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Archive | Outdoors

How to ride an ATV

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As summer kicks off in Michigan, national ATV Safety Week (June 6-14) is a good opportunity for the Department of Natural Resources to remind riders of important safety tips that can help ensure a more enjoyable off-road experience.

“ATV riding continues to grow in popularity in our state, and it’s important that riders observe safety at all times while on the trail and in the woods,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “These common-sense safety reminders can save lives and reduce accidents and injuries.”
Here are the DNR’s top 10 safety tips for ATV riding:

  • Always wear a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.
  • Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
  • Take an off-road vehicle safety course or an online course. Visit the DNR website at michigan.gov/dnr and check for a course near you under the Education & Outreach menu.
  • Do a pre-ride check of your vehicle to make sure it is in proper working order. Pay close attention to the tires, making sure they aren’t low and don’t have leaks. Low tire pressure can cause handling issues for your ORV.
  • Know your trail. Study the map for where you are riding before you head out and become familiar with where the sharp curves are located.
  • Know where you’re riding. Before heading out, make sure you know whether or not the county you’re riding in allows ORV use on county roads. Do not mistake state forest roads for county roads. Contact the county sheriff’s department, road commission or county clerk’s office for information about each county’s ORV ordinances. The DNR also keeps updated ORV maps on its website at http://1.usa.gov/19tmpgi.

ORVs primarily are designed for off-road use. Driving on paved surfaces is hazardous because of handling issues. Riding on paved roads is a common cause of ORV-related fatalities.

For a complete overview of ORV rules and regulations in Michigan, go to the Michigan ORV Handbook online at http://www.offroad-ed.com/michigan/handbook/book.html. If, while out riding, you encounter someone violating land-use rules for ORVs, please contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching law enforcement line at 800-292-7800.

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Hummingbird Brawl

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

OUT-Nature-niche-hummingbirdRuby-throated Hummingbirds are a joy to watch as their iridescent throat patches catch sunlight and radiate brilliant ruby. It is not viewed with equal joy, when a male sees another’s ruby throat.

I watched a male performing its mating display by swooping down and up in a U pattern to impress a female. The Rudy-throated Hummingbird display was not as impressive as some western species I have observed. I watched western species loop 75 feet down and up. Here the bird was looping 20 feet.

When the male favorably captures the attention of a female, she will land nearby. His flight changes to sideways movement back and forth, as he tries to woo her.

At the feeder, birds are less tolerant and unwilling to share food resources with females or males. This evening turned into a Saturday night brawl for two males.

At 8:30 EDT, two tumbled to the ground and rolled around. I did not know if they were opposite sexes engaged in mating or males fighting. When they flew up, I could see both had ruby-throat patches. One tried visiting the feeder and the other charged from above, in a blur of speed. I thought both would be severely injured if they made physical contact.

The feeding bird quickly took evasive moves and the two continued aerial combat maneuvers for twenty minutes. In mid air they would come into physical contact and separate. Sometimes their contact would bring them to the ground, where I could only see them thrashing in the grass.

At 8:50 p.m., the two engaged in a ground brawl that I observed with binoculars. I could see one appeared to be pinning the other beneath. At times, both would be in view until one was subdued underneath again. This continued 20 minutes. It was getting dark. I left the window for a moment, and, on my return, I saw one at the feeder and could not see other.

I went outside to look for an injured, maimed, or dead male hummingbird, where they had a 20-minute exhausting fight. Fortunately, I did not have an unpleasant discovery. I did not see the second male again.

Why can’t animals get along? Hummers seem to be particularly anti-social with others of their species. In general, the behavior is common for many species and driven somewhat by hormone levels. Books and research papers elaborate and are beyond review here. In brief, reasons include:

*Individuals desire adequate breeding and nesting space with appropriate food, water, and shelter. This applies for species from hummers to people.

*Food is critical and many are unwilling to share a limited resource. Hummingbirds gather food in a small home range. Other species, like us, access food from around the world as well as from local farm markets.

