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Archive | Outdoors

Master Angler program has some new rules for 2019

This pumpkinseed, caught by Harper Knust of Rapid City, was a 2018 catch-and-keep Master Angler Fish. In February 2019, the Michigan DNR announced some rule changes to the department’s Master Angler program.

Anyone hoping to submit a catch to the DNR’s Master Angler program, which each year recognizes the largest fish of several dozen species, will want to pay close attention to the 2019 application.

A few new rules have been added to the program for 2019, including:

No more than one entry for fish of the exact same size will be accepted for each species. (For example, if you catch two 10-inch bluegills, submit just one.)

Each entry must include at least one photo showing the fish being measured. Color photos of the entire fish are required, too; entries received without color photos will not be accepted.

“The DNR’s Master Angler program has more than tripled in popularity in the last five years,” said Lynne Thoma, the program’s administrator. “We want to recognize as many anglers as possible for their fishing accomplishments, while retaining the integrity of this program. We feel these new rules will help us do that.”

The Master Angler program runs on the calendar year (Jan. 1 through Dec. 31), rather than the fishing license year (April 1 through March 31). The program includes more than 50 species of fish in both catch-and-keep and catch-and-release categories. All fish entered must be taken by legal Michigan sport fishing methods, during the open season, and in Michigan waters open to the public.

Download the 2019 Master Angler application at Michigan.gov/MasterAngler. People are encouraged to review the application every year for program changes. Applications can be submitted via mail or email; the current year’s form is due Jan. 10, 2020.

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Theory and Theory and Evolution

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Nearly everyone knew certain facts as absolute truth but science evidence changed accepted knowledge. Examples of known facts that are no longer accepted: 

*The Earth is the center of the universe.

*Swallows hibernate in winter at the bottom of lakes.

*The sun moves around the Earth daily.

*The Earth is flat.

Facts change as new physical evidence is gathered. Scientific theories, however, are the most supported evidence for understanding how nature functions. They are based on experimentation with rigorous scientific challenges. Science is self-correcting. Scientists challenge experimental methods and conclusions for every finding. Conclusions must be verified with repeatable physical experimental evidence 100 percent of the time. When always supported, the conclusion can be elevated to scientific theory status.

Some supported scientific theories are atomic theory, gene theory and theory of evolution. There is another definition for theory that most people know but it has a different definition from scientific theory. 

Theory in general use is an educated guess. An example is that swallows hibernated at the bottom of lakes. Swallows gathered over lakes in fall, suddenly disappeared, and then reappeared over water in spring. The ancient idea of hibernating in lakes was an educated guess based on what people thought was occurring. Experiments could provide evidence that swallows could not be found in lake bottom mud. Putting a swallow underwater would cause it to drown. Most songbirds migrate at night so their departure was not easily noticed. 

The words theory and theory are different words with different definitions but are spelled the same. It is much like the words: bark (dog’s vocal) and bark (tree covering), bank (land along stream) and bank (financial institution), or bat (flying mammal) and bat (baseball club). Theory (scientific) and theory (hypothesis) are spelled the same but do not have the same meaning. 

I wrote about the two theory definition concepts in a December 2010 nature niche article to help clarify that a theory is not always a theory. In everyday use the word theory means a preliminary idea of what happened. “How did the accident occur”? In science, a theory is the evidence-based conclusion proving “How the accident occurred.” For scientific acceptance, it must have repeatable methods of experimentation. A scientific theory requires physical evidence as proof and is not an educated guess (hypothesis).

When the scientific community identifies something as a theory, it means scientific evidence is overwhelmingly conclusive as the one correct explanation. When new scientific experiments demonstrate a flaw in a theory, the theory must either be discarded or the flawed portion removed from the theory. 

In one of the papers (Rockford Squire) where my Nature Niche column is published, a question was posed to readers: Should creationism and evolution be taught in schools as theories? Readers provided interesting responses. The science and non-science theory definitions were not clarified. Physical scientific evidence verses faith beliefs was not addressed as to what can be accepted as science. 

Physical evidence supports the theory of evolution. Many people accept or reject it depending on the conclusion they desire regardless of evidence or lack of evidence. People often have beliefs based on perceptions without rigorous scientific experimental support. That is typical for politics and religion. Physical evidence usually will not convince people concerning politics or religion. What people want to believe takes priority.

