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Fly Zone

OUT-Nature-niche-Ranger-Steve-Head-ShotBy Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Flying animals have their own flight zones but they can change with weather conditions. Last week I was called regarding a Common Loon stranded in a farm field. Loons are very heavy birds and must run on the water for a considerable distance to become airborne. It is impossible for them to take flight from land. They cannot even walk on land because their legs are set back too far and their chest rests on the ground.

People told me the loon appeared to be ok and was calling from the field. Immediately I wondered if it hit a power line and tumbled to the ground. We headed for the site to determine how to help it. Thirty minutes lapsed between the time people left the bird and we returned. The bird was gone when we returned.

Other people had been watching and perhaps someone transported the loon to water. It is wonderful to help wildlife but people should know that it is illegal and often dangerous for the wildlife. It is best to call the Michigan DNR or a wildlife rehabilitator.

Many birds can be observed at this time of year but it is more likely to hear them. Each species has its own “fly zone.” Some remain high in the tree canopy and are very difficult to observe, like the Red-eyed Vireo or Cerulean Warbler. To see a Cerulean Warbler I suggest attending the Cerulean Warbler Festival at Michigan Audubon’s Otis Sanctuary near Hastings, during the first weekend of June. Look at Michigan Audubon’s Website for details.

Some birds like the American Robin and Eastern Phoebe are commonly seen in our yards. Robins fly from vegetation to lawn and forest floor in search of a meal. Phoebes perch near open areas and “hawk” insects by flying out to capture insects in the air and return to a perch. Protect healthy nature niches in home yards by avoiding chemicals that create a monoculture of grass. Allow other plants to grow among the grass because they support a variety of life essential for native birds and it allows them to find enough insects to feed the young. A picture perfect lawn is a sterile desert to wildlife.

On cool sunny days I often see insects in a very narrow fly zone, within inches of the ground. You might need a jacket but when you bend feel how warm the air is close to the ground. It might surprise you how many insects are present in that narrow fly zone close to the ground. I watched White-crowned Sparrows outside my window that appeared to be feeding in that narrow zone. I could not see anything they could feed on.

I went outside and got close to the ground to see what might present. There were massive numbers of minute flies much smaller than mosquitoes flying just above the grass. The sparrows were feasting on the tiny morsels. It seems they would not get adequate nutrition from such tiny creatures but volume counts.

On chilly days, butterflies stay close to the ground to take advantage of the thin thermal blanket of air warmed by the sun. When wind is present, the thin area close to the ground is even more important. Insects do not have internal heat regulation like we do. They must depend on the surrounding environment to provide their heat.

By using behavior that keeps them in warm fly zones, they can survive unless a bird finds them concentrated in fly zones. Even then, an abundance of insects allows enough to survive to reproduce, provided we allow our yards to become healthy nature niches for insects and birds.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

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Fishing report from the DNR

 

As of May 14

SOUTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA

St. Joseph: Fishing has slowed.  Pier anglers are catching a few freshwater drum and catfish when using crawlers on the bottom. Boat anglers are catching a few trout and salmon but the fish are scattered in 40 to 180 feet.

St. Joseph River: Is producing crappie and the occasional walleye.

South Haven: Pier fishing was slow for all species. Boat anglers are still catching lake trout in waters 60 feet and deeper.

Grand Haven: Fishing has slowed. The water is cold and fishing pressure has been slow because of the weather. Pier anglers are casting spawn for steelhead and brown trout. Some are throwing cast nets for alewife to use as bait however few were caught. Boat anglers were trolling in 25 to 75 feet of water with short coppers and lead core with small spoons in orange or gold. Perch fishing has slowed as the fish are beginning to spawn. Try the 60 foot holes with spikes, wigglers and minnows.

Grand River at Grand Rapids: The steelhead run has slowed however the fish run off and on during the spring depending on water temperatures. Smallmouth bass and suckers are dominating the daily catch.  More catfish are being caught as well.  No reports of any walleye caught at the 6th Street Dam.

Lake Lansing: Is producing some crappie. 

