Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the Quest for Orchids and Other Adventures in Door County, Wi

This past weekend I visited Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor, WI. I had attended a talk in February on Ridges at the Wisconsin Public TV Garden Expo and was intrigued to visit this unique wonder. Ridges is an interesting little piece of boreal forest and bogs occurring in a surrounding habitat not known for being of the boreal variety. One would expect this sort of habitat to occur farther north. However, the layering elevation of the topography comprised of a series of ridges created by Lake Michigan over several hundred years, has created this uncharacteristic gem in Door County. Not only does it host approximately 25 species of native orchids, it also affords an interesting bird diversity including breeding habitat for more typically northern occurring warblers.

Of the 25 orchid species we were able to see five species blooming this trip, the Ram's Head, Pink and Yellow Lady's Slipper and the Early and Striped Coralroot. In addition to the orchids blooming in the sanctuary, many more Yellow Lady's Slippers were also seen along Moonlight Bay on Ridges Road as well as at Jens Jensen's The Clearing in Ellison Bay.

Beside orchids, Ridges is teaming with a wide variety of ferns, lichens and wildflowers. The threatened Dwarf Lake Iris vigorously grows across the Ridges forest floor during the spring/early summer and was currently in bloom this visit. Nearer to the beach, in the lower lying ridges the remnants of blooming Artic Primrose were visible and Indian Paintbrush was coming into bloom.

On the bird front, we were treated to typical boreal and northern warbler species to include singing Canada, Blackburnian and Nashville warblers among various other typical warbler species. All in all we had 77 bird species for birding efforts which included visits to bird haunts in and around Baileys Harbor as well as Whitefish Dunes State Park and Cave Point County Park.

Areas around Baileys Harbor produced the following highlights: Grasshopper Sparrow, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Black-billed Cuckoos and two Red-necked Grebes on the lakefront. At Cave Point highlights included the awesome blue water along the rocky shore as well as three singing Mourning Warblers and lots of warbler activity along the drive into Cave Point County which included numerous Chestnut Sided Warblers, American Redstarts, Black and White Warblers.

All in all the trip was excellent. My only disappointment was being alluded by the rare Calypso Orchid despite three days of searching. None the less, beauty surrounded me and we met some interesting folk, all who were nature enthusiasts and/or birders, photographers and orchid lovers. Each provided rich little nuggets of wisdom and perspective to enhance our overall experience. Door County is definitely better to be enjoyed in the forests and on the water as opposed to in the clutches of the pervasive over-shadowing commercialism that also abounds in this magnificent place. Well I'm off to garden...Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Natures cruel joke

We are past SE Wisconsin's last frost date of May 15th. What is going on this year?