Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa

Outdoors: Federation squirrels

Jul 3, 2020

The rodents that thrive in dry sandy fields at Interlochen are called thirteen-lined ground squirrels. At least, that’s what we call them now.

Around Independence Day, I like to recall their original common name: federation squirrels.

These grasslands creatures have thirteen stripes, alternating dark and light, that are interspersed with little dots that look rather like stars.

Outdoors: The river of the Saw Beaks

Jul 2, 2020

The Little Betsie River connects the two lakes at Interlochen. Then the Betsie River flows from Green Lake to Lake Michigan.

They were named for a duck: a merganser.

Early maps of Lake Michigan bear names given by the French. They called the Betsie "la Reviere du Bec-Scie," or "the River of the Saw Beaks."

The French called mergansers “saw beaks” because of the serrations on the ducks’ narrow  bills. These sawtooth edges aid the birds in capturing and holding onto the slippery fish that make up the bulk of their diet.

Outdoors: Loons' breath control

Jul 1, 2020

At Interlochen, breath control is a big deal. 

Singers, wind players, actors and dancers all have to deal with the basic need to have enough breath to produce their art.

Our beloved loons have breath control under control.  These remarkable birds can dive and stay under water for about three minutes, maybe more. And that is while undergoing strenuous exercise!

You can watch them disappear beneath the surface, but it is anybody’s guess where they might resurface.

Outdoors: Countersinging birds

Jun 30, 2020

I love antiphonal music! 

The ethereal back and forth of double choirs in European cathedrals. The African American call and response form in jazz and gospel music.  And my personal  favorite: several brass choirs  stationed around the sides of Kresge Auditorium echoing back and forth through the hall and into the mall.

The dawn chorus at Interlochen is rather like antiphonal music. Birds take turns singing.   

Outdoors: The flowers that bloom in the spring

Jun 29, 2020
CC BY-SA 4.0

Have you ever noticed how often singers sing about nature?

Take Gilbert and Sullivan.  Librettist Sir William Schwenk Gilbert was remarkably knowledgeable in matters "vegetable, animal and mineral."

For example, in "The Mikado," Nanki Poo and Koko, addressing the shade intolerance of woodland wildflowers, sing,  “The flowers that bloom in the spring / tra la / breathe promise of merry sunshine.”

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