My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Pickerel Lake Park – Fred Meijer Nature Preserve

On Sunday, July 21st, I visited Pickerel Lake Park – Fred Meijer Nature Preserve, which is in northeast Kent County, Michigan. Here’s a link to the county’s website for more information, including how to get there and trail maps.

Here’s another link, from the Michigan DNR that provides an even better description and more information.

One note of warning I should throw in here, Pickerel Lake Park is one of the most popular parks in the area, it can be quite busy. I got there just after 8 AM this morning, and my Subaru was the third vehicle in the parking lot. When I left just after 2 PM, the parking lot was almost full.

I’ll start with a photo of the plaque dedicating the park.

Gibberish

Gibberish

I won’t go into the controversy over the name of the park, because that doesn’t matter to most of you.

It was a fine mid-summer day, I should have had a very good day, but for some reason, I found that most of the photos I shot there didn’t turn out well. I got just over halfway along the trails, and the feeling came over me that the photos I was shooting were all going to be lacking. Part of that was because I just wasn’t on my game today, and I have no idea why. Part of it was because I had to use the wrong lens for so many subjects.

There’s a very nice boardwalk across several parts of Pickerel Lake, it allows you to see many water plants that you wouldn’t be able to get close to otherwise without a watercraft of some type. But, the boardwalk has a handrail to keep people from falling off into the water, and from the walking surface up to the handrail, there’s fencing to prevent small children falling off. So, the only way to photograph the flowers is shooting almost straight down from the level of the handrail down to the flowers. That was too far for any of my lenses other than the Sigma 150-500 mm lens, and that lens does not work well as a macro lens. Here’s a few examples of what I mean.

Unidentified purple waterflower

Unidentified purple water flower

Unidentified purple waterflower

Unidentified purple water flower

Unidentified red waterflower

Unidentified red water flower

Unidentified red waterflower

Unidentified red water flower

If it hadn’t been for the fencing, I’d have been laying on my belly on the boardwalk to get closer, and better angles on the flowers.

One other thing, the boardwalk isn’t solid, it bounces around when people are walking on it, you can feel it even when the other people are still some distance away from you. That makes it harder to hold the camera steady.

If this sounds too negative, I don’t mean it to be, the entire park is great, except for the boardwalk for photography purposes, at least that’s what I found.

Now then, with my excuses out of the way, there are about five miles of trails in the park, one main trail around Pickerel Lake, including the sections over the lake, and also several short loops off that main trail. I hit most of them today. There are restrooms and drinking water available, after crossing the first section of boardwalk across the lake.

Two of the loops take you uphill into wooded areas, one takes you along the edge of a larch swamp.

I’ll bet that this park is a birding paradise in the spring before the foliage is fully developed as I saw many different species of birds, but only managed a few photos.

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

American robin and common grackle

American robin and common grackle

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Mute swans

Mute swans

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Song sparrow preening

Eastern phoebe

Eastern phoebe

I think that you’ll get a better idea how thick the foliage is from these two wide shots looking across the lake.

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Pickerel Lake

Here it’s the middle of July, and everything is as green as the middle of May! You can also see that except for the lake, nearly the entire park is heavily wooded.

I could list all the species of birds that I saw, but that would take up too much room, suffice it to say that most species of songbirds common to southern Michigan were present, and in quantities.

There were also many insects of various types.

Damselfly

Damselfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Wasp

Butterfly

Spicebush swallowtail

Bee

Bee

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Butterfly

Butterfly

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

I also saw a few interesting fungi along the way.

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

Unidentified fungus object

And although they aren’t fungi, I guess this is a fitting spot for the Indian pipes I spotted.

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

And that leaves me with the flowers, most of which I can not identify.

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IMG_8630

Rose look alike

Rose look alike

Bladderwort?

Bladderwort?

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Swamp milkweed

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Spiderwort

Spiderwort

It really surprised me how many different wildflowers I saw there from what I’m used to. This park is about halfway between the home where I grew up, and the home I owned to the north.

