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2014 Christmas bird count results

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The Canada Goose totaled 1671

The Canada Goose totaled 1671

There were 47 traveling observers and 12 stationary watching at bird feeders that observed 60 species of birds (Table 1) for the 2014 Kent County Bird Count period on held January 3, 2015. No additional bird species were reported during count week. Total individuals sighted were 8,763.

A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak was reported. We are waiting for a verification description before the species is counted for the official report submitted to National and Michigan Audubon. The female grosbeak and the female Purple Finch have somewhat similar appearances. The grosbeak species should have migrated to South America for the winter but it is possible one remained Michigan. One is occasionally seen on a Michigan Christmas Count. A rare bird report with convincing detailed description must be submitted for birds that are rarely found in the state during the winter count period.

Bird counts held across the continent document population numbers and distribution trends. The large data set helps provide reliable information regarding southward or northward population changes over several decades. Individual year population movements to the north or south do not indicate habitat or climate change but long-term changes provide evidence that the environment is changing. Citizen science projects like the annual bird count provide useful data for scientists studying environmental quality, habitat, and climate change. The information helps business and government analyst predict economic impacts of environmental change for society. This year’s count was the 115 Christmas bird count and is the longest running citizen science project.

Weather conditions were 100 percent cloudy with snow falling and temperatures were between 26 and 38 F. A light breeze blew east-northeast.Snow depth on the ground was between 0 to 1 inches.Moving water was open and still water was 80 percent frozen.

We totaled 82.25 hours in vehicles traveling 649 miles. Fourteen hours were spent on foot covering 21 miles. A combined total of 670 miles were on foot and driving. Groups totaled 106.5 hours of daytime birding. Night owling occurred during 1 hour and six miles of driving. There were 19 morning birding groups and 13 in the afternoon.

We are grateful for essential section coordination by group leaders and the many people that offered help to make the count a success.

OUT-Nature niche Christmas bird count table Sheet1

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, 616-696-1753.

 

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Receive 10 free Blue Spruce trees

€Joining the Arbor Day Foundation is an ideal way to get in the mood for spring planting. Anyone from Michigan who joins the Foundation in February 2015 will receive 10 free Colorado blue spruce trees to plant when the weather turns warm.

The free trees are part of the nonprofit Foundation’s Trees for America campaign.

“The blue-green hue and distinctive shape of Colorado blue spruce trees will help beautify Michigan for many years to come,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “The trees will also add to the proud heritage of Michigan’s existing Tree City USA communities.”

The Tree City USA program has supported community forestry throughout the country for more than 35 years.

The trees will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting, between March 1 and May 31, with enclosed planting instructions. The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow, or they will be replaced free of charge.

Members also receive a subscription to the Foundation’s colorful bimonthly publication, Arbor Day, and The Tree Book, which contains information about planting and care.

To become a member of the Foundation and receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to 10 free Colorado Blue Spruce trees, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by February 28, 2015, or visit arborday.org/february.

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RAP hotline connects conservation officers with public

Conservation Officer Terry Short uses a plat map to cross-reference information he receives from the RAP (Report All Poaching) Line dispatchers while on patrol during deer season in Menominee County.


Conservation Officer Terry Short uses a plat map to cross-reference information he receives from the RAP (Report All Poaching) Line dispatchers while on patrol during deer season in Menominee County.

From the Michigan DNR

The sign—Law Enforcement Communications Section—is as nondescript as the standard office door on an unadorned white wall deep within the recesses of Constitution Hall, in the state building complex in Lansing, Michigan. But inside that secured door is a non-stop center of activity: the RAP Room.

The RAP (Report All Poaching) Room is staffed 24/7 by as many as seven personnel at a time. It is the main link between the public and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division.

The Report All Poaching hotline was created in 1980 when the state Legislature designated a small percentage of the money raised by hunting and fishing license sales toward developing an easy method for citizens to report illegal hunting and fishing activity to the DNR. It has grown into a 1,000-square-foot room, outfitted with the kind of high-tech equipment one often finds at county or state regional dispatch centers. At each of the workstations, six computer screens give dispatchers as much information as they could possibly need to direct the state’s conservation officers to the scene of a complaint—and what the COs need to know once they get there.

Lt. Steve Burton and dispatcher Jarrod Fletcher work out the details of a call to the RAP (Report All Poaching) Line.

