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Public lands are Earth Day’s unsung heroes

Tahquamenon River fall forest: An aerial view of the Tahquamenon River and the surrounding fall forest, a popular tourist destination in the eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Tahquamenon River fall forest: An aerial view of the Tahquamenon River and the surrounding fall forest, a popular tourist destination in the eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Pollution prevention, water filtration among the natural benefits

Want to celebrate an Earth Day hero? Look no further than the nearest parcel of state-managed public land in any corner of Michigan.

Last weekend we celebrated Earth Day, and it’s a good time to appreciate our state-managed public lands for all they do to enhance quality of life in Michigan. The Department of Natural Resources manages 4.6 million acres of land for the public’s use and enjoyment, including state forests, game areas, recreation areas and parks. Aside from the high-value cultural, recreational and economic opportunities they provide, Michigan’s public lands have enormous impact on the quality of our environment and natural resources.

The lands reduce air pollution, protect water quality, provide flood retention and offer critical wildlife habitat. Like true heroes, they do their jobs without fanfare.

“People usually associate public lands with outdoor adventures such as camping, hiking or hunting,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “But they may not realize the tremendous natural benefits these spaces provide. Their contributions to the health of Michigan’s environment, natural resources and citizens are many. That’s why proper management of these valued public lands is so critical.”

Maple River SGA: Maple River State Game Area, covering more than 9,200 acres in Clinton, Gratiot and Ionia counties, offers residents and visitors access to wildlife viewing, hunting and other outdoor exploration. It provides substantial acreage for pheasant and other wildlife habitat.

Maple River SGA: Maple River State Game Area, covering more than 9,200 acres in Clinton, Gratiot and Ionia counties, offers residents and visitors access to wildlife viewing, hunting and other outdoor exploration. It provides substantial acreage for pheasant and other wildlife habitat.

Ways in which public lands improve our environment, natural resources and even public health include:

Pollution prevention. Forests and wetlands on public lands benefit the environment by serving as natural “purifiers.” For example, trees help reduce air pollution by absorbing pollutants and increasing oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Wetlands play a vital role by filtering pollutants from surface runoff, and breaking down fertilizers, pesticides and other contaminants into less harmful substances.

Improved water quality.

Tree roots hold soil together and soak up moisture, which enhances water quality and prevents erosion. In addition to filtering pollutants, wetlands improve water quality by recharging groundwater supplies when connected to underground aquifers. They also contribute to natural nutrient and water cycles.

Storm water management.

In natural landscapes like forests, the soil absorbs water and pollutants resulting from runoff from hard surfaces such as driveways and parking lots. This is especially important in reducing flooding.

Wildlife habitat.

Fields, forests, waterways and wetlands provide Michigan’s wildlife with the vibrant ecosystems they need to thrive.

Better health.

Nature plays a huge role in the physical and emotional health of Michiganders. The ability of trees and grasslands to filter air pollution reduces negative health effects on people with respiratory ailments. Plus, state-managed public lands—offering trails, boat launches, campgrounds and other outdoor recreation options—provide any number of opportunities for exercise and fitness. Of course, trees, lakes and rivers offer calming effects that are emotionally gratifying as well.

Good stewardship.

Michigan’s public lands promote good environmental stewardship. They allow for initiatives such as Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, which provide exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities through the world-class management of the state’s seven premier Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas. The DNR also is pursuing an innovative wetland mitigation program that harnesses public lands to help offset the loss of wetlands.

“We’re a cleaner, healthier Michigan because of our public lands,” Creagh said. “So much of what they do for us happens without notice. But Earth Day provides a good opportunity to appreciate all our state-managed public lands do for the citizens of Michigan.”

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Fishing with feet

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

A reader told me that I probably would not believe him but he said he caught a trout with his foot. Before he said more, I said, “I believe you because I have also.” How many others have done the same? Trout fishing season is under way but angling with feet is not a chosen fishing tactic.

The reader was wading a stream when a fish tried to dart past him just as he stepped down and caught the fish between foot and substrate. My experience was similar.

In Calf Creek in Utah, I was wading bare foot in a small desert stream fed by snow melt and ground water from Boulder Mountain. The mountain road summit was over 12,000 feet with a spruce/fir forest in highest locations and ponderosa pines in the 8,000-foot range. Down the mountain, pinyon pines and juniper trees reigned at 7,000 feet.

