The Rock Golf Course
D.I. Vacation Properties
Papins Resort
As you enjoy your walk, also notice the parallel grooves scraped into the limestone by the Wisconsin Glacier as it dragged across the ground in a north-south direction over ten thousand years ago. Fossils, some large enough to see, settled into this limestone from ancient seas. If you have a high-clearance vehicle and the time for a much more complicated drive, return to the homepage to find the location and stop in at DITA for directions to the best of the Fossil Ledges.Drummond Island and its surrounding waters offer a wide mix of land forms to explore. Getting to most of them is easy; getting to some of them has been described as gut-wrenching. While we cannot guarantee that you will see any of the plants and animals we list on this site, we encourage you to take the time to look carefully for them. Everything described here, has been found here.[1]Drive or bike out to the Maxton Plains. People have been enjoying the combination of enough time and enough space on Drummond Island for centuries. However, it wasn’t until The Nature Conservancy documented and preserved most of the Plains that we understood we were stewards of a rare corner of the world.
Photo by D. SandellPhoto by D. SandellPhoto by E. Clark

By Jody Clark
Welcome to the Drummond Island Natural History Link-site. We created this part of the website to help you navigate around the Island, enjoying your own Up North natural history vacation: the what/where of natural communities, rare plants and rare animals. 
We hope that each description offers just enough information about some of our special features to help make Drummond a fascinating place to visit. The links can help you
Welcome to the Drummond Island Natural History Link-site. We created this part of the website to help you navigate around the Island, enjoying your own Up North natural history vacation: the what/where of natural communities, rare plants and rare animals.
Photo by G. Andrie
learn how to find more information about what you see on your own. We hope you will use these links to learn before, during, and/or after enjoying your trip.   

Drummond Island and its surrounding waters offer a wide mix of land forms to explore. Getting to most of them is easy; getting to some of them has been described as gut-wrenching. While we cannot guarantee that you will see any of the plants and animals we list on this site, we encourage you to take the time to look carefully for them. Everything described here, has been found here.
The second largest island [2] in the Great Lakes of Michigan, Drummond is located a short ferry ride from the eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula. Therefore, the Island is a relatively easy place to visit for your own natural history adventure. The local attitude toward visitors, “Come often, play nicely,” has paid off in the protection of a wide range of unique public places for you to explore. This site describes some of the land forms, rare plants and rare animals you might enjoy here.
How can you see all of this fascinating stuff? You can reach most of the places mentioned on this website from the comfort of your car. Businesses on the Island also have bikes, ATV’s, kayaks, canoes, pontoon boats and fishing boats to rent. So bring your own transportation or check the Drummond Island Tourism Association (DITA) directory for who offers what in transportation, housing and shopping.[3]
Your web-guide, Jody M. Clark, grew up in Northern Michigan in a family that appreciates the plants and animals that surround us. A major in biology settled her into a life-long study of natural history. [4] Clark thanks ornithologist Dr. William C. Scharf and Jennifer Olson, conservation specialist-environmental review, of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) plus Jim Kelley, Betty Bailey and Gerry Bailey of DITA for their personal assistance in creating this site.
As you plan your trip to Drummond Island, our newest map will be useful. With GPS coordinates and strict attention to place names, the most accurate and up-to-date map of the Island can be found at:  To prepare for your natural history adventures look at the map for: the Drummond Island Ferry Landing, Pigeon Cove Flooding, Marl Lake on your way to Scammon Cove and Big Shoal Cove, the forests of the Knobs on your way to the sand beach of Glen’s Cove and Marblehead, the Alvar of Maxton Plains, Potagannissing Bay, Scott’s Bay and the Potagannissing River.
When Michigan’s Great Lakes Islands were studied for natural communities in 1993, seven times more diversity was discovered than the scientists expected. [5] A five-year effort during the swing into the new millennium documented more than twice as many natural communities, rare animals and rare plants on the islands during new meander surveys on specific islands. [6] While no one survey or list should be called the only authority for what is found and what is rare in a location, the sampling taken during the five years of the millennium survey offered a amazing opportunity to create a team-generated reliable survey at forty ecologically diverse sites on the Island.
With 58,000 acres of public land surrounded by the natural boundary of the St Mary’s River, if you bring a guidebook or two along, you have a decent chance of helping add to our count of plants and animals. For example, we have over one hundred and thirty, always increasing, bird species on our documented list. Help us grow our lists: If you see something that is not listed yet for Drummond Island, make note of when, where and under what conditions you saw it. If it is something that will not disappear in the next hour, then let Jim Kelley[7] or your host on-Island know about it, so someone can go out to take a look as your back up observer. If possible, also photograph the plant or animal with date and GPS metadata to send later to the Michigan Natural Features Inventory,[8] Little Traverse Nature Conservancy[9] or Michigan Audubon Society[10] so they can help document the plant or animal on their official lists of species for Drummond. 