Science and faith can complement each other. Science is about “How” the world works based on physical evidence. Religion is about “Why” the world exists. Faith is belief without supportable physical evidence. 

Should religion be dismissed because it is not supported with rigorous scientific evidence? My answer is No. There is a place for multiple realities that impact our lives. Faith should not be taught as science because it is not based on physical evidence. Science should not be taught as faith because it requires physical evidence.

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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Love fishing?

Fish for free at state parks Feb. 16-17

The first of two annual Free Fishing Weekends will take place Feb. 16-17. Twice a year, residents and out-of-state visitors can enjoy two back-to-back days of free fishing fun throughout Michigan, no license needed (though all other fishing regulations apply).

From the start, state parks have been a big part of Michigan’s fishing tradition. Add a few state park stops to your itinerary while you are out enjoying some of the best world-class fishing available anywhere!

During #MiFreeFishingWeekend, the DNR also waives the regular Recreation Passport entry fee for vehicle access to state parks. Several parks will host free-fishing events perfect for the whole family.

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Wildlife Barriers

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

An electric Asian Carp barrier is being used to prevent the exotic fish from entering the Great Lakes where the fish will cause billions of dollars in damage to the economy, disrupt the ecosystem, and likely cause direct death of people by knocking them from boats. 

Constructing the St. Lawrence Seaway and the locks for shipping allowed sea lampreys to enter the Great Lakes and greatly impaired native fish survival and the fishing industry. Chemical treatment of streams is required to kill young lamprey to reduce lamprey surviving to enter the Great lakes. The dams on the Grand River have prevented lamprey from getting upstream from Grand Rapids to reproduce in streams. A plan is being implemented to remove the dams to return the river to its natural flow like it was a couple hundred years ago. Pros and cons were debated and dam removal was decided. Treatment of upstream tributaries will be required. 

The US Department of Agriculture spends massive quantities of money inspecting products to prevent micromoths, fruit flies, beetles, and other invertebrates from entering our country. The money spent is miniscule compared to the economic losses experienced when exotic species successfully establish here. Most of us are aware of the billions of dollars damage the Emerald Ash Borer has caused in Michigan since it arrived in 2002. The list of direct economic impact is primary for most people. The social impact came in second when streets were denuded of trees and beautiful woodlots stand with dead leafless trees. Third comes concern for the loss of native insects and associated birds and mammals that depended on the ash trees for life.

I do not fully understand why the order of concern is money, social, and then ecological. If we protect the ecological, a good economy and good social wellbeing follow. 

A wildlife/human barrier is the center of national concern. The evidence supports a wall will be largely infective for preventing people and drug trafficking into the United States. Most unlawful immigration and drug travel is achieved through border inspection sites. Most everyone is opposed to illegal entry but many businesses hire illegal immigrants because it costs less than hiring legal immigrants and people prefer to pay less for products. 

Scientific studies are providing impact evidence the wall between Mexico and United States will have on wildlife populations. Laws are bypassed to build the wall. The Endangered Species, Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts have been exempted for wall construction. How would you feel if laws were exempted to allow PFAS chemicals in your drinking water? There is a movement at the national level for that but that is a separate issue. 

The border wall harms wildlife populations by eliminating, degrading, and fragmenting habitats. Studies indicated 1506 species of native land and aquatic animals will be negatively affected. Most species have not been evaluated. Sixty-two critically Endangered or vulnerable species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature will be impacted. This is not only a question of economic, social, and ecological impacts for sustaining a healthy future for coming generations. It is an ethical behavioral decision of our society’s behavior. It is a “me first” verses an “us first” attitude that affects species that share the planet with us.

The more we impair ecosystems, economics hits our pocketbooks and wellbeing. The estimated 80-billion-dollar wall with a down payment of 5.7 billion has been critically analyzed as less effective than other border security measures. That debate continues with evidence mounting against the wall’s effectiveness. 

For wildlife, the wall will eliminate or degrade natural vegetation, kill animals directly through habitat loss, prevent breeding by separating wildlife, erode soils, change fire regimes, cause flooding and prevent animals from accessing water. The physical barrier will prevent access to food, water, mates, and migration routes. If space allowed I could provide information about how studies indicate specific species will be impacted. 