Calf Creek was at 5,500 feet but that water remained cold, rich in oxygen, and full of trout food. Willows and other woody plants were abundant along the three to ten feet wide creek. In most places the creek was one to twelve inches deep. A beaver constructed a couple dams and created a pond where it built a lodge. After a few years, the beaver exhausted its food supply. The pond filled and became a wet meadow full of life.

It surprised me to see a Great Blue Heron standing on a bare sandstone desert cliff over Calf Creek. It made sense because trout were present for the heron to hunt in the stream’s shallow clear cold water.

My barefoot walk for about two miles was in the stream’s cold water but the desert air was near 100 F. The stream bed was mostly bare sandstone a few inches deep with frequent holes a foot to three feet deep. Deep holes were places the trout hid in shadows. They often remained stationary in shallow water with use of their powerful tail muscles beating just enough to hold their stable position.

As I walked downstream, a trout facing upstream was alarmed by my presence and attempted to dart past me up stream. My right foot was just coming down as the trout slipped between my foot and rock. The fish’s body pressed against the bottom of my foot and was squeezed to the sandstone stream bed.

Quickly, I shifted my weight to my left foot to prevent hurting the fish. Too late. The fish began to roll downstream stunned by physical trauma. I picked up the fish and held it with head upstream to allow water to flow over the gills.

For several minutes, I hoped it would recover as it continued to open and close its mouth. Each time I released it, it could not swim and rolled in the current. After considerable time, I let the fish roll out sight.

Such events are now out of sight but not out of mind. It occurred in the 1990’s but stays with me. Previously, I wrote about this in my column. Like most stories shared with family and friends, they get repeated at gatherings, campouts, or in another group setting. We all have experiences to share and reminisce.

Many do not end in tragedy like it did for this trout. When you are fishing or on adventures into the wondrous world around us, remember to bring back fish stories or those of your personal experiences with wildlife and nature niches. Truthful stories are best and most interesting. Exaggerated “fish stories” are not necessary. The more time you are outdoors the more exciting stories you will accumulate for sharing.

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

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Michigan Boating

OUT-Boating-lake-michigan-10

Five Great Lakes, Five Great Boating Tips

From the Michigan DNR

Boaters are smart, creative and resourceful. That’s why we want to hear tips from Michigan boaters.

This month, we’re starting with five “musts” as you get ready for the season. Our featured boater is a 46-year sailing veteran from the home port of Sanilac. Glen Stephens has sailed inland lakes, the Great Lakes, Tampa Bay and the Virgin Islands. Here is his list of “musts” before you set sail:

  • Insurance! The costs of recovery are FAR greater than any seasonal insurance premium.
  • Become a better boater with a Coast Guard Auxiliary course at http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/.
  • Have a ship-to-shore radio on board all the time. Cell phone reception can be spotty on the Great Lakes.
  • Double-check the venting of your fuels to be sure they are clean and positioned properly.
  • Sailors should have bolt cutters on hand in case you ever need to cut away your rig. (Let’s hope not!)

Next, we are seeking your list of five great boating destinations in Michigan. Share your list via email at turekm@michigan.gov and you could be our featured boater!

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What’s “bugging” you in our streams?

OUT-Stream-monitoringIn many cases we think bugs are a nuisance, but bugs in a stream can be very useful.  Stream insects are a good measure of water quality.  Unlike fish, stream insects cannot move around much so they are less able to escape the effects of sediment and other pollutants that diminish water quality.  Stream insects can also be easily identified.

Trout Unlimited National and Michigan Trout Unlimited will be holding a Stream Insect Monitoring Event on Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Rockford Community Cabin – 220 North Monroe Street in Rockford.  Volunteers will be assigned to a monitoring group with a team leader.  Each group will collect and identify insects from different stream sites in the Rogue River watershed. You don’t need any experience with stream insects to participate and all ages are welcome.

What will you need?  Please RSVP to Jamie Vaughan at jvaughan@tu.org or 312-391-4760 if you would like to attend.  Lunch will be provided for all volunteers.  Please bring waders if you have them and dress for the weather conditions. Children under 16 years old need to be accompanied by an adult.

