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Archive | Outdoors

Missing feathers

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Finding pretty feathers in the yard is something most of us have collected when we were children. It has been fun and challenging to identify who lost them. Blue Jay feathers are quite distinctive as are robin breast feathers. Many feathers can be quite challenging.

At this time of year I notice crows flying over with noticeable gaps in their wings. Two Mourning Doves passed without their long tail feathers. Some birds are looking rather beat up because they are missing feathers. It is molting season.

Most birds experience a complete molt where they lose all feathers after breeding season and before migration. It requires a lot of energy to change wardrobes but it occurs twice a year. The spring molt prior to migration or breeding is a partial molt where only some feathers are replaced.

When birds fly over missing noticeable feathers, it is the flight feathers we notice missing. If birds lost all there their flight feathers at once they would be grounded. That would spell death for many. They would starve before they could replace them. They also would not be protected from the weather. Feathers are important for flight and body feathers for insulation to maintain proper temperature.

Molting is orderly starting with primary feathers. Theses are the largest and most noticeable flight feathers. They are lost in succession from wingtip inward. As one is lost and replaced, the next one in succession is lost and replaced. When the primary feathers have been replaced, secondary feathers are replaced in the opposite direction. Secondaries are smaller flight feathers closer to the body. They are lost from close to the body outward toward the primaries.

It is ecologically important that most birds lose feathers in succession so they do not become flightless. They depend on flight for feeding mobility. Some birds lose all their flight feathers at once and cannot fly for weeks. One might think this would surely cause starvation or vulnerability to predators.

Ducks, geese, swans, grebes, and loons lose their flight feather at one time. They feed by diving or tipping bottom up to feed on the bottom in shallow water. Tipping end up to feed is known as dabbling. There are dabbing ducks like the mallard and diving ducks like the bufflehead and scaup that dive deep to feed. They become flightless for several weeks when molting but are able to continue feeding. When threatened they run across the water but do not become airborne.

It requires tremendous energy to molt. When birds migrate there energy needs increase 7 to 15 times over resting energy levels. They cannot afford to molt, migrate, or raise young at the same time. Each must be done separately and they have adaptations to survive in their unique nature niche. Loons molt after migration and ducks before migration. Some birds have a partial molt before migration, stop molting for migration and complete molting afterwards. It is typical for most land birds to complete molting before the fall migration.

Details of life are uniquely special and worth observing near our homes.

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

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Osprey chicks outfitted with satellite backpacks  

The Michigan DNR’s Julie Oakes and USDA Wildlife Services’ Brian Washburn outfit an osprey chick with a GPS “backpack” at Kensington Metropark.

The Michigan DNR’s Julie Oakes and USDA Wildlife Services’ Brian Washburn outfit an osprey chick with a GPS “backpack” at Kensington Metropark.

Nearly absent from much of the state due to the effects of DDT and other pesticides and habitat loss, ospreys continue to rebound in Michigan. In southern Michigan, monitoring efforts are tracking the revitalization of this species.

This year, six osprey chicks from area nests were outfitted with “backpack” satellite and GSM telemetry units. These units—funded by grants from DTE Energy, Huron Valley Audubon, photographer Lou Waldock, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and American Tower Corporation—will help scientists track the young birds’ daily movements and seasonal migration patterns.

In 2013, three osprey chicks were given GPS backpacks in southeast Michigan. One chick banded near Estral Beach migrated to Cuba. A chick from Kensington Metropark ventured to Colombia, and one from Pinckney found good fishing sites on a golf course in Miami.

Unfortunately, all three chicks with backpacks perished in 2013. Approximately 60 percent of the osprey chicks hatched each year do not make it to their second birthday. Factors that commonly cause mortality in young chicks include predation by great horned owls, collisions with buildings and other structures, weather, and illegal shooting of birds in Central and South America.

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to place GPS units on several ospreys this year,” said Julie Oakes, Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist. “This will provide the DNR with not only information on what migration routes the birds take, but also insight into what perils they must endure on their migration.”

