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Archive | Outdoors

Mosquito and Phoebe

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Outdoor memories last a lifetime. It was on a field trip to Gwen Frostic’s outdoor nature studio, in Benzonia, west of Traverse City, that provided an interesting experience with an Eastern Phoebe. I was on a busman’s holiday, from my job as a State Park ranger, at Traverse State Park in the late 1960’s.

Gwen had screened in studios, where she painted her wonderful post cards and stationary, as well as wrote penetrating prose. If you have not experienced her wor, it will be a joyous outing this summer to visit. The natural beauty of her inspirational property offers others respite long after her passing.

Our group walked the boardwalks in June observing birds flit among shrubs and trees. Some mosquitoes brightened the day for hungry birds and filled their stomachs. We wore lightweight long sleeved shirts and used insect repellent as we visitors traversed the nature niches where a variety of life made home.

Birds thrive in habitats where insects live. One cannot expect birds where food is not abundant for feeding young. Even seed eating species raise young on an insect diet.

We came upon a screen shelter that was temporarily closed to access because an Eastern Phoebe constructed a nest on top of the door. Mike Jarea noticed a mosquito biting an almost grown young phoebe on top of its head. To help the young bird, he used his finger to kill the mosquito. When he did, five young birds prematurely left the nest. They were almost able to fly but not quite.

The two of us quickly gathered the birds and placed them back in the nest. I placed my hands over the birds until they calmed. Slowly I removed my hands and the birds remained huddled in the nest. What did not stay in the nest were hundreds of bird lice that blackened my hands.

Nests are dangerous places for birds but they are essential for their rearing. The sooner they leave the better they are able begin caring for themselves. Once able to minimally fly, they often fledge. Parents continue to feed them away from the nest, as well as teach them where and how to look for food.

When fledglings venture off on their own, they continue to depend on parents. The parents are not often seen, but they are in the area much like mother deer are in the area to return to couple times a day to feed fawns. Some people think they are rescuing orphaned young when, in reality, they are taking them away from caring parents and reducing young survival chances.

Sometimes young are orphaned because adults were killed by cars, cats, or some other event. It is best to leave apparent orphans where they are found, because there is a better chance that adults will return.

I brushed the massive black lice from my hands and was happy we were able to secure the birds in the nest to fledge another day. I suspect Mike learned to allow the mosquito its minute feast. It would be less dangerous to survival than the chicks leaving the nest prematurely. It is wonderful to observe animals from a safe distance in a manner that does not disrupt the lives.

An Eastern Phoebe has nested in our carport annually for 35 years. I wonder how many generations of birds succeeded one another. Normally they live only a few years and would be fortunate to reach an age 7, give a take a years. We disturb them when we approach the carport but it doesn’t cause them to move elsewhere for a new nest site. It is necessary to only pull the car part way into the carport for a few weeks when young are present. The young raise the rears to the edge of the nest and defecate. They cover our car hood with corrosive turds. We enjoy their presence and willingness to share space with us, so we do not remove the nest. Instead we take joy in seeing them daily.

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 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

Written for CS Post, Vol. 28 No. 23.  11 June 2015.

Submitted: ? June 2015

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Spring to summer wildflowers

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The transition from spring wildflowers to summer wildflowers is nearly complete. The greatest difference is whether the plants flower under leafless trees or flower under expanded leaves.

It takes a lot of energy to produce flowers and seeds. It is best for plant sex to occur in full sunlight before trees cut off sun energy to the ground with leaves. I pay more attention to phenological summer beginning than to when the sun reaches its most northern zenith. Calendars mark the summer solstice when the sun no longer appears to move north and apears to start its southward movement.

Spring flowers end flowering when trees leaves expand and shade the forest floor. Plants wither or spend the summer without the flare of flowers while they store energy in roots, tubers, and rhizomes for next spring’s flowering. When sunlight penetrates through early spring branches of bare canopy, ground plants receive high-energy necessary flower sex.

Carpets of Narrow-leaved Spring Beauty flowers brighten the forest floor. The petals appear pink but they are not. Bend and look closely. You will notice white petals with pink lines. When we stand and look down, our eyes do not discern the detail. The pink lines on white petals act as nectar guides. Insects landing on the petals follow the lines like airport runways to nectar.

It is too late this year to take notice of these flowers but it will give you something to notice next year. The spring beauties complete their life cycle and disappear from view for ten months. Their nature niche activities occur between late April and early June. By late May fertilized flowers have formed seeds. Soon the entire plant above ground withers and is hidden below ground until next spring.