Jackson County: Many anglers are catch and release bass fishing.  Panfish activity picks up with the warmer weather and some anglers were getting near limit catches.

Clinton County: Lake Ovid is producing some crappie. A few catfish are being caught in the Maple River.  

Muskegon: Very few anglers have been fishing the piers. Boat anglers reported slow catch rates as the water is too cold.  Most are trolling between the piers with small spoons. No perch to report.

Muskegon River: The steelhead run is starting to come to a close but the brown trout fishing has picked up.  Small walleye have been caught right along with a fair to good number of bass.

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Birding opportunities abound in Michigan 

Michigan state parks, trails and natural areas offer plenty of opportunities for birding enthusiasts to spot birds on the move. More than 40 species of warblers have been observed in Michigan.

Michigan state parks, trails and natural areas offer plenty of opportunities for birding enthusiasts to spot birds on the move. More than 40 species of warblers have been observed in Michigan.

Spring means bird migration, and that makes for prime birding opportunities in Michigan’s woods and waters. The Department of Natural Resources has pulled together some tips on enjoying this special time of year in state parks, trails and natural areas.

May is the best month to be on the lookout for colorful warblers (more than 40 species of warbler have been observed in Michigan). Songbird (passerine) migration peaks in mid-May in southern Michigan and shortly afterward in northern parts of the state.

Watch the weather. Strong southerly winds can result in good overnight flights of birds (most passerines migrate at night – in fact, in a dark campground, birders might even be able to hear the flight calls and see birds passing in front of the moon). When southerly winds run into storm fronts at night, this can create “fall-out” conditions where migrating birds are forced to land. Fall-out can result in heavy concentrations of birds in their respective habitats.

Use your ears. Most spring migrants can be heard singing this time of year. Once you start learning some of the songs, it becomes easier to seek out new birds when listening for songs that you don’t recognize.

Find the right location for the species you want to see. Just about any park will have decent habitat for spring migrants. Many of them eat bugs, so try to find southern-facing habitat along water bodies (lakes, rivers). Not sure what parks are near you? Visit www.michigan.gov/recreationsearch to find the perfect state park for your birding interests. In many parks, birding can be done right from a campsite, since the flocks typically will move around in the morning.

Make it a multi-day adventure. Campers can enjoy birding while enjoying breakfast and a fresh cup of coffee. Camping reservations can be made at midnrreservations.com or by calling 1-800-44PARKS (1-800-447-2757).

Join fellow bird watchers. The best way to see more birds is with an extra set of eyes, especially if you tag along with a more experienced birder.

Find a checklist for your area. There are regional field guides, and many of the mobile birding apps will allow you to filter by region. This helps you learn which birds are likely to be found in your area (rarities/vagrants are always a possibility).

Those who are new to birding and want to learn the basics of the activity before heading out should search the DNR’s Recreation 101 calendar at www.michigan.gov/rec101 for Intro to Birding classes. These free, hands-on classes cover everything a starting birder needs to know.

Here are a few other birding resources to check out before your birding adventure:

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/ – Cornell Lab of Ornithology – guides and more.

http://ebird.org/ – Online database for submitting bird sightings. Set rare-bird alerts for your area and view species maps, hotspots, etc.

http://mibirdrecords.com/ – Official keepers of the MI Checklist and rare bird documentation.

There also are many regional websites, email lists, social media accounts and other local resources for birders. Do some online searching to find out what’s available locally and then get outdoors to enjoy some birding this spring!

Inside Michigan’s Great Outdoors subscribers are always the first to know about reservation opportunities, state park events and other outdoor happenings. Visit www.michigan.gov/dnr to subscribe now.

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Poisons in Life’s Stream

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Jared, a college intern at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, and I were conducting a stream survey on Little Cedar Creek during the first week of May. We were studying physical, chemical, and biological characteristics in the headwaters. This exciting stuff is a bit beyond my regular endeavors. One can only pursue so much and be highly proficient in understanding the intricate workings of nature niches. We found two-inch Brook Trout fry and saw an eight-inch trout fanning over a depression in the streambed.