The exciting part is that anyone can follow along and find out where the birds have been, just by looking at the Michigan osprey website www.michiganosprey.org. Move the cursor along the route to see GPS coordinates and time and date information for each leg of the osprey’s journey. The youngsters will begin their migration in early to mid-September, so wildlife enthusiasts can log on to watch their journey.

In 1998, the DNR began to relocate ospreys to southern Michigan. The program, supported by donations to Michigan’s Nongame Wildlife Fund, removed chicks from active nests in northern Michigan and reared them in man-made towers in southern Michigan, a process called “hacking.” Relocation efforts occurred over a span of 10 years. In 2013, the DNR identified at least 56 active nests in southern Michigan—an incredible increase from the single active nest reported in 2002.

“This is a true wildlife success story,” said Oakes. “Each year we have new nests, and we have already exceeded our original goal of 30 active nests by 2020. We have been able to remove ospreys from the threatened species list to a species of special concern, which means their population is much more secure now. In addition, they now nest across much more of the state, which provides for insurance that the population will not be endangered by a localized natural disaster like a large hail and wind storm.”

Historically, osprey chicks have been banded each year as part of a national effort to monitor the species. Banding continues this year as a cooperative venture of the DNR, Huron Clinton Metroparks, the Detroit Zoological Society and Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan.

Because ospreys often nest on cell phone towers, staff from cell phone tower companies are invaluable partners in osprey monitoring. Their staff members alert the DNR and Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan to osprey nests, assist with the retrieval of chicks during the banding process and delay tower repair projects until after the nesting season.

Other partners in this monitoring project include the Huron Valley Audubon Society, Michigan Audubon, volunteers from Osprey Watch and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Anyone who observes a nesting pair of ospreys in southeast Michigan is asked to contact Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan online at www.michiganosprey.org.

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Include hunter education as part of your back to school plan

Michigan parents who have children interested in learning to hunt should consider making enrollment in a hunter education class part of their “back to school” plans. Now is the best time to enroll in a class so that new hunters are ready to hit the woods this fall.

 

“Right now is the best time to enroll because class opportunities are plentiful,” said Department of Natural Resources hunter education program supervisor Sgt. Tom Wanless. “With summer winding down, the focus is on getting kids ready for school. Parents should plan on enrolling their youth hunters in hunter education now. Waiting until the last minute to enroll sometimes makes it difficult to find an available class.”
Wanless said classes are held year-round, but April, May, August and September are traditionally the times when classes are most available.

“Generally, we like the classroom or online instruction completed by Oct. 1 so instructors are available for a field day for the online or home-study students,” Wanless said.
Michigan has three types of hunter education courses: traditional classroom, home study and online. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, is required to complete the course before buying a Michigan hunting license or taking an out-of-state hunting trip. Exceptions are made for youths under the age of 10 who are hunting under a Mentored Youth Hunting license or hunters older than 10 who are hunting with an apprentice hunting license. Hunters can hunt under the apprentice program for two years before they are required to take hunter education.
The traditional classroom course is a minimum of 10 hours and includes both classroom and field work with an instructor. The fee for the class is $10 or less to cover expenses.

The home-study course features a workbook to complete classwork. A field day is required with the home-study course and must be scheduled with an instructor prior to starting the course.

Michigan also offers three approved online hunter education courses, www.hunter-ed.com/Michigan, www.huntercourse.com, and www.hunteredcourse.com/state/michigan. Students who opt for the online course complete their classwork online and then have a field/skills day with an instructor and take a written exam. The field day must be scheduled with an instructor prior to starting the online course. The online courses have varying fees, but are all priced under $25.
For more information about hunter education or to find a class in your area, go to www.michigan.gov/huntereducation.

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Quiet—not Absent

By Ranger Steve Mueller

I am not one to sit. I like moving. Outdoor activity is either walking, working on trail maintenance, pruning trees and shrubs, pursing butterflies, birds, or other animals. Three days ago, I broke my leg while walking in uneven ground, in search of wetland butterflies. I fell in a hidden hole. Yesterday the surgeon installed a metal plate in my leg and said I cannot put any weight on my leg for six weeks.

