FIELD TRIP: Sterling State Park, Monroe, MI - July 2014

In July I was in Michigan for my sister's wedding shower and we had a free day so my parents decided to take us to Sterling State Park in Monroe. The park is right on Lake Erie (Brest Bay) and we knew there were some Bald Eagles that nested there so we thought we'd check it out.

According to their website, Sterling State Park is the only state park on Lake Erie. The 1,300 acres offer great recreational opportunities including over one mile of beach, boating, shore fishing on Lake Erie and the fishing lagoons, lakefront camping, wildlife viewing and 6 miles of trails. 

It is also on the River Raisin Heritage Trail which provides access to historic sites, additional local parks and optional detours to downtown Monroe. 

Here's where we were:

It had been years since I'd been to one of the Great Lakes and I was surprised how many memories the smell of the lake brought back.

When we first got there we decided to check out the lagoons on the western side of the park to see what kinds of birds we could spot.

There were many of the expected shorebirds like Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons having a meal.

Great Egret (Ardea alba)
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
They have quite a few birds of prey at the park as well and there was a handy visual on how to tell which you're looking at from below.

We were hungry so we went to the picnic tables near the water to eat a picnic lunch and put our feet in the sand. I remember many days of swimming in "the lake" when I was growing up - finding the perfect pieces of "seaglass" and shells and rocks to fill a big bucket and lugging it back home to the suburbs.

After eating, we decided to go back over to the lagoon area. There are some trails that go around the lagoon and we were still hoping to see one of the Bald Eagles. We caught a glimpse of one circling high above but I expect they are easier to spot in the winter when the trees are bare. Still, we enjoyed our walk and watching the parents of these Barn Swallows feed their little ones:

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Here are a few other birds from that area and an eight-legged creature as well:

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
Tan Jumping Spider (Platycryptus undatus)
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
I also saw some ducks but they were too far away to get any good shots. I found out later that they were female wood ducks (like the one pictured below) and I wish I would have looked a bit longer.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) - photo by Flickr user Linda Tanner
Hopefully one of these times when I'm in Michigan without snow I can walk the 8 miles of the River Raisin Heritage Trail. My ancestors were involved in this battle which took place during the War of 1812. According to the National Park Service site on the Battlefield Park:

"River Raisin is the site of the devastating January 1813 Battles of Frenchtown that occurred during the War of 1812. The battles typified the conflicting interest central to the war but, in the end, the killing and ransom of unprotected American prisoners galvanized America. The resulting polemical rally cry “Remember the Raisin” spurred America’s successful re-taking of the Northwest Territories."

In any case, it was a great day enjoying the outdoors with my family.