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Earth Week Celebration

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Earth Week is an annual kick-off to remind us how we can have a positive impact throughout the year. How we live impacts the survival of all creatures great and small. We inherited a world rich with biodiversity. There are utilitarian uses that are essential for our survival and there is an inherent responsibility to preserve species and habitats for the wellbeing of future generations. We do not know the value of most species.

Environmental and Earth Care has fallen in priority for reasons I do not understand. Perhaps it is because we do not recognize the importance of the air we breathe, the water we drink, the quality of food we eat, or the value of land in public and private stewardship. A survey prioritized American issues of concern and environment was listed eleven of twelve. The only one of lesser concern was immigration. Due to it being a priority of our President its priority has been raised and moved environment lower. Billions of dollars are being allocated to immigration control and money must come from somewhere. Major budget reductions are proposed for environmental protection and will affect present and future generations.

We can each act locally in addition to contacting representatives and senators to let them know that environmental stewardship is an important value for our wellbeing. In 1973 the Clean Air, Clear Water, and Endangered Species Acts were created to improve living conditions for humans and all species. Currently there is a campaign to eliminate those Acts to return us to conditions like those before the environmental protections.

The idea is that the economy can grow faster without concern for protecting the environment that sustains us. Elimination of the Acts will have negative impacts on human health, health of other species, and our long-term economy. Environmental clean-up cost will increase for future generations if we are not good environmental stewards. We still struggle with pollution clean-up from damage prior to establishment of the protection Acts.

What can we do that is positive to protect life, economy, and society’s wellbeing locally and in our daily lives? I am honored and appreciative to be invited to offer a Creation Care message on Sunday, 23 April, at 10:15 a.m. at the United Methodist Church located at the corner of 140 Main and Church Streets one block N of the traffic light in Cedar Springs. Traditional worship is blended with creative and enriching touches, music ministry and time with children. Families and individuals are invited. Please come.

I will address what I call complimentary multiple realities. It is an idea most have not considered. The nature of science is self-correcting through physical evidence with experimentation. Religion is based on faith without physical evidence. We each experience the environment through different realities based on how we interact with the world. Some relate through artistic expression, song, music, internal reflection, interaction with people, or direct physical interaction through farming, hunting, watching wildlife, or camping the grandeur of creation.

Regardless for how we encounter the wonders of the world, we share a common dependence on Earth’s biodiversity for our current survival and that of generations to come.

Many faith traditions emphasize the importance of being “Creation Care Stewards” for the planet and honoring its life-sustaining blessings. The question to ask is whether your actions support healthy stewardship?

I will share the practical value of species for utilitarian use, psychological value, ecosystem value of nature niches, and value for present and future generations. Please come for an hour of what I hope will be an energizing Creation Care message. Move through spring, summer, fall, and winter with more than hope. Live with joy knowing your actions are valuable for your family’s health, wellbeing, and future. I hope to share personally with readers what is usually only done though print. Celebrate Earth Week with me and the UMC.

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

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Michigan fire season builds during Wildfire Prevention Week

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is using Wildfire Prevention Week (April 16-22) to remind people to go to to check if burn permits are being issued in their area before burning any yard debris.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is using Wildfire Prevention Week (April 16-22) to remind people to go to to check if burn permits are being issued in their area before burning any yard debris.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and its cooperators are observing Wildfire Prevention Week April 16-22. Most wildfires on Michigan’s 20 million acres of state and private forest land occur in April, May and June.

“Michigan typically experiences some of its higher fire conditions during the spring,” said Bryce Avery, DNR fire prevention specialist. “The dead grass and leaves from last year dry very quickly as days become longer, temperatures begin to rise, and humidity levels are often at their lowest points. Breezy conditions increase the danger, but even on calm days, one ember landing in some dead grass is enough to start a wildfire.”

Warm spring weather increases the amount of outdoor activities, like yard cleanup, campfires and fireworks. All of these activities require planning and caution before and after fires are lit.

“To dispose of yard waste, consider composting, but if you are planning on burning yard debris, your first step should be to check if the DNR is issuing burn permits in your area,” said Avery.