The Landscape of Drummond Island MI
Drummond Island consists of 83,000 acres, about 130 miles of shoreline and twenty-four different biodiversity types.[11] In addition to paved roads, 68% of the land is state-owned, with 117 miles of hikeable off-road trails.[12] You may also enjoy the one-mile Island Heritage Hiking Trail from the rustic campsites of Drummond Island Township Park, the Little Traverse Nature Conservancy, (Williams Nature Preserve Trail) trails and the public hiking trails at The Rock, one of our two golf courses. In addition, discovery may wait around every corner as you boat along every bit of shoreline and across our inland waters (some isolated interior wetlands are surrounded by private land). Many of our Natural Communities are easy to find, easy to get to and easy to walk through. Others require more searching, local guidance from Betty at DITA or perhaps hire a personal guide.[13]
As your watercraft moves in closer to shore, be sure to watch for puddingstones the size of small automobiles. Drummond Island puddingstones are a mixture of white quartzite and jasper in colors ranging from deep red to almost blue. Formed in the sands of time before being ripped out of their beds and dropped on the Island by the glaciers, these rocks are classified as sedimentary conglomerates. (Puddingstone fudge is an Island delight.)
Our dominant upland forest cover is a blend of mixed hardwoods and evergreen groups. Land maps show a scattering of forested wetlands dominated by mixed conifer swamps. Aspen-birch cover grows primarily near the ferry, along the Tourist Road near the mouth of the Potagannissing River and across the Maxton Plains. As we live on a big rock that rises out of the River, we are proud to claim the sand beaches on either side of Marblehead at Big Shoal and Glen Coves. In addition, all of our forests, meadows, grasslands and wetlands are dynamic, so around every corner you can find interesting edges, mixes and/or successional changes. Our primary natural communities[14] can be defined as follows:

Drive or bike out to the Maxton Plains. People have been enjoying the combination of enough time and enough space on Drummond Island for centuries. However, it wasn’t until The Nature Conservancy documented and preserved most of the Plains that we understood we were stewards of a rare corner of the world.[15] An Alvar develops as cracks form on flat plates of limestone. Interpretive signs have been placed at the parking lot. Rare the world over, Alvar has only been documented in parts of Scandinavia, Estonia, Ireland’s County Clair, and the Great Lakes. Walking along the road past the signs takes you through one of the largest, best preserved Alvar plant communities in the world. Plants that are native to the Arctic tundra, the Great Lakes and the prairies of the Great Plains intermingle here. Alvar plant communities grow in soil-filled cracks and on an easily disturbed layer of topsoil. Three of the most dramatic of the blooming plant species are the prairie smoke of spring, the more isolated red of summer’s Indian paintbrush and the early autumn display of prairie dropseed. (See Rare Plants) Zigzag lines of trees and shrubs show where deeper soils have developed in the biggest cracks formed by the freeze/thaw cycle of winter. Wet in spring and early summer, there is never much soil in these cracks, so the trees are older than they seem, stunted also by the dry cycle of late summer into autumn. The dry cycle also allows grasses to remain dominant plants across the Plains. Indicator Alvar animals are land snails so small that thirty or more of them fit on a dime. (See Rare Animals) Watch for the Tawny Checkerspot butterfly, Phycoides batesii, as it feeds on the asters of Alvar and wet meadows. If you allow your feet to travel all the way to Drummond’s northwest coast, you may discover the lovely summer blue of the fringed gentian, Geninana procera, growing on the cobble beach. 

As you enjoy your walk, also notice the parallel grooves scraped into the limestone by the Wisconsin Glacier as it dragged across the ground in a north-south direction over ten thousand years ago. Fossils, some large enough to see, settled into this limestone from ancient seas. If you have a high-clearance vehicle and the time for a much more complicated drive, return to the homepage to find the location and stop in at DITA for directions to the best of the Fossil Ledges.
  • The Michigan Natural Communities List classifies Dry Non-acid Cliffs as rare for the state. [16] Plants typical of dry cliffs are the round-leaf service berry, Amelanchier sanguinea, and the smooth cliff-brake, Pellaea glabella. Thin, flat, lobed lichens and stemmed lichens are also common. On the dry upper lip you may find the rock fern, Polypodium virginianum, and lowbush honeysuckle, Diervilla lonicera. Important factors affecting vegetation are available moisture, the direction the cliff faces, its height and how much of the forest canopy shades any part of it. Drummond’s Marblehead is a fine example of a dry cliff, with ferns and other plants sifting the water of Lake Huron out of the air. Cryptogramma stelleri, the slender cliff-brake is a dry-cliff indicator species with very thin leaves scattered along slender creeping stems. (See Rare Plants-Rock Ferns.)
