Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Before the HMANA board meeting began, three of us had a little time to visit the Matthaei Botanical Gardens on the eastern side of Ann Arbor. We walked on the trails there, listening and watching the birds and enjoying a beautiful early morning in the outdoors. This shot is taken looking towards the headquarters for the gardens. The swimmers in the middle of the picture are just mallards.

I kept a list of the birds I saw in Michigan. I didn't have anything too exotic, but I ended up with 37 species for the morning walk, which was pretty good. Unfortunately, our little morning walk was the only time any of us had for birding on the trip itself. Most of the time we were "locked" in a room. My seat did face the Huron River, so at least I had something pretty to look at through the window.

The photo on the right is thistle in bloom. It's blooming here in Pennsylvania as well as in Michigan. The plant is a common one, but it's still pretty. Most people just think of it as a weed, but anything with purple flowers this showy should at least have a single moment of fame during their bloom.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens has both wetland and upland trails around it. We walked mostly along the wetland habitat. We saw common yellowthroat, black-capped chickadees, lots and lots of American goldfinch, eastern pewees, rough-winged swallows and other common bird species.

The trails I enjoyed the most were the ones that traveled through areas that looked the most different from Pennsylvania and the forest around Roundtop. This open field, with both conifers and deciduous trees along the edge is a lot different from the type of thing I find in southern Pennsylvania. It's probably not a lot different from areas of nothern Pennsylvania, though I suspect the soil here is sandier. It also looks more lush to me than the more hardscrabble forest edges I'm most familiar with in northern Pa. The puddle in the middle was filled with robins getting their morning baths.

Much of our walk followed along the bank of a little creek. We were hoping to see a missasaugua rattlesnake, as we were told they are common here. Later, at the visitor's center, we were told they'd had five sightings so far this year, which doesn't seem all that common to me. At least that's not common the way, say, robins, are common. We didn't find sighting #6. The missasaugua is a darker rattler, the better to blend in with the dark woods and dark, still streams of the region. The snakes are present but rare in Pennsylvania. I've never seen one here, either.

Along the stream, the habitat was moist. We found large snails that settled on the undersides of leaves or pieces of bark. Loosestrife was blooming. One section of the gardens had a woodland garden of native wildflowers that must have been spectacular in the spring when it was blooming.

Our little mini-expedition was a fun interlude before the work begain. I wish we'd had more time to spend exploring the gardens and the region as a whole. But at least we had this time.

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