web analytics

Archive | Outdoors

Bird eggs and shells

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Reminder Note: The Rouge River Butterfly Count is July 7 at 9 a.m. If you missed the nature niche article, e-mail me for details. Participants will receive Mo Nielsen’s Michigan Butterflies and Skippers Field Guide. 

Bird eggs taste good to us and other creatures like birds, snakes, and mammals. Successful egg hatching is a difficult challenge. 

This year, an American Robin built a nest in a precarious location at Ody Brook and by the time its second egg was laid, I saw the nest on the ground. The first egg lay unbroken. A second egg was laid on the remaining nest platform base but was abandoned. 

Size of eggs correlates with bird size but variation occurs. Precocial birds whose young develop adequately to leave the nest promptly like ducks, have larger eggs with more nutritional content. That allows the chick to grow more inside the egg before hatching. It readies the young for rapid nest departure.

Altricial birds like chickadees that hatch small, naked and featherless develop in smaller eggs. The parent feeds the helpless babies and needs to continue incubating to keep young from dying of hypothermia. 

Egg shape is important for survival in nature niches. Round eggs can role like a marble. Oblong eggs that are narrow at one end and wide at the other will roll in circles. Cliff dwelling birds use little nest material and the oblong egg shape prevents them from rolling off the cliff. They roll in circles. Screech owls have nearly round eggs placed in a cavity nest where they cannot roll away. 

More tapered eggs that are somewhat pointed are characteristic for birds with cup nests like those of thrushes and sparrows. It allows eggs to fit better for incubation. The adult bird forms a brood patch on her breast that is featherless and filled with blood vessels during breeding season. She cools her breast by sitting on cool eggs. The heat is transferred to the developing embryos in the eggs. When the egg warms against her breast, she rolls the egg to a cooler portion of the shell. The activity evenly heats the eggs. 

Eggs exposed in view would be targets for predators if they were white against the modeled gray brown ground location like where killdeer and many other shorebirds have nests. Eggs shells become colored as the shell is developed in the oviduct. They frequently have spots that develop when the egg is temporarily stationary and are streaked with movement. A ring may be present at the wide end as the egg is pushed along the oviduct. 

Birds tend to lay one egg a day until they complete their clutch. During the 24-hour egg development process, the egg is fertilized by a male and the embryo moves through the oviduct where the shell encases the lifegiving material for chick development. 

The embryo is small with a large yolk attached to nourish development. As the chick grows, the yolk becomes smaller as nutrition is transferred to the young bird. Egg white acts as a shock absorber, provides protein, water, and insulation. Under the shell surface are two membranes that protect from bacterial infection. 

Between the two membranes an air sac is located at the large end of the egg. The air pocket facilitates movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the egg. The shell might appear solid and impervious but the embryo would suffocate without constant diffusion of vital gases through the shell.

Eggs are laid wide end first. As the egg shell is developing, muscles in the oviduct contract to push the egg along. The pressure narrows the end where contractions force movement. Calcium is added along the way making the egg ridged by the time it is laid. When preparing your next egg meal, examine the shell, membranes, egg white and yolk. Then enjoy good nutrition and taste. 

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 (0)

Operation Dry Water emphasizes boating safety leading into holiday

Michigan DNR conservation officers again are participating in the national Operation Dry Water campaign, aimed at reducing the number of people boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs, keeping the water safe for everyone.

As the July 4th holiday nears, DNR conservation officers will focus on keeping boaters safe through heightened awareness and enforcement of “boating under the influence” laws.

It’s part of the Operation Dry Water campaign, June 29-July 1, in coordination with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partners. The annual campaign starts before the holiday weekend, when more boaters take to the water and alcohol use increases.


Boating safety takes center stage during Operation Dry Water June 29-July 1, 2018, when Michigan DNR conservation officers focus on keeping boaters safe through heightened awareness and enforcement of “boating under the influence” laws.

“The best way to safely enjoy a day on the water is to avoid alcohol,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, Michigan’s boating law administrator. “Using alcohol impairs reaction time, balance and judgment. Please don’t put yourself and others at risk. Be smart and stay sober when boating.”

In Michigan, a person operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, or having a blood alcohol content of .08 grams or more, can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $500, community service and up to 93 days in jail. It also can result in loss of boating privileges for at least one year.