Lt. Steve Burton and dispatcher Jarrod Fletcher work out the details of a call to the RAP (Report All Poaching) Line.

Computer screens display information on the current location of COs (through the GPS monitoring equipment on their patrol vehicles), as well as access to the state’s Law Enforcement Information Network, the state’s licensing records, the radio system, the Internet, and even the criminal history of those whom the COs contact.

“Our dispatchers try to gather the best information they can and send it to the officer as quickly as possible,” explained Lt. Steven Burton, who runs the RAP Room as part of his duties.

Each of the roughly 6,500 criminal complaints that come in by phone call or the Internet into the RAP Room each year is recorded. Some of them are so vague or untimely that nothing can be done to resolve them, but the DNR’s success rate in responding to these complaints is outstanding. So far, nearly 30 percent of the complaints (5,665 through the beginning of deer season) this year have resulted in an arrest.

“Recently, we’ve made quite a few illegal deer cases,” Burton said. “We are well upwards of $50,000 in reimbursement to the state and many of those cases haven’t been completed, as they are still under investigation.”

As many as 50 percent of the calls that come into the RAP Room do not involve a criminal complaint, Burton said. “We get a lot of calls about general rules or policy or people just seeking information,” he explained. “When people want information they often call the RAP line. We encourage these types of callers to try their local offices first, as this frees up phone lines for ongoing criminal complaints.”

“Our dispatchers are required to know all of our laws, rules and regulations—hunting and fishing, ORV, marine safety, land use—even environmental laws,” Burton said. “Lots of laws.”

The RAP Room is busiest from October through December, during hunting season, Burton said, with seasonal bumps during other periods of high outdoors activity—fish migration seasons, holiday weekends, snowmobile season, etc. Calls tend to come in most often during early-morning hours or the first hour or so after dark, he said, though they filter in all day long.

“Noon is busy, too,” Burton said. “People who don’t have cell phones and are out hunting in the morning might make their calls when they come in for lunch.” Calls also come in after people return home from work for the same reason. Dominique Clemente, a RAP Room emergency dispatch supervisor and an 18-year DNR veteran who has spent 16 years working at the hotline, calls it an interesting job. “It’s never the same day twice,” said Clemente, adding that the line receives a wide variety of complaints, including an occasional supposed Sasquatch sighting.

Sometimes it takes some coaxing to get the information they need out of callers, Clemente said. Callers are reminded to stay patient during the call as dispatchers ask very pertinent questions related to the specific crime being reported. “They want us to know about something illegal that’s going on but they don’t want to be a snitch,” she said. “I just remind them the violator is stealing from you and me.”

The Report All Poaching program also offers rewards. Information leading to an arrest for a hunting or fishing violation reported through the hotline can net a caller up to $1,500 or even more depending on the case.

Clemente said the staff’s main concern is giving the conservation officers the best information they can to help them do their job effectively and safely, though they do their best to satisfy the customer, too. In many cases, that involves answering broad questions—such as where’s a good place to fish—or advising some callers that their reported complaints are, in fact, not crimes. “The best we can do is point someone in the right direction,” she said.

As with any other office, the RAP Room is constantly changing, taking advantage of new and emerging technology. Right now, Burton said, the staff is figuring out how best to take complaints sent in by text messaging. A person sitting in a blind may not want to make the noise of the phone call, but is willing to text in a complaint. Other states have adopted this method of reporting violations and have seen a surge in contacts with the public. “I think it will increase the timeliness of our response, as well,” Burton said.

Besides interacting with the sporting public, the RAP Room also takes phone calls from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Pollution Emergency Alerting System. This line alerts the DEQ to emergency spills and releases in Michigan.

More than a dispatch center, the RAP Room is a lifeline for officers patrolling remote areas of Michigan, often participating in critical search and rescue operations involving lost children, hunters or imperiled boaters on inland waterways or the vast waters of the Great Lakes. Being a conservation officer is a demanding job. It takes focus, dedication and professionalism. Every day a primary concern of the RAP Room is to ensure that all Michigan conservation officers return safely at shift’s end to their families and communities. Those dispatchers play a vital role in Michigan’s natural resources protection team.

