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Archive | Outdoors

Dying Pines

This photo shows normal fall needle drop in a white pine tree. Photo from purdue.edu.

This photo shows normal fall needle drop in a white pine tree. Photo from purdue.edu.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

During fall, people notice pine trees dying. They become concerned about what unexpected fungal blight or insect infestation is killing trees. Events occur in our neighborhoods that generally escape notice and then suddenly capture our attention.

Broad-leaved trees like maples, cherries, and aspens drop their leaves each fall and stand naked all winter in wait for the spring growing season. Losing leaves helps them avoid structural damage that would occur from the weight of snow or ice that would get caught on leaves during the winter. The weight would snap branches. If the trees maintain their large leaves during winter, they would fail. Frozen water in leaves would burst cell membranes causing leaves to die.

In our yards and in wild places over yonder during fall, one is likely to see massive brown needles on pines. This is very noticeable for our State Tree, the White Pine. People contact me inquiring what is wrong that trees are dying. In most cases I reassure nothing is wrong and the trees are healthy. It is normal for needles that are three years old to die. Younger needles closer to the branch tip remain green and healthy.

The older needles away from the tip wear out from old age. They are also tucked farther back into the tree instead of being more exposed to sunlight. Look at pine branches to notice the brown needles are clustered away from the branch tip. Closer to the tree trunk notice that there are no needles. In previous years the bare branch held needles. Each year as the branch extends new growth with fresh needles, old needles die at the inner portion during fall.

A layer of needles builds annually under pines, where pine pitch helps prevent their decay. Usually a thick duff of pine needles is found under the trees in wild nature niches. Yard needles are often removed.

How is it that pine needles avoid frost damage that would kill broad-leaved tree foliage? One advantage is pine pitch helps prevent frost damage by lowering the freezing temperature like antifreeze. Needles also contain sugar that functions like antifreeze. That only works to a limited point and then water in the cells would freeze and burst cell membranes causing the needles to be killed.

To survive very cold weather, water must be mostly removed from the needles. Trees transport water from needles and branches to roots in a similar manner to broad-leaved trees where sugar and nutrients are stored. Living needles that did not turn brown in fall cling to life throughout the winter but are mostly dormant.

During a warm sunny spell in midwinter, green needles are warmed and become active. This is dangerous for the needles and tree. The needles produce sugar by photosynthesis where they combine carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight energy.

The winter needles contain little water and that helps prevent frost damage. Unfortunately, using the limited amount of water can dehydrate the needle to the point of death during photosynthesis. The trees are unable to ship needed water from the cold ground unless the soil temperature is above 40 F. The needles in warm air and sunlight make the effort to produce sugar but instead die from lack of water for completing the process.

What were healthy needles in late fall become victims of “winter burn.” The winter burn might only affect some needles on the tree but some years I have seen entire trees “burned” to the point that it causes tree death. Living is not easy but brown needles on pines in fall is usually not a sign of stress or tree death.

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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World heroes

Ancestral perennial corn.

Ancestral perennial corn.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Honey Bees and native insect pollinators keep food on our tables. Our society would crumble without insect pollinators that keep flowering plants thriving. Pollinators are real heroes that we should honor, respect, and care for by how we treat yards, farms, forest, and fields. If you ask people who they owe their health, wealth, and security to, I expect most would not reply “insects.”

Perhaps this is because the importance of ecological sustainability is not integrated into child upbringing by parents and is marginalized in school education by political forces and narrow subject focus. Ecological literacy is integral for maintaining sustainable economic, industrial, and societal community success. That was my focus as director at the Howard Christensen Nature Center and Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center’s cross curriculum instruction. Our survival is dependent on keeping essential workers like insects on the job.

As nice as it is to recognize the work of people we depend on, other life forms are equal or more essential. To help develop appreciation for life in our neighborhoods, Nature Niche articles highlight creatures with whom we share Earth. However, this week I would like to recognize a human world hero with whom I have had limited personal experience.

I met with Dr. Hugh Iltis at the University of Wisconsin when I was deciding a career path for graduate school. I was considering botanical studies with him as my advisor. Hugh had recently become aware of a perennial corn in Mexico, and he and his colleagues named the ancestral perennial corn Zea diploperennis.

What makes Dr. Iltis a world hero is his recognition for the importance of an unknown plant that is restricted to a few square miles on planet Earth and his efforts to preserve it. It is a true grass related to Zea mays, our domestic edible corn. Mexican and Nicaraguan governments have taken action to preserve these plants. Why?