To ensure reproductive success this plant produces a series of short-lived flowers. A plant might remain in flower for several days but individual flowers come and go quickly. If poor weather prevents a flower from being fertilized, others blooming before and after will hopefully have had success on better days.

Other spring flowers racing to complete flowering before the forest canopy darkens the forest floor are Hepaticas, Trout Lilies, Bloodroot, Large-flowered Trillium, a variety of blue and yellow violets, with Mayapples squeezing in at the tail end before the canopy thickens. Each plant has it own unique adaptations and story with associated insects, birds, and small mammals. Stories abound.

An early summer plant that flowers in abundance as trees turn the landscape wonderful shades of green is Wild Geranium. It cheery pink blooms abound in forest and forest edges. For me it is a sign that summer has begun. It is still weeks before the summer solstice with the longest day of year and the official start of summer. The phenologies of plants have their own markers to indicate the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Oaks and mulberries are among the last trees to leaf out. Once they expanded their leaves, I consider spring to have ended and summer has begun.

Most trees flower before they have clothed themselves with new leaves. If they are wind pollinated, it best to flower when the wind can flow freely among the branches to spread pollen. Many are insect pollinated and it is easier for insects to travel from flower to flower without leaf obstacles. By the time maple leaves expand, the samaras helicopters are carrying seeds to the ground away from the parent. Non-descript oak flowers fall as withered tan strings but a portion will remain all summer to grow and loudly pound the roof, car, and ground as acorns in fall.

There is more occurring than one can notice but many notice summer blueberries come from spring bell-like flowers, pale current flowers usually do not attract our attention but we enjoy their summer fruits, and we notice of apples as they ripen. Take time to notice the beauty of life surrounding you.

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 49319-8433. Phone: 616-696-1753.

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State Veterinarian stops bird movement 

 

to protect health of Michigan poultry

Due to the potential for highly pathogenic avian influenza, 2015 poultry exhibitions are canceled throughout the state.

After much deliberation and consideration with the Michigan Association for Fairs and Exhibitions (MAFE), Michigan 4-H leadership and the Michigan Allied Poultry Industry, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s State Veterinarian Dr. James Averill made the difficult decision to cancel all 2015 poultry and waterfowl exhibitions in Michigan to prevent the comingling of birds from different locations. This includes, but is not limited to shows, exhibitions, swap meets, petting zoos at fairs, game bird and waterfowl fair displays, and Miracle of Life exhibits.

“We know the tremendous amount of time, money and passion the kids and other exhibitors invest into their birds and the importance of having livestock animals at these events to interact with the public,” said Averill. “The rapid spread of these avian flu viruses is historic and has impacted more than a dozen states across the U.S. While there are currently no known cases of HPAI in Michigan, commitment to protecting the health of all of the state’s poultry flocks—backyard and commercial farmers—led us to making this difficult decision.”

MDARD has been working in conjunction with the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, Michigan State University Extension, 4-H programs, and other partners to identify ways to engage Michigan’s youth poultry exhibitors and allow them to still have the experience.

“The impact this disease has had on the poultry industry and how quickly it is spreading is clear,” said Lisa Reiff, MAFE Executive Director. “While it’s unfortunate that poultry exhibitions are canceled for this year, it’s crucial youth still have an opportunity to participate in fair activities. MAFE is working with MDARD, MSU and 4-H to identify alternatives for poultry exhibitors and will use this opportunity to help further educate the public about our state’s poultry industry.”

County fairs and local exhibitors are encouraged to go to the MSU Extension website –  msue.msu.edu/poultryshows – to get a list of options for poultry exhibitors. Those options include suggestions for showmanship, breed classes, market classes and auctions.

MDARD, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Departments of Agriculture Veterinary Services and Wildlife Services, and MSU are working together to conduct avian influenza surveillance and to monitor health of poultry, livestock, wildlife and residents in Michigan.

Michigan residents who notice the death loss of three or more WILD birds should report it to DNR at 517-336-5030.

If your backyard poultry flock has a high death loss or consistent pattern of death loss in a short period of time, report it to MDARD at 800-292-3939; (after hours emergencies) 517-373-0440.

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How to ride an ATV

OUT-ATV-safety-week

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: 

OUT-Weekly-Fishing-web

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 

OUT-Monitor-bait-Asian-Carp

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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