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Archive | Outdoors

Preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species

Boaters and anglers who use their equipment in multiple bodies of water without properly cleaning it, easily spread many aquatic invasive species’ non-native plants and animals that can disrupt the natural ecosystem, tourism and the economy.

As part of efforts to manage aquatic invasive species, a habitat enhancement project at Fort Custer Recreation Area in Augusta, Michigan, recently kicked off. The DNR is working with Kieser & Associates, an environmental science and engineering firm in Kalamazoo, on a plan to enhance the recreation area’s habitat by managing aquatic invasive species in its lakes. The project is funded through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment as part of the settlement levied against Enbridge Energy in connection with the July 2010 oil release on Line 6B into the Kalamazoo River.

In addition to aquatic plant surveys, which have found invasive species in all of Fort Custer’s lakes, the three-year project will include several different treatments to control these species. This will help determine the best long-term, cost-effective options for invasive species management in the lakes. The project also involves a public outreach and educational component to help park visitors understand their role in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species.

You can help by following these simple steps:

  • Clean boats, trailers and equipment.
  • Drain live wells, bilges and all water from boats.
  • Dry boats and equipment.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Learn more about preventing the spread of invasive species at michigan.gov/invasives.

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Michigan extends “Do not eat” fish advisory for Huron River to Lake Erie 

 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently issued an expanded “Do not eat” fish advisory for all fish in the Huron River in Livingston, Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne, and Monroe Counties. The original advisory was issued on August 4, 2018. 

The “Do not eat” advisory for the Huron River starts where N. Wixom Road crosses in Oakland County and extends downstream to the mouth of the Huron River as it enters Lake Erie in Wayne County. This includes: 

  • Norton Creek (Oakland County) 
  • Hubbell Pond, also known as Mill Pond (Oakland County) 
  • Kent Lake (Oakland County) 
  • Ore Lake (Livingston County) 
  • Strawberry & Zukey Lake (Livingston County) 
  • Gallagher Lake (Livingston County) 
  • Loon Lake (Livingston County) 
  • Whitewood Lakes (Livingston County) 
  • Base Line & Portage Lakes (Livingston/Washtenaw County line) 
  • Barton Pond (Washtenaw County) 
  • Geddes Pond (Washtenaw County) 
  • Argo Pond (Washtenaw County) 
  • Ford Lake (Washtenaw County) 
  • Bellville Lake (Wayne County) 

This extension is a result of new perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) fish data from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Base Line Lake and Argo Pond fish fillet data, downsteam from Kent Lake, were found to have high PFOS levels. Additionally, high PFOS surface water levels were found upstream of Kent Lake. 

Touching the fish or water and swimming in these water bodies is not considered a health concern as PFAS do not move easily through the skin. An occasional swallow of river or lake water is also not considered a health concern. 

For current guidelines relating to PFAS fish contamination, visit Michigan.gov/pfasresponse. For more information about the Eat Safe Fish guidelines, visit Michigan.gov/eatsafefish. 

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Window view

 

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

As evening settled in, I knelt like a kid on the couch and drifted into the wild outside my window. The sun had set but dusk lingered. A large cluster of fleabane flowers decorated the view. Most gardeners would have long removed the plant in favor of something more glamorous. It is my joy to have the fleabane. I should have spent part of the day watching its flowers to meet its visitors. 

Instead of a manicured lawn, the yard is an unkempt marvel of plants and animals. A bird feeder brings visitors that brighten the day. A handful of common species keeps me company. For the serious birder, travel is required to see species other than the common place. I am a common place person with common place birds. It is a pleasure to see the more unusual birds or even common birds like the Gray Catbird that remain in the thickets at yard’s edge. The catbird watches me from thickets as I take daily walks. It often mews or calls a variety of sweet melodies. It has now retreated for the night and is not heard or seen from my window view.

Ragweed populates bare ground around the feeders with blooms that most would not consider flowers. Nondescript flowers producing pollen remain hidden in plain sight as tiny green bumps. Those bumps release massive quantities of minute pollen that irritate the sinuses of untold numbers of people and animals. They will be cut or pulled tomorrow when the sun rises and I make a futile attempt to reduce their “hay fever” effect. 

