web analytics

Archive | Outdoors

Wildlife Photo: Waiting for dinner

Feed me! Robins in the nest. Photo by Wendy Russell.

Feed me! Robins in the nest. Photo by Wendy Russell.

These robin chicks look like one hungry bunch! Wendy Russell, of Solon Township, found the nest in her own backyard, on 17 Mile, near Meijer. “Mom is always nearby and very protective of the nest,” she said. American Robins take about two weeks from hatching before they are ready to leave the next.

Thank you, Wendy, for sharing that with us!

If you have a wildlife photo you’d like to share, please send it to news@cedarspringspost.com with some info about the photo and where it was taken.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on Wildlife Photo: Waiting for dinner

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Silver beads of guttation

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Shining silver that does not tarnish glistens at the tips of wild strawberry leaves early in the morning. Instead of tarnishing, the silver evaporates in the morning warming sun. Humidity in the air determines how long silver beads will persist.

Guttation is responsible for water drops developing in rows along leaf edges and tips. At strawberry leaf tooth tips are microscopic spongy cells surrounding a tiny pore that allows water to ooze from the leaf. Water is drawn into plant roots like corn, grasses, and many other plants by uneven water pressure between high soil moisture and low moisture within the plant.

When soil is dry, water does not enter the plant. Avoiding dehydration is essential and all plants have adaptations in their nature niche to help them survive. In the Great Lakes region, it seems we have plenty of moisture but even within sight of the Great Lakes, some plants live in an arid environment.

The sand dunes have large coarse sand particles where water flows through rapidly. Without drought resistant adaptations, dune species would not survive. Plants living in constantly wet soils or in shallow standing water would drown without special adaptations for such conditions.

To some degree plants regulate water flow through their bodies. Leaves have massive numbers of tiny pores on the surface called stomata. Surrounding each pore are two bean shaped guard cells. When the plant is full of water, the guard cells swell. The inner side of each guard cell by the pore has a thick inflexible wall and the outer side has a thin wall that bulges when the cell fills with water. The more inflexible side arches to make the pore opening bigger as the outer side bulge increases outward.

The tips of the two bean-shaped cells touch but the opening between the two cells enlarges allowing water to escape to the air. When water evaporates from the surface, it tugs on water molecules and pulls more up through the root, stem, and leaves. It helps transport nutrients for plant tissues. The plant controls water content by opening and closing stomata based on moisture in the guard cells.

Guttation is different and is not regulated. The pore at the leaf edge is always open but these pores are limited in number. During the night when water vapor is high in the atmosphere (high humidity), evaporation is reduced. Large drops form and grow to form the silver beads we see in the morning.

During the Memorial Day weekend, it was a great pleasure to venture in the naturalness of Ody Brook to see any and all special things. Hopefully everyone spent time outdoors between infrequent rain showers. Much of the weekend was rain free but both ground and air humidity were high. As water was drawn into roots by uneven water pressure, it accumulated on leaf tips as it leaked from the always open pores. The result was beautiful silver water beads shining in the early day’s sun along leaf edges.

For eons this natural process occurred before our presence. It moves valuable nutrients like potassium and nitrogen through the plant. If we add too much nitrogen to the soil, fertilizer burn can occur. During the past 20 years’ a new danger to life has been added. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been added and become concentrated in guttation water beads. When bees drink guttation water from plants grown from neonic treated seeds, they can die within minutes. It is increasingly difficult for farmers to purchase seeds that have not been treated. Neonics are thought to be a cause of bee colony collapse disorder. Research continues but scientific confirmation takes time and repeated verification.

We can enjoy the natural wonders in our yards but we should learn to live in harmony with the lives of bees and other insects that make our lives possible by their daily work in gardens and farm fields.

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.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Silver beads of guttation

Michigan residents urged to “Fight the Bite” 

OUT-Fight-the-Bite-mosquitoWith warmer weather upon us, it is important to take precautions against mosquito and tick bites.  The Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services, Natural Resources, and Agriculture and Rural Development are reminding all residents to protect themselves from mosquito and tick-borne diseases in Michigan and while traveling out of state.