I have been sitting on the back porch and noticing things that are missed daily because I move about too much. For two days I have been seeing Baltimore Orioles moving among the tree branches. A Great Flycatcher quietly landed in a tree in good view. A flock of Cedar Waxwings has been flitting about the conifer branches and I haven’t been noticing them. I have not seen any of these species lately.

Now that breeding season is mostly over, males are not singing to claim territory. It is easy not to notice the birds as they search for food. This evening a Ruby-throated hummingbird visited flowers in the butterfly garden in preference to the sugar water feeder that hangs in the garden. The hummer was actively feeding on minute insects that were flying just above treetops. I could not see the insects but the bird was clearly picking things out of sky as it hovered and darted back and forth.

Family flocks of American Robins have been feeding on creatures in the mowed lawn. Mourning Doves are one of the few birds still vocalizing with their owl-like coo-coo call. They are a bird that may still breed and produce young this late in the year.

Chickadees are not singing their two note song but like me they are contently on the move and do vocalize their chickadee-dee-dee call. I answer with my own version of their call and they come to see who is talking to them. House wrens sing continuously in spring and early summer but now only make a twittering chat.

Eastern Towhees are secretive and spend time under trees and shrubs scratching among the ground vegetation in search of tasty insects morsels. They have not completely given up their song of “drink your teaeeeee.” I still here the “your teaeeee” coming from hidden locations.

Most birds are busy in their specialized nature niches fattening for the long journey south, teaching young by demonstration, or working hard in preparation to survive locally for the winter.

The House Finches have males with red feathers on the head and body but females are brown. At the feeder this week there is a male House Finch with yellow instead of red feathers. I see a few of these annually. Studies indicate that those birds are lacking adequate carotene in their diet to provide the red in feathers. The birds are apparently healthy but display the abnormal coloring. The carotene generally comes from insects that are fed upon.

Now that I am required to sit and watch, I see things I normally miss by being too antsy to quietly sit and observe. I miss being on the move constantly but enjoy getting to see backyard wildlife activity that is quietly going about business in abundance. Don’t break a leg but sit to observe activity in the yard.

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

616-696-1753

 

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Fishing the piers and connecting waters

Eric Payne with a walleye caught near the pier in Holland

Eric Payne with a walleye caught near the pier in Holland

by Jack Payne

 

Fishing the piers and connecting waters is a lot of fun. Over the next few months, anglers will enjoy a wide range of species. Currently smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, carp and Sheephead are being caught. In a few weeks king salmon and trout will move in and the whitefish will follow up last. Perch can be caught but often this is a hit and miss deal. Whenever you hear that the perch are in close to shore this will be your best chance to land them off of the pier.

Perch anglers should use some type of perch spreader rig. Good examples are the No Tangle Rig and the Perch Fly rigs from Stopper lures. Tip your hook/fly with a spike or a minnow.

Walleye and catfish offer good sport and good table fare. One great rig is the Ultra Violet Crawler Rig from Stopper lures. The ultra violet spinner blades throw much more light than a standard blade.

The big Colorado blade throws off plenty of vibration and makes it easier for a hungry walleye to home in. Blade sizes range from a size three up to a size 6. Suspended fish that are running in packs really like the larger blades. Bottom hugging fish prefer the smaller blades.

Whenever you casting from a boat or the pier it is a good idea to add a Cast a Weight. This unique weight is added a foot or two above your spinner. You can change weights easily and is adaptable for suspended fish or bottom hugging fish. Add a fat juicy crawler and you are in business.

On the suspended fish try counting it down to five Mississippi. After a few casts let it sink a few seconds longer before starting your retrieve. Under most conditions the suspended fish will be down five to ten feet, or a count between 5-10 Mississippi.