If a person is killed or injured due to a driver operating a boat while under the influence, the driver could be charged with a felony, punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

Boaters can do their part by:

Boating sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. The effects of alcohol and certain medications are increased on the water due to added stress factors such as the sun, heat, wind, wave motion and engine noise.

Wearing life jackets. Nearly 85 percent of drowning victims in the U.S. were not wearing life jackets.

Taking boating safety courses. The DNR recommends a safety course for anyone who plans to use a boat or personal watercraft. Convenient, affordable classes are offered at locations throughout the state and online.

Learn more about boating regulations, safety and where to find marinas at michigan.gov/boating. For more on Operation Dry Water, contact Lt. Pete Wright, 906-228-6561.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Parasites and parasitoids

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

We are familiar with parasites like mosquitoes that suck blood essential for egg development. Females are parasitic and males are not. Males seek nectar and so do females for general energy requirements. The female needs blood proteins for egg development. After sucking blood, she takes a few days to digest blood protein that serves egg yolk development. 

If a female survives the effort of sucking blood, she might lay 100 to 200 eggs on water surfaces after she has processed blood proteins to adequately nourished eggs. Only two of her eggs survive to reproduce if the mosquito population remains stable from one generation to the next. That is the norm. Some species lay eggs in unique ways to meet specialized nature niche adaptations. Population abundance has seasonal peaks.

Most mosquito parasitism occurs at dawn and dusk. We avoid harassment by selecting outdoor activity times and locations. Instead of using yard pesticides, we mechanically manage vegetation. Near the house we mow a 20-foot wide area that is avoided by most mosquitoes. Beyond the mowed area is a lush display of maiden pink and Cat’s-ear flowers (see photo) that please our eyes in June and house insect predators that help control parasites and parasitoids. Learning to live with nature has rewards. Sterilizing the yards diminishes the wonders of life that enrich our lives. It prevents bird habitation and beneficial insect predators important to landscape ecology.

Parasites do not normally kill their host. Mosquitoes carry parasites like the malaria amoeba that kills a half million people annually. There is a middle ground between the impacts of parasites and parasitoids. Most things exist on a gradation. To be most effective a parasite captures needed substances from a host without killing it.

Parasitoids kill their host. If parasitoids were completely effective, the host species would become extinct. Host species have structural and behavioral adaptations that help them complete their life cycle and reproduce. Parasitoids are more effective at controlling pests than predators and they are more susceptible to pesticides.

The adaptations of a parasitoid are for an adult to find a suitable host and lay eggs on or in the animal. Sphinx moths and large silk moths are sought by tiny specialized Braconid and Ichneumonid wasps. They sting the caterpillar to lay eggs. Tachinid flies lay eggs on the caterpillar. When hatched, larvae burrow in. 

The host larva often jerks and waves its body to prevent parasitoid egg laying. Some caterpillars like the Federally Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly are ant tended. The butterfly secretes honey dew, a sugar solution, that ants eat. Ants protect the caterpillars from both parasites and parasitoids. Perhaps you have had ants jump off plants and bite you if you got too close to a caterpillar they protect. The Edwards Hairstreak butterflies are ant protected. Ants herd the caterpillars from oak leaves where they feed at night to the ground in the morning and back to leaves at dusk. Ant behavior is similar to farmers herding cows to and from barns. 

Once the parasitoid larvae of wasps or flies hatch from the egg, they feed on the least essential body tissues like caterpillar fat. The caterpillar goes about daily feeding to meet its energy needs for pupal development to transform to an adult. As it nears the pupal forming stage, it often has inadequate stored nutrition to complete pupal formation. Finally, vital organs are consumed by the parasitoid. Parasitoid and parasite activity exist in other organism groups. The few examples presented are simply representative to introduce their roles. 

When you explore wild areas of your yard or neighborhood, you might find a shriveled desiccated caterpillar skin or one with obvious white pupae on the surface of a living individual. It is common for 100 or more parasitoids to emerge from the caterpillar’s body. If the parasitoid killed the caterpillar quickly, it would not survive to adulthood and its own species would parish. 

Ask plant nurseries to sell native plant genotypes, buy cultivars minimally, and use minimal pesticides to enjoy life’s abundance. Such practices will maintain Earth’s biodiversity and enhance your life’s enjoyment.

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 (0)

Butterfly

Ron Parker, of Courtland Township, recently sent us photos of his pretty peonies, and this beautiful butterfly.

