Thursday, March 31, 2011


I have always loved this sonnet:

                 Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.
                               --Gerard Manley Hopkins

Monday, March 28, 2011

Brown Trout stocked in Lake Michigan

This just in from the Chicago Tribune:

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind.— The state of Indiana says it plans to stock Lake Michigan with 35,000 brown trout in hopes of improving the diversity of fishing along the state's 45 miles of shoreline.

Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert of the Department of Natural Resources says the fish are from Illinois and are roughly four months old and 3 to 4 inches long.

Breidert says Indiana would like to rear these fish to a larger size to increase survival rate once stocked but there is limited space within the state's hatchery program.

The DNR has been stocking Lake Michigan with trout since 2002. The trout are normally stocked in late June at four different locations along Lake Michigan.

Pictured is a fully mature brown trout.  I took this photo a few years ago on a tributary to Lake Michigan.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The photo is the Bruce Peninsula in Lake Huron. I took this picture and liked it so much that I asked my publisher to use it on the cover of my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes. The Bruce Peninsula in Ontario is similar to the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin. Thousands of years ago, these limestone fingers of land were joined. They are part of the Niagara escarpment. Limestone underlies much of the Great Lakes basin. It was built during the time when much of North America was covered by saltwater seas.

The Bruce Peninsula is built of limestone and there are beautiful hiking trails where rare flowers may be found. I visited in fall and collected a basket full of mushrooms. I thought their shapes and colors were so beautiful that I took them home with me to paint. Unfortunately, the mushrooms didn't last very long, so I never did paint them. Sigh.

Pictured is a rock formation on Lake Huron called an alvar.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rain Barrel: Rain Gardens Good Ideas

By catching rain in a barrel, you will have soft water for your rain garden or anything else you would like to use it for. This may prevent soil from washing away.

A rain garden should be located where runoff can be diverted into it away from building foundations and utilities.  Plant perennial plants native to the Great Lakes region.  Mulch of shredded hardwood will keep the soil moist.

For more information about how to make a rain garden go to

Rain gardens replenish groundwater supplies and when the water is filtered by plants it will be clean when it enters lakes and streams.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

At Palisades Nuclear Power Plant

Since there is no place to store spent fuel rods, nuclear power plants must bury their plutonium on site.  I wrote the poem to protest.  At Palisades, the fuel rod is buried on the sandy shore of Lake Michigan encased in cement.  Not a good solution.

Read more about this in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Steelhead Fishing in the Great Lakes' Tributaries

In March and April, It's not necessary to fish for steelhead trout on Michigan's Little Manistee River. Some people, myself for one, like to watch the river flow, the grass grow, and to witness the ancient ritual of return the anadramous rainbow trout perform each year. When the rainbow trout moves out into the Great Lakes, it grows large and steely on mayflies and smaller fish, and when it returns to the stream where it hatched from its egg, it takes on the characteristic pink rainbow and dappled greens to better conceal it in the river.

Unlike some types of salmon that may die after spawning, the steelhead lives to return and spawn year after year guided by their uncanny senses. Their particular place of birth is imprinted in their bodies and nothing short of death can keep them from returning to it. Their senses, especially their senses of taste and smell and extra senses located in lateral lines, lines that run along both sides of their body from the tail to the head, guide them to their traditional place for spawning. Beneath their lateral lines are a system of pores, canals and sense organs linked to the brain. With their lateral lines, fish are able to detect unseen enemies or prey. They sense currents, obstacles with the lateral line's sixth sense, in an intermediate area between hearing and touch; it allows the fish to remember low frequency vibrations and pressure waves built up as the fish passes rocks or other fish. Experiments have shown that fish use their keen sense of smell to help them home in on their traditional spawning grounds imprinted in their memories.

Great strength, speed and endurance make trout and their close relatives the salmon, the champions of fish. Their strength propels them over dams and through swift currents.

One could do worse than be a steelhead watcher in April. New sweet grass, a grayed green, pikes out of matted river bend grass while the clear, golden river rushes sorting rounded stones, polishing grains of fallen timber, dimpling right and left. A steelhead arcs over the riffle less green than the newborn moss while the sun warms my back through the ragg wool sweater I thought ugly at first. Many things seem ugly at first: babies, newts, birch bark that peels off like old wallpaper in empty farm houses. The river with its histories of hails and aggregations of rains and snows speaks ceaselessly while undercutting its banks. A few caught steelhead lie tethered to the bank by their jawbones—by their gills and jawbones--to a willow. The willows in their tender first fuzz move in April's breath from the west.