Life stages of trout have specialized individual goals for living. None were consciously concerned with the others, their role, or importance to stream life, the floodplain, upland, or fisherman. I saw four different people fishing Little Cedar Creek at Ody Brook opening week of trout season.

A college professor told me 10 years after my graduation that he remembered I am a generalist. That is something advised against since the 1960s for employability in this fast paced world of specialization. As a generalist, I assist others who pursue specialized interests and they help provide me with accurate information to share from their fields.

This nature niche seeks to make connections about poisons in the environment and in our bodies, and help us understand how poisons might impact the lives of animals in ecosystems.

Chemicals from herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and everyday “safe” products used at home impact life. Many breakdown to harmless chemicals rapidly but others do not, so, we should use caution regarding what goes down the drain or is used in the yard. Specialists at waste treatment facilities are unable to extract the vast majorities of harmful chemicals we buy from store shelves. Prudent shoppers can protect present and future human generations as well as other life forms.

Back to trout, regarding chemical impacts affecting their lives in ecosystems and on our lives. I am leading to chemicals on my life and chemicals in your life. Consider how your use of chemicals affect and contribute to maintaining or harming healthy global life like that of trout and you. Think globally and act locally.

Many know I have an incurable cancer that can be treated with devastating chemicals to prolong my life for productivity, enjoyment, and contributions for maintaining healthy biodiversity in nature. I receive three chemicals during a 21-day period and then have a week to recover before starting another round of chemicals. I initially survived the statistical survival average of 1-3 three years and, with newer treatments, I am approaching a latest statistical average of 7 to 8 years. Now newer experimental treatments are expected to provide me greater longevity as I approach year eight.

A highly specialized multiple myeloma oncologist at the U of Chicago, who is coordinating this newest experimental treatment, states I am one of his healthier patients. He does not fully understand my periodic desire to quit chemo and let nature take its course. He says I am his only patient placing quality of life over longevity. Life on Earth has an innate drive to survive until tomorrow. At some point tomorrow becomes pointless and we relinquish our tenure among the living. This reality brings tears as write. My family, doctor, friends, and maybe even readers are not ready for me to relinquish. My wife sometimes thinks my nature niche articles are too personal but life on Earth is personal. We should not accept the commonly stated phrase, “Its business—it’s not personal.” Every action should be personal for protecting biodiversity and life of future generations instead of being self-centered.

I hope people recognize that trout eggs fanned under a trout and the fry we saw swimming nearby are as important as me. Each contributes to the quality to life for people, mottled sculpins fed on by trout, and the many invertebrates living in the stream. There is an unbroken stream of life dating back 3.5 billions years and in a short 300 years, we have dramatically reduced life on Earth with our increasing human numbers and need for chemicals to help us survive beyond Earth’s carrying capacity. We remain largely unaware of how chemicals used for our benefit impact lives in nature niches. They help us survive and increase our numbers. I could site many examples of how chemicals meant to help us have negative impacts on other life but Rachel Carson already did that in the book Silent Spring. She provides how their use has become dangerous to our own lives also and in some cases cause cancer.

As a generalist, I help specialists in their work and, through my nature niche, help people recognize the importance of how little known species are important to our lives. I discovered a beautiful red, tan, and black moth that a specialist described and named the Brilliant Virgin Tiger Moth (Grammia brillians). It is currently found in two protected National Parks and is one reason for us to maintain natural areas protected from chemicals and other human induced disruptions in the stream of life of one Earth.

Unfortunately, many everyday chemicals—like carbon—released by our excessively large human population, diminishes life of other creatures through things like climate change. It is imperative to recognize climate change impact and act on it before it acts on us. Our use of chemicals on crops and use of biologically modified organisms (BMO) should be used judiciously with awareness of effects on trout and our own future generations. In a previous article, I mentioned we could reduce our human population by 40 percent and our impacts on other organisms by having three generations per century instead of five. Waiting until we are in our 30s to have children instead of bearing children at 20 is a personal decision that can save the world. Think globally and act locally.