*Water is generally accessible in our region for birds and people. Historically and currently, water rights conflicts abound. Proposals to pipe Great Lakes water to arid regions are frequent. Some question why people want to retain the Great Lakes instead of draining or lowering them to supply the southwest deserts and California. Lowering the Great Lakes would dry many wells, inland lakes and alter Great Lakes agriculture and ecosystem.

*Successful nesting requires good nest sites. It is difficult to raise young to adulthood. In the case of humans, we have become quite proficient with modern medicines, vaccines, food distribution, and community health programs. We expect most children to survive. A century ago, youth deaths were common. Youth deaths are still common for animals in nature niches. Help by allowing natural living space in a portion of your yard. We can each support Earth’s biodiversity.

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

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Weekly Fishing Tip: 

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Northern pike season open – now get out there and fish!

Seasons for northern pike are finally open across the state. Will you soon be getting out to try your hand at northern pike fishing?
Northern pike like to spend their time in the weedy shallows of both the Great Lakes and inland waters. In rivers, they can be found around log jams or fallen timber. They are often taken with live bait (such as large minnows) or different kinds of artificial lures. When fishing for northern pike, many anglers like to use a six to eight-inch wire or steel leader directly in front of hook or lure. Pike have large, deep mouths with extremely sharp teeth. They are known to engulf the entire bait or lure and sever the fishing line with their teeth when it is attached directly to the hook or lure. This leaves the angler watching as the fish swims away with their offering. Want to learn even more about northern pike in Michigan? Go to www.michigan.gov/dnr and type northern pike in the search box.

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Catch of the Week – Mason Oppenneer

OUT-Catch-of-the-week-OppenneerMason Oppenneer, the son of Rikki and Jeff Oppenneer, of Pierson, recently caught this big 4-pound bass, while fishing with his Dad. Great job!

Congratulations, Mason, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

 

It’s back—get out those cameras!

It’s that time of year again when anglers big and small like to tell their fish tales! Send us a photo and story of your first, best, funniest, biggest, or even your smallest catch. Include your name, age, address, and phone number, along with the type and size of fish, and where caught.  We can’t wait to hear from you! Photos published as space allows. Photos/stories may be sent by email to news@cedarspringspost.com with Catch of the Week in the subject line, or mail to: Catch of the Week, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

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Monitor bait to spot juvenile Asian carp 

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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers to monitor their live bait purchases and look for juvenile Asian carp during the fishing season.

The DNR is taking many steps to prevent adult Asian carp (bighead and silver) from entering the Great Lakes, but many people don’t realize that juvenile Asian carp pose a threat to the state’s waters, too.

Juvenile Asian carp can be confused with common baitfish—such as gizzard shad, emerald shiner, spottail shiner or golden shiner. Because bait often is transported across state lines, including from areas with breeding populations of Asian carp, it would be possible for juvenile Asian carp to make their way into the bait supply without anyone realizing it.

A video is available online to assist anglers and the public in identifying juvenile Asian carp. It showcases five characteristics that viewers can use to distinguish between juvenile Asian carp (bighead and silver) and common baitfish, including:

• Body color.

• Scale pattern, shape and size.

• Eye size and location on the head.

• Mouth shape and location.

• Presence or absence of keels on the bottom side of the fish.

The video can be viewed on the DNR’s Asian carp website at michigan.gov/asiancarp.

The video also describes what an angler should do if he or she thinks there is a juvenile Asian carp—or any odd-looking fish—in the bait bucket. Anglers are encouraged to keep the questionable fish alive or freeze the fish and contact the DNR to correctly identify the fish in question. The DNR does not want questionable fish to be used as bait. Once anglers are done fishing, remaining baitfish should be disposed of in the trash.

The video is one of several items the DNR has developed to increase public awareness about Asian carp. For more information, visit michigan.gov/asiancarp.

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Fly Zone

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fishing report from the DNR

 

As of May 14

SOUTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA

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

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

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

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

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

Lake Lansing: Is producing some crappie. 

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

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

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

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

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Birding opportunities abound in Michigan 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poisons in Life’s Stream

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prescribed burns

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Enhance wildlife habitat.

• Help with forest regeneration.

• Restore and maintain native plant life.

• Control invasive plant species.

• Reduce the risk of wildfires.

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

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