It has potential for use in breeding insect resistance, perennialism, and flood tolerance into domestic corn. Can you imagine if farmers no longer needed to plant corn annually because it sprouted annually on it own? If we can breed domestic corn or genetically modify it to become perennial, it would have significant impacts for agricultural economics.

What if we could breed it or genetically splice insect resistance from ancestral corn back into corn that was lost during domestication 10,000 years ago? We could perhaps reduce human dependence on insecticides that pose dangerous health concerns for our families and other life forms.

The tolerance of Zea diploperennis to floods could possibly increase domestic corn survival if its genes were incorporated to help it survive when corn fields flood and soils become water logged.

Wild corn was thought extinct at the time this ancestral corn was discovered. Many people and perhaps most on Earth do not recognize the importance and need to preserve species in our neighborhoods. Their importance and value will be lost to us and future generations if we do not honor, respect, and care for the health, wealth, and security that other species provide in ecosystems that support us.

I did not take the road to study plants under Dr. Iltis’s direction. Instead, I chose graduate study in entomology and ecology, with a subsequent career in environmental education. I focused energies toward environmental stewardship essential for sustaining society and life on Earth, by following Dr. Iltis’ lead and that of other heroes that help sustain society. Hail Hero to Dr. Iltis, who is now 90.

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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Weekly fishing tip

whitefish

whitefish

Lake whitefish not just for commercial anglers

From the Michigan DNR

Although extremely important to Great Lakes commercial fishers, lake whitefish are becoming more and more popular with recreational anglers throughout Michigan. But you really have to know how to catch this delicious species!

The lake whitefish has a small, exceedingly delicate mouth and is confined to dining on insects, freshwater shrimp, small fish and fish eggs, and bottom organisms. Most feeding takes place on or near lake-bottoms. Keep that in mind when selecting your bait.

If you’re interested in staying inland and looking for lake whitefish, stick with deep, clear-water lakes. If you’re interested in heading to the Great Lakes, they can most often be found in deep water, either on or near the bottom.

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DNR reminds deer hunters of license structure

 

With Michigan’s archery deer season in full swing and firearm season set to begin Nov. 15, the Department of Natural Resources reminds hunters of changes to the state’s hunting license structure that took effect in 2014.

Available deer licenses include:

  • Single deer license, valid throughout archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. This license has replaced the separate archery and firearm licenses. Hunters who buy a single deer license may not buy a second single deer license or the deer combo license.
  • Deer combo license, which includes two kill tags, one regular and one restricted. Hunters who want two deer licenses must buy the deer combo license instead of the single deer license. The deer combo license is valid for use during the archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. A hunter can use both kill tags in the firearm seasons, both in the archery season or one in each season.
  • Antlerless deer license, available based on license quotas set for each Deer Management Unit (DMU).

To see how the single deer and deer combo licenses may be used in each deer season, based on which DMU a hunter wishes to hunt, see the Antler Point Restriction Regulations map and chart on pages 32 and 33 of the 2015 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

A base license now is required for all hunters. The base license provides critical funding for habitat and conservation work on both public and private land and supports the work of conservation officers and field staff to ensure safe, legal hunting practices are followed. The purchase of a base license includes small game hunting. Whether they choose to hunt small game or not, hunters’ base license dollars will be used to enhance and expand hunting opportunities, which benefits hunters of all species.

More information about Michigan’s hunting license structure—including license prices, frequently asked questions and details about how license dollars will be invested—is available at www.michigan.gov/dnr under “In the Know.”

For more details about hunting seasons, licenses and regulations, see the Hunting and Trapping Digest and Antlerless Deer Digest at www.mi.gov/dnrdigests.

Those who have questions or need help determining which licenses to buy may contact their nearest DNR Customer Service Center. The closest center to our area (Region 4) is the Plainwell Customer Service Center, 621 North 10th Street, Plainwell, Michigan, phone number 269-685-6851.

