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  • Tuesday Tour of Lime Lake Fen by Robert Ayotte

Tuesday Tour of Lime Lake Fen by Robert Ayotte

Friday, July 15, 2022 5:00 PM | Steve Jerant (Administrator)

Lime Lake Fen

Trip Leader Gary Mason

On this warm and partly cloudy day, fifteen nature enthusiasts from The Jackson Audubon and Michigan Botanical Societies joined Gary Mason (JAS) for an exploration of Lime Lake Fen – near Spring Arbor.  This area is located just off the Falling Waters Trail, between what are known to locals as South Lake and Third Lake (in the Lime Lake area). 

(Steve Jerant)
Gary reviewed the geology of the area and noted that Lime Lake is fed by two springs located on private property near the southeast shore.  The influx of water, derived from ice-contact formations, contributes abundant calcium carbonate to the basin which leads to marly conditions.  Apparently, due to the often-slick marly bottom, the lake is sometimes dubbed “Slime Lake”.  The marl in this basin was mined in the early 20th century to produce cement and for the fertilization of agricultural fields.  Visible in the shallows, was the algae Chara spp. (muskgrass), a native aquatic plant which thrives in alkaline (high pH) conditions. 

The calcareous soil conditions offer an opportunity to view some unusual species of plants which is why the area is afforded some protection as part of the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department.  However, the habitat has suffered considerable degradation from the introduction of glossy buckthorn, and alterations to natural drainage patterns.  Recently, some invasive species removal has been performed, and there has been some restoration of pre-European settlement drainage patterns.

With the confluence of birders, entomologists, and botanists, this outing was veritable bio-blitz!  Experts were pointing out and describing interesting features at every step along the way (including dragon flies!).  A list of plant species found is included in Table 1.  Among those are the unique and uncommon Blephilia ciliata (Ohio horse-mint) (Fig. 1), Carex crawei (sedge), and Rudbeckia fulgida (showy coneflower).  The paucity of peat (fibric substrate) and the dominance of the grasses Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem), Schizachyriuim scoparium (little bluestem), Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass), Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed), and Spartina pectinata (prairie cordgrass) led us to conclude that this zone, under the Michigan Natural Features Inventory classification, is an early successional prairie.  No matter, it is abundantly diverse, with the promise of many colorful asters and gentians this fall. 

Figure 1.  Blephilia ciliata (Ohio horse-mint or downy pagoda-plant).  The blooming period occurs during early summer and lasts about a month.  Unlike a lot of mints, neither the flowers nor the leaves have a noticeable scent.  (T. Reznicek).


Along the Falling Waters Trail, and in route to Lime Fen, we enjoyed seeing many species of birds, and we gave particular attention to Warbling Vireos feeding their young in the canopy of an Ulmus americana (American elm).  We saw Baltimore Orioles, and barn swallows working the lake for insects.  In all, we recorded 25 taxa of birds including:

8 Mute Swan
8 Mourning Dove
4 Sandhill Crane
1 Great Blue Heron
1 Turkey Vulture
1 Red-tailed Hawk
2 Northern Flicker
8 Eastern Kingbird
5 Warbling Vireo
6 Blue Jay
10 Tree Swallow
1 Barn Swallow
1 House Wren
3 Gray Catbird
10 American Robin
6 Cedar Waxwing
4 House Sparrow
5 American Goldfinch
7 Song Sparrow
2 Baltimore Oriole
3 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Common Grackle
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Northern Cardinal
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Many thanks to Gary Mason (JAS) for leading this trip, and to Steve Jerant (JAS) for organizing this trip.  Let’s return in the fall!

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