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Baby Ducklings

OUT-Ducklings

Just look at these cute baby ducklings—they don’t seem to have a care in the world! Reader Tanya Giaimo saw these ducklings on Monday at the Rockford Dam, and took this photo. Thanks so much for sending it our way!

If you have wildlife photos you’d like to send, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com, along with some information.

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A boost for Michigan bees and butterflies

OUT-Boost-bees-and-butterflies

Mary Kuhlman, Michigan News Connection

Federal dollars are flowing into Michigan to help bee and butterfly species struggling to thrive.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded Michigan and Wisconsin $500,000 from the service’s competitive State Wildlife Grants program to restore 850 acres of habitat.

Jim Hodgson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional chief of the Midwest Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs, says the hope is to prevent troubled pollinators from becoming endangered.

“These species are very dependent on grassland habitats, and we’re seeing a decline in those types of habitats and because of that these types of species of butterflies and bees are losing their homes,” he explains.

Targeted species include two bumblebee species, the petitioned monarch butterfly and the endangered Karner blue butterfly.

Hodgson says prescribed fires, invasive plant control and seeding are among the strategies that will be used to increase the number of host plants.

Michigan expects to restore 600 acres of habitat, and Wisconsin more than 250 acres.

Hodgson notes the Wildlife Service will monitor the outcomes to determine the most effective methods for pollinator conservation.

“Once the habitat is restored, the plan is to start seeing at least localized improvement in the species in those particular areas, and hopefully it will start expanding into other parts and areas of the Midwest as other projects are undertaken,” he explains.

The competitive State Wildlife Grants program awarded a total of $2.2 million to five Midwest states for conservation efforts.

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Participate in butterfly outing

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Discover butterflies in a variety of local habitats with those knowledgeable in butterfly identification. It is a great way to begin learning some of the 170 species known to Michigan. Join some or all of the West Michigan Butterfly Association counts for fun and learning.

Counts are sponsored by the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) and cost $3 for each participant. The money is sent to NABA to create a publication that documents butterfly abundance, distribution, and trends. Scientists make good use of citizen science data. Become a citizen scientist. Between 17 and 22 different counts are held in Michigan annually. Your help spotting butterflies is desired.

To find species and count numbers, we carpool to various sites during the day in the designated circle with a 15-mile diameter. The purpose is to have a good time outdoors, learn to identify species, learn habitat associations, behavior, and nature niche needs. Come for part or stay all day. Consider joining our West Michigan butterflies Association—membership $5/year.

Bring a bag lunch, plenty to drink, snacks, and dress with lightweight long sleeves and pants to protect from any biting insects or raspberry thorns. We explore off trails when searching for butterflies.

Dates and meeting locations:

June 19, 2016 (Sun) 9:00 a.m. Allegan Butterfly Count – Allegan Co. 

  Leader: Ranger Steve (Mueller)

Meet at the Fennville Allegan State Game Area headquarters, 6013 118th Ave, Fennville

odybrook@chartermi.net

June 21, 2016 (Tues) 9:00 a.m. Newaygo County Butterfly Count Newaygo Co. 

Leader: Ranger Steve (Mueller)

Meeting at Plum’s Grocery parking lot at

The corner of M82 & M 37 in Newaygo.

odybrook@chartermi.net

June 24, 2016 (Fri) 9:00 a.m. Rogue River Butterfly Count  – Kent Co.

Leader: Ranger Steve (Mueller)

(Kent, Newaygo, Montcalm Counties)

Meet at Howard Christensen Nature Center

Welcome Center 16160 Red Pine Dr. Kent City

odybrook@chartermi.net

July 24, 2016 (Sun) 9:00 a.m. Greater Muskegon Butterfly Ct – Muskegon Co.