  • Drummond Island was farmed by early Europeans: first to feed their families, then to feed the lumberjacks. (See the paragraph about Harbor Island for evidence of Native American farming practices.) Old Field Meadows may appear to be grasslands, but 50% or more of the plants are wildflowers (forbes) with relatively broad leaves. Old Field succession provides a mix of plants and forest edges that attract birds and butterflies. In the shrub stage of succession, old field meadow coverage is less than 10% shrubs. Although they are scattered all over the Island, the roads to Scammon Cove pass some Old Field Meadows with rocks dressed in the bright orange monument lichen, Caloplaca saxicola[17].
  • Boreal forests have become relatively uncommon in the Great Lakes. The plants and animals of this natural community thrive in low winter temperatures, a cool growing season and low-fertility soils. A boreal forest is identified by its dense growth of mostly conical evergreens. The thin soil offers opportunity for a scattered understory to form in wind-generated openings. Ground-covering boreal plants are generally long-lived, have a slow growth rate and produce a spare, yet exquisite show of flowers. A unique suite of animals and plants also identifies the boreal forest, including some that are rare in Michigan. Although there is boreal forest on the Big Island, it may be easier to identify it on Harbor Island. Although the larger of the animals (moose, wolves) are not resident on Drummond, the lone wolf or lynx is not unheard of. The calypso and ram’s head orchids are found here.
  • The northern mesic (moist earth) forests on Drummond Island are dominated by sugar maples. However, our high water table and relatively shallow soil depth above bedrock increases the types of hardwood species and evergreens. These forests also hold a diverse, slowly changing understory plus a rich mix of shrubs and groundcovers. Their mix of flowers and fruits attracts a rich local bird population. This is enhanced with edges created by roads and natural glades throughout. Unique among the mesic groundcovers, some plants grow without chlorophyll; Indian pipes from the blueberry family, coral root orchids and beechdrops await your discovery. The Little Traverse Conservancy is steward for the eighty acres of forested land of the Clyde and Martha Williams Preserve. The roads to Marblehead pass through an area known as The Knobs where some of our most spectacular hardwoods grow. 
  • In addition to some beautiful old northern white cedars our Rich Conifer Swamps are noted for their low shrubs. Labrador tea, letherleaf, red and black currents, blueberry, and bilberry may all attract a variety of illusive insects and birds to the feast.  Upland and lowland white cedars grow all over the Island. Some of best, easy-to-reach Northern White Cedar Swamps on public land are located at the Pigeon Cove Flooding and the Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding.  Although swampland is not easy to navigate, Michigan-rare plants and animals may live among the abundance of mosses, lichens and liverworts that grow here. 
  • Although somewhat protected from the full fury of the storms, our marshlands are shaped by a dynamic environment. High and low-water marks are influenced by a combination of daily, annual and cyclical factors including the direction of the wind and runoff. Drummond Island has two types of marsh: Our Northern Great Lakes Marshlands host relatively few species that grow in massive numbers. On the edge of the open water, the emergent zone which is constantly inundated by fluctuating amounts of water includes pondweeds and rushes. Next comes the herbaceous zone, including blue-joint reed-grass, Calamagrostis canadensis[18], wildflowers and sedges. Last, and surrounding the community is a narrow band of water-tolerant shrubs. (The Northern Great Lakes Marshlands of Harbor Island have the highest quality rating in the State.) Our Rich Northern Fens include no woody plants. This community develops as fine marly particles settle on sedimentary limestone bedrock. Although many fen species may be found here, two key species identify our northern fens: blue-joint reed-grass, Calamagrostis canadensis, and the Kalm’s lobelia, Lobelia kalmii.[19] In this case, using this description, we’ve given you two indicator species. Learn about identifying from your field guides so you can decide whether you have located a Fen or a small Alvar. 
  • Cobble beaches form along the especially dynamic face of wind and waves. Both processes can move small to moderate size rocks while they fill or remove the sands and organic particles that fall among them. Winter shoreline ice freezes to the bottom. When loosened during storms, the movement of the ice may swiftly erode and modify the shore. Storm beaches are formed by cobble-sized rocks piling on top of each other several feet deep. Cyclic fluctuations of water levels significantly influence vegetation patterns on a limestone cobblestone beach. Plants, including shrubs and trees, become well established during low-water periods but die back or disappear altogether during high-water periods. Still, our cobble beaches hold a surprising diversity of small plants. At the waters edge, our beaches begin as flat cobbles. A little farther up a variable mix of wildflowers begins to grow. The reach of the prevailing wave rush determines where and if shrub-sized poplar, tamarack, paper birch and northern white-cedar trees will drive their roots between and into the cobbles. Recurring high water levels do not often allow these trees to reach maturity, but behind this buffer a dense thicket of paper birch, quaking aspen, northern white cedar and white spruce grows in a mix of real shrubs. Even with, or perhaps driven by, constantly changing conditions, a cobble beach is a rich habitat for animals. Fox, mink and raccoons are among the hunters. Terrestrial insects cling to rock surfaces and sediments that are also rich in aquatic invertebrates. Spring and Fall migrating warblers feast on the midges that dance and settle among the northern white cedars. Cobble Beach is the primary form of beach all around Drummond Island. Our Cobble Beaches often progress out toward and into the water as Limestone Bedrock Lakeshore. A total of 147 vascular plants have been found on Great Lakes limestone beaches. The MNFI abstract says, “On any given stretch of bedrock lakeshore one would, on average, encounter 24 vascular plants.” Michgan’s indicator species are Primula mitassinica, a pretty white primrose, and the Carex richardsonii sedge. Elaine Haug’s capture of the upright petals of the Mitiassini Primsore can be enjoyed at: A photo by Scott A. Milbern shows the Prairie Hummock Sedge in bloom at:  The Big Island also hosts the plant and animal communities found in association with inundated shrub swamps, sedge meadows and the two public sand beaches.
