Audio Guide to Spring: May 15

May 15, 2020

Trillium should be peaking this weekend in some parts of northern michigan.
Credit Bill Erickson

This week on the guide: 

This week is prime time for bird watching up north. You can see all kinds of colorful birds like Indigo Buntings, Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers and a whole range of warblers and they’re easier to see because the trees haven’t leafed out yet. 

Brian Allen with Save the Birds compares birding this week to snorkeling on a coral reef: “Here the coral reefs are the bushes and trees. Instead of tropical fish we have tropical warblers and tanagers and orioles flowing through, and there’s all the colors of the tropical fish. You’ve got bright green and yellow and orange and red and aqua blue. It’s a wonderful experience, a lot like snorkeling. That’s what I’m hoping for this weekend.” 

Brian says any forested area along Lake Michigan will do well.  He particularly recommends Northpoint Park in Onekama and Leelanau State Park at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula.


Trillium should be peaking this weekend in some parts of northern michigan.  The overall viewing period for trillium should be longer this year because of the cold snap that struck when trillium flowers had already partially opened.

We learned something interesting about trillium this week.  You know how they spread across a forest floor?  Ants.  Ants carry trillium seeds back to their colonies because they eat the little “ant treat” that’s attached to the seed.

Paula Dreeszen, Volunteer Preserve Steward for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, explains how this works:  “They don’t have any use for the seed, so they deposit the seed in a waste storage chamber that’s like their compost pile. The benefits to the trillium plant are that the seeds are dispersed away from the parent plant, they’re placed in a safe chamber underground away from predators like mice, and it’s a nutrient rich spot”

Ants actually disperse the seeds of a number of spring wildflowers in Northern Michigan, including Yellow trout lily, Dutchman’s breeches, violets and bloodroot.

And on the farm this week, the asparagus harvest should get underway. Growers will be happy to sell you asparagus from their farms since restaurant sales are shut down.  They should be picking asparagus for the next four to six weeks.

If you’re looking for cherry blossoms you may have to wait a bit longer. There are some sweet cherry trees blooming out there, but tart cherries, the most common cherry tree in Northern Michigan, are a ways off. It will be unusually late, and that’s because according to the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research station, this is the coldest spring since 1996.

That’s our guide for this week.  I’m Peter Payette.  I get help from Leslie Hamp, Larry Mawby and Cheryl Bartz. 

What are you seeing?  Call us with your nature sightings at 231-276-4444.


Brian Allen with Saving Birds Thru Habitat
Credit Brian Allen

Audio Bonus: Additional birding information for this weekend from Brian Allen with Saving Birds Thru Habitat.