Important issues impacting sustainability of biodiversity and how we live are uncomfortable to consider because it hits close to home. Should we avoid heroic measures to save lives like mine with chemo or let life fade from physical presence? Which chemicals should we use in agriculture to sustain and increase our population at the expense of other life? We protect wilderness areas that contain species and ecological processes for comparison with heavily used areas but our chemicals have found them. They are reducing our libraries of healthy life. Even chemical intrusions into Isle Royale National Park wilderness are in higher concentrations in lakes there than in many human populated areas. Chemicals arrived with rain carried by air currents.

Though I am meandering, I hope to connect many of these pressing issues. You might have noticed there was no nature niche last week. I was too ill from chemo used to “help” keep me alive and productive to write. Normally I am able to continue my work. When my activities serve only me, I will be ready to relinquish my time on Earth. Fortunately, I am continuing to lead school field trips, working with college interns, physically work to guide habitat management at Ody Brook, and continue research to enrich the community of people and biodiversity. Trout are also doing their role, as is every species. The joint effort creates a healthy biosphere that supports all of us.

With great dismay, my physical and mental abilities are slowing, but fortunately, most are not lost. The oncologist told me I have not lost my competence. My thinking process is slowed by chemo use. Chemo treatments induced into me cause me to think about how fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals from household products reduce the abilities of trout, garden organisms, trees, insects and wildlife abilities to perform their roles well. We need to use some chemicals but society could live healthier and longer into the future by sustaining our population within Earth’s carrying capacity. Balancing the hard emotional questions with Star Trek’s “Spock-like” analytical reasoning brings together two realities for us to wrestle with daily. Applying the multiple realities of emotional desires with scientific reasoning to benefit a thousand future generations requires soul searching. A full, broad-based education is needed in addition to the specialized trade education most of us use to support our current family and generation. It is not easy and many choose to only address emotional and personal immediate family concerns instead of future generations or other life on Earth.

A healthy future depends on understanding the deeper meaning for how chemicals induced upon trout in nature niches and chemo is used in my individual struggle to survive. We all need to consider how chemicals are to sustain society and determine when too much will harm society. As I consider quitting chemo and relinquishing my continuing of service for life on Earth, I also think our excessive chemical use by society can cause us to relinquish life from a healthy future. Sorry, Karen, for sharing “too much” personal stuff; sorry Post for not being able to stay within article word limits; sorry that my efforts will someday end; but no apology for addressing the important issues of daily life we need to consider to help future generations thrive.

Continue to enjoy the wonder and joy of nature niches surrounding your home. Enhance conditions for life rather than unknowingly or knowingly diminishing life with poor choices of chemicals used in everyday products. Think Globally and Act Locally.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, or call 616-696-1753.

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Prescribed burns

 

The Michigan DNR conduct several prescribed burns on April 28, with three of them in Montcalm County.

Two burns were in Fairplain Township. One 160 acres and the other 41 acres. They burned timber and grass for the Karner blue butterfly habitat, and grass for upland bird habitat.

The third burnwas in Eureka Township (62 acres), also for Karner blue butterfly habitat enhancement.

The Karner blue butterfly is a federally listed endangered species in Michigan.

Other prescribed burns in the state occurred in Arenac County (red pine management), Monroe County (upland bird habitat and native grasses), Oakland County (to stimulate oak regeneration), and Otsego (grass and shrubs for elk, deer and turkey).

Prescribed burns are planned to achieve specific objectives—often simulating the benefits of natural fires. The burns are conducted by highly trained DNR personnel in designated state-managed areas during appropriate weather conditions and in cooperation with the proper authorities and local units of government. Public safety is a top priority during all prescribed burns. Prescribed burns are used to:

• Enhance wildlife habitat.

• Help with forest regeneration.

• Restore and maintain native plant life.

• Control invasive plant species.

• Reduce the risk of wildfires.

Although prescribed burns are planned, they can be canceled at the last minute due to careful monitoring of weather and wind conditions.

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DNR collects walleye eggs for hatchery program

DNR fisheries technician supervisor Ed Pearce flips a walleye into a holding tank on the electro-fishing boat.

DNR fisheries technician supervisor Ed Pearce flips a walleye into a holding tank on the electro-fishing boat.