I like using two rods when on the pier or when drifting in front of or in the channel. My second rod often is used for bottom hugging fish. Catfish are always a favorite target and we use a lot of Catfish Tubes or Catfish Bait Balls from Stopper lures. Dip these rigs into a catfish dip or paste and replenish every fifteen minutes.

Another nice option for the second rod would be a slip float. We use a lot of the Big Top Current Floats from Carlisle. They stand tall, are very visible and work great in the current. Under the float you can run spawn egg, a leech, a wax worm or a piece of a crawler. Smallmouth bass, cats and walleye will hit this rig. Don’t be surprised if a huge sheephead or carp gobbles up the offering.

Cast this rig up current and let it drift on the outside of the rocks. The Holland pier, like many others, has sections where huge limestone rocks are piled up. These locations funnel feeding bass, walleye and other species close to the pier. The slip float keeps your offering just above the rocks and snags.

When the fish are out further set your float so that it just glides over the bottom or maybe a few inches above the bottom. Trout and salmon will hit single eggs and spawn sacs. Walleye and bass love a leech that drifts across the bottom.

I like throwing Husky Jerks, Mepps Spinners, Thundersticks and Little Cleo’s on the other rod. Add some glow paint or witchcraft tape to enhance the appeal to a hungry salmon. It’s a lot of fun casting one rod anticipating a jarring strike while keeping an eye peeled on the other rods.

Following Murphy ’s Law, action can come quick and both rods could go off. Nice problem to have. This is common on trout and salmon. Small schools or pods of fish move in and instant action. Then it quiets down for a bit and starts all over.

Our best action is under low light conditions. Getting out an hour before daylight or staying an hour after many times produces the best walleye and salmon action. The piers and connecting waters offer great fishing with minimal expense.

 

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Weekly Fishing Tip

OUT-Weekly-fishing-tip-lgmouth-bass_originalUnderstanding water temps and their impact on fishing

As Michigan’s inland lakes warm up in mid to late summer, knowledge of a water body’s temperature stratification becomes helpful for fishing. Seasonal temperature influences in lakes form different zones, and as a result, different temperature ranges and oxygen levels are associated with these layers. Knowledge of these layers or zones can lead to increased angling success.

The warm surface zone is called the epilimnion and has an abundance of oxygen. The bottom zone is called the hypolimnion and is typically cold and depleted of oxygen. The middle zone is the thermocline and the point at which warm, oxygen-rich top water is separated from the cold, oxygen-depleted water below.

The thermocline may prove to be a great depth at which to fish due to the abundance of oxygen and temperature found “in between” very warm and very cold. This ideal zone in most Michigan inland lakes typically will be between 10 to 30 feet, depending on lake size and depth. Just like us humans, fish need oxygen to breath and many don’t particularly like to be too warm or too cold.

If fishing in shallow water bodies, look for shaded areas provided by large floating vegetation, overhanging vegetation, submerged logs, or other woody debris, which provides water that is a little cooler and cover, where many fish species prefer to spend their time.

Also don’t forget to try fishing at night during the summer “doldrums” when water temperatures reach seasonal highs. Many fish species become active at night with relief from the daytime sun and heat.

And lastly, take a kid fishing with you for luck, and to teach them about this wonderful sport!

This tip was written by Suzanne Ebright, Outreach and Education Specialist in Lansing.

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Smokey the Bear

SMOKEY THE BEAR: With the help of DNR fire program staff and volunteers, national fire prevention icon Smokey Bear appears at more than 100 wildfire prevention events each year in Michigan. This year marks 70 years since the first Smokey Bear campaign poster appeared.
Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.


SMOKEY THE BEAR: With the help of DNR fire program staff and volunteers, national fire prevention icon Smokey Bear appears at more than 100 wildfire prevention events each year in Michigan. This year marks 70 years since the first Smokey Bear campaign poster appeared.
Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

After 70 years, Smokey Bear still plays a vital role in fire prevention.

When the typical American thinks of wildfire prevention, the first image that comes to mind is surely that of the iconic Smokey Bear. Since the days of Smokey’s first words in 1944, “Smokey says, care will prevent nine out of 10 forest fires” his likeness and slogans have been invaluable to federal, state and local agencies responsible for wildfire prevention and management.

