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Archive | Outdoors

Avoid oak wilt: Don’t prune or injure oak trees during greatest risk period

Have an oak tree on your property? To keep it healthy, don’t prune it from mid-April through the summer. That’s a key time for infection with oak wilt, a serious disease that can weaken white oaks and kill red oak trees within weeks.

Oak wilt, caused by a fungus, has been reported throughout the Midwest, including Michigan, said Ryan Wheeler, invasive species biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

Red oaks are most susceptible to the disease. These trees have leaves with pointed tips and include black oak, northern red oak and northern pin oak. Trees in the white oak group have rounded leaf edges and include white oak and swamp white oak. They are less susceptible.

Symptoms most often appear from June until September.

“Affected trees will suddenly begin to wilt from the top down, rapidly dropping leaves, which can be green, brown or a combination of both colors,” Wheeler said.

Oak wilt is spread above ground mainly by sap-feeding beetles that carry the disease spores from an infected tree, or wood cut from an infected tree, to fresh wounds, including pruning cuts, on healthy trees. The infection also spreads below ground, through root grafts among neighboring trees.

The highest risk of infection occurs April 15-July 15, but it is prudent to avoid pruning or injuring oak trees until they have lost leaves for the winter, typically from November through mid-March, Wheeler said. If you must prune or remove oaks during the risk period, or have a tree that gets damaged, immediately cover wounds with tree-wound paint or latex-based paint.

Don’t move firewood, especially if it comes from oak wilt-killed trees, as it can harbor the fungus. If you suspect your firewood is tainted by oak wilt, cover it with a plastic tarp all the way to the ground, leaving no openings. This keeps beetles away so they can’t move spores from the firewood to otherwise healthy trees. Once the firewood has been cut long enough, to the point where all of the bark loosens, the disease can no longer be spread.

If you suspect your oak trees have this disease:

Get help from an oak-wilt qualified specialist. Visit  www.MichiganOakWilt.org for a listing and more information.

Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Clinic can verify infection. Find instructions at https://pestid.msu.edu/  or call 517-355-4536.

Report infections to DNR-FRD-Forest-Health@michigan.gov or by phone at 517-284-5895; you also can use the MISIN website or mobile app.

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Celebrate National Arbor Day by planting trees

The Red Maple is a beautiful flowering tree to plant. Courtesy photo.

Receive 10 Free Shade Trees by joining the Arbor Day Foundation

National Arbor Day is Friday, April 27, this year, and the Arbor Day Foundation is making it easy for anyone to celebrate the annual tree-planting holiday. Join the Foundation in April and receive 10 free shade trees.

By joining the Foundation in April, new members receive the following trees: red oak, sugar maple, weeping willow, baldcypress, thornless honeylocust, pin oak, river birch, tuliptree, silver maple, and red maple.

The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign.

“These trees provide shade in the summer and vibrant colors throughout the fall,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Through the simple act of planting trees, one person can make a difference in helping to create a healthier and more beautiful planet for all of us to enjoy.”

The trees will be shipped postpaid with enclosed planting instructions at the right time for planting in April or May. The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

To become a member of the Foundation and receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to TEN FREE SHADE TREES, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by April 30, 2018, or visit arborday.org/april. 

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Another bald eagle photo

Mike and Rosemary Gray, of Cedar Springs, spotted this eagle on a deer carcass along Myers Lake Rd between 15-16 Mile Roads on Monday, March 26, about 11:30 a.m. They took several photos, including this one (which doesn’t show the deer carcass, but is a clearer photo of the bird).

Thank you for sending it our way!

Do you have a wildlife photo you would like to send us? Please email us your photo with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com.

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Get paid to fish

Here are examples of two of the types of tags anglers might see on Saginaw Bay-area walleye this year. The top tag is a jaw tag and the bottom is a disk tag.

If you catch tagged walleye in Saginaw Bay area, you might win $100

The Department of Natural Resources jaw-tagged 3,000 walleyes in a number of Saginaw Bay tributary rivers recently and is now asking anglers to collect and report information on tagged fish they catch. And you just might win $100 in the process.

The DNR has jaw-tagged more than 100,000 walleyes in the Saginaw Bay area since 1981 as part of a long-term research project to monitor survival and harvest rates and to learn about walleye movement. Each tag is stamped with a unique identification number and a post office box address. Anglers who catch a tagged walleye can report their catch by mail using the address on the tag, by calling the DNR Bay City Customer Service Center at 989-684-9141, or online by visiting Michigan.gov/taggedfish.  

If reporting by mail or by phone, anglers are asked to provide their contact information as well as the tag identification number, the date the walleye was caught, the catch location, the fish’s length, the fish’s weight (if known), and whether or not the fish was harvested, released with the tag attached or released with the tag removed. Anglers who report tagged fish online will be automatically prompted for this information. Once reported, anglers will receive a letter detailing the history of their fish.

About 20 percent of the tags include a $100 reward when reported. Anglers can keep or release the fish, but in order to obtain the reward they must provide a clear photo of the reward tag. If the fish is released and anglers are not interested in being eligible to receive a reward, anglers should leave the tag in the fish’s jaw and not remove it. This also will be the second year that a new, brightly colored disk tag will be used on some fish to test how well anglers notice and report the tags. 