“As we spend more time outdoors, it’s important to remember that a single bite from an infected mosquito can have serious health consequences,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for MDHHS. “The best way to protect yourself and your family against mosquito-borne illness is to prevent mosquito bites.”

Seasonal activity varies from year to year, but mosquitoes encountered in Michigan can carry illnesses such as West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and ticks can carry illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. International travelers may be at risk for exposure to other mosquito-transmitted diseases. People considering international travel, including Mexico, Central and South America, should consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travelers health page for specific health information about the country they are visiting.

“Horses and other animals can act as sentinels for mosquito-borne viruses such as EEE, which is why implementing preventive measures and vaccination is important,” said Dr. James Averill, MDARD’s State Veterinarian. “Additionally, dogs and domestic animals are susceptible to tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease. I encourage all animal owners to work with a licensed veterinarian to make sure your animals stay healthy.”

Mosquito and tick-borne diseases can cause mild symptoms, severe infections requiring hospitalization, and even death in some cases. Nationally in 2015, there were 2,060 WNV cases and 119 deaths reported to the CDC, including 18 cases and two deaths in Michigan. Those with the highest risk of illness caused by WNV are adults 50 years of age and older.

Michigan is considered “low risk” for mosquito transmission of Zika, dengue, and chikungunya virus, as the mosquitoes that spread the diseases have not been found in the state. Zika is a virus that is newly emerged in the western hemisphere, and while its symptoms are not considered severe, the virus can cause birth defects in fetuses of pregnant women exposed to the virus. To date in 2016, there have been four travel-related cases identified in Michigan. Protection against mosquito-borne disease is as easy as remembering to take these key steps:

• Avoid mosquito bites: Use insect repellent according to label directions when outdoors and mosquitoes are biting. Look for EPA-labeled products containing active ingredients, such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus). Re-apply as needed. Use nets or fans around outdoor eating areas to keep mosquitoes away. Start with a low-concentration product and reapply if necessary. Apply repellent on your hands and then rub it on the child and never apply repellent to children’s hands or their skin under clothing.

• Mosquito-proof homes: Fix or install window and door screens and cover or eliminate empty containers with standing water where mosquitoes can lay eggs.

• Help your community: Report dead birds to Michigan’s Emerging Diseases website to help track WNV and support community-based mosquito control programs.

• Vaccinate horses against WNV and EEE virus and work with your veterinarian.

• Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If they must travel, they should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.

Michigan is also home to a number of tick species that will bite people and are typically found in wooded or brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. The ticks mostly commonly encountered in Michigan can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other human illnesses. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease reported in the state with 148 human cases reported in 2015.

Many tick-borne diseases have similar symptoms. See your healthcare provider if you develop signs of illness such as a fever, body aches and/or rash in the days after receiving a tick bite or recreating in tick habitat. Early recognition and treatment can decrease the chance of serious complications. You can prevent tick bites by:

• Avoiding tick-infested areas. This is especially important in May, June, and July. If you are in tick infested areas, walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter at trail edges. Dogs and domestic animals can also be impacted, so using a tick preventative is recommended.

• Using insect repellent. Apply repellent containing DEET (20-30%) or Picaridin on clothes and on exposed skin. You can also treat clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact or buy clothes that are pre-treated. Permethrin can also be used on tents and some camping gear. Do not use permethrin directly on skin. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying any repellents.

• Bathing or showering. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. Ticks can get a ride indoors on your clothes. After being outdoors, wash and dry clothing at a high temperature to kill any ticks that may remain on clothing.

• Performing daily tick checks. Always check for ticks after being outdoors, including your animals, even in your own yard. Because ticks must usually be attached for at least a day before they can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, early removal can reduce the risk of infection. Inspect all body surfaces carefully, and remove attached ticks with tweezers. Grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.