To report a natural resource violation, please call the Report all Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. To learn more about the work of conservation officers or to access the online RAP reporting form, visit www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

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Cedars of Cedar Springs

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Two cedars are common in West Michigan but neither is actually considered a true cedar (Cedrus sp.). The true cedars do not grow naturally in North America. Perhaps the best-known true cedar is the over harvested Cedar of Lebanon whose removal caused flooding and other environmental problems.

Locally two cedars grow in different habitats filling different nature niches.

The White Cedar, also known as Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), is a wetland species, for which the town of Cedar Springs gains its name. In our area, it is most common in cold swamps or along streams, where moving water prevents acidic stagnant conditions. Cedars require neutral to basic nutrient rich soil conditions, with a pH of 7 or greater. This is more important than keeping their feet (roots) wet.

When crossing Mackinac Bridge northward, we are greeted in the Upper Peninsula with White Cedars along I-75, growing on high ground composed of high pH soil covering dolomitic limestone. The cedars give me the feeling that I am entering the North Country. The Grand Rapids area of West Michigan, eastward across Michigan, is nearing the southern limit of the tree’s abundance. White Cedars are found farther south but large native stands primarily end their southward range here. They also hug the cooler climate along Lake Michigan and have found growing conditions suitable to southern Michigan.

In good habitat, the trees grow densely. Roots are shallow and spreading, allowing them to receive oxygen easily. If deprived of oxygen, they will not thrive. Moving water in swamps brings a fresh supply of nutrients annually, during spring snowmelts and high water.

The shallow roots result in trees being toppled easily by strong winds. I have been in Cedar swamps with fallen trees piled ten feet thick. Many times White Cedars grow in thick, pure stands following fire. Deer feed heavily on cedars and depend on mature trees, where they yard together for survival in harsh dangerous winter conditions.

Cedars’ dense growth and evergreen flattened branches hold snow, preventing it from falling to the ground. Shallow snow depth on the ground allows easier deer movement. Predators find it more difficult to capture and kill deer in such conditions. When deer leave the safety of cedar swamps into deep snow, they become vulnerable and even without the presence of predators deep snow requires increased energy expenditure.

Finding food buried in snow is difficult. Along Cedar and Little Cedar Creeks, Cedar trees are no longer abundant. When humans settled here, the native habitats were greatly altered. It is interesting to note that many roads and towns are named for species once abundant but were removed by human development. Now the plant and animal names dominate communities more than the species themselves.

One can gauge deer abundance by how heavily Cedars are browsed. When deer populations are excessively high, Cedars are browsed as high as deer can reach, when standing on their hind legs. Where deer populations have not exceeded the carrying capacity of food, water, and shelter, Cedar branches can be found growing closer to the ground. Lower green branches have become rare in much of Michigan.

The Red Cedar is actually a juniper (Juniperus virginiana) growing on high dry ground. It is a southern tree that found its way into mid Michigan. Prior to logging and European farmer settlement, the Red Cedar was uncommon here. Clearing of forests allowed this shade intolerant species to expand its range northward on well-drained calcareous soils. When driving south in winter, the Red Cedars seem to dominate highway shoulders where its evergreen branches are apparent during the cold season.

Its branches are very prickly to the touch, unlike the softer feel of White Cedars. It is drought resistant, slow growing and might live a few hundred years if not harvested. Its wood is also decay resistant, used for fence posts, cedar chests, and closet linings like that of White Cedar, for which Cedar Springs was named. Wood from both repel insects, fungi, and provide a pleasant aroma.

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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DNR cautions anglers about ice dams

 

 

The Department of Natural Resources urges anglers to use caution when planning trips on Michigan’s rivers and streams this winter. Winter fishing for trout and steelhead can be challenging and rewarding, but cold air temperatures can cause sudden and significant changes in flows in rivers and streams.

According to DNR fisheries biologist Kyle Kruger, temperature effects are most pronounced at times of very cold air temperatures, particularly below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if areas with extreme nighttime cold temperatures alternate with warmer days.

“When nights are very cold and clear, rivers can see extensive freezing and often ice dams form,” Kruger said. “These dams cause water to back up the streams, reducing flow downstream, and can be quickly released if temperatures rise above freezing during the daytime hours. This can cause unpredictable and often sudden flow changes.”

Kruger said this phenomenon is noticeable on the middle to lower Au Sable River in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. “The middle Au Sable River is particularly susceptible to the influences of cold weather, more so than some of the state’s other winter steelhead streams,” he added.