People tend to blame beautiful goldenrod flowers as the “hay fever” culprit. Its pollen is too large and heavy to be carried far from the parent and seldom enters our sinuses. It falls rapidly to the ground. Insects are required to carry its pollen from one plant to another. 

A large ash tree killed by the emerald ash borers, stands just far enough from the house that it should not cause home damage when it falls. Other ashes whose cambium was destroyed by the beetle grubs have begun to fall. They crumble piecemeal with branches breaking and falling before the main trunk crashes. It has surprised me that the trees are falling so soon after being killed. Other species like elms and cherries stand for long periods after succumbing to age or disease.

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird has a couple favorite perches on the dead ash’s branches. The skeleton stands tall above the butterfly garden and provides an ideal location for the hummer to guard the sugar water feeder and nectar flowers. 

My mind has drifted with the sights and sounds of the outdoors without leaving my reading and writing room. The surrounding abundance of life in view from my window offers contentment. Night has crept over the yard. Black-horned tree crickets are trilling their best tunes to call mates in their nature niche. 

A welcome rain dampened the landscape after weeks of dryness. Plants stood stoic during the drought. Their leaves stayed green and coiled in the dryness waiting for a needed drink. Several times I have witnessed the plants response to welcome water after dry conditions. Within a day of roots capturing as much liquid as possible, some leaves and branches turn dead brown while others revive. This occurred with the arrowwood viburnum this week. The plant will live but not all leaves or branches. 

I have never understood the reaction. It appears the plant maintains the appearance of life for all its green leaves until it finally has a drink. Then it rapidly sends vital fluid to leaves able to survive but not to those too desiccated. Those almost instantly turn brown and will be discarded. Plants are resilient. They only keep parts that can be sustained.

From my kneeling perch on the couch, I turned and sat like a proper adult to contemplate the wonders of nature surrounding the house. 

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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Showcasing the DNR: Getting wild in the classroom

Aspen Ridge fifth-grader Kendra Scherer tries to determine the height of a tree by gazing through a clinometer, while classmate Athena Kinnunen follows the line of sight. Students Madelyn Reader, Ella Brand and Catherine Bartanen are also pictured, from left. Wheels to the Woods helped fund transportation for the Forestry Field Day outing. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

By Hannah Schauer, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Connecting children to wildlife and other natural resources can be one of the most exciting, rewarding and fulfilling endeavors for educators and students.

With another school year beginning, some people may not know the Michigan Department of Natural Resources provides numerous opportunities to help teachers make those valuable connections between the state’s natural and cultural resources and students of all ages.

Elementary students get wild

Through the Go Wild for Michigan’s Wildlife curriculum, elementary school educators can introduce young learners to Michigan’s wildlife species and their habitats. 

“Go Wild for Michigan’s Wildlife brought an excitement into my class that I wasn’t anticipating,” said Charlotte Simpson of Shettler Elementary, part of Fruitport Community Schools in Muskegon. “My youngest of learners–kindergartners–were engaged in the lessons and materials and were making connections to their beautiful home state.”

Critter cards, featuring 19 different Michigan wildlife species, are included with the Go Wild for Michigan’s Wildlife curriculum. The facing card shows a painted turtle, Michigan’s state reptile. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Included with the lesson plans and activities, are “critter cards,” featuring 19 different Michigan wildlife species.

While each educator receives a PDF version of the cards, the DNR also prints a limited supply of the cards, so students can have a set to keep. The available card sets are distributed to Michigan teachers on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Throughout many lessons, I would hear, ‘I’ve seen that animal before’ or ‘I’m going to look for that animal tonight when I get home,’” Simpson said. 

During the 2017-2018 school year, over 800 kindergarten through fifth-grade educators registered to receive this free curriculum.

Middle school is for the bears (and ducks) 

Using actual location data from radio-collared Michigan black bears, middle school students can find out what bears are up to throughout the year. 

A Year in the Life of a Michigan Black Bear provides lessons, videos, activities and bear location data to help students learn more about bear behaviors and habits at various times of the year. Like other DNR wildlife classroom curricula, this program is offered free of charge.