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Keep fire safety in mind when heading into the woods 

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters, and everyone else outside enjoying the fall weather, to be cautious while lighting campfires and using woodstoves this season.
A warm beginning to autumn has increased the chances of a wildfire. In fact, the DNR recently responded to several fires, both in the Upper and Lower peninsulas; the largest of those was a 17-acre fire in Sanilac County.
Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist, said remembering the basics of fire safety will help ensure that this hunting season isn’t ruined by a wildfire.
“Our main concerns have to do with falling leaves and dry grass, combined with embers from woodstoves and campfires,” Laux said. “The beginning of the hunting season has been a bit warmer and dryer this year, so that causes a little concern. If folks take a few extra minutes to keep fire safety in mind, it’ll help ensure that the only blaze in this woods this hunting season will be the blaze orange on our hunters.”
The DNR recommends following a few general precautions to ensure fire safety:

  • Never leave a campfire or woodstove unattended.
  • Clear the area of leaves and dry fuel before lighting a campfire.
  • Don’t park a vehicle in dry grass.
  • If a campfire gets out of control, call 911 immediately.
  • Avoid outdoor burning when it is windy to prevent escape and spread of a fire.

So far this year, the DNR has responded to a total of 341 wildfires, which have burned 2,920 acres.

To learn more about the DNR’s firefighting efforts, and how to prevent wildfires, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

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Smallmouth bass state record broken 

 

Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan, recently set a new state-record catch for smallmouth bass with a fish he caught Sunday on Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan, recently set a new state-record catch for smallmouth bass with a fish he caught Sunday on Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

Previous state record had stood since 1906

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed a new state-record catch for smallmouth bass. This marks the sixth state-record fish caught so far in 2015.

The existing state record for smallmouth bass was broken Sunday, October 18, by Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Michigan. Gasiciel was bait-casting with a green grub when he landed a 9.33-pound, 24.50-inch smallmouth bass from Hubbard Lake in Alcona County.

The record was verified by Kathrin Schrouder, a DNR fisheries biologist in Bay City.

“This is additional evidence that Michigan truly has world-class bass fisheries,” said Jim Dexter, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries chief. “Smallmouth bass is one of the most popular, most sought-after sportfish in North America. Even though the Michigan state record stood for more than 100 years, we’re excited to see the bar set even higher for those who set out to land this iconic fish.”

The previous state record for smallmouth bass was set back in 1906 with a 9.25-pound, 27.25-inch fish taken from Long Lake in Cheboygan County. Records show this fish was caught by W.F. Shoemaker.

State records 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 on fishing in Michigan, including other state-record catches, visit michigan.gov/fishing.

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Youth waterfowl hunts 

Bring a young hunter to one of Michigan’s seven managed waterfowl hunt areas in October and November for a memorable hunting experience.

Bring a young hunter to one of Michigan’s seven managed waterfowl hunt areas in October and November for a memorable hunting experience.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages waterfowl hunters to bring a young hunter to one of Michigan’s managed waterfowl hunt areas in October and November for a memorable hunting experience. Hunters can choose from several dates and locations. Parties with at least one youth hunter will be given priority in the draw at all seven managed waterfowl hunt areas:

Oct. 24 – Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area (afternoon hunt only) in Pinconning

Oct. 31 – Muskegon County Wastewater (morning and afternoon hunts) in Twin Lake

Oct. 31 – Fish Point State Wildlife Area (afternoon hunt only) in Unionville

Oct. 31 – Fennville Farm Unit of the Allegan State Game Area (morning hunt only) in Fennville

Nov. 7 – Shiawassee River State Game Area (afternoon hunt only) in St. Charles

Nov. 8 – Pointe Mouillee State Game Area (morning hunt only) in Rockwood

Nov. 13 – Harsens Island Managed Hunt Area (afternoon hunt only) on Harsens Island

Drawings for the youth morning hunts will occur at 5:30 a.m. Drawings for the youth afternoon hunts will take place at 11 a.m. (11:30 a.m. at Harsens Island).

Youth priority drawings are available for hunting parties with at least one youth (age 16 or younger) and up to two adults (maximum party size is four). All youth participating in these priority hunts must be properly licensed to hunt. Youth hunters 9 years old and younger must be accompanied by a qualified Mentored Youth Hunting Program mentor.

For more information about hunting at the DNR’s managed waterfowl hunt areas, visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders.

The Wetland Wonders Challenge, sponsored by Consumers Energy, runs until Jan. 31, 2016. Youth and adult hunters that hunt at three managed waterfowl hunt areas can be entered in the contest. Hunt at more than three areas for additional contest entries. Seven winners will be chosen to win ultimate waterfowl hunting prize packages valued at $1,500, including a “golden ticket” that’s good for one first-choice pick at a managed waterfowl hunt area for the 2016-17 season (non-reserved). See www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders for contest terms and conditions.