Oops, almost forgot the turtles.

Painted turtles basking on a fine summer day

Painted turtles basking on a fine summer day

I will definitely being going back, and soon. I went this time expecting to concentrate on birding, so I left the Sigma on the camera far too much of the time. As thick as the foliage is, that was a poor choice. I’d have been better off using the L series lens most of the time, and finding ways to get better photos of the flowers.

I’ll also go back in the spring, as I’m sure that I’ll get bird photos then.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

14 responses

  1. Looks like it wasn’t a bad day! You’ve got a little bit of everything, some of which I’ve never seen. The first unknown blue flower I think is an Allegheny monkey flower. I don’t recognize the next three, but the one that looks like tiny spotted orange bananas is really unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it. After that the tall purple splike looks like Pickeral weed, and button bush after that. I think the rose look alike really is a rose, but I’m not sure which one. That is a yellow swollen bladderwort after that-I haven’t seen any of them this year. I don’t know what the one before the spiderwort is either. This looks like a place that would be worth another look!

    July 22, 2013 at 6:44 am

    • I blew it and I knew I was blowing it while I was out there. All but one or two of those were shot with the Sigma, which does great on the larger flowers at about 15 feet. But so many of the flowers I photographed were so small that I should have used a shorter lens, if I could have gotten closer. Some were in the water, some were right next to the water or in the shade. I didn’t post photos of three or four other unusual plants because the photos were so bad. I think that I will go back next weekend and make it a flower trip, and forget about the birds. I grew up in woods very much like the woods there at this park, but never saw most of these flowers. I lived about 4 miles away, in a very similar area for 10 years with my ex. I wonder if some one has been planting native wildflower colonies in the park?

      I don’t think the rose look alike is a rose, it was growing either in the water or the mud next to the water, and it was a bush, with no thorns, the plant looked nothing like what I’m used to as far as roses.

      July 22, 2013 at 8:41 am

      • There is a rose called meadow or prairie rose (Rosa blanda) that is thornless and grows wild on river banks and other wet places.There are 2 or 3 others as well. Seeing the fruit, if there is any, would help.

        July 23, 2013 at 6:36 am

      • Thanks, I’ll check back this weekend, I hope that I remember to check those plants out if there are no flowers left.

        July 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

  2. You certainly take your walks very seriously. I liked the insects most today.

    July 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    • Almost as seriously as you take your cycling. 😉

      There may be more of the insects and flowers from this place soon, as I found out that it is a treasure trove of rather rare plants. I hope that you’ll enjoy the next one even more.

      July 23, 2013 at 1:20 am

  3. Love the delicate macro shots–the butterflies esp! Were all those insects on the sand along the water? I don’t think I’ve ever seen butterflies on the sand, come to think of it.

    July 23, 2013 at 9:17 am

    • Thanks, and yes, most of the insects were photographed on the damp sand next to the lake. It’s a rather common sight around here, as the insects drink from tiny pockets of water in the sand. There will be large numbers of zebra swallowtails doing that at times, but I didn’t see any of them on Sunday.

      July 23, 2013 at 9:34 am

  4. A wonderful variety, Jerry, the song sparrow on the boardwalk preening is adorable!

    July 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    • Thanks Donna, hopefully I’ll do a little better with the flowers and insects this weekend when I go back.

      July 25, 2013 at 2:38 am

  5. plantsamazeme

    You found some beautiful summertime wildflowers.
    I use Lawrence Newcomb’s “Wildflower Guide”, and Steven Clemants “Wildflowers in the Field and Forest”.
    I think ‘Wildflowers in the Field and Forest” is easier to use if you have the color of the flower, Newcomb is a bit more technical and has illustrations, no photos.
    Another helpful book is “A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America” by Roger Tory Peterson.
    🙂

    July 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

    • Thanks, I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of Steven Clemant’s “Wildflowers in the Field and Forest”, because if the field guide I have doesn’t have photos, I won’t use it. 😉

      July 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

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