Scientists are urging the US government to recognize and give high priority to conserving the ecological, economic, political and cultural value of the US-Mexico borderlands. They state national security can and must be pursued with an approach that preserves our natural heritage. Our national leader dismisses science. 

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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Help FeederWatch survey the health & behavior of backyard birds

Feeder Dominance Graphic by Jillian Ditner, Cornell Lab of Ornithology science iIlustrator.

It’s amazing what we can learn when tens of thousands of eyes are focused on one thing. Those eyes don’t miss much. For more than 30 years, people who feed wild birds have been reporting their observations to Project FeederWatch at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. FeederWatch participants turn their hobby of feeding birds—a  hobby more than 50-million strong in North America—into  scientific discoveries. Their reports help scientists better understand what happens to birds facing challenges such as climate change, habitat loss, and disease.

The 2018-2019 season of FeederWatch kicked off November 10.

The spread of House Finch eye disease is a clear example of the value of this citizen science project. First reports of the disease came from sharp-eyed FeederWatchers in 1994. The Cornell Lab has been tracking the disease ever since by collecting vital information about sick birds from FeederWatchers. From that data, Cornell Lab scientists know the disease is spreading beyond House Finches.

A disease found in House Finches was first discovered by FeederWatchers.

“We’re finding other finch species are being affected,” said FeederWatch leader Emma Greig. “This includes feeder favorites such as the American Goldfinch, Purple Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, and Evening Grosbeak. Not only that, the pathogen that causes House Finch eye disease is becoming stronger and more dangerous. These stronger strains are nearly twice as deadly to the birds.”

FeederWatch reports have also been used in scientific studies of bird behavior to create a continental dominance hierarchy–which species displace others for access to feeder food. More data on species interactions will be collected during the 2018-19 season. The graphic shows which of six species is more dominant relative to the others, based on data collected by FeederWatchers. The higher a bird’s score, the more swagger it has at the feeder. Check out the FeederWatch interactive graphic showing dominance relationships for 13 species.

“FeederWatch is easy to do and participants tell us they find so much joy in tracking their feeder birds and in making a contribution to science,” Greig says. Participants make two-day counts from November through early April. They can spend as much or as little time as they like collecting data. Even counting birds once or twice all winter is a valuable contribution. But many people count birds more often.

Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. To join tens of thousands of other FeederWatch participants, sign up online at FeederWatch.org or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In Canada, contact Bird Studies Canada at (888) 448-2473, toll free.

In return for a participation fee of $18 in the U.S. ($15 for Cornell Lab members) or a donation of any amount in Canada, participants receive the FeederWatch Handbook and Instructions with tips on how to successfully attract birds to feeders, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, and a calendar. Participants also receive Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings. Those making a minimum donation of $35 in Canada will receive a subscription to Bird Studies Canada’s magazine, BirdWatch Canada.

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Wolves of Isle Royale

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Moose were free from large predators from the beginning of the 1900’s when they colonized the island. In the mid 1900’s, wolves were able to cross an ice bridge from Canada to Isle Royale National Park. The danger of moose living in a predator free habitat is that the population can grow to a level causing starvation when food becomes over browsed and depleted. That is evident for human populations in many places around the world. It was a reason for massive Irish immigration to America during the potato famine in Ireland. 

On Isle Royale during the last 70 years, wolves helped keep the moose population from becoming too large. By searching the Internet for Isle Royale wolves, one can find graphs showing moose population fluctuations relative to wolf numbers. A large moose population occurred after someone illegally brought a dog to the island and parvo virus spread into wolves and reduced their population. Later wolf numbers increased and declined again. The limited number of wolves interbred with relatives and weakened their genetic blood strain similar to what occurred with European royalty when they could only marry royalty chosen from a small population set. 

Mating with first cousins is not allowed because of the genetic dangers for the health of children. Where many unrelated individuals live, opportunity allows genes to spread through the population and maintain a healthy population. On the island, wolf gene exchange was limited. Climate warming now prevents ice bridge formation between Canada and the island making it impossible for wolves to naturally come to or leave the island. 