Volunteer Dick Callen hoists a walleye, to be used for spawning, from a holding pen.

Volunteer Dick Callen hoists a walleye, to be used for spawning, from a holding pen.

As many anglers know, much of Michigan’s inland-waters walleye fishery is supported by hatchery-raised fish. What many don’t know is that the source of those fish—the Muskegon River, below Croton Dam—is supported by hatchery-raised fish, too.

“There’s not a lot of natural reproduction in the system,” said Rich O’Neal, the Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist who oversees the Muskegon River watershed. “We’re getting very low production in the river. We’re not sure why, but we think water velocity or water temperature could have something to do with it. We know we get good natural reproduction further upstream.

“There are 3 to 4 billion eggs laid here when they’re spawning, but we’re just not getting fry production.”

It took a stocking effort to rebuild the Muskegon River population after it collapsed in the 1960s. O’Neal said sea lamprey predation—the preying of one animal on another—on adult walleyes was part of the problem, but alewife predation on juveniles also was a factor. “We saw that all over the Great Lakes,” he said.

O’Neal estimates the population of the Muskegon River spawning run at 40,000 fish, about 18,000 females. Most are migrants.

“There’s about two fish per acre that remain in the river,” he said. “The rest move down to Muskegon Lake or out into Lake Michigan, as far north as Bay de Noc and down to Indiana. It’s been that way since the earliest tagging studies in the 1950s.”

Muskegon River walleyes spawn over a period of three weeks to a month with most of the activity taking place in a 12- to 14-day period, O’Neal said.

“Water temperature is the key,” he said. “They start at 37 to 38 degrees, by 40 they’re really starting to move, and around 45 degrees is peak spawning.”

It took a three-man electro-fishing crew, led by Ed Pearce, the fisheries technician supervisor out of the DNR’s Plainwell office, a total of five trips to the river to capture the necessary brood stock. The first attempt, in late March, turned up too many fish that weren’t ready to go. But by the end of the month, the fish had ripened and the crew spent four days spread over a period of about a week to collect the eggs.

It was challenging, Pearce said.

“Last year the river was at flood level, but this year we’re bumping bottom,” said Pearce, who led the crew in a 17-and-a-half-foot johnboat with a 115-horsepower jet drive outboard that can run in mere inches of water. “We couldn’t fill the live well with water, so we couldn’t haul as many fish as we’d like.”

The crew runs a generator that creates direct current sent between the booms on the front of the boat, stunning the fish, which are netted by DNR fisheries personnel standing on the bow.

“It makes the fish twitch,” Pearce said. “It draws them to it. We can shock down to about 6 feet within a 10-foot radius of the booms.”

How the fish react varies, Pearce said.

“Some will be completely knocked out for 10 minutes. Others are just tickled and they take off.”

When a tub of fish is collected, the boat crew brings them to the bank, where a five-person crew from the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery takes over.

Fisheries biologist Matt Hughes leads the operation. The fish are divided by sex, and then paired off for spawning.

Two workers strip the females’ eggs into pans by pushing on the fish’s bellies, while another massages the male to get it to release milt. The milt is collected in a bottle of water, is circulated, and is dumped into the pan of eggs. Fertilization is almost instantaneous.

Males and females are matched one-to-one in order to promote maximum genetic diversity, Hughes said.

After the eggs are fertilized, they’re transferred into a 5-gallon bucket—along with other fertilized eggs—that is filled with river water and a fine clay particulate to keep the naturally adhesive eggs from clumping together. Every five pans, the bucket is dumped into a fine-mesh holding pen in the river to allow the eggs to harden. After 60 to 90 minutes, the eggs are put into the transport trailer, which is filled with water from the hatchery, and they’re disinfected with iodine to make sure contaminants aren’t introduced into the hatchery.

“The goal this year was 50 million eggs,” Hughes said. “We go through about 250 pairs of walleyes to collect them. We go until we get our target. We can usually get them in four days, but you don’t want all the fish coming at the same time. We don’t have enough room in the hatchery to take them all at once. We can only hold around 10 million fry at one time.”