The Wetland Wonders Challenge is part of the Michigan Waterfowl Legacy, which is a 10-year, cooperative partnership to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetland and waterfowl hunting community. The initiative is a “call to action” to honor yesterday, engage today and build for tomorrow. To learn more, visit www.michigan.gov/mwl or look for Michigan Waterfowl Legacy on Facebook.

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Competently incompetent

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

We all have areas of great competence and areas of lesser competence. As an ecologist, I have good competence but when it comes to any specialty subject, I lack desired competence. We all fit this scenario with strengths and weaknesses.

Recently I came up with the descriptor “Competently Incompetent” and it even fits organisms in nature niches. Each organism has adaptations that help it excel in limited areas. When working with groups, I sometimes have people get their eye close to a tree to look for insects’ eggs or insects in the crevices of the bark from one-inch distance. All is blurry and we are incompetent at the task of finding eggs or insects from that close. Brown Creepers successfully hunt from one-inch distance. Their small eyes can focus that close.

It is a little embarrassing when I present programs to groups like garden, butterfly, plant, or bird clubs, where I have been introduced as Michigan’s premiere Lepidopterist, botanist, or ornithologist, when some of Michigan’s true premiere specialists for those subjects are in attendance.

They are researchers that seldom present public programs but spend 40 to 60 hours a week working in their specialty area in the field or laboratory. Their work is the source of information for my programs, as well as Nature Niche articles. My field and laboratory time is split among geological, plant, insect, bird, amphibian, reptile, mammal, fish, weather, soil studies and more. I annually attend conferences for specialty subjects to develop a better knowledge.

The result is that I have developed good competency in many subjects and am able to apply the knowledge for how ecosystems function. When attending special subject conferences, I realize I am a nitwit among renowned specialists from around the country and world. Actually, I have developed their respect because they know I am “Competently Incompetent.” No one can be competent in all areas. I turn to specialists for guidance and help for my areas of incompetence and that has earned their respect. They know I have enough competence to know where I am incompetent.

In my research at Bryce Canyon National Park, I collected three virgin tiger moths. When studying them in my summer lab at the park, I could not determine the species. I took them to an international conference of specialists and requested help from three scientists that work with tiger moths. All scratched their heads and said they could not identify them beyond the Genus Grammia. One requested to take them for study. He was specifically working with this Genus Grammia. He studied body structures (morphology), dissected genitalia (regularly used to distinguish species), and did DNA sequencing (like human DNA testing for paternity and crime solving). Even though they looked nearly identical to known species, he found they did not match any. He gathered the physical evidence necessary to describe a new species.

His next step was to publish a paper describing the new species in detail where he named the species Grammia brillians. I was competent enough recognize that I could not identify the insect and brought it to specialists.

Like “Dirty Harry” said in one of the movies, “You need to know your limitations.” I am not pleased with my limitations but I also know I have a strong, broad competence to speak to many organizations. I have earned the title as one of Michigan’s premiere scientists for several subjects. I know I am not truly premiere. For most nature enthusiasts, I might appear premiere. Do not sell yourself short. I am sure each reader has specific knowledge I lack. Continue spending time outside absorbing sights, sounds, smells, feel, and taste of nature. Join me sometime to teach me your discoveries and increase my knowledge.

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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DNR showcases cougars in two new displays 

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Confirmed reports reach 31 in Michigan

Two cougar mounts recently provided to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have attracted a lot of attention in Luce County this summer.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars—also called mountain lions—were once the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere, but have been eliminated from about two-thirds of their historic range.

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains, and forests. They were native to Michigan but were extirpated from the state around the turn of the 20th century.

These big, long-tailed cats typically hunt at night, generally weigh between 90 and 180 pounds, and measure five to six feet from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.

One of the DNR’s two cougar mounts is on display at the “Fact Shack” at the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is situated off M-123, about 25 miles north of Newberry.

 Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.


Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.

“The cougar was donated by the GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway and was a captive animal that died of natural causes,” said Theresa Neal, park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls. “The display features information about cougars in Michigan, an actual cougar track cast and information on how the DNR handles reports and sightings of cougars.”

The second cougar mount can be seen at the DNR’s Newberry customer service center, located off M-123, just south of Newberry. This glass-encased cat was received by the DNR at the close of a cougar poaching case in Schoolcraft County.

During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

“The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp,” said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. “The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects.”

Hammill said the suspects returned home to Bay City with the cougar, intending to mount the animal.

“Before this took place, three suspects were identified, interviewed and ultimately arrested and the cougar was recovered,” Hammill said. “The suspects involved were all convicted, served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs, and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.”