Inbreeding weakens the wolves. A female bore a male and later a female. The declining wolf population was reduced to two wolves. They were the offspring of the female. The male mated with his half-sister. Their offspring did not survive. That male has not been seen for over a year and has probably died. Aerial flights are used to inventory moose and wolf populations in winter. The male could have stayed out of sight but more likely he has died. 

I have wondered about the last remaining lone wolf on the island and how a pack animal handles living alone. Bringing down a large animal like a moose is a pack endeavor. Other animals like beavers are good prey but are not available in winter. Wolves develop emotional relationships with their pack. 

It is clearly evident that when I went away for a week, BeeGee, our dog, was lonely and did not eat for days. When I returned, his demeanor changed. He became excited and joyous in my arrival. Scientists caution us from applying human emotion to animals. BeeGee and I developed a friendship where I was his and he was mine. He was a family dog but, in our case, he and I developed an especially close emotional bond. 

The lone wolf on the island has continued life on her own with no breeding opportunity. This past fall, four wolves were trapped in Canada and released on Isle Royale. One was male and three were female. They are fitted with radio collars that will fall off in two years. Batteries will die before then. At present the collars track wolf movements. The four wolves have remained on the north side of the island. Research scientists hypothesize it is because the south side is occupied wolf territory. That is where the lone female lives. 

The male’s collar stopped moving. His dead body was located for necropsy (autopsy) to determine cause of death. Only three released females occupy the north side of the island and the lone female remains on the south side. More wolves will be released in coming years. Release of 30 wolves is planned. They will come from Canada, Minnesota, and possibly from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to provide genetic variation. 

Some people think that humans should not release wolves, while others think it is essential to prevent moose devastation of habitats that will disrupt the survival for many plants and animals. Human-caused climate change is already preventing wolves from getting to the island. We are a part of nature niches and need to determine how we fit into the natural world scheme. In our yards we determine life and death of species by how we landscape. Our yard landscaping is not wolf management but it is important for the survival of plants, birds, insects, toads, frogs, salamanders, snails, and many mammals. Wild yards are beautiful with abundant life.

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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New daily limit for yellow perch starts April 1

Yellow perch are a popular target for anglers who fish Michigan waters. A new fishing regulation, effective with the April 1 start of the 2019 fishing season, reduces the daily possession limit from 50 to 25 on most Michigan waters. 

If you are planning to fish for yellow perch this spring, keep in mind that there’s a new daily possession limit of 25 fish, reduced from 50, starting April 1 on nearly all state waters. Exceptions include:

*Lake Erie, which will retain a 50-fish daily limit.

*Lake Gogebic in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, which will have the 25-fish daily limit, but with no more than five of those fish being 12 inches or longer.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the proposed fishing regulation change late last year, after extensive public and scientific reviews. The new regulation is effective with the start of the 2019 Michigan fishing season.

The DNR collected many comments from concerned anglers and others interested in reducing the daily possession limit for yellow perch. Lowering the statewide daily possession limit also supports consistent yellow perch regulations across water bodies, particularly connecting waters, tributaries and drowned river mouths.

“The major goal for lowering the yellow perch daily possession limit was to better achieve an optimal balance between conservation and fishing opportunity, reflecting the importance and popularity of yellow perch in Michigan,” said Christian LeSage, who works for the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “Yellow perch are among the most sought-after game species in Michigan, and we want to ensure generations of anglers can continue to enjoy fishing for them.”

Starting March 1, the 2019 Michigan Fishing Guide will be available online and in printed copy form at fishing license retailers. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/DNRDigests.

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More moon photos

Last week we asked readers on Facebook for their Super Blood Wolf Moon photos that they had taken Sunday, January 20 into Monday morning, January 21. We ran one on our front page last week and wanted to show you a couple more this week.

Photo by Larry Campbell

Larry Campbell took this photo from his front yard, close to the corner of 3 Mile and East Beltline. “Except for totality, every photograph was taken 15 minutes apart. Exposures varied, depending on the available light from the lunar surface,” he said. Campbell is a member of and past president of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association (GRAAA).

Photo by Kristina Hemstreet

Kristina Hemstreet took this photo in Coopersville. “I do still have all the individual pictures. I just took them and created them into one picture to show the changes throughout the night,” she said.

