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Archive | Outdoors

Farmer’s Almanac

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Farmers are an observant group. Their livelihood depends on paying attention to the natural world. It is necessary to understand events in nature to produce successful crops.

For thousands of years, people paid attention to weather’s annual cycle and crop responses. People documented weather and then determined climate. Climate is the combined long-term average of weather events. Weather is short-term and changes in less predictable ways. Some years we receive a killing frost in mid September. This year it was the third week of October. We also experienced an early spring warming a couple years ago that caused fruit growers to lose most of the crop. Apple trees flowered before the average flowering time and flowers were later killed when normal frost occurred.

The Farmer’s Almanac makes predictions based on decades of climate data and is used to predict weather events. Studies have shown predictions of weather events in the almanac are not particularly accurate but, because it is based on long time averages, the events are not too far off. Being close serves the general intended purpose for most almanac readers.

Almanac predictions are reasonably close because people have documented “Nature Niche” events for a long time. You will not see the almanac suggesting it safe to plant crops at the beginning of January or suggest we wait to harvest grapes until November.

The lives of plants and animals, including cultivated crops that sustain our food flow and economy, have DNA genetic codes linked to local climate conditions. This sometimes becomes a problem when we do not plant local genotypes of native species. Flowering Dogwood trees grow in Georgia and Michigan but their genetics have evolved and adjusted to each region’s local climate. When a southern dogwood is brought to Michigan and planted, its survival is less likely because its DNA genotype is programmed to start spring growth too early compared with Michigan’s native genotype populations.

A reader asked if the height of a Bald-faced hornet nest in trees could be used to predict snow depth for the coming winter. Plants and animals are unable to read the future but many “Old Wives’ Tales” lead people to think it possible. Nest building behavior is based on general circumstances that allow survival. A queen hornet will start a nest in a location that appears suitable. If she fails, we will not notice. If successful, we might notice the nest when it becomes large. When fall arrives the queen hibernates in a hollow log, under tree bark, or some other protected location. The rest of the colony freezes.

People often use the width of the orange band on woollybear caterpillars to predict the severity of winter. The bandwidth is related to the age of the caterpillar instead of future weather conditions. Science has helped document many details in nature that are used to make reasonably accurate predictions. There are still many discoveries to be made. Spend time outside observing, record the observations in a journal and of course remember to enjoy the magical experiences witnessed in the yard.

I have kept observation journals since 1969. Now I have a reasonable ability to predict when certain wildflowers will bloom, particular butterflies will appear, particular bird species move through, and when fall colors will peak. Outdoor activity is healthy physically and mentally. Sharpen your mind and thinking abilities by thinking about occurrences observed in nature. Many hunters know when to expect the deer rut scrape on saplings, what size trees are used and how high above ground the tree is scraped. Follow your own interests whether you are farmer, hunter, or outdoor explorer. Look to the Farmer’s Almanac for a general idea of event occurrences but use own your observations to discover the natural world.

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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Latest Asian carp eDNA sampling produces negative results

 

The Department of Natural Resources announced that the latest round of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling on the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County produced all negative results. Earlier this month, the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a single positive eDNA result for silver carp—a species of Asian carp—within the river, discovered during water sampling efforts conducted this summer.
Immediately after the DNR learned of the positive sample, the agency worked with USFWS to conduct this third eDNA surveillance effort. The two agencies collected 200 additional water samples on the lower Kalamazoo River Oct. 7 and 8. In addition to sampling, the DNR increased the presence of staff along the river to enlist anglers as part of surveillance efforts.
The previous positive result indicated the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds.
“We greatly appreciate the quick work by USFWS to collect and evaluate these latest samples,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “We are pleased these samples were negative, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to keep Asian carp out of Michigan’s waters are over.”

The DNR will continue to take action in response to the previous positive result. Those actions will include:
• Conducting additional sampling efforts in the spring with USFWS to continue monitoring the river.
• Enhancing DNR fishery survey efforts, including expanding our outreach to anglers.
• Continuing public education efforts about all aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp, to increase general understanding of this significant threat to Michigan’s waterways.
Anglers and boaters are a first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters.

Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear after each trip. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live wells and attach to boat trails, anchors and fishing gear.
For even more information on Asian carp, visit www.michigan.gov/asiancarp.

 

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Grand Rapids angler catches state-record quillback carpsucker  

Benjamin Frey and his state record quillback carpsucker.

Benjamin Frey and his state record quillback carpsucker.

A Grand Rapids fisherman fishing in Newaygo brought home the fifth state-record fish this year.

The Department of Natural Resources confirmed the new state record last month for quillback carpsucker. The state record for quillback carpsucker was beat by a fish caught by Benjamin Frey of Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Hardy Dam Pond in Newaygo County Friday, Aug. 29, at 1:45 a.m. Frey was bow fishing. The fish weighed 8.25 pounds and measured 22.62 inches. The record was verified by Rich O’Neal, a DNR fisheries biologist in Muskegon.

The previous state-record quillback carpsucker was caught by Randy Bonter, Jr., of Grant, also on Hardy Dam Pond June 17, 2012. That fish weighed 8.12 pounds and measured 23 inches.

State records are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.
“2014 is shaping up to be quite a year for state-record catches, as this fish is the fifth one we’ve confirmed,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “These records continue to show just how phenomenal Michigan’s fishing is, and there’s still plenty of time left in the season for other anglers to catch their own potential state record.”
For more information on fishing in Michigan, including other state-record catches, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

 

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Passenger Pigeon Extinction

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

It has been 100 years since the last Passenger Pigeon on Earth died and joined the dinosaurs in extinction. It was on September 1, 1914, that the last remaining individual of its kind died, in the Cincinnati Zoo. We mourn the death of the last individual. Society experienced greater sorrow with loss of an entire species on that day. Gone were its contributions toward sustaining biodiversity in ecosystems.

The pigeon was the most abundant bird species, with a population that might have exceeded the number of all ducks combined. Its feeding activities likely controlled diseases like Lyme disease. Pigeon populations in the millions moved through the eastern deciduous forest feeding on acorns, American chestnuts, seeds and nuts. More than a billion total pigeons thrived. Their abundance removed food that would have supported deer and mice. This limited excessive deer and mice reproduction and resulted in fewer fleas. That reduced the spread of Lyme disease. Nature niche connections are often not obvious.

No Passenger Pigeons were left to pass on their genetic legacy into the coming millennia. An important thread in the fabric of life was stripped from ecosystems. It may seem the death of a species 100 years ago has no or little impact on people in the present. The increase in Lyme disease is just one impact that might have caused disability or even death for some people. Making absolute connections is not likely. Other connections relate to forest reproduction, abundance and composition of tree species. Pigeon feeding activity directed forest developed and numbers of other plants. In turn, it impacted the abundance and composition of animal populations present today.

Current scientific evidence suggests human activities are pushing many species toward extinction. The monarch butterfly population has declined due to land use practices. It numbered in the billions but last year’s winter population was only about 37 million. The Passenger Pigeon dropped below a threshold for survival and disappeared. There is concern the same might occur with the migratory monarch population. Several things limit monarch survival but one is human use of genetically modified crops that can tolerate herbicides so we can support an ever-growing human population. Crops growers increase the amount of chemicals on crops to eliminate wild plants like milkweed that are in or near croplands. With only a few milkweeds, monarchs cannot find food plants to lay their eggs as they migrate from Texas to Michigan.

All species strive to increase their kind but limiting factors keep them from continuous population growth. That is the case with the introduced exotic emerald ash borer that has largely eliminated ash trees in the landscape. In regions where they kill ashes, the beetles run out of food and their populations’ crash. It is a boom and bust population. People have found ways to delay human starvation for some regions. We have not responded by working to keep our population at or below the environment’s carrying capacity that would sustain our population for the centuries. Instead we are moving toward a boom number that will bust and crash. A continuous growing population will result in massive human death at some point. Human behavior today is not maintaining sustainable conditions to support future generations. Instead we focus on immediate personal interests and desires with boom and bust lifestyles.