Sixth- through eighth-graders will learn all about bear biology, as well as the DNR’s role in managing bear populations in Michigan. This year, additional bear location data have been added to the curriculum and educators can choose which bear, or bears, they want their class to “follow.”

Educator Brandy Dixon, from Holy Ghost Lutheran School in Monroe, said she uses the curriculum in her classroom and she loves the program.

“It was a great way to show my students how there are people in the state of Michigan whose job it is to protect our natural resources. It encouraged them to think about how to maintain our environment, and it taught them about bears,” Dixon said. “They gained in-depth knowledge about these creatures, and I think that knowledge – because it was spread through an entire school year – will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

With knowledge and experience comes greater understanding.

“I had some students who started in my class dead set against hunting,” Dixon said. “I think they now have more of an understanding as to why hunting, in particular, is an effective management practice for our Michigan wildlife.”

Classes that participate in the curriculum also have the option to enter a Year in the Life of a Michigan Black Bear contest. 

After learning all about black bears in Michigan, students can create a way to share the story of a black bear’s journey throughout the year. Educators representing the top three projects are awarded gift certificates to purchase science supplies for their classroom.  

Prizes for the contest are provided by the Michigan Bear Hunters Association and the DNR. 

The DNR also offers middle-schoolers curriculum centering on wetlands and some of the birds that live there.

Michigan’s Wondrous Wetlands and Waterfowl offers an opportunity to learn about the ducks, geese, and swans found in Michigan, as well as the critical importance of wetland habitats. 

Lessons include several activities. Students can become a bird in a migration simulation that illustrates the perils that waterfowl encounter during their bi-annual flights. Students also will engage in land-use planning, and analyze Michigan waterfowl population data. 

A Michigan elk is shown. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

High-schoolers become elk managers

Michigan once had elk across the state, but by the late 1800s, all the native elk had disappeared due to unregulated hunting and drastic landscape changes that led to a lack of habitat.

In 1918, seven elk were brought from the western United States to Wolverine, Michigan to re-establish our state’s elk population. 

Now, 100 years later, Michigan has a healthy and abundant elk population resulting from intentional land management and increased law enforcement.

Students can learn more about this conservation success story and celebrate elk in the classroom with Elk University.

“This educational program gives high school students to chance to step into the role of a wildlife manager,” said Katie Keen, DNR wildlife communications coordinator. 

Students will learn about elk, their habitat needs, Michigan history, wildlife disease and forest management. They also will explore social considerations for wildlife management.

“I was really impressed with the way Elk University uses real data, video and photos to teach biology concepts, but doesn’t ‘preach’ or ‘tell’ information to the kids,” said Chad Miller of Hamilton High School in Hamilton. “Instead, it was clear that whoever designed the lessons understood inquiry learning and the art of getting kids to ‘uncover’ concepts. It is so rare to find – especially in free, pre-written programs – this approach used so well.”   

Elk University is offered free of charge to ninth through 12th-grade educators.

Lakeview: Students from Lakeview Community Schools pose for a photo after visiting their school forest. Wheels to Woods provides field-trip funding to forests for pre-K through 12th-grade schools in Michigan. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Forests and field trips

“Forests are critical habitat for many species, such as bear and elk, and a field trip is a great way to have students experience these resources first-hand after learning about them in class,” Keen said.

For those teachers hoping to get their students out for some forest exploration there is funding available to schools for field trips through a program called “Wheels to Woods.” 

Any pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school in Michigan is eligible to apply for funds to go on a field trip to a school forest, private forest, public forest or forest products company.

“Wheels to Woods pays for the bus so that students, teachers and parents can go on an educational field trip to explore a nearby forest,” said Mike Smalligan, DNR forest stewardship coordinator. “Teachers are free to use any topic about forests that fits in with their lessons and curriculum.” 

For more information and an application form, visit treefarmsystem.org/wheels-to-woods. Applications are accepted throughout the year.

If a field trip is not feasible, educators can incorporate trees, forests and more into the classroom with Project Learning Tree.

