Monday, May 3, 2010

Birds and Butterflies and the Dreaded 'Purple Loosestrife'

One of my 'claims to fame', if there is such a thing, would be ridding West Bloomfield of their Township Flower and Township Bird.  No, I didn't physically get rid of them, I just suggested to the Board that we find new species to identify with.

When I came into office in 1988, the Township Flower was 'Purple Loosestrife'.  It is a highly invasive wetland plant and weren't we trying to save the wetlands?  I kept hearing from everyone that 'It is so pretty'.  Well, it is, but it is everywhere it shouldn't be.

I even received a call from a former official asking me how I could suggest such a thing. Well, at the time in the late 80's, a few states had already outlawed the plant. Once it invades a wetland, good luck to anything else surviving.  You can no longer sell it or bring it into Michigan.

We eventually agreed to name 'Trillium Grandiflorum' as the new Township flower, which was abundant in the township nature preserve.  Check out the photos here.  I have heard that the deer have eaten many of theses plants in recent years.  Guess no one told them the plants were protected.

The other species to get replaced was the Bobolink.  I had lived here since 1972 and had never seen even one.  The idea of replacing this bird with another, as yet unnamed, species caused even more of an uproar.  Must have been a slow news day, for I even heard from the Lansing Journal.  My phone rang off the hook.  'Oh, what a lovely bird.   How could you!'

I would ask the caller if they had actually ever seen one in West Bloomfield.  'Well, no, but they used to be here'.  Well, so were dinosaurs.  I thought of this incident because the latest issue of Defenders Magazine had a 'Speciesspotlight' on the Bobolink.  It says they were at their peak in the horse and buggy era, but their populations have dimished.

Our Township Bird is now the black-capped chickadee.  Yes, common, ordinary, everyday chickadee.  So what is wrong with having a township bird that everyone can see and recognize?

Which brings me to the butterflies.  No, we do not have a Township butterfly.  I did, however, see a most unusual specimen in my backyard yesterday.  Not that the butterfly is unusual, I had just never seen the species before.  It is called Vanessa atalanta, a red admiral butterfly.

I was surprised at how close it allowed me to get to it.  So, let me propose, that since there is at least one, that perhaps we have a township butterfly.

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