Extinctions caused by human misuse of the Earth’s natural resources threaten other life forms but also threatens our own species long-term survival. Our population can sustain itself for millennia if we live within Earth’s carrying capacity. If not, we create a boom and bust that will cause massive deaths. Our behavior in the present is critically important for future human generations.

Many people choose to ignore evidence supporting the human influence on climate change or our impacts on species survival. Society’s behavior acted toward the Passenger Pigeon like society behaves toward climate change and species extinction threats. If we were interested in creation care and our offspring 20 generations hence, we would strive for sustainable lifestyles that do not squeeze other species off the planet. It depends on personal choices we make at home.

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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Cedar Springs man among those honored by DNR

 

Pictured here are just four of the more than 40 hunting education instructors statewide honored for 40 years of volunteer service. Pictured (L to R) are DNR Director Keith Creagh; instructor James Johnson, Houghton Lake; instructor John Seelman, North Muskegon; instructor David Hansen, Cedar Springs; instructor Joseph Primozich, Pentwater; and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

Pictured here are just four of the more than 40 hunting education instructors statewide honored for 40 years of volunteer service. Pictured (L to R) are DNR Director Keith Creagh; instructor James Johnson, Houghton Lake; instructor John Seelman, North Muskegon; instructor David Hansen, Cedar Springs; instructor Joseph Primozich, Pentwater; and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

DNR honors longtime hunter education instructors for volunteer service

For nearly 70 years, Michigan has conducted hunter education classes, teaching new hunters firearms safety and the regulations behind having a safe and successful hunt. This year, the Department of Natural Resources has honored those longtime instructors who have been with the program more than 40 years with special recognition, including one from Cedar Springs. They have been honored at a series of Natural Resources Commission meetings.

“Our hunter education program has trained over 1 million hunters since its start in 1946 and currently trains about 20,000 students a year,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “We could not do this without the help of our hunter education instructors who volunteer because of their love of the outdoors and their deep interest in passing that interest along to the next generation of conservation leaders.”

There are at least 40 active hunter education instructors who have more than 40 years of service to the program, including Charles Duncan, of Bay City, who is the longest-serving instructor, having volunteered now for 49 years. Instructors honored at the Oct. 9 NRC meeting in Cadillac for their service include:

James A. Johnson, Houghton Lake (46 years).

John M. Seelman, North Muskegon (44 years).

David E. Hansen, Cedar Springs (44 years).

Joseph W. Primozich, Pentwater (43 years).

While having a crop of seasoned, veteran instructors is an advantage for Michigan’s hunter education program, there also is a need to recruit new instructors for the program in all regions of the state, said Lt. Andrew Turner, who manages the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division’s recreational safety program. “We greatly appreciate our veteran instructors who have been with the program for more than 40 years. If you have an interest in passing along your interest in hunting to new hunters, we need you in our program,” Turner said. “This is a great way to ensure that the sport you enjoy today is enjoyed by future generations of hunters.”

For more information on Michigan’s hunter education program, visit www.michigan.gov/huntereducation.

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Weekly Fishing Tip: 

 

OUT-fishing-tipHow to catch muskellunge when others can’t

For many anglers muskellunge can be quite elusive, but having a few tips in your back pocket can make your trips more successful.

The first thing to consider is the type of lure you might use. Many experts recommend using a jerkbait-style lure to trigger vertical follows.

The next item to consider is where you might look for muskellunge. Always be looking for cover, including weed patches or downed trees – these are prime spots for this species to linger.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to focus your fishing time to late afternoon/early evening. These dusty hours can produce some quality opportunities.

For even more information on fishing for muskellunge, check out their Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them page at www.michigan.gov/dnr. Click on fishing, then “fishing in Michigan,” then “Michigan fish and how to catch them.”

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DNR releases 2014 deer season forecast 

OUT-deer-season-forecastThe Michigan Department of Natural Resources today announced that its annual deer season forecast (2014 Deer Hunting Prospects) is now available online. DNR deer program biologists predict that hunters this season will see similar success rates as in 2013. The forecast is designed to give hunters a better idea of what to expect in the woods this season and includes:

Regional information breakdowns for the Upper Peninsula, the northern Lower Peninsula and the southern Lower Peninsula.