With this award-winning outdoor curriculum that meets both state and national standards, educators can find lessons and activities for learners of all ages to incorporate into classrooms and other educational settings. 

Learn more about Michigan Project Learning Tree at www.michiganplt.org. 

More ways to bring natural resources to the classroom

Project WILD workshops offer professional development for bringing hands-on natural resources-related activities to classrooms. Several Project WILD guide books for kindergarten through grade 12 are available. Find out more at michigan.gov/michiganprojectwild. 

Get salmon in the classroom. Caring for young salmon encourages third- through 12th-grade students to think and care about conservation and creates a connection between caring for their fish and caring for their local environment. Learn more about the Salmon in the Classroom program at michigan.gov/sic. 

The DNR’s Academy of Natural Resources, a week-long program offered in two locations during the summer months, gives teachers the opportunity to learn about Michigan’s diverse natural resources and how to bring that knowledge to the classroom. Learn more at michigan.gov/anr. 

To register for wildlife classroom curricula and learn about additional opportunities the DNR has to offer educators, visit michigan.gov/dnreducation.

To get the latest education updates from the DNR, sign up for DNR emails at michigan.gov/dnr and choose “Education and Outreach” to subscribe to the Essential Educator newsletter.

The Michigan DNR offers numerous opportunities for the state’s schoolchildren to learn about wildlife and natural resources in closer, more involved and more in-depth ways.

These opportunities offered for today’s youth may cultivate a bumper crop of wildlife and natural resources stewards for tomorrow. That’s what the DNR is aiming for.

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Gold Treasures

A soldier beetle. Photo by Ranger Steve Mueller.

By Ranger Steve

The field has turned to gold overnight. The rich value exceeds that of the precious metal many would trade several weeks’ pay to possess. The field transforms itself without the aid of a forger pounding and engraving to human desire. The field knows just what a person needs to lift one’s spirits and hopes. 

Unlike the metal artisan that makes permanent engravings, the field has ever changing beauty that entices us to search its gold flower settings. Its golden surface has creative intricacies of a jewelry artist’s dreams.

After weeks of drought when plants seemed frozen in time, a 6-inch rain soaked deep. Plants greedily took every drop possible to quench a long waiting thirst. Less than half of the goldenrod were in bloom yesterday even though it was past normal flowering season. Today more than 70% are blooming. The waiting burst of gold was not just by plants. Insects of great variety have been on hold in quest of the rich golden treasure. 

Goldenrod’s flowers and pollen are more essential to life than a person’s quest for gold at the end of the rainbow. Like people seeking a pot of gold at rainbows end, insects seek the ephemeral gold of late summer. Many have their nature niche lives timed to its flowering. Bees and other insects seek nectar. The nectar reward is not free. Insects leave with a full stomach but are loaded with pollen they carry to neighboring goldenrods. 

Goldenrod pollen is large and heavy. It does not blow distances in the wind and requires delivery service to transport it to mature flowers. When a golden finch lands on a goldenrod stem in search of a tasty insect morsel, it undoubtedly knocks loose pollen. Instead of easily drifting on air currents to another flower, it falls to the ground. A number of ground creeping invertebrates consume the manna falling from the heavens. 

Pollen eating insects are attracted to the flowers like people are attracted to all you can eat restaurants. Goldenrods like other members of the large aster family, produce in excess to make sure pollen grains fertilize other flowers. Insects at the smorgasbord leave with pollen covered bodies to serve as dispersal agents.

I was told by a honeybee keeper, that members of his profession do not appreciate gold season. Honey bees get rich feeding on goldenrod nectar but the honey produced is bitter. People desire sweeter honey. 

The value of gold is in the eye of the beholder. Bees are joyous with the concentrated fields of gold. Honey connoisseurs are dismayed. I am particularly pleased with the great variety of creatures found among goldenrod. The abundance of monarchs deep golden orange in fields brings happiness to many. Pearl Crescents stand still on flowerheads long enough for us to see the tiny silver pearl adorning the hindwing undersurface at its tail end. The pearl is surrounded by the butterfly’s own version of muted gold. 