“The Swallowtail butterfly is the most perfect butterfly I have seen; usually their wings have already started to be beaten up by living their short lives,” he wrote.

Thank you so much, Ron, for sharing your wild life and wild flower photography with us!

If you have wild life or wild flower photos you’d like to send us, please email them to news@cedarspringspost.com. We will run them as space allows.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

Arrowhead Spiketail Life Cycle

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Flying rapidly close to the surface of shallow water in Little Cedar Creek headwaters, an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly guards a territory. Males fly back and forth over a section of stream protecting areas where water flows over a muck bottom. A female lays her eggs in the muck where water is shallow enough for her to reach her long abdomen into the soft bottom. She needs seeping springs that feed streams in forested habitat. 

The Arrowhead Spiketail has not been collected extensively in Michigan. It lives in eastern North America. The Michigan Odonata Survey documents distribution evidence with specimens in the University of Michigan research museum. Interestingly, no specimens are vouchered to document its presence for our area of the state. 

I have only noticed it when hiking in Porcupine Mountains State Park and at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary. 

It is a beautiful dragonfly with a black abdomen and bright yellow arrowhead spots on the top of the abdomen.

Many species of dragonflies appear in abundance during summer. A walk through a field will provide a glimpse at fast-moving young adults. Many remain on the wing making it difficult to recognize identification details. They are busy removing flying insects. Thank them for making your walk more pleasant by eating insects that might eat part of you. Some dragonflies eat their weight in mosquitos in one hour. 

Young adults are often found far from water. When sexually ready to mate, they head to a species-specific water type of lake, pond, river, bog, swamp, stream, or seep where young develop. Each species experiences a similar development with variations that help it thrive in its specialized nature niche. 

The mating process for dragonflies is unique. Insects have three body parts–head, thorax, and abdomen. The male transfers sperm from the end of his abdomen to a pocket near the attachment of his abdomen and thorax. Using claspers at the end of his abdomen, the male grabs the female by the head. When the female is held firmly by the head, she bends her abdomen in a loop to where the sperm packet is stored. A penis in the pocket on the male scoops out any sperm packets or pushes them aside to ensure his sperm sires offspring. Some dragonflies stay attached while females lay eggs and some release them but fly nearby to keep other males away. I do not know spiketail methods for protecting females from being mated by other males. Does he stay attached or fly nearby?

Female dragonflies lay eggs in appropriate habitat. Some species skim the water surface dropping eggs that sink to the bottom. Others lay eggs in vegetation that drop into water when hatched. Some lay eggs on land that will be carried into water during flooding. Each species has different egg laying techniques. 

When the egg hatches, a small naiad begins its life feeding on other stream life. Some crawl on the stream bottom while others remain stationary and buried in bottom sediments waiting for food to drift to them. They are predators eating aquatic organisms. If found, the dragonfly becomes prey for fish and other organisms. 

To survive, they are camouflaged and remain hidden. Their gills are tucked inside their rear end so they suck oxygen rich water in their butt to pass over the gills. On the underside of the head is the deadly flat feeding structure that unfolds with great speed. At its end are pinchers that grab prey and the flap folds to bring the prey to chewing mouth parts where the food is dismembered and swallowed. Some naiad larvae develop into adults in one year while other species take many years.  

Dragonflies have three developmental stages; egg, naiad, and adult. They have incomplete metamorphosis as opposed to complete like butterflies that have egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult. The naiad sheds its exoskeleton many times as it grows and finally when developed enough, it will climb from the water on vegetation where it emerges from its final naiad skeleton. It squeezes from the exoskeleton by arching backward from the shell-like covering. Its adult legs grasp the plant to hold tightly while it pumps fluid into expanding wings. When wings dry, it begins flight, feeds, and mates to complete the life cycle that begins a new generation of dragonflies.

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 (0)

Black buffalo state record broken by angler on Grand River

Brandonn Kramer poses with his state record black buffalo, taken while bowfishing on the Grand River in Ottawa County this past May. Courtesy photo.

The Department of Natural Resources confirmed the catch of a new state record black buffalo on June 12.

The fish, a member of the sucker family, was caught by Brandonn Kramer of Muskegon, Michigan at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25 on the Grand River in Ottawa County. Assistance was provided by Kramer’s friend and fishing cohort, Shawn Grawbarger also of Muskegon. The fish weighed 46.54 pounds and measured 39.75 inches. Kramer was bowfishing when he landed the record fish. 