For more information about the diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks, visit www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases, or the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov.

Posted in Health, OutdoorsComments Off on Michigan residents urged to “Fight the Bite” 

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Lead in wildlife 

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The U.S. Army is going with green ammunition. This summer soldiers in Afghanistan began using a new “green” bullet that experts say is more effective than the traditional lead round. The green bullet will eliminate up to 2,000 tons of lead from the manufacturing process annually.

Lead hazards in the environment have been known for over a century. Alternatives for lead shot are known. Questions remain regarding the impact on wildlife. Some hunters are concerned that more wildlife will be injured and escape if alternates are used. For the past 40 years, I have heard hunters state that steel shot is not as lethal so we should not use it. Research conducted at Shiawassee River State Game Area in 1973 and other locations across the US showed no significant statistical difference in crippling loss between steel and lead shot. People’s perceptions often do not match verifiable research studies.

The distance at which waterfowl are shot is important. Shooting birds from too far away results in escape of injured birds. It is an unfortunate reality that there will be injured wildlife that are not killed for various reasons.

In 1977, steel was required in the Mississippi flyway for waterfowl hunting and that includes Michigan. Lead is still permitted for upland game hunting. This is not the place to list decades of research papers. For quick concise information I suggest reviewing the Michigan DNR website.

Embryonic exposure to lead can affect avian immune systems, brain development, and hatchability. Early post-hatch exposure can affect behaviors critical to survival including brain development, and growth. In adult birds, the effects of lead exposure include anemia with potential detriment to migration capability, increased mortality due to environmental temperature stress, immunotoxicity, behavioral deficits, and reduced egg production.

The banning of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in wetlands 40 years ago has likely reduced lead levels in some areas. Lead poisoning in animals continues. Animals ingest it thinking pellets are seeds, nuts, or eat it when scavenging on carcasses. It is ingested as stones to grind food in their gizzard.

Similar concerns have made headlines recently regarding lead exposure to people in Flint’s water and how it affects people’s health. For some reason it has been ok to knowingly inflict this on wildlife but not people.

What goes around comes around and I suspect what we do to life in nature niches will return to impact our families. We want to believe we are isolated from damaging substances we put in to the environment but we are not. Whether it is lead, excessive carbon, DDT, oil in drain sewers, or toilet boil cleaners, we are not isolated.

Three studies, as example, estimated densities of 11,000 lead pellets per acre in a field managed for dove hunting in Indiana; the Washington Fish and Wildlife Nontoxic Shot Working Group in 2001 estimated densities of 188,000 to 344,000 pellets per acre at two pheasant release sites in Washington; and over 122,000 pellets per acre were in uncultivated fields near duck blinds in Missouri.

Hunting and fishing gear containing lead could economically be replaced with non-toxic alternatives. I still have lead sinkers in my tackle box but I do not use them. They were my grandfather’s. I do not think my grandfather understood the dangers from lead. I didn’t, as a youngster. I bit on lead split-sinkers to attach them to my fishing line. My dad had a lead rod used for soldering. I demonstrated my strength by showing how I could bend a “steel” rod like superman. My hands probably went in my mouth afterwards. What damage was done?

Once lead reaches toxic levels in tissues, muscle paralysis and associated complications result in death in eagles, loons, ducks, geese, swans or others that ingested it. The Common Loon on display at Howard Christensen Nature Center washed into the shore of Lake Michigan. A DNR autopsy showed it died from lead pellet ingestion. I would rather see it live in a healthy wild world than be displayed as a casualty of lead we put in the environment.

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.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Lead in wildlife 

Feathered visitor nesting in your yard this spring?

Goslings: Goslings are a common sight in Michigan in the spring.

Goslings: Goslings are a common sight in Michigan in the spring.

Michigan residents may get a surprise this spring in their garden, flower box or even in the landscaping by their office building. Bird nests can be found in some unusual locations.