One can walk through a field of gold and return home with more golden memories than are possible to retain. It is necessary to share as many as possible at the dinner table before they are lost like nighttime dreams that seem to vaporize by the time breakfast is finished. 

Soldier beetles with gold and black wings find the massive flower heads perfect beds for copulation. Net-winged beetles with their own version of gold and black wing elytra are differently shaped, with the tail end of wings widening to give a triangular appearance. 

It is always good to have a field guide at the ready. Many find cell phone photos useful. Increasingly Apps are able to narrow an identification search to a few likely insects similar to how facial recognition programs are being used. For those of us still more comfortable with paper field guides, we flip pages in books like the Golden Guide to Insects. The Golden Guide is still our version of gold treasure at the end of a rainbow.

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 program to elevate state’s best trail resources

The DNR now is accepting applications for the Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town designation program, due Oct. 1, 2018.

The DNR and Travel Michigan announced Monday the official launch of the Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town designation program. It’s an effort aimed at acknowledging Michigan’s position as the Trails State, showcasing an array of quality trails (including water trails) and trail-centered communities, and recognizing extensive collaboration of state and local governments, nonprofits, foundations and volunteers that develop and maintain the trails.

“The concept behind the Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town designation is a welcome addition to the state’s trails program,” said Bob Wilson, executive director of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. “Having first worked on enabling legislation in 2014 and now seeing the Pure Michigan designation come to fruition, it is an exciting time for all those who believe in trails in our state.”

Local units of government, trail authorities or nonprofits primarily responsible for the proposed nonmotorized or motorized trail or trail town may apply for the designation. Applicants must demonstrate that the trail or trail town:

  • Offers a high-quality trail or trail town experience.
  • Provides clear information for users.
  • Enjoys broad community support.
  • Has a sustainable business, maintenance and marketing plan.
  • Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town logo and graphic

“This Pure Michigan designation will help to shine a light on some of the best and most scenic trails across the state, as well as the communities enhanced by these trails,” said Paul Yauk, DNR state trails coordinator. “Recognizing these valuable outdoor assets as part of this program also will help us further anchor Michigan’s position as the nation’s Trails State.”

Michigan offers a network of more than 12,500 miles of state designated trails, with new connections in process every year. It’s an interconnected trails system that provides plentiful recreation opportunities for bicyclists, hikers, ORV riders, snowmobilers, equestrians, cross-country skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“Highlighting the vast network of trails throughout our great state will continue to draw attention to one of Michigan’s greatest assets, our abundant natural resources,” said David Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “Residents and visitors alike will have additional access to resources, maps and information to highlight both motorized and nonmotorized trails as well as natural resources around the state.”

Information on the Pure Michigan designation program—including an overview, the application process, designation criteria, frequently asked questions, a handbook and other related resources—can be found at michigan.gov/dnrtrails.

“We all know the benefit of being associated with the Pure Michigan brand and its direct tie to our nation’s leading trails system,” said Wilson. “It reinforces both the value of the trails and the value of the brand.”

All Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town applications must be received by Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. During the following review and evaluation period, the DNR may ask applicants for supplemental information or documentation.

Questions and completed applications can be submitted via email to Mike Morrison at morrisonm4@michigan.gov or via traditional mail to: Pure Michigan Trails Designation c/o State Trails Coordinator, Parks and Recreation Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 30257, Lansing, MI 48909.

Questions? Contact Paul Yauk at 517-284-6141 or Kriss Bennett at 248-431-1265.

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Everybody is doing something

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Katydids did. Crickets chirp, Chickadees dee dee, doves coo, squirrels chatter, chipmunks cluck, butterflies flash color, bees probe flowers, aphids cluster, ants carry things, moles tunnel, fish splash, and snakes sun. 

We look for excuses to be outside. My skateboarding days are over. Climbing the big pine outback is a memory of days past but I saw a porcupine choose to climb the white pine I once scaled to the top. The prickly mammal was trying to catch some daytime sleep near the trunk but crows objected and announced his presence. 

Every creature is doing something. This year’s fourth generation of Harvester butterflies appeared in mid-August. I thought there were only two generations each year. After adults’ mate and lay eggs, caterpillars hatch to feed on clustered wooly aphids. When grown, they pupate to transform into gorgeous winged insects. 