  • Out in Potagannissing Bay, Harbor Island has two harbors reaching deep inland, and includes just over 700 acres of public land plus 9 miles of shoreline for you to explore. These include three state-significant natural communities: Harbor’s Great Lakes Marsh rims the northeast inner harbor, holds the rank for highest quality. The age of the red-oak dominated Mesic Northern Forest along the east shore indicates that it probably was founded with pre-settlement Native American land-use practices. Two boreal forests on the Island form part of the southern limit of this Arctic community. Managed as part of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, all of Harbor Island, with its unique plant and animal communities, is within easy hiking distance of your boat. No overnight camping and no fires are the rules.
Rare Plants of Drummond Island MI
Drummond Island bears its historic family name proudly.[20] This beautifully dressed lump of limestone is large enough to hold such a wide a variety of ecosystems that, by exploring the various meadows and knobs, cliffs and ledges, coves and bays that face in every compass direction, you may find a mix of plants blooming earlier or later than expected throughout our growing season. This makes your visit a relatively efficient way to enjoy a wide mix of our wildflowers.
In addition to what you might expect to find flowering here, if you are interested in rare plants, we are proud to claim an unusual number of orchids, an unusual mix of Midwest and alpine plants growing together, and rare ferns.[21][22] The second plant on this list creates one of our most spectacular wildflower shows. Prairie Smoke may cover the Alvar of the Maxton Plains in pink by the end of June. If you take a careful look among the rocks and stones, you may also locate Drummond’s Rockcress.
  • From a short distance Drummond’s Rockcress, a slim plant in the mustard family, appears to be a small twig sticking upright on the rocks. Up close, Arabis drummondi may hold a uniform brush of small flowers at the top of its skinny stem. As long, thin seedpods begin to mature, the plant may hold single flowers, with four upright white petals, anywhere along its stem. According to Gray’s Manual of Botany, eighth edition ©1950, Arabis drummondi grows on basic or circumneutral, but not acidic, rock ledges and gravels. Marilyn Anions’ close-up transparencies and John Maunder’s digitals of total shapes are found at:
  • After it sets seed, Prairie Smoke, a member of the rose family, is among our most stunning plants. OnMichigan Natural Features,[23] Geum triflorum is rare in the state. It blooms from midMay to mid June. Arched flowers rise out of long leaves divided into pairs of jagged, irregular segments. Often in groups of three, the flowerhead you notice from a distance is a calyx of five dark purple leaves. Five maroon flower petals nestle inside. Later in the blooming cycle, the two-inch plumes wave above the grasses of the Maxton Plains Alvar. Check out the series of close-ups by Diane and Charles Pierce at:
  • Prairie Dropseed, as the name suggests, is characteristic of the tall grass prairies of the Midwest. With fine-textured, drooping leaves Sporobolus heterolepis has been found on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula only on Alvar grasslands. This dropseed releases a pleasant, aromatic scent from the scattered seeds on the delicate triangular heads that may wave above tufts or smaller clumps on the Maxton Plains. Jodi A. Raal’s photograph on the Michigan Natural Features Alvar abstract shows the head of prairie dropseed as it looks on the Maxton Plains: Sporobolus heterolepis.pdf. For images from a deeper-soil moist habitat, go to .