Burn permits are required prior to burning brush and debris in Michigan when the ground is not snow-covered. Residents in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula can obtain a free burn permit by visiting  www.michigan.gov/burnpermit or by calling 866-922-2876. Residents in southern Michigan should contact their local fire department or township office to see if burning is permitted in their area.

In addition to obtaining a burn permit, the DNR recommends people take the following steps to help prevent wildfires:

  • Pay attention to the fire danger in your area. Don’t burn debris when conditions are dry or windy. Unsafe burning of leaves, brush and other debris is the main cause of wildfires.
  • Clear away flammable material surrounding the fire so it won’t creep into dry vegetation.
  • Keep campfires small, and do not leave before they are fully extinguished.
  • Have a shovel and water available at all times when you are burning. Be sure to douse fires with plenty of water, stir and add more water until everything is wet.
  • Do not cover a campfire with soil; it may simply smolder before coming back to life.
  • Embers can re-ignite. Make sure they are out completely.
  • Consider composting or mulching yard debris rather than burning it.

Historically, debris burning has been the No. 1 cause of wildfires in Michigan.

For more tips in safeguarding your home and property from wildfire risk, please visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

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Experience the excitement of spring birding 

scarlet tanagers are among the many bird species that can be found on Michigan’s birding trails

Scarlet tanagers are among the many bird species that can be found on Michigan’s birding trails

Common yellowthroats are among the many bird species that will be celebrated with birding events around the state this spring.

Common yellowthroats are among the many bird species that will be celebrated with birding events around the state this spring.

Events, trails around the state 

Michigan is home to a variety of important bird habitats and an exciting array of public birding events and birding trails. Now is the time to start making plans to get out and enjoy the spectacular diversity of birds in Michigan.

“Michigan has so many great opportunities for birders and wildlife watchers, with more events popping up all the time,” said Holly Vaughn, Department of Natural Resources wildlife communications coordinator. “There is no better place to begin birding than Michigan, and there are opportunities to observe birds anywhere you may be in the state.”

In addition to the many festivals listed below, Michigan is home to a growing number of birding trails, with six already existing and more planned. Michigan’s birding trails are open to the public and provide great opportunities for family recreation.

Spring birding events in Michigan include:

APRIL

  • Mackinaw Raptor Fest in Mackinaw City, April 7-9
  • Spring Fling at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory in Paradise, April 29-30
  • Thornapple Woodpecker Festival in Middleville, April 29
  • Brockway Mountain Hawk Watch in Copper Harbor, now through June 15

MAY

  • Keweenaw Migratory Bird Festival in Copper Harbor, May 20
  • Ziibiwing Annual Bird Celebration in Mt. Pleasant, May 13
  • Tawas Point Birding Festival in East Tawas, May 18-20
  • Warblers on the Water on Beaver Island, May 27-28
  • Kirtland’s Warbler Tours at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, May 14 through July 4

JUNE

  • Kirtland’s Warbler Festival in Roscommon, June 2-3
  • Cerulean Warbler Weekend in Hastings, June 10-11
  • Keweenaw Migratory Bird Festival in Copper Harbor, June 3, 10 and 11

“These birding events contribute significantly to the local economies, and attract attention to the value of local birds and habitats,” said Caleb Putnam, Michigan bird conservation coordinator for Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “As birders from across the country converge on Michigan’s diverse habitats, the energy continues to grow for conservation in Michigan.”

Birding is a great way to enjoy the diversity of Michigan’s wildlife and their habitats and to build a true appreciation for the uniqueness of the state’s natural resources. Birding events and trails are made possible through the efforts of Audubon chapters, government agencies, land conservancies, private industries and many dedicated individuals working together to create opportunities for people to experience the outdoors and visit local communities.

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Oak Wilt

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Oak wilt can impact your home cooling when shade trees die by exposing the house to heat from the summer sun. The beauty of the yard, as well as a multitude of valuable wild neighbors surrounding your family, will disappear with an oak’s death. Prevention of oak wilt disease infection is important.

The spread of the disease can be most prevalent where new home construction occurs. Once the disease becomes established it is expensive to treat in both money and environment altering impacts.