Leader: Dennis Dunlap 

Meet on Mill Iron Road from M-46 (Apple Ave.) east ofMuskegon at second set of power lines that cross the road north of MacArthur Road.

dunlapmd@charter.net

Rain day alternates will be the next day.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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New regulations affect personal collection of bait in Michigan

New regulations affect personal collection of bait in Michigan

The Natural Resources Commission recently approved new baitfish regulations that affect personally caught bait in Michigan waters. Any personally caught bait now must be used within the same body of water, or connecting bodies of water, where it was captured.

What that means for anglers is that bait can be caught within a tributary of a lake and used within the lake that is connected to the tributary. This principle also applies to chains of lakes that are void of barriers. However, if a man-made dam exists on a tributary that prevents free movement of baitfish between the lake and other connected waters, baitfish may not be moved or used within those nonconnected waters.

For example, if bait is captured in a small stream that is connected to a lake or network of other rivers and lakes, it can be used in any of those bodies of water. The general rule of thumb is if the baitfish can swim freely from the capture location to the location of use, the angler is in compliance.

The DNR has heard from anglers across the state who are concerned with this regulation. Fisheries Order 245 was put in place in 2007 to protect Michigan’s waters from the movement of fish diseases and aquatic invasive species. Viral hemorrhagic septicemia is one of many diseases that can be moved from one body of water to another through the movement of baitfish. To protect the state’s fisheries from this threat, the DNR requires commercial baitfish catchers to test their baitfish for diseases prior to sale.

Further, aquatic invasive species significantly affect Michigan’s fisheries and there are many invasive species that easily can be introduced to new waters through baitfish collection. Species like rusty crayfish and round goby have been spread by anglers collecting their own bait for use in a different location.

“The ecological and economic impact of diseases and aquatic invasive species is very significant in Michigan and across the Great Lakes Region,” said Todd Grischke, assistant chief of the DNR Fisheries Division. “These updated regulations provide our fisheries with further protection.”

For more information on Michigan’s baitfish regulations, visit Michigan.gov/fishingguide.

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Fire, jack pine and aspen: understanding a historic relationship

A Michigan Department of Natural Resources firefighter conducts a controlled burn. Photos courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A Michigan Department of Natural Resources firefighter conducts a controlled burn. Photos courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The connection between healthy forests and fire may be firmly established and  understood by foresters and wildlife managers, and helpful to countless wildlife species. However, not everyone outside those occupations has the same understanding.

Recall the late 1980s, when wildfires blackened much of Yellowstone National Park. Conservation professionals argued then that long-term, the effects of the fires would be very positive for the ecosystem for a number of reasons.

The public at large wasn’t necessarily convinced. This is understandable, because  for decades government officials had actively campaigned against fires.

Remember Smokey Bear’s motto? “Only you can prevent forest fires.” That message has been edited in recent years from “forest fires” to “wildfires,” which allows that all fires are not necessarily bad.

In Michigan forests, there are several tree species that have a long history of dependence on fire, though newer forestry techniques have helped to diminish this need.

Jack pine cones are sealed with resin. Often, the cones do not release their seeds upon maturity, but rather, after an environmental trigger, including fire.

Jack pine cones are sealed with resin. Often, the cones do not release their seeds upon maturity, but rather, after an environmental trigger, including fire.

Aspen and jack pine are two Michigan species that historically relied on fire for survival and regeneration. These species are well-adapted to regeneration following any stand-replacing disturbance, such as wind throw (trees being uprooted or broken by wind) or timber harvest.

“Both species exist in Michigan because of fire prior to European settlement,” said Keith Kintigh, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources field operations biologist in the northern Lower Peninsula. “They evolved to respond to fires.”

Kintigh said aspen and jack pine require 50- to 70-year tree stand level disturbance for them to be maintained. They are short-lived species that like lots of sunlight.

“When the surveyors came through Michigan in the 1800s, they found that in certain places, major wildfires were occurring frequently, at least every 60 years,” Kintigh said. “Some ecologists believe that this frequency could not be explained by lightning strikes alone.”