Ducks’ nests, particularly mallard nests, seem to appear just about everywhere in the spring. Female mallards commonly will build nests in landscaping, gardens or other locations that humans may consider inappropriate, but the duck may think otherwise.

While finding a duck’s nest in an unexpected location may be a surprise, there is no need for concern.

“She will be a very quiet neighbor and with her cryptic coloration, she may go largely unnoticed,” said Holly Vaughn Joswick, Department of Natural Resources wildlife outreach technician. “Leave the duck alone and try to keep dogs, cats and children away from the nest.”

Mallard brood: A mother duck will lead her ducklings to water shortly after they hatch.

Mallard brood: A mother duck will lead her ducklings to water shortly after they hatch.

If she is successful and her eggs hatch, the mother will lead her ducklings to the nearest body of water, often the day they hatch.

“Don’t worry if you do not live near water – the mother duck knows where to take her ducklings to find it,” added Vaughn Joswick.

You can expect the female mallard to sit on the nest for about a month prior to the eggs hatching. If the nest fails on its own – something that happens regularly – Joswick advises to just wish her luck on her next attempt.

Canada geese sometimes build nests near houses or in parks, often near water. Similar to mallards, Canada geese will lead their young to water soon after they hatch. Adult geese can be quite protective of their nests and their goslings and may chase people or pets away by hissing and running or flying toward the intruder. If possible, try to avoid the area.  If this is not possible, carry an umbrella and gently scare the bird away.

Those who have been fortunate enough to have a bird’s nest built in their yard, in a tree or on the ground, may have noticed that the baby birds are starting to outgrow their nests. Baby birds learn to fly through trial and error. They may feel they are ready to fly, but their flight feathers might not have fully grown in yet. It is common to find baby birds on the ground after an attempt to fly. If this is the case, please do not touch them. Their parents will continue to take care of them, even when they are on the ground.

Touching a baby bird will not cause the adults to abandon it; however, if you move a baby bird the parents may be unable to find and care for it. It is better to leave the baby bird alone to be raised by its parents.

In the event that you find a chick on the ground that is sparsely feathered, it may have accidentally fallen from the nest before it is ready to fledge (learn to fly). If you know where the nest is, you can put the chick back in the nest ONLY if you can do so safely.

Birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by law and must be left alone. Unless you have a license, taking a baby bird or eggs from the wild is breaking the law. The Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects migratory birds and their nests and eggs.

This year marks the centennial of the Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds – known as the Migratory Bird Treaty – signed Aug. 16, 1916. Three other treaties were signed shortly thereafter with Japan, Russia and Mexico. The Migratory Bird Treaty, the three additional treaties and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act are the cornerstones of efforts to conserve birds that migrate across international borders. To learn more about the Migratory Bird Treaty centennial, visit www.fws.gov/birds/MBTreaty100.

Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators may possess abandoned or injured wildlife. Unless a person is licensed, it is illegal to possess a live wild animal, including birds, in Michigan.

The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when it is obvious the parent is dead or the animal is injured. A licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Rehabilitators must adhere to the law, must have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals, and will work to return the animal to the wild, where it will have the best chance for survival.

A list of licensed rehabilitators can be found by visiting www.michigandnr.com/dlr/.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Feathered visitor nesting in your yard this spring?

Discover Hansen Nature Trail at Millennium Park

 

Fun for the whole family

GRAND RAPIDS–One of the most beautiful nature trails in Michigan is right here in Kent County; plan to check it out this spring. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 21, 2016 for a free and fun event at the Hansen Nature Trail at Millennium Park. Just pull on your walking shoes, gather the family and make your way down Butterworth Avenue to Riverbend Street to explore one of Kent County Park’s gems, the Hansen Nature Trail.