Extensive ice damming and anchor ice formation can occur below Mio Dam (Oscoda County), particularly in the area around McKinley, during periods when air temperatures are below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, these ice-damming events cause unusually low flows to be seen below Foote Dam (Iosco County).

“We want anglers to remember that the colder the weather, the more unpredictable flows will be in some of Michigan’s rivers,” Kruger said. “Please use appropriate caution if you’re planning fishing trips during these periods.”

DNR fisheries staff strongly recommends that when planning for a winter fishing trip to one of the state’s streams, anglers should check on river conditions and weather forecasts locally. Air temperatures below 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit are likely to create conditions for more difficult fishing, particularly from a boat.

Flow and water temperature data for many of Michigan’s larger steelhead streams have real-time gauges which can be checked online through the U.S. Geological Survey. There also are many weather-related websites that can provide forecasts for anticipated air temperatures that can help you better plan for expected conditions.

Take advantage of Michigan’s world-class fishing opportunities—even in winter! Start planning a trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Winter free fishing weekend

OUT-Winter-Free-fishing-weekend

February 14-15

The Department of Natural Resources wants to remind everyone the annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15. That weekend, everyone—residents and non-residents alike—can fish Michigan waters without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

Michigan has celebrated the Winter Free Fishing Weekend every year since 1994 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing is a perfect match.

“Michigan’s winter months offer excellent opportunities to enjoy our state’s great outdoors, and fishing is a popular option for all ages,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The Winter Free Fishing Weekend is an easy, low-commitment way for anglers of all experience and skill levels to explore and enjoy Michigan’s world-class natural resources and one of our state’s most beloved outdoor traditions.”

To encourage involvement in the Winter Free Fishing Weekend, organized activities have been and continue to be scheduled in communities across the state. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations including constituent groups, schools, local and state parks, businesses and others. A full list of these events can be found online at www.michigan.gov/freefishing.

The website also offers online tools to help those interested in planning and promoting local events.

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Carry On

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

As I begin a happy and joyous new year, I have been contemplating years past. A poem I wrote, in 1972, carries an important idea, from when I was a young man. The idea holds true as I age. I remain functional and hopefully productive despite a new normal, and experimental cancer treatments received at the University of Chicago hospital twice weekly. Though the cancer is not curable, it is treatable. I fully expect to thrive for many years and continue as a productive citizen for human and non-human communities.

The coming year is bright and full of cheer. Plans for enhancing life at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary are many. Plans for maintaining and enhancing nature niche conditions for fellow species are reason enough to “Carry On” myself. How we live in neighborhood nature niches that we share with life on Earth is vital for the wellbeing of future human generations. It is impossible to live, much less thrive, without other species that maintain a healthy biosphere.

Carry On

A person’s body is only a means

to carry his ideas into the world.

Death should return his body to the soil

while his ideas live on in others.

A person’s philosophies need be passed on

and not his picture or mummy.

Embalm me not, destroy my body,

but put my thoughts to use.

Though people like recognition,

their names are on the books,

It’s of no value to my cause

to memorize my name.

Continue where I leave

so my goals might be achieved.

October 9, 1972

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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Changes to Master Angler program for 2015

 

The Department of Natural Resources recently announced that, effective Jan. 1, 2015, multiple changes have been made to Michigan’s Master Angler program, which allows anglers to submit large fish they have caught for recognition. The program has been in place since 1973.

The Master Angler program recognizes two categories of catches: catch-and-keep and catch-and-immediate-release. Previously, the catch-and-keep category was determined by the weight of the fish caught, but that requirement has been removed and replaced with a length requirement. Now recognition in both categories will be awarded based on an established minimum length for each recognized species. Verified entries will receive the Master Angler patch. Only one patch will be awarded for both catch-and-keep and catch-and-immediate-release entries. No more than one patch per species will be awarded to each angler per year.

“Eliminating the weight requirement for part of the Master Angler program really helps to streamline both the application and the verification process – especially as anglers will no longer have to find a certified scale to have their catch weighed,” explained Lynne Thoma, the program’s coordinator. “We hope this change will make it even easier for anglers to have their large fish recognized.”

In addition to the change to the category criteria, some changes were made to the submission procedures. A witness signature is no longer required and each application must have a color photo submitted with it. Anglers can now submit their applications in hard-copy or electronic formats.