Oak wilt is a fungal infection that clogs sapwood under the bark of oak trees. Trees ship water and nutrients upward through straw-like tubes called xylem. When the tubes become clogged and flow is stopped, the tree cannot survive. An infected tree can die within weeks. Think about it like very rapid coronary occlusion where blood can no longer supply your heart. The heart will cease to function and your entire body dies.

When water and nutrients are no longer transported throughout the tree, the leaves wilt, growing stems die, and the entire tree succumbs. Some oak species are more susceptible. The red oak group is at highest risk. The white oak group roots do not graft as extensively as red oaks and they have little plugs in their sapwood that slow the spread of fungus growth.

Grafting is common where roots overlap. You might be familiar with fruit tree grafting where a favorite apple variety can be grown on another apple tree by taking a cutting from a favored variety twig, remove a similar sized piece on another apple tree, insert the favored twig, and seal around the surgical implant. That might be an oversimplification but it is the basic process.

Where small oak roots come in contact, the thin outer bark between two roots wears and the inner tissues become interconnected. Once connected bark healing encases them together and material can flow from tree to tree. They are not Siamese twins but physiologically they are attached in a similar manner. They can be separated and it might be essential to stop the spread of oak wilt from progressing through an entire forest.

Forest treatment is expensive so prevention is the most important practice. Treatment is not detailed here.

From April Fool’s Day to the 4th of July is when it is important to prevent oak trees from experiencing open sores. Do not prune branches on oak species or cut down trees during that time. Notice oaks are specified. The fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum is the culprit killing agent. It is oak specific and can spread by two methods. One is from tree to tree through the root grafts referred to as “underground spread.”

The other is by “overland spread”. When tree bark is wounded by cutting branches, it allows sap to flow out and attracts tiny sap-feeding Nitudulid beetles that come to feast on the sweet-smelling sap. Infected trees have fungus blisters that produce spores that get on the bodies of the beetles. When the insect travels to a freshly wounded tree, the fungus is transferred and begins growth.

The adult beetles are active from early spring to the 4th of July. Completing tree and branch cutting by March and not resuming until July is important to prevent the spread of the disease.

During my forestry training I learned painting wounds with pruning sealer tree paint was not particularly important and was an unnecessary expense. Not all foresters agreed. Today applying it has become important to prevent beetle access to save oaks and should be used immediately when a tree is cut down or branches are cut.

Little things like where you place bird feeders is important. Chickadees and titmice take seeds to branches in their nature niche to peck sunflower seed hulls. In the process, they create small openings in branch bark that exposes sapwood to infection. Place feeders on other tree species or use shepherd hooks away from oaks.

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

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MDHHS reminds parents spring chicks may carry Salmonella

N-chicks

LANSING, Mich. – Health experts at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are warning parents about the potential for baby poultry to carry Salmonella. A common bacteria found in the droppings of poultry, Salmonella can cause illness in people. Salmonella germs contaminate feathers, feet and beaks of birds, as well as cages, coops and the environment where the birds live and roam. “Washing your hands thoroughly before and after handling chicks and other poultry protects both you and your family from the risk of Salmonella, and also helps keep the birds healthy,” said MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells. “Even birds appearing cute, healthy, and clean can carry bacteria that can make people sick.”

In 2016, there were nine nationwide outbreaks of Salmonella illness linked to contact with live poultry, causing illness in 911 people in 48 states. Michigan reported 55 cases, of which almost half (45 percent) were in children.

During spring, live baby poultry are often displayed in stores in a way that children may be able to reach and touch the birds or areas where the birds are contained. This is one way people become exposed to harmful bacteria that leads to illness. People may also obtain birds through the mail by placing an order directly with a hatchery that supplies baby birds to raise for food or as pets.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever and/or abdominal cramps lasting four to seven days or more. Salmonella infections can be especially serious for the very young, the very old, and those with weak immune systems.

