Sunday, July 27, 2014

U.P. Bogs, Orchids and More

Mary's Bog, Swamp Lakes Area, Luce Co
After being out in Luce and Chippewa counties in the eastern U.P. of Michigan mid-July, it's clear it's a good year for orchids. This year's winter had significant snowfall which has resulted in high lake levels and every bog is brim full with water.

Mary's Bog, Swamp Lakes Area, Luce County
The Swamp Lakes, an extensive area of boreal bogs near my parents home on Pike Lake, is lush with an astounding density of orchids. The Dry Lakes, also nearby in Luce County, are ephemeral lakes that in most years are dry. They too are flowing with water, existing as actual lakes this year. Over in Chippewa County, the Pat Grogan Orchid bog is doing well with its 100s of Rose Pogonia. Even along the paths out to Vermillion Beach where orchids are more scarce, Rose Pogonia and Grass Pink Orchid dot the landscape.
Old Beaver Pond, Swamp Lakes, Luce County

"Cynthia's Bog", Luce County
Just the other day, I discovered a new orchid bog back in Swamp Lakes which held 100s of Rose Pogonia along with Grass Pink and Small Green Fringed Orchid. Typically when in the Upper Peninsula I almost exclusively frequent another bog known for its 100s of Grass Pink Orchids for my orchard fix. Folks around Pike Lake refer to this Grass Pink Bog as "Mary's Bog," named after my mother who was the first lake resident to discover this bog. Upon finding the Rose Pogonia bog the other day, I declared this new orchid bog as "Cynthia's Bog." We shall see if the name sticks. In addition to orchids , both bog areas also had at least two species of carnivorous bladderwort flowering, the more common being Horned Bladderwort, as well as sundew and Pitcher Plants.

Rose Pogonia and Small Green Fringed Orchid
Cynthia's Bog
Rose Pogonia, "Cynthia's Bog"
Horned Bladderwort
Grass Pink Orchid
One may have noticed I've been on a bit of an orchid quest this summer. Thus far my total number of wild orchid species seen in the Great Lakes region for the year stands at eleven species.

Purple-fringed Orchid
On July 18, I added Purple-fringed Orchid as my tenth species for the year found in the ditches near the Taquamenon River Mouth in Chippewa County. This is a species I have yet to see in Wisconsin. The area where these were found is the only area which has LESS water this year. Unlike prior years there is no standing water in these ditches which seems somewhat puzzling.

Purple-Fringed Orchid
On July 19th, while checking the area northwest of the Hwy 123 and Skyline Road junction in Luce County, I was surprised to find my lifer Ragged Fringed Orchids. While not as rare as PrairieWhite-fringed, I was absolutely pleased to see this species for the first time.

Ragged Fringed Orchid
Ragged Fringed Orchid

The path in this area was decorated with blooming Round and Narrow-leaved Sundew as well as 100s of Small Green Fringed Orchids.

Narrow-leaved Sundew

Round-leaved Sundew

Small Green Fringed or
Club Spur Orchid

In the butterfly department, I observed 100s of sulphurs on the roads. In the bogs, Bog Copper numbers were impressive. Butterfly diversity seemed low. Beside the two previous mentioned species I saw a limited number of brown skippers and a few White Admirals.

Bog Copper
Dragonflies continue to thrive this summer with a never-ending and bountiful food supply of mosquitoes. I have yet to ID most of the ones I encountered in the bogs, but plan to do so in the near future.

As goes the circle of life in the bog, the dragonflies predate the mosquitoes and the carnivorous sundew ensnare the dragonflies. Some patches of sundew appeared to be veritable micro graveyards for the dragon and damsel flies.

Despite the devastation from the Duck Lake Fire which consumed much of the forest on the west side of Pike Lake. Life is succeeding. The floor of the charred forest is lush with green moss. Earlier in June it was dappled with sprays of white Labrador Tea.

Pike Lake Campground, post burn
That has since been replaced by tufts of white sedges and the occasional brilliant cluster of Fireweed.

Nature has her way of continuing to engage and amaze me with all her sensational changes. Where one might see destruction from fire, Nature has given me a sense of hope as I witness salient colorful changes on a greater magnitude than what has occurred around Pike Lake in the decades prior to the fire. This, to me, is a splendid silver lining!

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