For the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Smokey was not only instrumental in establishing the importance of fire prevention education throughout the state, but also became one of the pillars upon which the DNR’s highly regarded fire program was built. In recognition, the DNR joined the rest of the nation Saturday, Aug. 9, in celebrating Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday and all that this character has done to bring fire prevention to the forefront in Michigan.

The DNR’s fire program first began using Smokey Bear as a de facto spokesman for the cause in the 1960s, and today credits widespread public awareness about wildfire prevention to Smokey’s broad appeal.

Through the years, Smokey has appeared at countless community events and educational programs on behalf of the DNR, and the bear’s image and famous sayings have graced many DNR fire prevention promotional and educational materials.

“Every DNR Forest Resources Division (FRD) field office uses Smokey Bear at parades, fairs, school programs—anywhere we are trying to spread the fire prevention message,” said Paul Kollmeyer, manager of FRD’s Resources Protection and Cooperatives Programs section. “Smokey is the catalyst that gets people’s interest, especially the young people,” Kollmeyer said. “When you’re delivering an educational program to second graders, you couldn’t ask for a more engaging teacher than Smokey. He really leaves an impression.”
Created by an art critic as part of an advertising campaign to educate the public about each individual’s role in preventing wildfires, Smokey made his official debut on a poster on Aug. 9, 1944. Wearing a pair of dungarees and a ranger hat, he is depicted pouring a bucket of water on a campfire.

SMOKEY BILLBOARD: Smokey Bear’s slogans have changed slightly throughout the years, but have always focused on each individual’s responsibility for preventing wildfires. This is the very first Smokey Bear poster to appear in 1944.

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.


SMOKEY BILLBOARD: Smokey Bear’s slogans have changed slightly throughout the years, but have always focused on each individual’s responsibility for preventing wildfires. This is the very first Smokey Bear poster to appear in 1944.

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Three years later, his slogan was modified to the long-lasting and well-known version, “Remember, Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires,” which stuck for another five decades before it was slightly updated to today’s version: “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”
Although Smokey was originally a fictional product of the World War II-era campaign, geared at shifting the public’s focus to fire prevention rather than suppression (since many citizens who would normally help fight fires were deployed overseas), his real-life counterpart was found six years later, clinging to a tree at the scene of a wildfire in New Mexico. The bear cub had suffered burns to his paws and hind legs and was flown to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he lived for 26 years, becoming an integral part of the Smokey campaign.

In 1952, Smokey became the subject of a song, “Smokey the Bear,” and that same year, his image was legally protected under the federal Smokey Bear Act, which established three administrators of the image: the U.S. Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters, and Ad Council.

Now 70 years old, the Smokey Bear wildfire prevention campaign is a bit of an anomaly in how popular it remains, still striking a chord with audiences of all ages after seven decades of heavy rotation. According to the national non-profit Ad Council, Smokey and his message are recognized today by 95 percent of adults and 77 percent of children.
“What’s so unique about Smokey is the multi-generational appeal. People and kids of all ages can relate to each other over Smokey Bear,” said Gwinn Unit fire supervisor Pete Glover. “One of my favorite parts about our Smokey Bear appearances is seeing a grandparent who is just as excited about having their picture taken with Smokey as their grandchild is.”
With the busy and complicated lives parents lead today, Glover said he recognizes that Smokey’s presence is vital to the positive reception of the many educational programs fire officers give each year.

“It would be difficult to get parents to come to an evening or weekend program if their kids weren’t interested in attending as well,” he said. “Smokey holds the attention of the younger audience members, giving us time to really drive the wildfire prevention message home to the parents and other adults in the audience.”
With the help of DNR fire officers and volunteers around the state, Smokey Bear makes more than 100 public appearances annually, including National Night Out public safety events, where he is typically swarmed with visitors hoping to get a hug, high-five and photo with Smokey. And when they leave an event, Smokey’s fans don’t only have smiles on their faces—they also leave with their hands full of educational “Smokey swag” promoting the fire prevention message.

