Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Autumn in Milwaukee’s parks: Grant and McGovern

Two very different parks. One familiar to me; the other less so.  They are two among many Milwaukee area parks that I’ve visited this fall in an attempt to capture the glory of the season and the treasure of nearby nature.

Grant Park

I left my home in Wauwatosa hoping that the weather forecast would not prove to be a lie. The overcast sky was due to blow away by midmorning. Promises, promises. But it’s a long way from Tosa to Grant Park and sometimes you just have to take the chance.

My route to Grant took me along Oak Creek Parkway where I discovered some major stream bank restoration efforts underway. The project was intended to stabilize the creek after a recent washout and flood.

By the time I got to Grant the clouds were indeed breaking up.  I parked atop the bluff and made my way down to the beach on a very steep incline that had been reinforced in part with crude gabion-wrapped stone steps. The grassy parts of the slope were treacherous.

I walked the beach north to the ravine that empties into the lake. It is the terminus of the popular Seven Bridges Trail and route most people take to reach the beach. Although it was a weekday morning, there were many people enjoying the sun and balmy conditions, including a few children. One of them mentioned that they were a family visiting Milwaukee from South Dakota.  Grant Park is clearly a destination.

My expectations were exceeded. The colors went beyond spectacular into the realm of unbelievable. (For the photo buffs among you, I had to actually desaturate these shots because the RAW images appeared too intense. That rarely happens.)

My walk back to the car along the bluff included more lovely autumn color…

and a lucky find. I nearly stepped on a tiny snake that was the same color as the leaves underfoot. It was uncooperative but I managed to both not step on it and also to get this shot.

Grant, which is located in South Milwaukee, is one of my favorite parks and I’ve been there many times over the years. Not so with…

McGovern Park

I’d been only twice before, both times in spring when an amazingly diverse spread of wildflowers made the woodland especially appealing. This time I parked in the lot near the east edge just off Silver Spring Drive. From the lot I had to cross a football field to reach the pond and woods. I noticed that the empty field was littered with an unusually high concentration of goose poop. When I reached the pond I quickly discovered why.

There was a large flotilla of geese floating about on the water. Geese are ubiquitous enough that I wasn’t immediately interested in them. Then, as I stood on the lovely stone bridge trying to decide which way to face in order to frame a shot or two, suddenly I heard loud honking directly overhead. Before I could react a phalanx of geese swooped by and splashed down to join in the gaggle.

I didn’t have to wait long before another skein of geese appeared just as abruptly and descended. I looked for a vantage point from which to catch the next wave but although they always came from the south, they swerved over the woodland in unpredictable ways. I decided to settle in amongst the reeds along one edge of the pond and wait. It took a good half hour and about 50 shots, but I managed to catch a few in midair without trees or other distractions in the background.

When the commotion died down I wandered around the more secluded side of the pond to explore the woodland. Clouds were rolling over, plunging the woods into a gloom that made the autumn colors glow amid the still largely green foliage.

When I emerged from the woods to return to my car I had to part a sea of geese that covered the entire football field and more. There must have been several hundred. This shot shows only a faction of the flock. The mystery of the annoying goose pooped certainly was solved.

McGovern is located on Milwaukee’s north side at Silver Spring Dr. and Sherman Blvd. In addition to football, there are a softball field and basketball courts that are intensively used in good weather. The woods and pond take up a good third or more of the park and are well worth a visit, especially when the flowers are in bloom.

In fact there were a few late bloomers left!

This is the fifth in a series of posts about autumn in Milwaukee (with more to come! It’s the best time of year here, ain’t it?)

Here are links to the others:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Greenfield Park: A walk in the woods

With apologies to T. S. Eliot:

October is the coolest month, breeding
asters out of the dying land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
bright colors with cold autumn nights.
Winter will make us shiver, cover
Earth in forgetful snow, but today
resilient life and exuberant canopies!*

I’ve always loved October. Indian Summers and autumn colors enable me to put off the threat of winter for the time being. So far this October has been everything I’ve always loved about it.

Last year I was away from Milwaukee during the entire month of October. While I’m not complaining about my time in foreign places—I feel fortunate to be able to travel—I did vow to remain in Milwaukee this year and take in the colors. In fact, I’ve been out enjoying Milwaukee’s parks and the changing colors so often that I’m finding it hard to keep up with my excursions in my blog. Milwaukee and my mood are equally far from Eliot's "Waste Land."

So, here is one of my recent adventures, in Greenfield Park. Just photos:

To see many more photos from many more of Milwaukee's parks go to my Flickr album.

*Adapted from the opening passage of The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hiking Havenwoods with Brew City Safari

Havenwoods, despite its designation as a State Forest, is largely prairie. On Saturday, when I joined up with Brew City Safari for the second week in a row, the sky was gloomy and the prairie mostly dull shades of umber. But the temperature was perfect and we had a lovely walk. I took a few photos, as is my habit, and even managed to find a few spots of color here and there.

At about our halfway point we came to a boardwalk that led us out over a wetland and pond.

There we were joined by Beth, one of the State Forest rangers. She had caught a number of small creatures, such as damselfly larvae.

They were placed into lab magnifiers so that we could observe their forms and movements.

The youngest member of our party grabbed one of the nets and promptly caught a healthy-sized tadpole, held here by Beth.

I also learned from Beth that this is called "panic grass" because of the way the stems diverge, kind of like a grassy fireworks display.

There are actually a few woodland areas in the state forest.

Brew City Safari has yet another hike scheduled for October 22 and then one in November. For more information go to their website.