In the year 2020, during the pandemic, I decided to spend my time learning about nature. I had a lot of time on my hands and no place to go so I started a Michigan Master Naturalists Course through Michigan State University Extension. It included a lot of information and lesson plans. Enough to fill two large notebooks. We would come together as a class each month for lecture and to discuss our assigned outdoor activities and observations via Zoom Conferencing. The following is just one of my outdoor activities observing nature by a wetland.
I come to the pond with my little chair to sit for a while with nature. It is a Friday afternoon, and the temperature is 78 degrees. I see evidence of Beaver activity by the chewed Stumps of trees. Some of these are very large. Not fresh though and I don’t see any fresh cuttings so they must have moved on. I find a spot at the edge of the water in the tall grass that reaches about 2 ½ feet high. This area is surrounded by white and red pine, Oak and Maple trees and other shrubs. The air is very calm, and the water is smooth like a mirror reflecting the deep blue sky and surrounding shoreline. From the water and coming up to where I sit is Hard-Stemmed Bulrush, identified by the hard round stem and emerging brown spikelets.
In the water at the edge of the bank are Large Button Bushes, Reeds and American Water Lilly. The air is filled with the sound of Green Frogs, many birds, and a light wind rustling the leaves high in the trees. I can also hear the frogs moving and splashing in the water near me. When I look around me, I find a frog sitting on a clump of grass that was just above the surface of the water about 6 feet from shore. I look out into the middle of the small lake and see a clump of purple Loosestrife, an invasive, forming an island along with other plants and reeds.
The longer I sit here the more I see. I spy some small wild raspberry bushes with some ripe raspberries, and I am tempted to pick and eat them, but I decide to leave them for the birds and other mammals that make this place their home. I am only a visitor here to observe. A pair of joined dragonflies fly past me in their erratic flight. The kind with the very narrow bodies curved and joined together at the ends. I think it is amazing that they can still fly that way.
Another Dragonfly, this one orange and about 2 to 2 1/2 inches long, landed on a reed about 4 feet away. He had a harry upper body and a narrow orange tail with black underneath and two pairs of transparent wings. I took a picture with my phone and decided to get out one of my field guides to see if I could identify him. I was sure that he would be scared away while I was wrestling it out of my pack but when I look up again to my surprise, he had moved closer.
As I was looking at my field guide, I identify him to be a Skimmer, a “meadowhawk”. When I looked up at him again, he moved closer still. He was so close now I could have reached out and touched him. I am then distracted by something landing on the toe of my boot and I look down to see a leopard frog sitting on my foot and staring up at me. At this point I wonder who is observing who. It is amazing what happens when you just sit quietly in the natural surroundings. Sometimes, If you are non-threatening, nature will come to you.