“Smokey is the linchpin that made fire prevention popular nationwide and in Michigan,” Kollmeyer said. “Without our use of his image, slogans, voice and presence, I am not sure we would have such an educated public when it comes to wildfire awareness and prevention. I hope in 70 years, fire programs around the country will be celebrating Smokey Bear’s 140th birthday.”
Those interested in helping to celebrate Smokey’s 70th birthday this weekend can join the DNR at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee or Van Riper State Park in Marquette County for cake and festivities (for event details, visit www.michigan.gov/dnrcalendar).
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will also recognize Smokey’s milestone birthday with a special presentation at its Thursday, Aug. 14, meeting in Munising. For more information about Smokey Bear and to see campaign posters and other images from the past 70 years, visit www.smokeybear.org. To learn more about the DNR’s fire program and fire prevention in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires; to request Smokey’s presence at a community or school event, contact the DNR fire officer in your area.

 

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Squirrel watching

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

When in middle school, we had open lunch period. That meant we could leave campus, venture outside and return for afternoon classes. I usually headed outside with a sandwich. Sometimes the break was spent with friends behind the school or, during other lunch periods, I quietly spent it with squirrels a block from school.

The school was in a city of 100,000 people where many nature niches provided for wild creature needs. Gray and Fox squirrels did well in people’s forested yards. Fox squirrels have reddish hairs mixed among their tail hairs and their bellies are reddish/orange giving them the name “Fox.” Gray squirrels have white bellies with gray hairs dominating their body and tails.

Recently, readers have provided squirrel images with white tails or white patches on the head. I suspect these are natural genetic variations. Black squirrels are less common than normal colored gray and fox squirrels. The black is a recessive genetic trait that requires a black hair color gene from each parent for it to be expressed in young.

In people brown eyes dominant over blue so if one parent provides a brown gene and the other a blue gene, the child’s eye color would be brown. A blue gene is required from both parents to have a blue-eyed child. A brown-eyed person often carries a hidden blue-eyed gene. Eye color inheritance is not as simple as stated above because there are many color and shade options that are inherited.

In squirrels the expressed hair color is simpler than eye color but has genetic variability. Black squirrels became common in the Traverse City area in part because gray squirrels were shot and black squirrels were allowed to reproduce. A squirrel parent can produce both gray and black phase young in the same litter. It is much like a person having children with different hair color. An abundance of black recessive genes in that population allowed the black phase gray squirrels to become common because gray genes were deliberately removed from the population.

Black squirrels have become increasing common in our area. I am not sure why. Black phase is more common among gray squirrels than it is in Fox squirrels but they also have a black phase. Black fox squirrels are more frequent in the southern United States than in Michigan. Again I am not sure why. Perhaps some scientists have addressed the question but I have not encountered explanations.

I have enjoyed squirrels and have been frustrated with how much birdseed they eat. The numbers of squirrels in yards sometimes seems endless. When I lived in Minnesota, a neighbor and his son shot 24 squirrels in their yard during one day. Across the street from our homes was a cemetery with an oak forest. The cemetery provided adequate food, water, shelter, and appropriate living space for squirrels. The squirrels found it easy to visit the neighbor’s feeders for food. They also probably ate many bird eggs. Too many individuals of any species create ecosystem problems.

My fascination with squirrels and their behavior began when I was in junior high during quiet lunch periods watching them busily go about squirrel business in yards that people thought were human yards. Like humans, squirrels stake claims on territories. They do not recognize our property lines but set up their own according to the amount of space necessary to meet survival needs.

Encourage children to spend time observing, connecting, and understanding wild creatures in “our yards.”