Some of the fertilized eggs are sent directly to the Platte River State Fishery, where they’ll be hatched out and sent to northern Michigan rearing ponds. Others go to a tribal facility. The rest go to Wolf Lake, where they’ll be hatched and reared. Some will be directly stocked into bodies of water while the majority will go to rearing ponds, where they’ll grow to fingerling size before they’re stocked.

“We typically get around 70 to 80 percent fertilization,” Hughes said. “Our goal is to produce 12 million fry for rearing ponds and direct plants. Eggs take 17 to 21 days to hatch. Fry are held one to five days. We start putting fry out to ponds by the third week of April, and we’re finished by the second week of May.”

The fish are stocked in lakes and streams in the southern two-thirds of Michigan. (Walleyes for northern Michigan stocking projects come from similar egg-takes at Little Bay de Noc.) Among the waters stocked is the Muskegon River, where, after a few years, those walleyes will be collected to serve as brood stock for that year’s egg-take.

For more information on Michigan fisheries, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Those of the forest

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Following the life of Snowshoe, a hare, in the book Those of the Forest, is joy in discovering natural history without textbook dryness. The novel about the life and times of this northern Wisconsin animal describes ecology in an enjoyable manner and it applies to where we live.

Wallace Byron Grange published his book in 1956 and it continues to sell for good reason. The story is about the events in Snowshoe’s world and introduces the reader to animals, plants, weather, climate, geology, changing seasons, and how all are intricately intertwined. It is a fascinating excursion into nature niches.

The accuracy and depth of Grange’s content exposes the reader to ecology without bogging one down. It simply takes us with Snowshoe through the forest, fields, and wetlands. The journey describes real inhabitants and their behavior where Snowshoe works to survive and it applies to wild places near our homes. Descriptions of plant and animals associations create a mental image of the natural community for Those of the Forest. It heightens awareness of what we can discover when we explore outdoors and prepares us for spending time observing the real world though personal exploration with our families.

We live farther south than snowshoe hares but most characters in the book will be familiar neighbors. Amazing aspects of the occurrences from the distant universe and the sun are revealed in the lives of those that have come and gone over the ages of Earth’s history, in this one small locality where Snowshoe lives. The coming and going of glaciers shaped the land and set the stage for Those of the Forest during the past million years. Five billion years of formative history for life are portrayed in the lives of those in the story.

Habits of specific birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, snakes and others are woven together in a manner extraordinarily well. Whether it is obligate internal parasites or more casual parasites like mosquitoes, their role and impacts reveal the challenges living things struggle with daily. Hormone fluctuations and breeding behavior influenced by Earth’s movement around the sun are subtle and also drive Snowshoe’s color change from brown hair in summer to winters white.

I first the read the book in 1975 and have read it twice since. I have been careful not to reveal too much about Snowshoe’s experiences that could spoil the novel’s story. Re-reading is like watching a good movie repeatedly to discover new details missed during previous viewings. It will be helpful to have flower, tree, insect, bird, and mammal field guides or computer apps at hand to look up species that you might not know. I led a walk at Ody Brook Sanctuary this week and introduced participants to new unknown wildflowers and it provided a similar thrill of reading about the many species encountered when reading Those of the Forest. The book will undoubtedly introduce some unfamiliar species and details of their lives.

Search the Internet for the title or author and enjoy reading this summer. Best of all, it will help you discover nature niches when you take your own outdoor explorations.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

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Prescribed burns Tuesday

Two burns will be in Fairplain Township. One is 160 acres and the other 41 acres. They will burn timber and grass for the Karner blue butterfly habitat, and grass for upland bird habitat.

The third burn is in Eureka Township (62 acres), also for Karner blue butterfly habitat enhancement.

The Karner blue butterfly is a federally listed endangered species in Michigan.

Other prescribed burns in the state are occurring in Arenac County (red pine management), Monroe County (upland bird habitat and native grasses), Oakland County (to stimulate oak regeneration), and Otsego (grass and shrubs for elk, deer and turkey.

