Monday, February 28, 2011


Pictured is a copepod one of various types of zooplankton that sustain life in the Great Lakes.  This photo was taken through a microscope.

Plankton, phytoplankton and zooplankton feed small fish and are at the base of food pyramids in water. Read more about food pyramids in the Great Lakes in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.  Available at in a new edition.

Friday, February 25, 2011

We see a lot of American bald eagles on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Eagles are at the top of the food chain so their return to our shores means that economic poisons such as DDT have purged from the ecosystem since these pesticides were banned.

Eagles are an indicator species and their return  indicates a healthier environment for all species.

This is my watercolor of an eagle as it stoops for prey.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's That Time of Year. Coast Guard Ice Rescue video

Here is a video of an ice rescue by the Coast Guard.  It is dangerous to go out on the ice this time of year on the Great Lakes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So Be Careful. Watch Out for the Ice Trolls

It’s a typical February day at the beach in West Michigan. Blown in by northwest winds, wave after wave smashes against ice ridges on the shore of Lake Michigan. Ice balls bounce and roll—their clattering sound mingles with the swoosh of the spray and the roar of wind and waves. Children who built sand castles on this beach in the summer now look in wonder at the fantastic shapes wind and waves have carved. It looks as though a giant ice troll had been playing there, heaping mounds of ice, gouging out ice caverns, grottos and deep crevices then smoothing off ice shelves. Perhaps another troll came along and smashed some of the ice into huge shards that clink together in the water like pieces of a broken plate glass window.

Quirks of wind, waves and the configuration of the lake bottom cause the shore ice to change from day to day and even change from minute to minute. It seems as if a sleight of hand magician were playing tricks with water, wind and ice.

One of these tricks is to strand wildlife, dogs or people on a floating cake of ice. This happens when pack ice, floating pieces of ice compacted against the solid ice ridge, is blown out in the lake again by an east wind. So be careful if you are going to the beach.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Feed the Birds

Feeding the birds is a good thing to do this time of year.  Pictured is my watercolor of a chickadee on a sunflower.  Sunflower seeds are a favorite of birds here in West Michigan.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Eagles Have Landed.

Photo by Steve Damstra
 Today I saw ten eagles on the beach on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Through the efforts of people who worked to ban DDT, the eagle has returned to the shores of the Great Lakes.  We nearly lost the eagle, the peregrine falcon and the osprey, due to economic poisons that magnified in food pyramids.  This was an unintended consequence of widepread spraying for insects.  Once the widespread spraying stopped, the lakes began to purge the poisons.  But this took many years.  Read about the return of the American bald eagle in The Dynamic Great Lakes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Erie

Just outside of Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie stands the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.  Right now the question of whether it should get a new license is being considered.  Below is a newspaper article and below that is a link to more information about this plant. There have been serious incidents at this plant.

Akron Beacon Journal 2/4/2011

Eco-groups fight license renewal

Environmentalists oppose 20 more years of operation for Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo

Published on Friday, Feb 04, 2011

Beacon Journal staff report

Four environmental groups are fighting the renewal of the federal operating license for FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie in northwest Ohio.

The groups — Beyond Nuclear, the Green Party of Ohio, Don't Waste Michigan and Citizens Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario — are seeking to intervene in the case.

Their efforts have been opposed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co.

A hearing is scheduled March 1 before the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sundown over Lake Michigan

After sundown last night, the wind picked up and threw chunks of ice at us.  On Lake Michigan's beach the ice continues to build.  It is treacherous to walk here since it is difficult to tell whether you have sand or water underneath you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011



I intended a peregrine—

it arrived at Godspeed.

There had been a dearth of peregrines you see.

I longed for eagles

and after many years, they returned to us

in abundance,

dancing on air streams,

spiraling courtships high in the air

then talons clasped

plummeting then

nesting in white pines.

After a dry season

our mountain ash bows with orange fruit

whereupon flocks of eager waxwings

gorge on orange berries this cold winter day.

I intended for the Holy Spirit to descend

in this season of epiphany

and its fire entered me and surrounded me

as a haze around Saturn in the

evening sky just above the horizon line.

It glowed unearthly bright that night.

On epiphany, my wishes and intentions are

for peregrines, eagles, waxwings

and the little Holy Child to stay with me

as eagles play in the airstreams,

as trees burst with nurture

and brightness forms our days.
Excerpted from my book, Sophia's Lost and Found: Poems of Above and Below