Rock Ferns of Drummond Island, MI
The fascination for plants that grow on Drummond’s limestone rocks comes from their adaptations for survival and their amazing tenacity to grow. A few of the rare plants are listed here, but others you may discover yourself. On our southeast coast, the cliffs of Marblehead and its nearby Shale Beach are locations where the rock ferns grow. These rock-fern species for the Island are listed in Brittonia.[24]
  • With widely-spaced palm-shaped leaflets and grooved green stems, Wall Rue normally grows out of vertical cracks in dry, shaded limestone cliffs. Although it withers when dry, it quickly recovers when watered. Identifying characters for Asplenium ruta-muraria are where it grows, its widely spaced stemmed leaflets and palm-shaped sub-leaflets. The spacing of the leaflets is tighter at the top of the stem, is farther apart as they approach the base. To get a feeling for what Wall Rue looks like, compare photos by Eleanor Saulys and Janet Novak on the Connecticut Botanical Society website: with the photos by Carl Farmer from Skye Flora found at:
  • Maidenhair Spleenwort leaflets spread from base to tip along gracefully curved, dark, wiry stalks. Asplenium trichomanes may be found growing on moist, shaded, moss-covered rocks, ledges and cliffs. It has a spreading rosette-like form of growth. An interesting detail about this fern is that the sterile fronds lay against the rock year ‘round while the fertile fronds grow upright late in the season. Identifying characters that separate this spleenwort from other similar forms are its opposite, rounded leaflets, the short distance between the roots and first set of leaflets. Jamie Chambers captured an image of this delicate plant on: Carl Farmer shows a more realistic view at:
  • Particularly rare, the green spleenwort is only found up north. Asplenium viride may grow among plants of its larger cousin, the maidenhair. The leaves of its thin flexible stalks are brown and scaly near the roots, become green and smooth near the tip. It is a semi-erect plant, with leaflets spaced farther apart nearer the base and flexible, green stalks with a distance between the roots and first leaflets. The leaflets grow close together at the ends, become more scattered near the base. They have rounded sides and toothed tips. The Hardy Fern Library includes a lush photo: Skye Flora uses a photo by Carl Farmer to show how the plant is more likely to appear growing in the wild:
  • The small asymmetrical clumps of the Smooth Cliffbrake are evergreen. They may spread their fronds flat on our limestone cliffs and ledges. A clump of Pellaea glabella includes fronds two to eight inches long with smooth to slightly hairy stalks that are thin, wiry and a glossy dark brown. The leaflets are long and thin, on a longer frond the lower leaflets may be compound. Photos by Janet Novak on the Connecticut Botanical Website clearly show the appearance and growth habit: 
  • In limestone crevices, fronds of the Laurentian Fragile Fern appear in the spring, then vanish to reappear in the moisture of fall. The fronds have a typical compound fern-shape. Lower leaflets are widely spaced, are also compound. The stalk is dark brown at the base, becomes tan or green toward the tip. Although it takes a specialist to distinguish Cystopteris laurentiania from C. fragilis, it is still a pleasure to know it exists in our county, you may find it on our island. A Nature Notes from Skye photograph of a plant growing in place gives a sense of scale:
The following orchids are rare in Michigan and may be found during their blooming season on careful meander searches in various locations. Although we cannot guarantee that you will find any of these plants on the Island on your own meander, these orchids have been located here and the required ecosystems (where soil type, temperature and growing conditions allow the plants to thrive) are present. Drummond Island is also host to pink (C. acaule) and the two forms of the yellow (C. calceolus) ladyslippers. Let us know if you find the showy ladyslipper (C. reginae) here.
  • The Round-leaved Orchis blooms from a single basal leaf in a loose raceme of 5-15 flowers. [25] Its upstanding labellum is tripartite, the center is often bi-lobed and whitish pink to white, spotted with deep magenta. A nectar spur projects from its back. It requires an overstory and the continuous cool groundwater supply. The boreal forests of Drummond offer the moisture and sphagnum that this orchid usually grows on. Bigger plants growing with Amerorchis rotundifolia are yellow lady's slipper, showy lady's slipper, Labrador tea, pitcher-plant, white cedar, black spruce, and balsam fir. To see a photo of the plant by Emmett Judziewicz go to: For a close-up of the flowering stem by Terry Blackburn see:
  • The Calypso lady’s-slipperis protected and among our rarest plants. A very small perennial orchid, it often grows one by one in moist coniferous forests from an oval, basal leaf. Calypso bulbosa’s flower is small, pink to purple with a pouch crested by yellow hairs. It blossoms for one month, starting the end of May, and may be found in two of our woodland types: rich conifer swamps and boreal forests. As easy as Calypso is to overlook, it is also easy to crush, so step carefully if you seek its beauty. The link to Saskatchewan's Wildflowers shows Calypso’s upstanding petals, its pouch, yellow beard and growth habit: bulbosa.html
  • The Ram's-head lady's-slipper is of special concern and vulnerable in Michigan. Cypripedium arietinum is also a small orchid. Its leaves are narrow and elliptic, with 3-5 per plant. More than one flower may rises out of these leaves, but each is at the end of its own stem. Its slipper is deeply pouched and pointed with dark red, netted veins, but is white at its lip. Like the Calypso, the Ram’s-head blossoms for one month, starting the end of May, and may be found in the same two woodlands: rich conifer swamps and boreal forests. However, it prefers the moister parts of the woods. Growing out of sphagnum, it may be even harder to see, but still easy to step on. A photo on a Valcour Island site features the pouch: Access Susan Trull’s excellent photos of the ram’s-head growth habit on “Meet the Ladys”:
    prev=/images?q=Cypripedium arietinum photos&hl=en&usg=__he9MDSWskFTPikFhBwpAllU_
  • The Slender-spire Orchid grows among boreal plants. In Michigan, Piperia unalascensis is a plant of special concern “especially found on Drummond Island” in bloom on the Maxton Plains from July to August. The leaves are long, thin and spreading. As the orchid emerges from the ground and the flower stalk begins to grow, there is little to indicate that the plant is an orchid. Once they begin to open, its tiny translucent-green flowers rise well above the ground in a dense terminal spike. At night the flowers may release a fragrance: musky, soapy, or honey-like. The Native American Ethonbotany project at the University of Michigan-Dearborn learned that bulbs of this plant were once eaten like baked potatoes: unalascensis. A wealth of excellent photos including close-ups and environmental shots by Gary A Monroe and Victoria Marshall:
    Plant&where-namesoup=Slender-spire Orchid&rel-namesoup=
    matchphrase&title_tag=Slender-spire Orchid
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) lists even more rare plants that may be found on Drummond Island.[26] Please let us know if and where you find any of them. You may contact James G. Kelley, Using DITA’s new map with GPS coordinates, tell where on the grid the photo was taken (like C-7) and name of the animal or plant. If it is not on our list, we will add it. We are also interested in good photo’s. You can send excellent digitals to Jim for consideration on the website, or share your friends and family Drummond pictures on our website from the homepage for everyone to enjoy! Snailmail Jim at 35409 S. Fairbank Pt. Rd. Drummond Island, MI 49726.
