summer
Of all the birds I found at Echo Lake the spring/summer of 2019, the best of the best was a Northern Goshawk. I “lifer” bird for me, but more than that, a stunning deep-forest raptor of immense size and stature. I was able to get some photos and recorded calls of TWO Goshawks communicating across the ridge. A funny thing happened on the way to the opening where I could get a picture, I fell, the camera went flying, followed by binoculars, phone and sound recorder — best fall of my life.
Critters of Echo Lake
In retrospect, I did not pursue four-legged, six-legged, and non-bird flying critters as I could have. I spent a lot of time looking and listening for birds and learning the trees and flowers of the Upper Peninsula. Nevertheless, some of the fauna of Echo Lake presented themselves to me now and then. Often I became aware of them by sound, by smell, foraging evidence, and by scat.
Eastern vs Least Chipmunk
Hey, who knew. I do now. There are two species of chipmunk in the U.P. The Eastern Chipmunk was the only one I could find at Echo Lake. I was able to find the Least Chipmunk out on Presque Isle (below).
Bear scat was scattered here and there, as was Coyote. I might have found some Moose scat, but have decided not to say I did, and deer scat was common. Visually, I observed many Red Squirrel, White-tailed Deer, Eastern Chipmunk, and two awesome Otters.
My second favorite day at Echo Lake - The Otters
The Birds of Echo Lake
On my first walk into the preserve, I was a little disappointed by the back of birds, but in time things improved. Warblers, in particular, had not yet arrived in force in the Upper Peninsula. They flowed through over the next two weeks. Echo Lake is a little off the beaten path, requiring a bouncy ride down a logging road until you get to the parking area, so it does not get a lot of birders. My highest species count came on May 29 when I recorded 38 species. On average, through the late spring and into early summer, I recorded 24 species per day.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker feeding young in the nest.
Echo Lake currently has 98 species documented to be at the preserve, I have seen 89 of them. I was hoping to get into the preserve during the winter but without a snowmobile to carry me to the entrance, I did not make it.
Sandhill Crane - this female was trying to distract me away from her one fledgling that was wandering around near the road. The male took off in the opposite direction and began calling loudly.
Bird Collection – click on any photo to begin a slideshow
View from north ridge
Trees and Flowers – so much to learn
I did not label the plant pictures but if you go to my iNaturalist page you can view the ID’s, assuming iNaturalist is correct. Next year I hope to get back to keying plants out, a long-lost skill.