Each species seeks special nature niche locations to spend days and nights. In a location we refer to as the woodcock circle, the Harvester searches for mates and chases intruders. This past week, one rapidly flew back and forth near sunlit branches. Soon a second arrived and the two tumbled through the air before separating. I wondered if they were two males hoping to chase the other away or if one was female and they would mate. 

One left and the other landed on a leaf where I could observe it had recently emerged from a chrysalis. Bright white circles were on shades of tan and brown wings giving evidence for its newness to the air. After days on the wing, its pattern dulls as it busies itself “doing something.” During its brief adulthood, I take pleasure watching its erratic flight. Without great effort on my part, the caterpillar remains unseen. It spends its childhood camouflaged among wooly aphids on speckled alder. It is hidden from me and the aphids it eats.

A downy woodpecker has taken a fancy to the hummingbird sugar water feeder. The hummers seem to have left the yard after nesting was complete. Where they went to “do something” is unknown. 

Katydids are beginning to tune their wing instrument as they strum their lower and upper wings together but they wait for the privacy of darkness to begin tuning up. These grasshoppers blend well in field vegetation during the day. Unlike butterflies and other insects with straw-like mouth parts, they have chewing mandibles like beetles. They feed on plants. Many beetles are busy seeking insects on plants or in the ground to chew. 

Much of an individual’s life is spent eating a specialized food choice. Food preparation is important. Mud dauber wasps build tubes of mud under overhangs where they will stash a spider paralyzed with a sting. An egg will be laid on the paralyzed meal that the adult will never eat. It is the young that will hatch to feed on the immobile spider in the dark protection of the mud tube.

Most mammals work the night shift. We seldom see their activities. After a day’s rest, they become active in the crepuscular hours of dusk or linger into the dawn. Squirrels and chipmunks choose daylight to scurry through the neighborhood. 

It is always rewarding to canoe or kayak a stream to encounter a multitude of active animals. Belted kingfishers take pause from hunting minnows and small fish when we drift into their hunting grounds. They keep moving downstream ahead of us instead of immediately flying overhead to an upstream location. 

On rare occasions, we see one capture food. Food preparation is a big event. They tenderize fish to eat. I have watched one land on a branch with its minnow and proceed to beat it against the branch for 10 or 15 minutes before swallowing it. 

Any creature encountered will entertain us while “doing something.” Enjoy observing something new each time you “do the something” of watching amazing activities in nature.

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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Fishing Tip: Catching big pike in the summer

 

Most anglers consider winter the best time to catch a trophy-sized pike, but following a few key pointers can make summer pike fishing worthwhile.

When it’s very warm out think about where pike will hide places with cooler water. These spots include along the thermocline, where coldwater streams/rivers flow into lakes, or around springs.

Look for water bodies that aren’t densely populated with pike so those present may have a chance to grow fairly large. Also consider locations that have special regulations (size limits).

Lastly, focus on water bodies that have a good pike forage base, particularly other species that prefer cooler water.

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Outdoor Youth Day

September 8, 2018 

Sportsmen for Youth will hold Youth Day on September 8, 2018, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Muskegon County Fairgrounds, 6621 Heights Ravenna Road, in Muskegon. 

This is an absolutely FREE family friendly day. The first 2,500 youth 17 years and younger will receive a t-shirt, free lunch, prize drawings, and goodie bag.

Youth Day is designed to introduce and educate youth to all things outdoors—from hunting and fishing to conservation and good stewardship of our natural resources. It is also dedicated to promoting the safe pursuit of outdoor activities.

Youth Day includes fantastic guest speakers at the Hawg Trough, which is a semi-trailer size tank that will be filled with local fish species and act as a stage for guest speakers.  Mark Martin, Logan Locke, Dan Zatarga, Mitch Johnson, Chris Noffsinger, Kyle Buck, Todd Sokolow and Stacey Chuppallo will entertain the crowd. A rock climbing wall and birds of prey exhibit will be on hand. 