Designed for adventurers of all ages, this annual “Discover!” event includes a trail walk with nature-themed stations, a water and snack station and more! Kids can even participate in a scavenger hunt by visiting the stations along the walk, for a chance to win a free “Discover! Millennium Park” t-shirt. At each station, visitors will discover something fun and different about the local natural environment, including:

  • The story of the Hansen Nature Trail;
  • Birds and mammals that make their home nearby;
  • The variety of native and non-native trees around the park;
  • Unique ponds and their surprising history;
  • Wildflowers and native plants thriving in the area;
  • Live animal stations featuring reptiles, amphibians and birds of prey!

Visitors can park along Riverbend Street or at the John Ball Zoo (1300 West Fulton) where a free shuttle runs to and from the event. The event runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and is organized and hosted by MSU Extension Master Naturalist volunteers, with support from the Kent County Parks Department, the Kent County Parks Foundation and community businesses and organizations.

“The Discover! program is a great chance to highlight the Hansen Nature Trail and show people the uniqueness of this special area,” said Roger Sabine, Director of Kent County Parks. “Our goal is to build appreciation of natural ecosystems and the important role Kent County Parks plays in preserving these resources. We also hope the event will encourage visitors to discover other parks in our system, and even apply new knowledge to promote nature in their own back yards.”

Check out the Parks Department website at www.KentCountyParks.org.

Posted in Arts & Entertainment, OutdoorsComments Off on Discover Hansen Nature Trail at Millennium Park

Repelling Insects 

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Biting insects can drive us indoors. Wildlife are not as fortunate as we are in escaping biting critters. They find ways to reduce the nuisance by selecting breezy locations that keep mosquitoes and black flies away. Deer flies arrive later in the season and provide a painful bite but not as bad as a horse fly bite.

Black flies swarm in early spring. A friend said black flies were in thick swarm around me. I did not receive a single bite. When black flies first emerge, they do not seem to bite. I need to study that more. Maybe males emerge first. They do not need blood for egg development. When tiny black fly females arrive, they crawl around on skin looking for edges like hairline or bite at clothing edges.

When I wore a swimsuit, black flies couldn’t find a place to bite except at the suit’s edge. I treated that edge with repellent and I remained bite free while fishing. Large numbers of these small humpbacked flies landed on me and crawled about but they are so small I did not feel them. We do not feel their bite either. It is not until later that bite sites become red, itchy, and painful.

Avoid insect repellent chemicals as much as possible. Many repellants are not healthy for us when applied to skin. Place repellent on clothes. When biting insects are numerous, keep your body covered for protection and apply a safe repellent to limited exposed skin. Insect head nets are better than chemicals for protection.

Be careful not to get the chemical on the palms of hands because it will get on things you touch. I touch plants, insects I study, frogs, or other life. I do not want to injure anything I handle or leave chemical traces on leaves that are beneficial for insects to eat. Apply repellent to the back of hand and wipe it on face or neck. Do not spray your face because some might get in eyes. Avoid applying to forehead. When you sweat, it will to run into your eyes.

Mary Miller, who worked with me at the Howard Christensen Nature Center, taught me that wearing a bracken fern worked well to keep deer flies from biting and swarming my face. These flies circle our heads and are disturbing beyond their bite. Pick the fern and place its stem in hair or hat. The leafy portion of the fern rises above your head. Flies swarm that instead of our face. It is a simple repellent.

Wearing cologne, perfume, or hair gels attract biting insects and even irritated stinging wasps. We might want to smell great for people but it will attract unwanted insects. It has been difficult to get some students to appreciate the natural world if they use hair gels. They are bothered too much by insects to enjoy the outdoors.

Some people have their own natural repellents. My youngest daughter and I are not bothered by insects as much as Karen and my older daughter. I think it is because Julianne and I have more vitamin B. The four of us were hiking Five Lakes trail near Strongs in the UP and it was 80 F. Karen and Jenny Jo wore sweatshirts with hoods and covered all but face and hands. Biting insects were so thick around them they could not enjoy the hike. Julianne and I wore light weight clothes with skin exposed and insects were not thick around us.

