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

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.

Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center

Blandford Nature Center

Then, I met Sheldon.

Sheldon, the Cooper's hawk hawk

Sheldon, the Cooper’s hawk hawk

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

Stan, the great horned owl

Stan, the great horned owl

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 the Great

Katherine the Great

Katherine the Great

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.

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

Bob, the bobcat

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.

Butterfly

Butterfly

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I saw many birds other than the caged rescue birds, but only managed shots of two, here’s the first.

Male American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

Gray-head coneflower

Gray-head coneflower

???

Wild leeks

???

Wild leeks

Dianthus??

Dianthus??

I found a hummingbird (Sphinx) moth feeding from some bee balm, and couldn’t resist shooting a lot of photos of it.

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

Hummingbird moth

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.

???

Heal all

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Female common grackle

Groundhog or woodchuck

Groundhog or woodchuck

???

???

Red dragonfly

Red dragonfly

Purple coneflower

Purple coneflower

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!

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17 responses

  1. Those shots of the bobcat are amazing and so is the butterfly. You finally got back lighting on the wing.
    I’m not sure what the white pom pom flowers are, but that is a dianthus. The unknown blue ones are heal all, or self heal (Prunella vulgaris).
    It’s hard to know what’s best. I don’t like the idea of animals starving to death in nature because they can’t hunt, but I don’t like them in cages either. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a third option.

    August 3, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    • Thanks, but I didn’t get THE butterfly shot yet. I’m not sure the blue one is heal all, there was a lot of that all around, this plant looked slightly different.

      I’m not sure what the answer is either, as far as the injured critters. They are well cared for, have room to roam if they can, but they looked so bored and sad, just existing.

      August 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      • I just stopped by the Plants Amaze Me blog and they jogged my memory-I think the white, ball shaped flower head is wild leek, especially if it had no leaves. Don’t see many of those!

        August 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      • Thanks, Chris beat you to it. 😉 I don’t recall seeing them before, but there were thousands covering the side of a hill in the woods there. I should have taken a wide shot for numbers, but didn’t think about it then.

        August 4, 2013 at 9:48 pm

  2. I had the same feeling you describe when I went to a local aquarium. One of the three otters they had did this continuous whirling in the water non-stop. It made me think of the sort of bored pacing you described for the bobcat. The otters were rescues, too, but it’s still sad to see them in such an unnatural state. Some of the birds in their aviary were doing the same sort of repetitive, compulsive behavior, too.

    Absolutely gorgeous shot of the butterfly moth – the next to last one with the perfect detail of the wings. I first encountered one of them in Utah and it took me awhile to figure out they weren’t some odd sort of hummingbird.

    August 4, 2013 at 1:37 am

    • Thanks Gunta. At least there were three otters, so they had some one to play with. The hummingbird moths are really cool, glad you like those shots.

      August 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

  3. plantsamazeme

    Blandford does have some nice trails, but don’t look in the cages. It is as bad as going to the animal shelter. Although the photos of the hawk, owls, and bobcat are great. Do they charge $3 to go on the trails now?

    The white “pom pom” flower is Wild Leek, the leaves come up in the spring but the plant doesn’t bloom until summer, by then the leaves are gone.
    And the purple and white flower is Heal All (Prunella vulgaris). It grows everywhere and is one of my favorites, I think it looks like an orchid. The color can be very variable, and some are short, some tall.

    Wonderful shots of the Hummingbird moth!
    Thanks.

    August 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    • Thanks for both the comment and the identifications. Yeah, it was really sad looking into the cages and seeing the poor critters there. The web site says that they charge $3 now, I think that’s only when they are open from what the woman at the desk told me. I’m not sure how they would collect when there’s no one there, but I don’t doubt but they they will come up with a self pay system soon. I liked it, but it seems to be all about the money, just like the rest of GRPS.

      August 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm

  4. So sad about the animals in the cages. It would be nice if the public school kids would take on “Bob” as a student project, collect money to enlarge his cage and make it into a more natural habitat, such as what zoos are doing more of now.

    Those shots of the hummingbird moth are terrific and I really love the bright colors in the picture of the goldfinch. The colors really pop and are very eye-catching.

    August 5, 2013 at 11:05 am

    • Thanks. There are plans in the works for a larger cage for Bob, and they are seeking donations. His cage is actually quite large now, the problem is boredom, there’s nothing for him to do other than pace. That won’t change much in a larger cage, unfortunately.

      August 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      • Maybe they should release mice now and then to give him something to chase. 🙂 I was thinking these animals are perhaps proof that human intervention is not always the best – sometimes we must allow the “circle of life” to run its own course – but in Bob’s case, it was humans who caused his problems in the first place.

        August 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      • I agree, I can’t imagine being a flightless bird with nothing to do but sit on a perch all day everyday, watching the other birds outside of my cage flying around.

        Giving Bob mice to chase sounds good, but he has no claws, and some animal rights whacko would complain about cruelty to the mice.

        August 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      • LOL You are probably right. 😀

        August 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm

  5. I used to volunteer for a wildlife rescue facility, and you’re right. It’s sad seeing them caged and bored. They do a lot to educate people (if the people are willing to be educated), but more could be done to keep them active mentally and physically. They could toss a cardboard box into Bob’s cage, or a tough ball for him to play with. Even big cats like things like that. The mouse idea is a good one as well. Also, some big cats will play in a pool. There are lots of things they could do for the birds, too, but I’d imagine part of the problem is budgeting for it.

    Oh, and great photos!

    August 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    • Thanks. There were some of the things in Bob’s cage that you suggested, a pool, large box, and others, but he didn’t seem interested in any of them.

      Being way too cynical, I got the impression that the animals were kept rather sad and pathetic as a way of fund raising, garnering sympathy so that people would donate more.

      August 8, 2013 at 1:57 am

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