Blandford Nature Center
Located on the western outskirts of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Blandford Nature Center is an island of natural in a sea of suburban sprawl. They pack a lot into 143 acres of land, almost four miles of hiking trails, an animal rescue hospital, a working farm, and a historic village, to name of few of the things to see there. The main purpose of the Blandford Nature Center is education, and they hold many events targeted for children throughout the year. That’s not surprising, since the center is operated by the Grand Rapids public school system.
There’s far too much about the center for me to list here, so here’s a link to their website.
The trails are open dawn to dusk throughout the year, the admission fee is $3 for non-members, free to members. The hours for the other parts of the center are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 12 to 5pm, although not everything may be open at all times.
My day there was rather bittersweet. The trails through the woods are great, there’s abundant wildlife, but the animal rescue operation left me broken-hearted. To see the birds of prey and Bob the bobcat in their cages, with no real life, made me ponder the wisdom of keeping the animals alive.
I got there well before the staff arrived to open the buildings, which was my plan, since the trails are open all day. I had just a short walk through the woods before I came to the area where the injured animals are kept. The woods were quite pleasant.
Then, I met Sheldon.
Sheldon was hit by a car in Lowell and brought in to Blandford Nature Center in 2002. He suffered severe damage to his right wing, which had to be amputated. He is also missing some talons and would not be able to hunt for food or escape predators in the wild, so he has become a permanent resident at Blandford.
Then, there was Ruby. I shot photos of her, but I’m not going to post them. Ruby can fly, but every time she does, she ends up crashing because she has no depth perception because she is blind in one eye.
She was hit by a car in Grand Rapids, which left her blind in her left eye. Birds of prey need both eyes to have the necessary depth perception to hunt effectively. Ruby would slowly starve to death if left to fend for herself in the wild.
Stan was found at the Grattan Racetrack in 1988 with a broken wing. His wing fused in an awkward position during healing leaving him unable to fly to catch food and defend himself from predators in the wild.
Katherine the Great
Katherine was found on the Nature Center’s east loop trail in 1991 suffering from a fractured left wing. The wing did not heal properly, leaving her unable to catch prey or escape predators. Great Horned Owls mate for life, and every once in a while Katherine’s mate from the wild will visit and bring her gifts in the form of small rodents.
Reading the stories of how the birds came to be at the center, and seeing them not being able to live a birds life made me very sad indeed.
But, saddest of all was watching Bob.
Poor Bob did little more than pace his cage in a figure 8 pattern, pausing now and then to stare off into space with a vacant look in his eyes.
Bob was born in 2002 and purchased as an illegal pet whose owners had him neutered and de-clawed. He was put out in their backyard and neighbors eventually complained. He was relinquished from the family and taken to the Chattanooga Zoo in Tennessee. The zoo was looking to transfer him to an educational facility where he would have his own cage, and so he came to Blandford in 2006. Since he is de-clawed and depends on humans to feed him, Bob would not be able to survive in the wild.
Unfortunately, there were far too many others there as well, including a pair of kestrels, a merlin, and several other species of owls. I dutifully shot photos of all of them, but none of the rest turned out, probably because my heart just wasn’t into it. I couldn’t stop thinking that these magnificent birds of prey were destined to live out the rest of their life in a cage perched on a branch.
The rest of the day went much better once I got back on the trails.
I saw many birds other than the caged rescue birds, but only managed shots of two, here’s the first.
I found a hummingbird (Sphinx) moth feeding from some bee balm, and couldn’t resist shooting a lot of photos of it.
It had just flown away, when I looked up to find myself eye to eye with a real hummingbird, but it flew off when I spotted it. I tried stepping back into the brush and waiting for the hummer to return, but it never did.
I had every intention of photographing the farm and the historic buildings, maybe next time. Most of the historic buildings are located on the edge of the woods with trees covering most of the buildings, so I think that I’ll wait until the leaves are off from the trees so that you can see the buildings.
I will be going back, it’s close to home, the woods and trails are very good, and there’s enough there to keep me occupied for the greater portion of a day. So, there’s no reason to overload this post. They are working to add more native wildflowers to the woods and fields, and I’ll bet that the place is great for spring birding, from all the birds I saw today. The only reason there aren’t more bird photos is because like everywhere else in Michigan this year, the leaves on all the plants are too thick to get good clear shots of birds.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!