A world of natural chemicals in nature niches attract, irritate, or repel insects. Plant chemicals protect them from insects and we extract those to use as commercial repellents. Native Americans historically rubbed sweetfern leaves on themselves because the chemical in leaves repels insects.

Biting insects are most problematic from May to late June. It is wonderful to be outside but bugs can drive us indoors. Find ways to be outside during all seasons. Staying in open sunlit breezy areas works well to avoid biters. Shaded wet areas have more mosquitoes. Camping in mid to late summer and fall has fewer irritating insects and makes for a better family experience.

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.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Repelling Insects 

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Hidden Sounds

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Deep within tree and shrub canopy some birds sing to announce their presence without exposing themselves to predators. Gray tree frogs sing from obscure shrub branches and hidden crevasses of house siding. Chipmunks cluck from logs and red squirrels chatter on needle-filled pine branches.

Many of us have experienced a stern scolding from a red squirrel when we entered what it considers its territory. Animals lay claim to territorial space in order to establish adequate room for rearing a family. The living space might provide essential food, water, and shelter but maybe not. Protected territory space does not always meet basic needs for survival.

That is fine for some species because space needed for family raising is different from where they acquire food and water during the breeding season. They leave a smaller size nesting “territory” to feed in social groups or to visit convenient watering areas in “home range” space.

Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds gather in feeding groups within inches of one another but will not tolerate such closeness in nesting territory. At nesting sites, larger territories are guarded by singing males. Even females have territories. Not all species behave in this manner.

Gulls, terns, swallows and several other species nest in close proximity to one another. There are advantages and disadvantages for colonial nesting. Isolation is important for the hidden singers.

Colorful warblers, thrushes, chickadees, sparrows, finches and many others need isolated hidden locations to successfully raise a family. Many do not succeed with difficult challenge. Singing from a hidden podium offers protection from predators when birds claim breeding territories. Sometimes the danger from predators is not significant but breeding song still comes from among the thickness of leaves.

It is nearly impossible to see other birds of their own species in the thick of the woods. Searching every tree and shrub for intruders would take time away from gathering food and courting. Instead, each species has a unique song to sing from hidden locations to warn others “this space is taken.” When one dares challenge the boundary, the resident will hear the song and travel to oust a space competitor.

Territorial singing is most prevalent early in the day. Birds patrol their boundary singing from hidden locations. Sound travels well through the canopy where sight is limited. In addition to sound being an important territorial marker, color is important when the birds see one another. When seen, particular colors might make birds see “Red” in the case of another male and causes them to defend a territory. The beautiful flash of color patterns owned by many birds are also used to woo a mate.

Singing from a hidden location can protect nature niche food, water, and shelter during family upbringing from others of the same species. Once appropriate space is established, the bird can display its flamboyance to a resident female.

Great variety of species behaviors fill habitats. The Red-winged Blackbird does not sing from a hidden place. Instead it stands bold on a cattail in an open marsh. Explore and witness over 300 species of birds in unique Great Lakes ecosystem habitats and their diverse behaviors.

Listen and enjoy the hidden sounds of nature even when you do not get to enjoy seeing the maker.

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.

Posted in Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Hidden Sounds

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Snippets of life 

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Picking wild blue berries with the family, catching grasshoppers and worms for fishing, swimming in a lake, canoeing a river, climbing a tree with neighborhood kids, catching lightning bugs are all snippets from my childhood outdoor experiences. Each of us recall a multitude of experiences from growing up.

Make a mental list of your experiences growing up. How many are outdoor experiences with family? How many are outdoor experiences by yourself or with other kids? Ask your kids to list outdoor experiences with family, by themselves or with other kids.

Compare your lists. Do you and your kids have similar outdoor experience lists? Times have changed but are you providing your children or grandchildren with experiences that were a joy for you as a kid?

One of my happier moments came with each of my girls separately. I asked each when we were alone, to tell me their favorite family activity from when they were growing up. Interesting both had the same answer. They said going horseback riding at Wolf Lake Ranch. That is something we did during a fall weekend each year. My favorite family activity when I was growing up was going to Wolf Lake Ranch with my parents every fall.