Rare Animals of Drummond Island MI
Eight of the thirteen rare animal species recorded during the five-year millennium survey of Michigan’s Great Lakes Islands[27] were located on Drummond. These include six animals often associated with water. Three raptors, listed rarest first, are the Merlin, Osprey and Bald Eagle. Surveys are taken at optimal times and locations. However, no survey can count every animal that may move about at some time on an island as large as this Island. You can also find the nesting area of some common birds. For example, you can view the heronry of the Great Blues on Cedar Island, the largest of the State-owned islands in Potagannissing Bay.
As a sample of our diverse animal life, over one hundred and thirty and counting bird species have been documented on the Island.[28] However, two others, the tiny Marsh Wren, and the colorful Common Moorhen, have not been counted here, but have been recorded nearby on the mainland. There is no reason that these species could not occasionally be seen on or nest on Drummond.

Some of the animal species that we enjoy are not rare in Michigan, but may be rare to people who do not live here. For example, the White Admiral form of the butterfly Limenitis arthemis[29] can be a delight to a person who has only seen the more southern, very different form. Something as common as a Blue Jay, Cyanocitta crisata, can delight a person from California. Other animals are simply hard to see wherever they live: among these, the LeConte’s Sparrow, Yellow Rail and American Bittern have all been heard in Scott’s Bay marsh. These birds show why no one survey or list should be called the authority for what is rare on Drummond. The American Bittern is rare, uncommon or secure in different Michigan locations according to the DNR. Other special birds do not enjoy this ranking, but the Yellow Rail is on the Audubon Society Watch List and LeConte’s Sparrow is listed as rare on the United States Geological Survey site.
  • The snails of the Alvar grow on land too fragile to disturb. Vertigo nylanderi, one of the rarest land snails in eastern North America is found here. To see a display of the Alvar snails on a dime, download the Ecologicaljewels.pdf photograph found on the MNFI publications site. [30]   To hold one of these tiny snails in your hand may well cause a feeling of vertigo.[31] For a backlit view of this rare snail look at page two on the collections site at:
  • According to the Audubon Society Watch List, the Yellow Rail is one of the most difficult-to-see birds in all of North America. [32] On the rare occasion when it is seen, it is identified by its small size, yellow bill, yellow-buff breast, buff-and-black striped back, and white wing patches in flight. Coturnicops noveboracensis is much more often identified by its distinctive song, an insect-like tic-tic, tictictic, tic-tic, tictictic made at night by the male. The distinctive tics have been heard in the marshes of 29. Scott’s Bay.Another terribly long link leads to an unusual story, video links and good images of the Yellow Rail by Dave Patton:

    &sz=53&tbnid=eIhUS2_vOLF6nM::&tbnh=111&tbnw=135&prev=/images?q=yellow rail photo&hl=en&usg=__j2q0IJ4pXRmrus-DALxCC7ehgnM=&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&cd=1
  • In Michigan, the Black Tern is rare to uncommon in different locations. During its northern breeding season, the bird is deep gray with lighter wings, black bill and legs. Chidonias niger is a marsh tern. It may be flying above Scott’s Bay, fishing from the sky among the humans in their boats. A good photograph of this small tern by Jiri Bohdal can been seen at: 
  • The Common Tern is imperiled in Michigan. With its medium size, black cap, gray back, gray wings with dark tips, and white breast, Sterna hirundo flies over and nests on some of the islands in Potagannissing Bay. During the breeding season, through your binoculars, note the short orange legs and long orange bill that has a dark tip early in the season. As the breeding season closes, the color blocks of the adult return to a more juvenile pattern. A black bill, reduced head cap, darkening wing tips (primaries) and a new darkening curve (carpal bar) on the wing where it joins the body. In flight, the slightly larger and more common Forster’s Tern shows similar color blocks, but it has pure white wingtips during its northern breeding season. Pierre Bannon’s common tern in flight is located at: Cornell University offers photos of a juvenile and an adult on a nest at:
  • Small in body and bill, LeConte’s Sparrow is pale but brightly patterned in a mix of black, white and yellow-buff. In grassy meadows, it is often only identified by its soft, “hissing, unmusical buzz tik-a-t-shhhhhhh-t.” If you catch a glimpse of Ammodramus leconteii, sort it from similar birds by its white median crown stripe, dark thin chin stripe and narrow, finely stripped breast band, a patch of gray below the eye (lores and auriclars). From the side watch for crisp, dark, continuous stripes along the belly and a white triangular patch toward the tail (tertials). For a series of excellent photos of LeConte’s Sparrow, return to:
  • For those who have never seen our national bird, the adult Bald Eagle is chunky and brown with feathered legs, is almost twice as large as a hawk. It also looks majestic with its white head and tail and yellow legs. Haliaeetus leucocephalus is often seen against the sky, soaring on broad wings held so flat and squared at the tips they look like planks. With some buffy-gold on its breast, the juvenile can be mistaken for a Golden Eagle, which has buffy-gold on its head and behind the legs near the tail but not the breast. Although some people have reported the Golden in our skies, it has not been recorded from the Island, yet, by science. A fantastic comparison of eagle and osprey photos by Eric Dresser is located at:
  • The Red-shouldered Hawk is of the forest, found most often near water. The adult has characteristic red shoulders, with wings sporting a white crescent, dark fingertips (primaries) and trailing edge (secondaries). Its tail is broadly banded, ending in white. From below, the adult Buteo lineatus shows a pale orange breast that extends out along the leading edge of the wing. Its high, clear “keeyuur” challenges all comers. Late in the season juvenile will trace kettles in the sky with its parents. Pale from below with thin stripes on its tail. From above the adult wings are brown with a buffy crescent and translucent window near the fingertips and a red wash on the tail. Garrett Lau offers three pages of photographs at:
  • The Osprey is our fish hawk. It is thrilling to watch them hover, stoop to dive, rise out of water with a fish clutched in their talons. Between the hawk and eagle in size, its wings are narrower, held in a downward bow. Perching and flying, the breast and leading edge is white, the back, trialing edge of the wings and the tail spread in a fan are dark. The Osprey calls with a short series of twep and teelees or a shrill “teeeaaa”. People keep track of the osprey nest. Return to the fantastic comparison of eagle and osprey photos by Eric Dresser at:
  • The American Bittern is also called the thunder pumper from its hunk-a-chunk call. A large brown wading bird, when Botaurus lentiginosus stands with its head raised, the striped neck can allow it to vanish as you watch. It is most active at dawn and dusk. There are some good photos on
  • The northern harrier glides just above grasslands on long, relatively thin wings. Large, Circus cyaneus is gray with a darker head. It is most easily identified from the top by a white spot between the body and the base of its generally held-as-straight tail. The USGS site holds a number of fine photographs An excellent flight photo is also found on
  • Our rarest falcon is the Merlin. Aggressive, their pointed wings drive them forward over wide-open spaces and above the more open of out forests. In flight they appear dark. Perching, they are dark with a lighter breast and banded tail. But it is the head that will catch your attention. Dark above, a long, thin white line curves above the eye to straighten behind in a continuous sweep. Behind the beak and white chin, a darker mustache may be seen. The breast is spotted with a buffy base, the legs yellow. Starting with a “twe” series, the Melin’s call ends with “titititit”. A full set of images of the Merlin by Terry Sohlis is offered at:
  • The Common Loon, a threatened species in Michigan, is a large diving bird. Gavia immer has a gray and white-checked back, white breast, black neck ring. A gray and white-stripped strip looks like a casually tied scarf just below its totally black head and long pointed bill for a stunning effect. If you are still and it pops up close, from your kayak you will see that its eyes are deep red.
  • The Red-legged Spittlebug is medium-sized is found in association with Alvar. Prosapia ignipectus is the only black spittlebug in Michigan that has an undersurface boldly marked with scarlet near the leg bases and leg joints, and on the abdomen. Tom Murray has a fine photo, taken from below, on
One of the rarest animals on the state’s endangered list, the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, was not found on Drummond during the time of the surveys. However, Marl Lake[33] is one of natural communities with the necessary conditions were located where people can watch for this state-rare dragonfly, and there may be others.[34] The Michigan Odonata Survey[35] offers two photographs: is in color from the top. The second site is from the collection, taken from the side, this black and white clearly shows the diagnostic claspers: The Nature Conservancy offers a photograph and short description of the life of this rare dragonfly at: However, the best photo of the Hine’s colors and shapes is not found online, but in Kurt Mead’s Dragonflies of the North Woods.