Prescribed burns are planned to achieve specific objectives—often simulating the benefits of natural fires. The burns are conducted by highly trained DNR personnel in designated state-managed areas during appropriate weather conditions and in cooperation with the proper authorities and local units of government. Public safety is a top priority during all prescribed burns. Prescribed burns are used to:

Enhance wildlife habitat.
Help with forest regeneration.
Restore and maintain native plant life.
Control invasive plant species.
Reduce the risk of wildfires.
Although prescribed burns are planned, they can be canceled at the last minute due to careful monitoring of weather and wind conditions.

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DNR fisheries experts offer opening-day tips

Michigan’s state fish—the brook trout—becomes fair game statewide on the last Saturday in April. 

Michigan’s state fish—the brook trout—becomes fair game statewide on the last Saturday in April.

Fishing may be a 12-months-a-year sport in Michigan, but there’s little doubt that the last Saturday of April is one of the biggest days of the year for anglers. It marks the opening day of trout fishing, statewide on more than 80 percent of the state’s trout streams, as well as the season opener for walleye, pike and muskellunge on the inland waters of the Lower Peninsula.

Like many anglers, a fair number of Department of Natural Resources fisheries personnel will take to lakes and streams very soon. Here’s what some of them have to say about opening-weekend opportunities:

Mark Tonello, a fisheries biologist out of Cadillac and a trout aficionado, says anglers must rid themselves of preconceived notions.

“Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one river,” Tonello said. “What if you get up there and the river you chose is running 4,000 feet per second and all mud? You might want to look at smaller waters, further upstream, where it may be clearer.

“And use all weapons available,” he continued. “A lot of good anglers I know go ready for anything. If there are hatches going off, they’ve got their fly rods and are ready to match the hatch. But if there’s no hatch, they’re ready to throw spinners. And if that’s not working don’t be afraid to try bait.”

Anglers seeking muskellunge on opening day should concentrate in shallow-water areas, say Michigan DNR fisheries biologists.

Anglers seeking muskellunge on opening day should concentrate in shallow-water areas, say Michigan DNR fisheries biologists.

Tonello said anglers shouldn’t be afraid of competition.

“Opening weekend tends to be one of the busiest weekends of the year, but we have so much water, you can find places to fish,” he said. “A good hint is to start with our trout regulations maps that are all color coded—you can catch trout from any of those streams.

“And don’t be afraid to contact the local biologist,” Tonello said. “As a biologist, those are some of my most enjoyable phone calls, when someone calls and says, ‘I’m heading up to Cadillac, can you give me tips on where to fish?’”

Walleye anglers will likely be spread between rivers and lakes and anglers should wait until right before opening day to decide where to fish.

“Last year there were a lot of fish still in the river for the opener,” said Tim Cwalinski, a fisheries biologist in Gaylord. “This year we’re warming up a little more quickly and we didn’t get as much snow, so the fish may be further along this spring than last spring. On our big lakes—Hubbard, Grand, Long, Burt and Mullet, for instance—there are going to be fish in close, near the river mouth, but your best bet is probably going to be fishing really, really slowly. Trolling won’t cut it.

“If they’re still spawning, they’ll be in rocky, cobble areas in 2 to 10 feet of water,” he continued. “If they’ve finished spawning they’ll be out deeper. Males hit the spawning grounds first and stay on the grounds longer; there are fish there all the time, but there are aggressive fish there only part of the time. So don’t be afraid to fish well into evening. That’s what I’ve found on some of these big lakes.”

Fisheries biologist Jim Baker, of Bay City, whose management unit includes the tributaries that feed Saginaw Bay, says a lot will depend on what happens weather-wise the couple of days immediately preceding the opener.

“If you get a big rain and the rivers get high and muddy, it can be hard to catch fish,” Baker said. “But we think the fish will be spawning late because it was so cold, so there should be a lot of fish left in the river when the opener arrives. Most of the guys will be vertical jigging with jigs, baited either with minnows or twister tails, but after the crowds dissipate, we know some guys troll up and down the rivers with Rapalas and they do pretty well.”

Muskellunge enthusiast Don Barnard, a fisheries technician out of Bay City, says the colder water around opening day means anglers should downsize their baits.