How many parents can say their children’s favorite family activity is the same favorite activity they had with their parents? Going to a rustic ranch for horseback riding, hayride, campfire, and other activities is one way to experience the outdoors.

In some ways, the girls and I grew up in the same time three decades apart. Of course, the world changed but the natural world was there for all of us. We had time to explore on our own and with friends.

Technology brought new advances as I grew. A new thing called transistor radios came into existence, FM radio developed, and automatic engines were replacing stick shift automobiles in my youth. As my kids grew, pinball machines gave way to video games, computers like the Apple IIe hit the market, and CD’s replaced vinyl records.

TV shrunk the world even more and brought distant places and events closer to home. Despite the changes going on around us, our kids grew up with frogs, deer, ants, oak trees, and apples as neighbors. We grew Christmas trees in the yard and learned tree husbandry. Each girl had their own garden. As  waves rolled toward Lake Michigan’s shore, we threw stones to see if we could hit white caps.

We camped in Hiawatha National Forest campgrounds and put our feet in the icy water of Lake Superior. In warmer shallow water of a campground lake, we waded among thousands of American toad pollywogs.

We choked on campfire smoke that seemed to follow us where ever we moved.

The world might be changing in ways we wish it were not but that does not mean our kids and grandkids cannot grow up in a time and place that was present 50 years ago. The natural world provides a place to nurture one’s sole, spirit, and physical health.

Tents are still sold, outhouses still are found in rustic campgrounds, dirt hiking trails are more abundant throughout the state, birds are singing, coyotes howl, bull frogs bellow, and deer bound from secret bedding areas. Raise kids in a time and place that you remember. It is safe and wonderful.

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.

Posted in Outdoors, Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments Off on Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: Snippets of life 

$5,000 reward offered for info on Turkey Tracts vandalism 

Vandals destroyed this sign just three days after a celebration of the opening of the new Turkey Tracts kiosk.

Vandals destroyed this sign just three days after a celebration of the opening of the new Turkey Tracts kiosk.

The Department of Natural Resources and local law enforcement agencies are seeking information on the vandalism of the new “Turkey Tracts” kiosk located at Allegan State Game Area in Allegan County, Michigan.

The National Wild Turkey Federation is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to a conviction of the person or persons responsible for destroying the sign.

On April 15, vandals destroyed the sign located on 126th Avenue, just three days after partners, volunteers and individuals celebrated the opening of Michigan’s first Turkey Tracts site.

“Vandalism on state game areas not only destroys the hard work of volunteers and partner organizations, but can hinder the ability to make improvements on the game area,” said Maria Albright, DNR wildlife technician. “Hunter license dollars may end up being spent making repairs from the destruction of public property instead of making improvements for all users to enjoy.”

Lt. Gerald Thayer of the DNR felt confident the vandals would be found. “Our officers are trained for these types of situations and rely on assistance from the public to catch the culprits,” he said. “We are interested in any information regarding this illegal act.”

Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to call the 24-hour DNR Report All Poaching (RAP) line at 800-292-7800. Information may be left anonymously.

Turkey Tracts are unique turkey hunting areas across the Lower Peninsula that provide great hunting opportunities for a variety of hunters, including youth, adults new to the sport, veterans with disabilities and seniors.

“I’m very disappointed with the blatant disregard for this significant public-use facility,” said Jonathan W. Edgerly, with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and a member of the Michigan Accessibility Advisory Council. “Sites like this are important to our veterans with disabilities. I’m thankful that law enforcement agencies and the National Wild Turkey Federation are taking these crimes seriously and for their determination to bring the offenders to justice.”

The kiosk included helpful information for hunters visiting the Turkey Tract, such as maps of the area, project sponsors and information on wild turkey habitat management.

Learn more about turkeys and hunting turkey in Michigan at mi.gov/turkey.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on $5,000 reward offered for info on Turkey Tracts vandalism