[1] For more Drummond Island Natural Features photographs go back to the homepage and click on the interactive photogallery.
[2] Only Isle Royal, managed as a National Park, is larger than Drummond.
[3] For more planning information contact Drummond Island Tourism Association, P.O. Box 200, Drummond Island, MI 49726-0200, Betty and Jerry Bailey manage the office:
[4] Clark writes the “Curious Wonders” column for a free online e-magazine. The summer 2009 issue of Whisper In The Woods will include a Drummond dragonfly experience: Clark used a combination of personal experience, various field guides and the abstracts in the Michigan Natural Features Inventory to help create the webword descriptions found on this site.
[5] J. D. Soule, 1993, Biodiversity of Michigan’s Great Lakes Islands.
[6] Drummond was surveyed during 1999, 2000, 2001. Report # 200-15 focuses on Drummond Island for the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, PO Box 30444, Lansing Michigan 48909-7944:
[7] James G. Kelley, Using DITA’s new map with GPS coordinates, tell where on the grid the photo was taken (like C-7) and name of the animal or plant. If it is not on our list, we will add it. We are also interested in good photo’s. You can send excellent digitals to Jim for consideration on the website, or share your friends and family Drummond pictures on our website from the homepage for everyone to enjoy! Snailmail Jim at 35409 S. Fairbank Pt. Rd. Drummond Island, MI 49726.
[9] Little Traverse Nature Conservancy, 3264 Powell Road, Harbor Springs, MI 49740
[10] Michigan Audubon Society, 6011 West St. Joseph Hwy, Suite 403, Lansing, MI 48917
[11] To have a broad-brush look at the general location of these natural landforms, return the maps on our homepage.
[12] A remote camping permit for state land can be picked up at DITA. Cedar, Mare, Bow, and Arrow Islands are State owned.
[13] Check with DITA, the Drummond Island Tourist Association.  
[14] Abstracts for each form is found on the Michigan Natural Features Inventory,
[15] The Nature Conservancy explains why this Alvar became part of their preservation effort at:
[16] Michigan Natural Features Inventory,
[17] Michigan Lichens by Julie Jones Medlin ©1996 is full of absolutely clear photographs.
[20] In order to defend against American attacks and protect British trade with Indians, Lieutenant Colonel Robert McDouall moved his garrison from Fort Michilimackinac closer to Canada in 1815. He named our Island after Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, commander of all British forces in Canada. Michigan History: The first residents of Drummond Island.
[22] Named for Thomas Drummond, a botanist/naturalist on expeditions from the Arctic to the Saskatchewan River and the Rocky Mountains. In 1828, he became curator of the botanical garden in Belfast and made important collections in the southern US, especially Texas, before dying in Cuba. A number of plants, including those of the genus Drummondia, bear his name.
[23] Michigan Natural Features Inventory,
[24] Rediscovery of the Wall-Rue in Michigan, Jarl K. Hiltman, Department of Biology, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. Brittonia vol 14, p120.
[25] The genus Amerorchis was created by Hulten in 1968 for this North American plant. It was previously listed as a species of Orchis.
[27] Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI),
[28] You can discover a rough arrival time for our migrating birds by consulting the annotated Birds of Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear Dues National Park by Chip Franke and Leonard Graf. Our birds arrive about two weeks later, based on the weather.
[29] A marvelous site for White Admiral photos is The black and blue form photos is: If you are particularly interested in butterflies, you may enjoy the Michigan Lepidoptera Survey site: Scientists work constantly to understand the relationships between different forms of life. These admirals offer a recent update, that may cause some confusion; it may drive you a little buggy for a while. To find the best information on the White Admiral I used both of these genus names: Basilarchia arthemis arthemis and Limenitis arthemis arthemis. Note that the species and variety names (no capitalization) are the same for both, which makes some people not bother with the genus when they speak. The same is true for the (northern) black and shimmering blue form of the Red Spotted Purple Admiral: Basilarchia arthemis astyanax also called Limenitis arthemis astyanax.
[30] Ecological Jewels of the Straits is report # 2003-12, produced through the cooperation of the MNFI, MSU Extension and the DEQ. Download the photo from publications, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory .
[31] If you enjoy close work, you might enjoy looking for a relative. Vertigo hubrichti, another small snail, is a relict of preglacial time, now found on limestone bedrock and Alvar shores. In this case it has been found in only 30 plces in the world, two of which are in Michigan.
[32] National Audubon Society Watch List:
[33] You can access the east side of Marl Lake from Johnswood Road on ORV trail #2.
[34] Although sizeable populations of Hine's emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana) may be found in the Upper Peninsula, the dragonfly is among the most endangered in the United States. For a description and photo go to:
Drummond Island Tourism Association
P.O.Box 200 Drummond Island, MI 49726
906-493-5245 or 800-737-8666

Copyright © 2009 - 2017 Drummond Island Tourism Association

Michigan Website Design