The record was verified by Jay Wesley, a DNR fisheries manager for Lake Michigan. 
The previous state record black buffalo was caught by Sage Colegrove, of Muskegon, on the Grand River in Ottawa County on April 12, 2015. That fish weighed 44.54 pounds and measured 38.5 inches. 

State records in Michigan are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist. 

For more information, visit Michigan.gov/masterangler.  

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

Tent Caterpillars

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Tent caterpillars become abundant and then seem to disappear for years. During the recent Memorial Day weekend, I led ecological interaction walks in the Jordan River Valley for the Michigan Botanical Club Spring Foray. Members gathered from the state to explore the advance of spring ephemeral flowers, trees, shrubs and associations with insects, birds, fungi and other organisms. Organisms were busy at work in their nature niches. 

Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) on bark. Image from U.S. forest Service.

Driving to the natural areas from home, many foray attendees noticed eastern tent caterpillar webs on cherry trees along freeways, highways, and back roads. The roads act like threads of silk to get us from where we work to places we rest in shelters at night. The tent caterpillars create their own highway with silk threads used to mark the way from where they feed to their nightly tent residence where they sleep protected and safe.

Many hazards prevent safe return as they go about work and travel. At times they reproduce in excessive abundance. Over 30 years ago, I interviewed Suzy for a position as interpretive naturalist at Howard Christensen Nature Center. We walked the trails discussing natural history and the work. Eastern tent caterpillars were abundantly feeding on cherries and had stripped most cherry leaves from trees. 

She asked if that would kill the trees. I suggested she conduct a scientific study to determine the answer. I told her to select a tree of her choice and report back to me whether it survived longer than her. She selected a particularly heavily infested cherry that was 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It was nearly nude from having its leaves almost entirely eaten. By mid-June the tree was looking much like it did in winter. Silk tents were woven among branches throughout the tree. 

The caterpillars had removed the organs responsible for providing life giving sustenance and seriously threatened its health. The tree had adequate stored energy to survive that summer and photosynthesis provided some added daily food to meet energy requirements. After the spring population eruption, the caterpillars spun cocoons that emerged as drab brown moths. The moths laid masses of 100 to 300 eggs glued to cherry branches. 

The next spring when new delicate leaves filled with water and sugars carried from roots through stems to buds, the leaves expanded for work capturing sunlight energy to produce more sugars and plant tissues. Caterpillars hatched from the egg masses and ate the soft new tissues. For a second year, the tree was stripped naked during May and June. By mid to late summer the tree produced more leaves while the moths were hidden in cocoons. 

During the third summer, tree branches were filled with caterpillar tents despite birds, ants and many predators eating their share and using them to feed young. Predators were not abundant enough to reduce the tent caterpillar population. Along came a virus that had been building its own population yearly. During this third year, it became abundant enough to kill the majority of caterpillars. The virus had its survival job and was doing to caterpillars what the caterpillars were doing to the trees—killing them—or were caterpillars killing trees? 

Back to Suzy. After 30 years, I asked Suzy if her selected tree was still alive and asked if she was still alive. She said both were living and both appeared healthy. After that third year the caterpillar population crashed and so did the virus. Every decade or so the tent caterpillar population builds and crashes with the virus life cycle conducting its ecological role. Some cherries already weak from over-crowding or other reasons, die during the moth eruption. It thins the forest providing more growing space, nutrients and health for remaining trees. 

In the natural areas where we hiked with botanical club members, forest tent caterpillars were abundantly feeding on sugar maple leaves. This species does not build tents like the eastern tent caterpillars but their life cycles resemble each other’s. We stood quietly and listened to their frass (poop) falling from tree tops. It sounded like a gentle rain on the 88ºF clear summer afternoon. I suggested participates return to see whether they or their selected trees lives longer.

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 Featured, Outdoors, Ranger Steve's Nature NicheComments (0)

DNR receives grant for Arctic grayling 

 

Arctic grayling incubators: Additional research is being done to determine how best to rear future Arctic grayling in Michigan’s streams using remote site incubators, pictured here.

Michigan’s historic effort to reintroduce Arctic grayling to the state’s waters will be supported by a $5,000 grant from the Oleson Foundation to the Department of Natural Resources. 

