Audio Guide to Spring: June 5

Jun 5, 2020

A single monarch makes the trip from Michigan to Mexico to over-winter. But the return trip takes several generations--that all happen in one spring. The monarchs stop and breed along the way and each successive generation brings them further north.
Credit Captain-tucker CC

Monarch Butterflies are arriving in Michigan.  They overwinter in Mexico.  But it’s not actually the same monarch that arrives in Michigan that left Mexico. For some reason the monarch can make the trip from Michigan down to Mexico, but to return takes a few generations of butterflies.  So the one that arrives in Michigan might be the great great grandchild of the one that left Mexico.

The eastern Monarch population is in decline.  Duke Elsner, an entomologist formerly with the MSU Extension Service, says the count for this winter was down. “It was disappointing.  But if you look at the big picture, there’s still a heck of a lot of monarchs.  There’s just not as many as there used to be, but it’s hard to really declare them to be threatened yet.”

You can help monarchs by planting common milkweed or just letting milkweed grow where you find it.

Watch a monarch butterfly swarm:

Pink Lady's Slippers belong to the orchid family. A single plant can live 20 years or more if left undisturbed
Credit Cheryl Bartz

Pink Lady’s Slippers are flowering now.  These exotic looking flowers belong to the orchid family.  They like acidic soil, so you can find them in our mixed coniferous forests with pine and hemlock.  Pink Lady’s Slippers can live 20 years or more if left undisturbed.

We’d been hoping to alert you when tart cherries were blooming this year, but we missed it.  Nikki Rothwell of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station says the bloom went like a flash.  She just hopes the bees didn’t miss it.  “I can’t believe how fast things have moved with the crazy weather last week. We blew through tart cherry pollination in less than two, three days. I just hope those bees worked, and they worked fast.”

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to both hoary and hairy puccoons. The hairy or Carolina puccoon is the most common. (Scottish terrier provided for scale.)
Credit Cheryl Bartz

There’s a lovely yellow flower blooming along the Michigan shoreline now.  They’re called puccoons and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is home to two puccoons:  the hoary puccoon and the hairy puccoon.  It’s easy to tell the hoary puccoon from the hairy puccoon….  Not really.  You have to get down on your knees for a close examination.  Is the plant softly hairy?  Then it’s a hoary puccoon.  Are the stem hairs sparser and more bristly? Then it’s a hairy puccoon.  But even if you can’t definitively ID which puccoon you’re looking at, you can impress your friends by pointing out—from six feet away and through a mask—that the plant is a hoary/hairy…puccoon!

Female deer leave their fawns for as long as 12 hours while they feed nearby. People sometimes think the fawns are abandoned, but they are not. Peter Payette, IPR Executive Director, discovered this fawn while hiking the North Country Trail in Manistee County.
Credit Peter Payette

IPR Executive Director Peter Payette had an amazing experience last weekend.  You’ll recall on the show last Friday, we explained how white-tailed deer does will leave their fawns for eight, ten, twelve hours while they’re off eating. He discovered a fawn about one foot from the North Country Trail in Manistee County. And but for this program, he said he, too, would have assumed that animal had been abandoned.

Let us know what you’re seeing.  Send us a picture, get in touch.  You can reach us at

I’m Peter Payette.  I get help on this show from Cheryl Bartz, Leslie Hamp and Larry Mawby.  Special thanks this week to Arlo, Iver and Magnus Augusta for helping with voice work on the hoary puccoon segment.