“I use smaller baits in the spring than what they use in summer and fall,” he said. “In fall we use 10- or 12-inch baits. The advice is to scale that down to about 8 inches or less in the spring. I use a smaller bucktail or twitch bait, 6 to 7 inches.

“A lot of anglers like to sight fish for spawning fish,” Barnard continued. “Spot them and cast to them.”

Barnard said he often fishes reservoirs and creek mouths.

“Fish the north end of the lake where it gets more sunlight and it warms up a little faster,” he said. “Fish 6 to 8 feet of water, not any deeper than that. The fish are going to be up trying to sun themselves.”

Pike anglers should follow the same strategy.

“We like to fish them shallow around the opener,” said Jody Johnston, a fisheries technician out of Crystal Falls. “A lot of times they’re up very shallow—I wouldn’t be afraid to throw up in 2 feet of water. That’s where some of those nicer fish hang out, especially if you get a wind that is blowing the warm water into the shallows.”

Gary Whelan, the fisheries biologist who runs the DNR research team out of Lansing, says pike anglers should use bass techniques, only more so.

“Use the biggest flies and lures you’ve got,” he said. “I like to fish rivers, and pike will take large streamers like you use for bass—deceivers, Clouser minnows, zonkers—something that looks big and offers a lot of motion. But make sure you use some sort of shock tippets or heavy leader.

“If you’re casting lures, use spinnerbaits or body baits like Rapalas—the biggest ones you’ve got.”

To get more tips and information, including Family Friendly Fishing Waters, the June 13-14 Summer Free Fishing Weekend, and season rules and regulations, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Birds and Wind Turbines

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Recently wind turbines were briefly discussed in my nature niche column. Since then an environment report on Michigan Radio regarding wind turbine placement addressed important migration paths for birds along Lake Huron. I had mentioned how birds have their own superhighway routes in the sky.

Monica Essenmacher started an online discussion regarding inappropriate turbine placement. She stated, “Geronimo wind bullies its way out of bird-safe industrial wind-turbine placement. Plans are to go ahead with 50 turbines in an important bird area, where 168 already stand in the path of hundreds of thousands of bird and bat migrants.”

Kimberly Kaufmann, Director Black Swamp Bird Observatory, replied, “Another blatant example of the complete and utter failure of voluntary guidelines. It absolutely sickens me to watch these things penetrate the most sensitive bird areas while the industry thumbs its nose and is then allowed to hide evidence of the real impact to birds.

“Another reminder that this isn’t merely a battle; it’s a war on habitat.”

Kimberly Kaufmann further commented, “Activism requires absolute dogged diligence. We have to tell the story over and over and over and over and over in every possible way. People generally get burned out and give up just when their message is starting to reach the right people.

“Effective activism demands a tremendous amount of time, hard work, experience, and very thick skin! Getting people to take action on anything is a challenge, but this issue is exceptionally hard for people.

1) Most people understand that climate change is real and that we desperately need a cure for our addiction to fossil fuels

2) No one ever wants to discuss the real problem: the fact that the world is overpopulated and unsustainable

3) With no regulations, the industry controls the mortality data, so we never get an accurate assessment of the real environmental impact.

4) The industry is supported by so much $$ and embroiled in so much politics that they control almost everything.

5) Organizations don’t want to be considered “anti-green” by speaking out against any alternative to fossil fuels.

Kim said, “Don’t give up, Monica. There’s still a lot of important work needed. Fighting for transparency of the post-construction monitoring data should be high on your list. We’re currently fighting that battle in Ohio with the state’s largest wind factory.”

Remember, there are many that support you, and as we continue to fight for transparency, people who care about birds and wildlife will be more inclined to join the battle if we can show them just how many of their favorite birds are being impacted.

In my nature niche articles, I strive to suggest how we can behave responsibly toward other species sharing Earth’s Ecosphere. Like Kim mentioned, it is necessary that human numbers do not exceed the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity. Previously I mentioned we could reduce the number of people on Earth by 40 percent if we simply wait until we are in our 30s to bear children. This would result in three generations living at once instead of five generations. It is an individual choice to select the age we bear children.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

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