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

 

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Weekly fishing tip 

 

OUT-Weekly-fishing-tip-walleye-edit_originalMore hints on targeting walleye

 

Most anglers targeting walleye know that catching them in the spring is much easier than catching them during the warmer summertime months. In most Michigan lakes, walleye typically seek cooler, deeper and darker waters in the summer, while typically feeding in the shallow waters only at night. Because of some physiological properties of walleye, their sensitivity to bright light typically results in avoidance of shallow waters during day light periods.

Anglers in the summer time months typically target walleye during the evening and morning time “low-light” periods. Targeted water depths will vary between lakes, but most anglers seek drop-offs where walleye will typically move up to feed in the shallow waters during the evening through morning hours. My experience fishing walleye in this fashion is usually successful by using a leech or minnow on a floating jighead weighted with a small splitshot sinker (or two). Anchoring at the drop-off or using a slow drift has been the most productive for me.

Other anglers may want to troll artificial lures or crawler harnesses along the deeper side of the contour lines in order to cover more area in a shorter time period. My grandfather always used to say, “Once you find them, you need to stay on, em.” I think there is a lot of truth to that.

Walleye fishing is sometimes a frustrating activity due to some long waiting periods between catches and finding the perfect conditions. However, once you get a bite it typically signifies something special and hopefully a memorable experience with family and friends.
Good luck in making memories, you will be glad you did!
This tip was written by Cory Kovacs, Fisheries Management Biologist in Newberry. 

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Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

*OUT-Nature niche Ruby throat hummer65By Ranger Steve Mueller

 
A Ruby-throated Hummingbird claimed the backyard, sugar water feeder, garden, and surrounding woodland for the summer. It is a joy to sit on the back porch and watch it hover at the feeder and to sometimes see it perch for a drink. Soon it will head south for wintering grounds in Central America. They return to breeding grounds starting in April and begin leaving during August. Place feeders out early and keep them filled through September or into October. Migrating hummers may stop for lunch.

Hummingbirds are unable to walk. Their short legs are only good for perching on branches. Other movement is by amazing wing power. It is reported by Michigan Audubon that they beat wings 53 times a second. It is only a blur to my eyes.

In the backyard I planted an ash tree about 30 years ago. It has provided a good perching for many birds. Its open canopy allows filtered light to pass and does not create deep shade. Birds have found it good for gleaning insects from among the foliage. Unfortunately the exotic Emerald Ash Borer beetle grubs are killing it. It is making a valiant effort to stay alive but the canopy is sparse with branches almost bare.

The hummingbird chooses perches high in the tree and darts to the feeder. It flies in an arc when departing for unknown places in the woods. I glance into the tree every time I venture outside and often see the bird. Hummingbirds are not tolerant of others wanting to visit a feeder. Males especially dive toward other hummers that come to drink sugar water.

The male Ruby-throated Hummingbird has what appears to be a black throat until sunlight turns it to glistening ruby. Even its green back shines with brilliance in sunlight. Its tiny body is about the size of the large grasshopper or cicada. The long slightly down curved bill is nearly as long as the body.

One time I was able to watch a mother incubate two tiny miniature jellybean sized eggs. Other times when young were present, the parent feed them frequently. I watched the long thin bill enter the baby mouths and penetrated all the way to the stomach. It seemed as if the mother was going to pierce a hole in her young. She knows how to feed and care for young. My help with care giving is not welcome but I provide healthy habitat where they find wildflowers, sugar water, and have nesting trees. Food, water, shelter, with appropriate living space are my contribution.

The yard is a mix of open sunny areas with wildflowers, shrubland, and mature trees. Somewhere among tree branches, a nest is woven from spider silk, dandelion or thistle down, and lichens that camouflage the nest. The tiny nest is placed on top of an outer branch. Usually the nest is toward the end of the branch and is only as wide as the branch or slightly wider. Two eggs are laid in the tiny cup and fill its minute space. Hummingbirds have let me know when I am near a nest. When walking, a mother has come and hovered near me and it alerted me to look about. Their irritation with my presence helped me find and observe nests on several occasions.

No nests have been seen at Ody Brook. I suspect the nests are constructed high in a tree. Hummingbirds have a special nature niche that brings joy to my life.

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

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