Kintigh said Michigan has a bunch of wildlife species that are associated with those disturbances.

Scientists have concluded that Native Americans used fire to manage forests and grasslands. Aspen forests, and the associated flora and fauna—including white-tailed deer and ruffed grouse—would have benefited from these fires.

Native Americans would have found better blueberry crops in the years after jack pine forest burns, as many people do today.

Historically, jack pines were especially dependent on fire because of their reproductive mechanism. Jack pines sport cones sealed with resin (these are known as serotinous cones).

Often, the cones do not release their seeds upon maturity, but rather, after an environmental trigger. In the jack pines’ case, that trigger can be fire. The cones remain tightly closed until heat from fire or sunlight melts the resin and opens them, allowing the cones to release their seeds for spreading by gravity and winds.

The DNR maintains significant amounts of young jack pine forest in Michigan’s state forests, as it is the only viable breeding habitat for the federally endangered Kirtland’s warbler. However, fire is not a preferred way to regenerate jack pine today in the northern Lower Peninsula where most all of the Kirtland’s warblers nest.

“We’re using logging to maintain Kirtland’s warbler habitat in the absence of fire,” Kintigh said. “There are homes, cottages and schools mixed into, or situated next to, state forest and the trees have value. We can’t just have wildfires across the landscape.”

Prescribed burns are still being used for various purposes, but not generally for aspen or jack pine regeneration.

“We burn jack pine after it’s harvested,” said Keith Murphy, the DNR’s Forest Resources Division fire management specialist for the Upper Peninsula. “We have to be careful because jack pines are the most highly volatile fuel out there.

“In the spring of the year, it’s at its worst when there’s little moisture in the needles, usually in mid-May, but we burn it after a timber sale to get the cones to release their seeds or to remove branches and treetops to make it easier to trench (plow) the site.”

In the northern Lower Peninsula, foresters and wildlife biologists have found they can best produce the high-density stands required for Kirtland’s warbler nesting habitat by planting.

After a jack pine stand has been harvested, the stand is trenched and replanted from nursery stock grown primarily in the Upper Peninsula.

Aspen is also well-adapted to fire as it reproduces from suckers that spring up from the root stock, so any event that removes the trees will lead to regeneration.

These days, aspen managers generally use clear-cutting to stimulate regeneration. Murphy said that’s just as well because aspen does not burn as readily as jack pine. Aspen has moist leaves and thick stems, which are comparatively not as combustible as the dry needles and twigs of jack pines.

Getting forest producers to harvest aspen is not a problem.

“There’s a lot of demand for aspen,” said Tim Greco, a timber management specialist with the DNR’s Forest Resources Division in Gaylord. “It’s used in OSB (oriented strand board) chip material. The fibers are very good for holding glue and strength for OSB.”

Forest products mills that use aspen are also an important part of rural communities in Michigan and they provide a building material that’s in demand for new homes.

Aspen also has great utility for use in writing paper, cardboard, hardboard and pallet lumber. Some manufacturers even use veneer from aspen for certain products, like paint sticks.

“We very rarely have a problem selling aspen timber sales,” Greco said. “The demand is very good. Combine that with wildlife values and it’s an all-around win-win situation.”

Prescribed burning of aspen is often done to improve habitat for upland gamebirds and white-tailed deer.

“But it doesn’t have to be a fast-burning, rip-roaring fire,” he continued. “If you crack the bark you can kill it. And we will burn it to regenerate it for grouse habitat—a lot depends on what DNR Wildlife Division wants to do with it.”

According to the U.S. Forest Service, though aspen forests do not burn readily, aspen trees are extremely sensitive to fire.

A fire intense enough to kill the aspen forest overstory will stimulate abundant suckering, though some suckers arise after any fire. The Forest Service said as many as 50,000 to 100,000 suckers can sprout and grow on a single acre after a fire.

Get more information on DNR fire management in Michigan at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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/.

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