To develop Michigan’s broodstock—a group of mature fish used for breeding—the DNR plans to source wild Arctic grayling eggs from Alaska. However, a vital piece of equipment is needed first at Oden State Fish Hatchery in Emmet County, where the broodstock will be developed. Support from the Oleson Foundation will help the DNR acquire this urgently needed piece of equipment that will ensure no invasive disease or virus is inadvertently introduced to Michigan’s waters. 

“The Oleson Foundation’s Board of Directors is pleased to support this incredible project,” said Kathy Huschke, executive director of the Oleson Foundation. “It’s an amazing opportunity to recapture what was lost from northern Michigan’s environment more than 80 years ago due to overfishing and clear-cutting of our forests. This is truly a legacy project for all of Michigan.”

Arctic grayling egg: Research is a critical part of Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative, like the work being done with these eyed Arctic grayling eggs.

The DNR’s Fisheries Division and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians lead Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative. More than 45 partners, including state and tribal governments, nonprofits, businesses and universities, support reintroducing Arctic grayling to its historical range.

Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter said the cost to reintroduce Arctic grayling is expected at around $1.1 million, with virtually all of that amount being supplied through private and foundation support. To date, nearly $425,000 has been raised for the initiative.

“A diverse group of partners has invested themselves toward attaining a shared goal, and that says something about the nature of this project,” said Dexter. “Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative serves as a template for future efforts that include a variety of stakeholders.”

Other contributions from foundations include support from the Consumers Energy Foundation, the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, Rotary Charities of Traverse City and the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. Plans are under way to recognize donors at Oden State Fish Hatchery.

“We encourage everyone to get involved so we can bring back this native fish,” said Huschke.  

The Oleson Foundation is a family foundation founded in Traverse City, Michigan, in 1962 to “help people help themselves.” The foundation makes grants to nonprofit organizations in northwestern Michigan in all areas of grant-making. They are very supportive of environmental work to preserve and steward the beautiful landscape that makes our area spectacular and unique.

For more information about Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative and answers to frequently asked questions, visit MiGrayling.org

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

Whether terrifying or totally cool, snakes are best left alone

The only venomous snake species found in Michigan, the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake is shy and avoids humans whenever possible.

From the Michigan DNR

Michigan is home to 18 different snake species, but there’s no need to worry, since most found here are harmless and tend to avoid people. If you do spot a snake, give it space to slither away, and you likely won’t see it again. Handling or harassing snakes is the most common reason people get bit.

Simply put, if left alone, Michigan snakes will leave people alone. 

While most snakes in Michigan aren’t dangerous, there is one venomous species found here—the eastern massasauga rattlesnake.

As the name implies, the massasauga rattlesnake has a segmented rattle on its tail. But keep in mind that other Michigan snakes—even those without segmented rattles—also may buzz or vibrate their tails when approached or handled.  

“The massasauga rattlesnake tends to be a very shy snake that will avoid humans whenever possible,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator with the DNR. “They spend most of their time in wetlands hunting for small rodents and aren’t often encountered. In fact, this snake is listed as a threatened species.” 

Rattlesnake bites, while extremely rare in Michigan, can and do occur. Anyone who is bitten should seek immediate medical attention. 

Snakes play an important role in ecosystem health by keeping rodent numbers in check and, in turn, feeding larger predators, especially hawks and owls. Help monitor Michigan’s reptile and amphibian populations by reporting your sightings to our Herp Atlas database. Visit miherpatlas.org to get started. 

Learn more about snakes on the DNR website or contact Hannah Schauer at 517-388-9678.

Posted in OutdoorsComments (0)

“Three Free” weekend coming June 9-10

Grab a fishing rod, ride Michigan’s off-road trails and/or pay a visit to your favorite state park for free – all in the same weekend. During two back-to-back days, June 9-10, we invite residents and out-of-state visitors to enjoy Free Fishing Weekend, Free ORV Weekend and free entry into state parks.

All fishing license, ORV license, trail permit and Recreation Passport costs will be waived. All other regulations still apply.

For more information, visit michigan.gov/freefishing (fishing), michigan.gov/recreationpassport (state parks) or michigan.gov/orvinfo (ORV).

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments (0)

advert
Ensley Team Five Star Realty
Kent Theatre
Cedar Car Co
Advertising Rates Brochure

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!