Return favorites to Youth Day are: the “Trout Pond” where live trout are caught and cleaned for youth; shooting of firearms and archery; and many others. Over 60 exhibitors will be on hand to educate the youth.

A partnership between Sportsmen for Youth and the Muskegon County Area Fire Chiefs was formed several years ago. At Youth Day, attendees will experience various fire safety exhibits, demonstrations and tours of fire trucks of all types. Law Enforcement will also be on hand with displays.

Sportsmen for Youth is a non-profit organization and is able to continue Youth Day free thanks to the generosity and donations from local businesses and private donations. It costs approximately $30,000 to make Youth Day happen free of charge. Again this year there will be a raffle for five firearms. All proceeds to be used for Youth Day!

For more information, visit their website at sportsmenforyouth.com or email sportsmenforyouth.info@gmail.com.  

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Campfire

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Backyard fire pit with campfire.

Sparks fly and crackle over quiet conversation. Colored flames mesmerize. S’mores are meant for eating in the dimness of glowing coals. Escaped fires are frightening and destructive. We all lament the currently raging forest fires burning out of control across the nation. 

Campfires instead provide yellow, red, blue, and green flames. Hidden in the flames are stories pulled from life’s memories. We cannot resist the chance to share outdoor experiences from adventures in the wild. I recall flipping in the Pine River’s floodwater one April when snow still covered the ground. We were on an overnight paddle trip. The group stopped to build a fire to dry our clothes while I stood naked in freezing air by the warming flames. Embellished details will wait for campfire sharing. We continued our voyage after the delay.

Campfires have a pleasant aesthetic. They provide a calm for reflection to share the day’s discoveries. It might be the size of the fish that got away, the rainbow of light reflecting from fish scales, or the blood drawn by a fin spine on a carelessly handled fish.  

We have all experienced smoke that follows us wherever we sit near the fire. We ask, why does smoke always follow me? Depending on the wood collected, some fires spark and display more colors or make louder pops than others. Pinewood filled with dried sap pops more than broadleaf tree branches. Green wood sizzles with bubbles oozing from xylem and phloem tubes at the cut ends of the log. 

Dumb moths fly to the fire and hopefully dodge the heat and flames before it is too late. When built in a properly constructed fire pit like those in our state and national parks or state forest campgrounds, we can safely burn. At Ody Brook, we have a fire circle lined with cement blocks. A bucket of water and rake are handy. It is fun to have a good rip-roaring fire with flames shooting high. For that reason, I keep shrubs and trees cut well away from the fire ring. 

As dusk settles upon us, daytime nature niche activity quiets, night sounds amplify, and we calm while gazing into the ever-changing flames. Campfire magic draws us. When the excitement of raging flames burn down, our mood becomes more peaceful when only glowing coals remain. It is best to hold the most intriguing stories until only embers create dim shadows on everyone’s faces. 

When people start fading and blend into the dark forest background, it is time to stir the coals to revive face details. Before dark, cut small shrub stems to make roasting sticks. Use green stems so they will not catch fire when toasting marshmallows. Teach kids to safely handle a jackknife for whittling the point. 

Youths will be anxious to get their marshmallows into the flames only to discover they will catch fire. Charred is not as tasty. Delay getting out the treat until there is a bed of coals. A slow roast allows the marshmallow to expand like an inflatable raft. When it is a puffy golden brown, place it on the chocolate candy bar waiting on a graham cracker. Use the second cracker to free it from the roasting stick. No explanation is needed for what to do next. 

Good luck trying to get kids and many adults to wait for flames to burn down before roasting begins. 

Campfires unify a family camping event. Ground fires often are not allowed in city or town yards but a solution is available. There are portable free-standing metal campfire trays. They have a curved metal disk that sits on a tripod stand. They can be placed on the driveway or in the lawn. The rising heat will not scorch the lawn. Campfires need not wait for infrequent camping trips. Find excuses to enjoy life outdoors with family members.

Enjoy the flames and night sounds. Talk about the wonderful creatures looming in the surrounding tree leaves or among the shrubs at yard’s edge. Insects, birds, and mammals are mysterious creatures watching 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 or call 616-696-1753.

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