Hammill said that as a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.

In August, the cougar mount was displayed at the DNR’s Pocket Park during the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba. Following the fair, the cougar was exhibited at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, before returning to the Newberry DNR customer service center earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.

“Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division’s cougar team,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.

The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail camera image in Dickinson County.

“This situation is not unique to Michigan but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States,” Swanson said.

All of Michigan’s DNR-verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region’s 15 counties have had reports.

Marquette County has led the confirmed cougar reports with six; Menominee County has had four; Houghton, Delta and Mackinac counties have had three each, while Baraga, Chippewa, Luce, Schoolcraft and Ontonagon counties have each had two and Keweenaw and Dickinson have had one each.

Of those confirmed reports, 21 involved photos, eight were tracks, one was video and scat and the remaining confirmed report was that of the cougar poached near Seney in Schoolcraft County in 2013.

To learn more about cougars in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cougars.

Information about Tahquamenon Falls State Park, including maps and the nature program schedule, can be found at www.michigan.gov/tfallseducation.

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Who was that?

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Do you know what type of bird this is? Check out Ranger Steve’s tips on what to look for. Answer is in the article. Photo from the Audobon.org field guide.

Do you know what type of bird this is? Check out Ranger Steve’s tips on what to look for. Answer is in the article. Photo from the Audobon.org field guide.

A brown sparrow-sized bird captured my attention. A luminescent white shown from its throat. Narrow black lines framed the white on sides and bottom. Have you identified the bird? Noticing key field marks, in a short time, is often essential because many birds do not stay in easy view. 

The bird was in the willow thicket at Ody Brook. Several were present. It was early October when flocks of birds move through on a southward journey. I could eliminate most choices. Clearly, it was not waterfowl, and shorebirds tend to be along water edges or wading, so I can rule those out, except for possibly the Killdeer. Killdeers have departed, so that is not a likely choice. Shorebirds, like killdeer, stay mostly on the ground and this bird was on a shrub branch.

Large birds like gulls, grouse, hawks, and doves do not fit this observation. When trying to identify, narrow choices by selecting from a sparrow, robin, or crow-size. Then consider habitat and eliminate waterfowl, if you are in a forest or shrubland. Some waterfowl, like wood ducks, could be in a tree, so do not be so absolute that you rule out those you are looking at. Some species are unlikely to be in Michigan, so you can eliminate species restricted to dry arid deserts along the Mexico/US border, or other habitats not found in Michigan.

There are good bird field guides for Michigan, Eastern North America, and North America north of Mexico. Some popular Michigan bird field guides are incomplete so I suggest getting one that is most inclusive, instead of only having common birds. Some guides are much better than others.

The bird in question moved from the willow to a speckled alder. It faced me, showing a plain gray breast with no striping. Its bill was short and thick. Eliminate birds with thin bills like warblers and kinglets as well as flycatchers that have long point bills. Have you figured out the bird from the characters provided?

As the bird looked at me from the alder branch and turned its head, I could see white stripes on its head running from the beak to the back of the head. A neon yellow spot between the bill and eyes was evident in the sunlight. In shade, the yellow was not obvious. Perhaps you have figured it out now. If not, pause here, get a bird field guide, and find a sparrow-sized bird, with white stripes on the head, yellow by the bill and eye, white throat, thick short bill, plain gray breast, brown back and legs for perching on twigs.

Check if the bird you are considering is here all year or migrates. If it migrates, is it here in summer, or does it nest farther north, in places like the boreal forest? This bird happens to be a boreal nester so we would not see it during the summer months. That is not evident from our current observation, but maybe you noticed a bird with such a description was not seen all summer.

It has one of the most beautiful songs but is usually quiet during fall migration. Its musical song is a favorite sign of spring and offers wonderful joy to one’s spirit when heard. Sometimes one will let loose its song in fall or part of its song. It is described as reminiscent of the words “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” and belongs to the white-throated sparrow. Canadians prefer “Oh My, Canada, Canada, Canada.”

Start with yard birds you regularly see in your neighborhood nature niche to discover unique feather color patterns, size, bill, and leg characteristics. Many birds change plumage with the seasons, but some do not. I enjoy watching birds in the yard and at the feeder more than television so I usually wait to watch TV until after dark. Listening to music CDs is a nighttime pleasure also, so as not to interfere with the activity and music abounding from the depths of the wild sanctuary where I live.

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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