An overview of important changes for this license year, including information on multiple-year deer regulations, the new hunting and fishing license options, deer management unit boundaries for southern Michigan, and more.

Updates on wildlife health and diseases.

To acces the forecast, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr then click on hunting & trapping, then click on big game. Scroll down the page to the white-tailed deer section and click on 2014 deer season forecast.

For more tips and information on having a safe, successful deer season (including location of deer-check stations, antler point restriction FAQs and hunting digests), visit the DNR website www.michigan.gov/deer.

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Lunar Eclipse

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

It was one of those rare occasions when the Earth Sun and Moon aligned in a straight line. This does not occur every month so we do not experience eclipses often. If astronauts were on the moon, they would have witnessed a total solar eclipse while we watched the lunar eclipse. Earth cast its shadow on the moon when it was directly between Sun and Moon.

The Earth hides the moon rapidly unless one is too hurried to watch. Our patience is tried with the hurried business of our lives. I look forward to vacations when time is taken to contemplate the world and nature niches. It takes three days to slow down and shift my focus from work and home obligations.

One visitor joined me to see the eclipsing moon. He was having difficulty locating it and thanked me for being present. His arrival came when the upper right moon was just already starting to whiten. He thought it would was to be a blood moon. I commented that had already come and gone.

Watching the entire drama offers more than the great moments captured with a camera. The news showed pictures through amateur telescopes that were better than seen with the naked eye or binoculars but watching the progression exceeds the best still images.

Darkness began at the lower moon a gradually swept upward to the right until the Earth was centered between Sun and Moon. During the darkest phase the “blood red” hue was apparent. It amazes me how quickly the event comes and goes. Observers have a couple hours to enjoy an uncommon celestial event.

It has only been hundreds of years since Galileo was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life for explaining the science behind celestial objects and described that Earth is not the center of the universe. A great number of people do not accept scientific process or scientific findings because it does not align with what they “know” or want to believe. Scientists mathematically predict events like the lunar eclipse and it occurs rapidly enough for people to watch from beginning to end. Events like extinctions and global climate change are not easily observed and many people dismiss the evidence as too elusive to accept. In some ways we are no different from people of the 16th century.

One beauty of the eclipse is that we watch phases of the moon come and go in a couple hours instead of over one month. The events simulate the new moon, quarter moons, and full moon. Unlike the new moon, the arc of darkness is in the opposite direction at the beginning, but when the lighted portion begins to show, it appears like the new moon. The quarter moons are not divided with half dark and half light. Instead we see the arc of Earth’s shadow on the moon. Always watch for subtleness in nature.

The use of binoculars allows us to see ridges and craters along the edges of the moon. Toward the center we can see light and dark portions but the mountainous relief is only apparent near the edges.

Decades ago about 40 people joined me at Kent County’s highest elevation at Fisk Knob County Park to observe Haley’s comet. The Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC) is too wooded for good viewing of the horizon just before sunrise. I set up a telescope and many people from the Grand Rapids area arrived to witness the once in a lifetime event. Some expected a comet to be the size of the moon. Instead it was star-sized with a faint tail. I searched the dark sky unsuccessfully. Finally as the darkness of night began to fade, Haley’s comet came into view. I described the location for those using binoculars and hurriedly encouraged all to look through the telescope. They viewed the comet and saw its tail. The tail was not easily visible. People said they would not have seen it without help.

Check the HCNC web site for program details or better yet visit. Real experiences in nature exceed the ease of the internet’s vicarious exposure. Individuals and families getting into nature remind us we are a part of nature instead of merely being observers from a distance. When immersed in nature, at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary or HCNC, nature comes alive.

To cap the enjoyment of another fine day, a yellow-rumped warbler was gathering breakfast among dimly lit tree leaves, as the dawn arrived at the eclipse conclusion.

