Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wetland Wonderland


Last week we visited The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My previous post covered the Sculpture Park. Another outstanding part of this park is the 30 acres of wetlands. These wetlands are an important part of the regional watershed. The Park's brochure "Tending The Water" explains how the gardens were designed to minimize the effect on the water cycle. Rainwater drains from parking lots into holding ponds. Streams and plant material cool and filter the water before it makes its way to the wetland areas.


I learned after my visit that the islands in the parking lots "take the form of depressions rather than mounds. The water flows into these depressions and aided by the plants finds its way back into the ground close to where the rain has fallen". This approach won several awards in the engineering community.

By the time all this water makes its way to the wetland areas the water has been cooled and pollutants removed and it enters in a controlled trickle.

A boardwalk through the wetlands makes for easy viewing around the marshy area while reducing human impact on this fragile habitat.



It is home to lots of local wildlife. I apologize for the quality of some of the photos. I want to show you the diversity of birds that call this place home but some were simply too far away even for my camera's zoom.



Limbs from dead trees provide a perching spot for birds in the middle of the swamp while providing a safe haven for fish to hide from predators.

Robin

Great Blue Heron
This Heron was flying around the marsh during our visit but always staying at a great distance. Unfortunately, This is the best shot I could get.

Red-winged blackbird
The cattails as seen in the photo above are common plants in wetland areas. Red-winged blackbirds and other birds nests in them while beavers and geese eat them. If the blossoms are pollinated they turn into fluffy seed heads. These seed heads were used by Native Americans to create the first diapers.


Water fowl are plentiful and we watched them for a long time.



This couple stayed close together while grazing. These are Mute Swans which are a non-native species and considered a threat to the native Trumpeter Swan. The Mute Swans are very aggressive toward other waterfowl. According to the Michigan DNR website they have implemented a three step reintroduction program to increase the native swan population since the mid-80s and the Trumpeter Swan population is growing.

Mute Swan (European import)

A few ducks were taking an afternoon nap under the protection of some limbs.


The Canada Geese were heading off somewhere all in a row.


We had a great time spotting green frogs (Rana clamitans).  They cleverly camouflaged themselves on the green lily pads in the marshy area.



Mom and baby (?) or maybe male/female were taking refuge from the hot sun under some large lily pads.


Of course there were also lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs and stumps.

painted turtle ~ wide spread native species found throughout N. America

Sometimes it was a bit of a balancing act.


Of course it wouldn't be a complete post if I didn't include a dragonfly photo!


You can see photos from all these parts of the park including the fabulous summer blooms by visiting Southern Meadows' Facebook page under the album Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

23 comments:

  1. Wonderful wildlife photography, Karin! You certainly have the talent to capture the animals (or how they cooperated? *jk*) on images.

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  2. Thanks for sharing the way they've decided to capture the runoff from the parking lots and clean/filter/cool it before it flows into the wetlands - what a simple, but totally elegant, solution!

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    1. Indeed...I wish I had taken a photo of the islands in the parking lot. We even commented at the time how wonderful they looked with all the blooming perennials.

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  3. Teaching my students about wetlands is a big part of my curriculum. I wish more companies would create mini-rain gardens in parking lots rather than giant lumps with a half dead tree stuck in the middle. I love that this park has been designed so responsibly. It looks like a great place. :o)

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    1. This is one of my favorite parks in Michigan because they seem to have thought of everything in their design. It looks so natural but it is all done very intentionally. They even have a 5-acre children's garden with a replica of the Great Lakes that the children can play in. They have an awesome tree fort and Senses garden too.

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  4. Looks like the runoff or clear water has created somewhat of a algae bloom. Well you have to take the good with the bad. Nice post.

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    1. They sure do! But the water fowl seem to be enjoying it.

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  5. Karin this is such a fabulous place...wow I so want to visit...fascinating about the cattails...mine usually are pollinated and I had no idea about the diapers...how interesting!!

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    1. That was a fun fact they had posted in the children's garden! This is really a great garden. I would recommend putting it on the "must see" list.

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  6. Too bad about the mute swans. I have a special fondness in my heart for trumpeter swans because of the book, The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White. I love the frog photos!

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    1. Oh, I loved reading that book when I was a child too! The frogs were fun to photograph. Most of them are pretty small so it was fun to find them in all the algae and lily pads.

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  7. That is a great place, i am not surprised the engineering project won lots of awards. It surely is a wonderful project for that place both for humans and biodiversity. Of course we all need our surroundings be preserved for our healthy lifestyle. And your photos are great! Thanks for the tour and information. How lovely if it can be done here too!

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  8. Thanks for the comment in my blog, I am taking time theses days, at last! to catch up with blogs, the dragonfly is gorgeous! Lula

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  9. Loved seeing all the wildlife - especially the birds. The photo of the geese in a row is great! So glad the wildlife and the wetlands were incorporated into the design.

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  10. Wetlands are such interesting areas. It's amazing how much life they support. Your photos of the animal life are wonderful.

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  11. Wow, you got some great wildlife shots! And it looks like you had a wonderful trip. The Cattails are nifty, aren't they?

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  12. Very nice tour, Karin. I enjoy wetland areas because as you have so beautifully shown, there is abundant wildlife. I just got back from Maine and there is so many birds there in a natural habitat. I saw a couple of blue heron, but I only captured one in flight. They are birds that do not like to be near people I think. They do stay a good distance away. Also, I saw a bald eagle, but could not get the camera focused fast enough. My favorite image above was the swans. Too bad they had to swim in the green muck.

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  13. What a great variety of animals there are there. Everyone you looked you seemed to find something. Looks like a lovely place to visit.

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  14. Love the photo of the turtle balancing on the log. I'm sure that's a yoga position.

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  15. Beautiful..love the frogs..green frogs are my favorites..Michelle

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  16. What a nice wetlands! Such an abundant variety of wildlife says a lot about the great environment created and sustained there. Love the Redwing Blackbird picture.
    Cattails used as diapers? Interesting.

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