I watch a steelie come up from the depths to follow a fly with its inevitable hook. I watch others fishing with red spawn bags...little bundles of eggs tied into salmon colored nylon net.

I wander downstream to observe fishermen and fisherwomen guarding each spawn bed as jealously as male trout. I jump across hummocks and carefully cross a little tributary to the Manistee on a slippery log. I'd like to see a black bear with her cubs eating the new pikes of grass, turning over rotten logs, standing in the stream cuffing fish toward her cubs.

After a long white Michigan winter, the  March and April greens dance before my eyes: the yellow-green of arbor vitae and dark greens of white pine with silver sun sliding on each breeze blown needle and the green sound of a tree frog singing in the forest. For relief of green, a purple finch with citrus colored birds--yellow pine grosbeaks with lime colored bills.

The cattails are not green yet. They stand fuzzy-headed on one wet leg. The swans build their nests of reedy material like this, not green, but later green springs up round them like bliss as they bend their necks and ruffle their cream-rich wing feathers.

The bubbles of foam that flow around the half submerged log are white on the dark amber water. The river is curly. It turns and rolls in complicated patterns--now this way--now that--now shallow--now deep filling in here with silt, trenching out gullies and leaving stones in sorted piles in various safety deposit boxes underwater, to later be deposited in other underwater vaults.

Then all around me are the ancient, cool dragon greens of lichens--a little celebration of scales on dead wood. A dead steelhead lies in the silt, still and white as the moon except for the eye--curiously alive as I write sitting under a wormy apple tree.

As I watch, slick coral eggs in their stony nests are growing embryos.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Singing Sands

Singing Sands in Michigan

Barbara Spring

Build sand castles or lie on the beach, boogie board, kite board or sun bathe. Sand beaches in other parts of the world are o.k., but sand beaches in Michigan are of an especially fine quality. Why? someone asks.

This sand is composed of quartz granules, dark colored magnetite and other fine grains of rock. People love to walk in the so called singing sands…it feels good underfoot. When a toe or shoe is dragged across the sand, there is a high pitched sound or singing. This is due to the high quartz content of the sand.

At any time of year, you may find people enjoying the cool wooded dunes at Hoffmaster State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan in Norton Shores near Muskegon. Some of the best sand dunes in the world are found here and along the coasts of the Great Lakes. At Hoffmaster State Park, there are beaches and places to camp, trails through the wooded dunes, and stairways to climb over the dunes to breathtaking views of Lake Michigan. Naturalists take visitors and school groups through the park and point out owls, song birds and plants.

But to really learn about the dunes, you must visit Gillette Nature Center at the center of the park where there are displays explaining how the dunes were formed by actions of the glaciers and the west wind. The displays show dynamic dune succession: that is how dune plants and animals change over time. It was in dunes such as these that Henry Chandler Cowles studied botany and then wrote “ The Ecological Relation of the Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan” in 1899. The discipline of ecology was born in dunes like this.

There are hands on displays, kids really go for this, on the lower level and a collection of creatures…mammals, reptiles and fish found in and near the dunes.

In the fall, the changing colors of leaves are worth a walk in the dunes and in winter, people like to cross country ski on an old logging trail that hugs the side of a dune. In spring, wild flowers bloom under the trees. Bird migrations pass through here.

Many beautiful and unique dunes were leveled in the past and their intricate ecosystems destroyed by mining the sand for industry and building subdivisions. We still have some dunes left to enjoy on the Great Lakes. They are well worth preserving. After all, they were created over thousands of years. Once gone, dunes with their intricate ecosystems, can never be resurrected by humans.

Read more about dunes in The Dynamic Great Lakes available at Schuler Books in downtown Grand Rapids, the Bookman in Grand Haven or order from the publisher

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Great Lakes Bears

When bears emerge from hibernation, they will be very hungry. And if a female bear has a cub, beware. She will protect it from perceived danger. It is best not to surprise bears.  Bears are found around the Great Lakes and they feed upon spring flowers, grasses,  animals, fish and later in the season, berries. If camping, keep food where bears can't smell it or find it.   They are omnivores.  They have always been part of the Great Lakes ecosystems.