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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Silver carp eDNA detected in Lake Michigan tributary

This is a photo of a silver carp (a species of Asian carp) found in waters outside Michigan boundaries. Though no live silver carp has been found in Michigan waters, a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp was found within the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County, Michigan.

This is a photo of a silver carp (a species of Asian carp) found in waters outside Michigan boundaries. Though no live silver carp has been found in Michigan waters, a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp was found within the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County, Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are collaborating to assess a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp—a species of Asian carp—within the lower Kalamazoo River, Allegan County, Michigan.
Two hundred water samples were taken in July 2014, along the Kalamazoo, from below the Caulkins Dam in Allegan County, to the mouth of the river. Laboratory results, which take several months to process, were reviewed by the DNR Oct. 2. One of the of 200 samples tested positive for silver carp eDNA. The positive sample was taken from just below the Caulkins Dam.

An additional 200 eDNA samples were collected in the same vicinity in June and resulted in no positive results. The July sample represents the first time that Michigan has experienced a positive result for silver carp eDNA in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay.

The findings indicate the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence that a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds. The lower Kalamazoo River is popular for recreational activities including fishing and boating. Activities such as these may increase the possibility of eDNA entering the river without the presence of a live silver carp.

“Although not conclusive, this finding heightens our vigilance and sets into motion a specific response,” said MDNR Director Keith Creagh. “We will work with our partner organizations and anglers on next steps to protect the Great Lakes and its tributaries against this significant threat.”

In response to the finding, the MDNR:

Requested additional assistance last Friday from the USFWS to implement a third eDNA surveillance effort on the lower Kalamazoo River. The collection of an additional 200 samples begins Oct. 7. Analysis of the samples will be expedited and results should be available within a month.

Will increase the presence of MDNR staff along the Kalamazoo River to enlist anglers to report any Asian carp sightings.

Will place information in local bait shops to broaden public awareness.

“At the state’s request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing all the resources and technical expertise we have available,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Regional Director Charlie Wooley. “The Service is committed to working in a coordinated, landscape-level, approach to prevent the establishment of self-sustaining populations of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.”
Asian carp, including bighead and silver carp, pose a significant threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem, the $7 billion fishery, and other economic interests dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries. Silver and bighead carp are likely to compete with native and recreational fish species and are known to quickly reproduce.
“The Kalamazoo River results further point to the urgency of the Great Lakes states to be vigilant in seeking all solutions to keep Asian carp and other invasive species out of the Great Lakes basin,” said Creagh. “Michigan continues to advocate for hydrological separation between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes basin as the best long-term solution to the threat of Asian carp. By working together as a united front, we can address the imminent threat invasive species pose to our quality of life.”
Anglers and boaters are vital stewards to prevent movement of Asian carp and other invasive species that threaten Michigan’s waters. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including both adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters. Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live-wells and attach to boat trailers, anchors and fishing gear.
A video demonstrating how to identify bighead and silver carp can be viewed on the USFWS YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/B49OWrCRs38?source=govdelivery. A video focused on identification of juvenile Asian carp species can be viewed at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153–317128–s,00.html. Identification guides, frequently asked questions, management plans and an online reporting form for Asian carp sightings are available online at michigan.gov/asiancarp.
More information on eDNA is available here: http://www.asiancarp.us/edna.htm. Results of eDNA monitoring from the Midwest region are posted here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/fisheries/eDNA.html.

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Youth hunt

OUT-YouthHunt-ChloePetersen

 

Chloe Petersen, 13, the daughter of Brian and Amy Petersen, of Gowen, went hunting in Lakeview with her Grandpa, Richard Jones, for the youth hunt. They were in a blind, and it didn’t take long before she saw her first buck. She was a little nervous, however, and was worried she wouldn’t make the shot so let him pass.

“After I calmed down, and let myself know that I shouldn’t be worried, another buck came out in front of the blind. I looked into the scope of the gun, aimed, and then shot. The 8-point buck fell straight back without running. At that time, I realized being scared was worthless. My joy was about to blast out of me,” said Chloe.

She added that there was 14 inches between its horns.

Congratulations, Chloe, on a successful youth hunt!

 

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