Please note, state-record fish still are recognized by weight and still require identification by a DNR fisheries biologist.

The 2015 Master Angler entry application is available online at www.michigan.gov/masterangler.

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Cherry Crop Pest Management

OUT-Cherries

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Cherries and plums for our Christmas festivities depend on crop production. Michigan has an important cherry orchard industry. We eat cherries throughout the year and I particularly like Traverse City Pie Company cherry pies.

The American Plum Borer is a micro moth that few people ever see but it feeds on cherry and plum trees. It is the most important pest of these trees in Michigan. Natural control species such as birds, spiders, beetles, ants, and wasp parasitoids are important for maintaining pest control.

Legislation has been introduced to revise the definition of “conservation” regarding biological diversity to remove key provisions regarding restoration, distribution and the “continued existence” of native species and communities. It would prevent biodiversity from being considered when managing natural resources. Biodiversity is fundamental to healthy functioning nature niches. It is beyond my comprehension and the scope of the article to address political motivations that undermine maintenance of healthy ecosystems. By the time this article is printed the vote will likely have occurred.

The focus here is on the American Plum Borer, Euzophera semifuneralis (Walker), a Pyralid moth and other species that control it. Like so many aspects of the natural world, very little is known about the moth’s biological control despite it being the most important pest of the cherry and plum trees. A change in how we harvest cherries is one reason it is an important pest. About 40 years ago we shifted to hydraulic tree shakers from human manual pickers. The mechanical harvesting by machines instead of humans causes cracking and tearing of the bark.

The moth lays eggs that hatch and enter through the bark injuries. Caterpillars feed on the thin cambium that produces new tissue for transporting food, water, and nutrients. Trees usually die within five years if the insects are too abundant. To control the insect, pesticides are used but pesticides used are being discovered as harmful to us. They are increasingly restricted to safeguard our health. That makes a case for maintaining natural biodiversity of native species to help control the insect that takes food from our tables.

A variety of birds including the Northern Flicker and other woodpeckers were commonly found probing the bark in spring and summer for moth larvae. White-breasted Nuthatches and other birds search the tree wounds and bark for larvae and over-wintering hibernators.

The most common parasitoid eating the moth larvae is a tiny ichneumon wasp. Parasitoids are different from parasites in that they kill their prey. They feed inside the caterpillar on non-vital tissues at first and later eat vital organs causing death. A true parasite does not kill its host. A mosquito is a good example of a parasite on us.

Crab spiders species were found preying on the moths. A beetle, nematode roundworms, fungi, and ants are important natural controls. Many natural control species await discovery. Often when pesticides are used, the natural control species are more severely reduced than the pest species because they are not as abundant. The pest species is then able to reproduce more rapidly in the absence of natural controls and create increased economic harm.

Two things that would help keep cherries on our tables would be to reduce the mechanical damage to tree bark by tree shaker machines and to maintain natural biodiversity so native species are able to continue their ecological role in the food web. One might think it would have minor impact for politicians to prevent scientists and land managers from using best practices to maintain biodiversity but their action can be devastating. Details about the biological control of the American Plum Borer can be found in a scientific paper written by David Biddinger and Tim Leslie in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of The Great Lakes Entomologist journal.

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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Celebrate the New Year 

The Easter Redbud is one of the free trees you receive for joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation.

The Easter Redbud is one of the free trees you receive for joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation.

With 10 free flowering frees from the Arbor Day Foundation

 

Residents of Michigan can ring in the New Year with 10 free flowering trees by joining the Arbor Day Foundation any time during January 2015.

By becoming a part of the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation, new members will receive two Sargent crabapples, three American redbuds, two Washington hawthorns, and three white flowering dogwoods.

“These beautiful trees will give your home in Michigan lovely flowers with pink, yellow and white colors,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “These trees are perfect for large and small spaces, and they will provide food and habitat for songbirds.”

The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign.

The trees will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting, between February 1 and May 31, with enclosed planting instructions. The 6- to 12-inch tall trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

Members will also receive a subscription to the Foundation’s bimonthly publication, Arbor Day, and The Tree Book, which includes information about tree planting and care.

To become a member of the Foundation and to receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to: Ten Free Flowering Trees, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by January 31, 2015. Michigan residents can also join online at arborday.org/january.

 

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