Thanks so much for sending  us your photos!  We will try to fit in a couple more next week, if space allows.

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Celebrating statehood: Michigan’s state symbols

By John Pepin, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

“The whisper of the forest tree, the thunder of the inland sea; unite in one grand symphony of Michigan, my Michigan.” – Giles Kavanagh

The Mackinac Bridge, connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, is one of Michigan’s signature features.

Just like in the 1963 Elvis Presley movie of the same title, it happened at the world’s fair. But it wasn’t at Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition, where the hip-shakin’ King of Rock-n-Roll not only sang and grooved in the movie, but also starred as a pilot who flew a crop-dusting plane. It was instead in Chicago, in 1893.

That’s when and where a special “National Garland of Flowers,” crafted from flowers representing each of the then 44 U.S. states, was presented at the World’s Fair: Columbian Exposition to more than 27 million attendees.

This would foreshadow the inspiration of states, including Michigan, to eventually adopt representative symbols ranging from fish to fowl, cars to canines.

Today, the lists of these state symbols can be long, depending on the state, and often contain some interesting, unique and unexpected inclusions. 

For example, Maryland has an official sport, and it is jousting. The state vehicle of Texas is the chuck wagon. Just under half of our states share a state dance, and that dance is the square dance.

Even with more conventional categories, there are unexpected entries. Maine’s state “flower” is the white pine cone.

In 1996, Utah designated the beehive cluster as its official state star cluster. Wisconsin has an official state dog—the American water spaniel—while Maryland adopted the tabby as its official state cat.

But that isn’t all Massachusetts has. The Bay State is also home to a state muffin (corn), state inventor (Ben Franklin), state donut (Boston cream) and a state beverage (cranberry juice).

In fact, Massachusetts has 55 official state symbols.

Here in Michigan, like many other states, we of course have our state flag, capital, seal and coat of arms.

Most residents know our state nickname is the “Great Lakes State.” Another Michigan nickname is “The Wolverine State,” even though only one wolverine was ever known to have lived in the wild in the state. There are several theories about the moniker’s origin, but it may stem from the state’s history as a center for trade in the early trapping industry, when wolverine pelts from the north and west came through Michigan.

Many know our state motto is Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam, circumspice, which means, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”

The origin of Michigan’s name comes from the Ojibwa word “meicigama,” meaning “great water.” 

Beyond these, Michigan has nearly a dozen state symbols.

Sixty years after Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state, and four years after the Chicago world’s fair, Michigan designated the first of these symbol—the apple blossom—as its state flower.

Schoolchildren are among the most familiar with state symbols because in many cases they have been the source of their nomination, subsequently adopted by state legislatures.

Elementary and middle school students, as well as most adults, know the robin redbreast (American robin) is the state bird (1931); the state tree is the eastern white pine (1955) and that the Petoskey stone, a fossilized coral, is Michigan’s state stone (1965).

The Michigan Legislature adopted “the trout” as the state fish (1965) before clarifying that designation as the brook trout in 1988. The state song, “My Michigan,” written by Giles Kavanagh and H. O’Reilly Clint, was adopted in 1936.

In 1973, the Isle Royale greenstone was selected as Michigan’s state gem.

From this point on, it can get more challenging for most Michiganders to continue to list our state symbols. Many of the remaining entries have been designated relatively recently.

In 1990, the Kalkaska soil series was identified as Michigan’s state soil. 

In 1995, Niles fifth-grade students mounted a successful effort to get the painted turtle named the state reptile. A group of fourth-graders worked to get the white-tailed deer selected as the state’s game animal in 1997.

In 1998, the dwarf lake iris was selected as Michigan’s state wildflower.

Schoolchildren also helped college geology professor David P. Thomas Sr. get the mastodon established as Michigan’s state fossil in 2002.

Michigan celebrates its 182nd Statehood Day birthday on Saturday. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hosting its own statehood birthday party at its Michigan History Museum in Lansing.

Our state’s birth story is somewhat unusual, as the path to statehood wasn’t quite as easy for Michigan as for most other states. The first Michigan Constitution was written in 1835, nearly two years before we officially became a state.