Baby poultry have special requirements for warmth and protection. Backyard flock owners may not be aware of the risk of Salmonella from baby poultry and consequently, may keep the birds inside their home. Potential poultry owners should plan ahead to provide a proper space that is safe for the birds and for the people in the household. To address this, backyard flock owners should give live poultry their own space to live, outside of the home. People should follow these recommendations to protect themselves and others:

  • Children younger than five years old, older adults or people with weak immune systems should not handle or touch chicks, ducklings or other poultry because they are more likely to become severely ill.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching the birds or anything in their environment. Adults should supervise hand washing for young children.
  • Use hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Always keep poultry away from areas where food or drink is prepared, served or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
  • Do not kiss the chicks.
  • Do not put anything to or touch your mouth, eat or drink after handling poultry.
  • Do not keep live poultry inside the house where people live, eat or sleep.
  • Do not give live baby poultry as gifts to young children.

Stay outdoors when cleaning any equipment associated with raising or caring for poultry, such as cages, feed, water containers and other materials.

For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellababybirds/.

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Big Trip

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

We have the itch to travel come spring. What about food along the way? Where will we stay? Do we have good directions? Will we find affordable lodging? What if we encounter high wind storms or tornadoes? How will we spend time besides traveling? Will others help us find food, lodging, water, and the best stopping locations?

In nature niches, the answers mean life and death. Perhaps it would be best not to migrate and stay in a warm region near the low latitudes of South Florida or Central America. It is important for birds to risk their lives to travel to mid and high latitudes. If not, survival of their species would be at greater risk of extinction.

During the winter, food, shelter, and water are limited resources in the far north. One species, the Arctic Tern, flies from the North Pole region to the South Pole region where it experiences 24-hour summer daylight. During the arduous long trip, it experiences night and many survival challenges. All migrating species face conditions that reduce survival chances. This past year I took a pelagic boat trip into the ocean to view birds that do not come to land except to nest. Species, like gulls, that frequent land also venture out to sea.

A Savannah Sparrow was flying ten miles from shore cutting across expansive open water with distant land in view. Two California Gulls saw it and thought lunch. They pursued the bird and tried to nab it from the air. The sparrow was about 30 feet above water on a beautiful calm warm weather day. When a gull swooped to take the bird from the air, the sparrow quickly dropped down and slipped behind the gull out of reach of its bill. The second gull gave it try. I was rooting for the sparrow’s survival and hoped the gulls would find a meal elsewhere. The drama continued until we were out of sight of the trio. The best I could do was to offer a prayer for the sparrow to safely reach shore and shelter.

Such drama is commonplace for birds on migration. Most song birds are night migrators and the dark provides cover for safer travel. When light arrives, it is important to settle in protective thick vegetation. If birds are over one of the Great Lakes, they might experience the challenge faced by the Savannah Sparrow.

When a bird has flapped its wings all night, it has consumed stored fat and hunger will be high. Some birds are so focused on destination, they think little about food. I banded birds with Dr. Dwain Warner in the Big Bog of northern Minnesota near Red Lake and the Canadian border. The bog is over 100 miles across. Warblers on their way south from Canada stop in the Big Bog to replenish fat reserves. By the time, they get as far south as the bog, they have lost half their weight. After gorging for a few days and doubling weight, they resume travel on their big trip. It was found they fly without feeding much until thy arrive in Louisiana swamps where insects are abundant. They have lost half their weight again and must replenish fat before continuing the trip.

Avoidance of predators and hunger are only two migration perils. Storms can knock a small bird out of the air. My friend Donna Hickey told me about a tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet that had been knocked into the water of Lake Superior by a storm. It washed to shore alive. On shore, it took flight and flew up under her sister’s blouse and startled her. She slapped it from the blouse and the bird fell dead on the beach. They brought the bird to me to stuff for museum educational display.

What would make it worth the hazards to fly great distances? Breeding success is paramount. Daylight in the tropics is only about 12 to 14 hours. In the Arctic summer, it is light for 24 hours and in Michigan it is about 16 to 18 hours. Tremendous feeding on insects can occur during long daylight. Mosquitoes can cover and darken exposed skin in seconds. Insect populations fill high latitude habitats. When I was doing insect research above the Arctic Circle, a Say’s Phoebe was feeding every time I observed her during a 24-hour period. I presume she took short “catnaps.” It is easier to raise a family there than in the tropics. Greater diversity of insect species exists in the tropics but great population abundance is found in the arctic summer. That is one of the most important values for risking long spring migration to favored breeding grounds where days are long.

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

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