The “Toledo War” – a dispute over whether the city of Toledo was actually in Michigan or Ohio – delayed the process because the federal government wouldn’t grant Michigan statehood until the disagreement was resolved. Find out more.

Congress ultimately gave Toledo to Ohio and offered Michigan the western Upper Peninsula as a compromise, making Michigan arguably the war’s real winner, considering how valuable the U.P.’s natural resources proved to be.

With the boundary dispute settled, President Andrew Jackson signed a bill making Michigan the 26th state Jan. 26, 1837. 

To learn a great deal more about Michigan’s statehood and state symbols, visit SeekingMichigan.org/Learn.

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Kayaking Prentiss Bay

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

For a decade I organized and led exploration outings during Labor Day Weekend. They were not the wilderness adventures where we camped with no toilets or restaurants. At Prentiss Bay off northern Lake Huron, we lodged in comfortable rooms and had great meals served in a dining hall. 

From early morning until well after dark, nature niche encounters filled our days. Early morning bird watching transitioned into nature preserve field trips from Cedarville and Drummond Island. Lake Huron’s north shore is rich with glacial drumlin islands I have weaved among in a canoe.

To provide tour participants with a new experience, I led interpretive kayak trips. Other naturalists lead canoeing and kayak outings down rivers or in lakes with a focus on paddling skill development or outdoor discovery. I desired to lead a more focused interpretive experience that I haven’t seen done by others. 

My purpose was to help people enjoy kayaking while discovering new aspects about the natural world. I kept participation to ten people. Prentiss Bay has a narrow inlet where water flushes in and out of the bay from the wide-open water of Lake Huron that reaches south to Port Huron by Sarnia. In the bay waves are usually small. Wearing life preservers, I helped each kayaker launch a kayak into calm water with instruction to paddle straight toward a tall white pine where the shoreline curved to the north. Once all were launched and hopefully becoming comfortable gliding across the water, I quickly caught up with the group. 

Upon joining the group, I put my kayak in reverse so to speak. I paddled backwards with my bow facing the group. A small group size allowed me to project my voice so all could hear. Instead of lecturing about the wonders of nature surrounding us, I helped them observe, question, and inquire about our encounters. 

Most obvious was the shoreline vegetation of fall flowers, trees and the impact of deer over browsing. White cedar trees lined the shore with green branches eaten as high as a deer could reach on hind legs. Yellow goldenrod flowers added late season color before deciduous trees ripened with golds and reds. Some maples provided red in wetlands but those on drier ground had not begun to lose their green chlorophyll. I could have spent time detailing the wonders of the life on the shore but beneath us we found richness in the water.

A dolomitic limestone bedrock underlays the bay. Since we were skirting the shoreline, we could watch fish and other aquatic inhabitants. Some organisms crawled along the bottom. Large lumps of bedrock projected from the water. Each was pitted with holes making the surface look like the inside of an egg carton. Hundreds of shallow holes covered rock surfaces. Observers were challenged to determine what caused such microtopography. It did not take long for some to determine that water sitting in small depressions dissolved rock to create pits. People discovered favorite gull perches by noticing whitewash deposits that dissolved rock. 

At the north end of the bay, I led the group through reeds projecting above the water surface. I knew what they would encounter as we glided through the plants but they did not. I let them know there was no danger. We could see easily through stiff pointed green grass-like stems to the shoreline. Water movement in the shallow water caused the firmly anchored plants to wave to passing birds.

It wasn’t long before our explorers were voicing anxiety about spiders crawling on the kayaks and on them. I assured them these spiders were not capable of biting them but many were still uncomfortable in the presence of arachnids. We pondered how the numerous spiders established residence on the scattered reeds far from shore. 

Green darner dragonflies hovered, darted, and fed among the offshore greenery. Many other waterway life form encounters enriched our experience. We reached the inlet to Prentiss Bay where we needed to cross to our landing. Waves were mild but larger than we had encountered. I had kayakers line up beside my kayak so mine would break the waves to make it easier for them. My kayak lessened wave height and with others in a row beside me, they could paddle calmer water. It was a good plan but each year it never worked. People were not able to hold their position. Regardless, they enjoyed the interpretive outing and no one dumped. 

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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