“This information is essential to measuring the health of the population and is critical data we use to plan future management direction needed to protect and enhance this important fishery,” said Dave Fielder, research biologist out of the DNR’s Alpena Fisheries Research Station. “Besides ensuring the walleye fishery remains sustainable, we also annually estimate the population size with the aid of these tag reports.” 

The tagging operation occurs each spring on the Tittabawassee River and other Saginaw Bay tributaries during the walleye spawning run. The fish are collected with electrofishing boats that temporally stun them to allow fisheries biologists and technicians to collect vital statistics, tag the fish and release them back into the river after the fish have recovered. After spawning, the fish migrate back into Saginaw Bay, and a large number migrate out of the bay into Lake Huron. The fish that migrate out of the bay have been found ranging to the Straits of Mackinac to the north and Lake Erie to the south.

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Nesting records

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Many species are nesting though it might seem early because it looks wintery brown. Rabbits, mice, shrews, and other mammals are producing families despite the cold, dreary brown pre-spring appearance of neighborhoods. Bald Eagles, hawks, and owls have eggs or young in nests. The timing for predatory birds to have young in the nest is linked with the other species young leaving nests. February eggs in the nest is normal.

It is important adults find enough food to supply rapidly growing young with nutrition. A young owl or hawk that hatches first gets a head start on growth. If the first hatched is satisfied with a full stomach, other birds in the nest might get to eat. When this is not the case, others go hungry or might be pushed out of the nest by the larger sibling. When predators are searching for prey it is good when many of the prey’s young are just out of the nest. They are easier to capture and can be abundant. 

Population replenishment is better when one owl or hawk survives than for two or three to die of starvation. When prey populations are doing well the predator population can do well and produce more than one young. 

I have observed a Great Horned Owl fledge three young. Bravo! Normally, I encounter nests haphazardly by chance. Birds have a good knack for hiding nests. One March I flushed a Horned Lark and noticed it left a nest. I sat nearby waiting for its return. When it came back, it landed a distance away and sneaked through the vegetation on foot to the nest where it continued incubating. I noted behavior and other interesting details.

The next day, three inches of snow covered the landscape. The adult bird kept the eggs in its well-hidden nest warm. I returned to observe the nest until the two young ventured into the world on their own. I numbered that nest 1971-2 in my journal. It was the second nest I found that year. When I encounter a nest and note it in my field journal, it receives a number that follows the year. If I observe the nest repeatedly to monitor development and nesting success, the nest number remains the same, but the new date and activity are documented. For 1971, I had 65 separate nest discoveries. 

Interesting observations are recorded that hopefully will add to our understanding of bird ecology. Last year I found a Yellow Warbler nest with six eggs. At Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Center, I found a Wood Thrush nest with five eggs but one was not a thrush egg. It was a Brown-headed Cowbird egg. 

Cowbirds have a nature niche adaptation to follow bison that were constantly on the move grazing prairies. By laying eggs in other birds’ nests, cowbirds can continue to follow bison eating insects stirred by the bovines. Cowbirds were not a natural part of Michigan’s European pre-settlement wildlife communities. When we reduced the forest cover, cowbirds expanded their range. The adventive establishment of cowbirds to new habitat created survival risks for many bird species. 

Young cowbirds are raised by the parasitized species adult. Often the baby cowbird pushes the parent’s eggs or young out of the nest and will be the only bird to fledge. I removed the cowbird egg from the thrush nest and set it on the ground for a chipmunk or other small mammal to discover and eat. Hopefully a cowbird adult did not return to lay another egg in the thrush nest. 

It is good to avoid nests for a number of reasons. A mallard cracked an egg when it rapidly flushed from a nest when people approached. Eggs left unattended might be preyed upon or lose heat needed for development. Walking to nests can create a scent path that predators like raccoons or opossums use to find nests with eggs or young. Rarely do I monitor nests. I note what I discover and hope the bird successfully raises a family.

I note the species, habitat, nest location, tree species used, height of nest among other details such as behavior. Nests records are entered to ebird and will be available for others to review the what, when and where for bird nesting well after I am dead. You can become a part of citizen science data gathering and add it to ebird. 

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

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Fishing Tip: New fishing regulations began April 1

There are several regulation changes this year creating many new fishing opportunities for anglers. The new regulations went into effect April 1, including the following: 

  • Muskellunge harvest season has changed statewide to the first Saturday in June and includes a new catch-and-immediate release season open all year.
  • A new suite of waters has been added where anglers may retain an additional five brook trout in their daily possession limit of trout (10 Brook Trout Possession Waters).

Additionally, a new registration system has been put into place for anglers who harvest a lake sturgeon or muskellunge. The lake sturgeon fishing permit and harvest tag and the muskellunge harvest tags are no longer required or available. An angler who harvests a lake sturgeon or muskellunge is now required to report the harvest within 24 hours and can do so online at Michigan.gov/registerfish, toll-free by calling 844-345-FISH (3474), or in person at any DNR Customer Service Center during normal state business hours with advanced notice of arrival. Please note fish registrations won’t be accepted at any state fish hatcheries or DNR field offices, only at DNR Customer Service Centers.

For more information, check out the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide online at Michigan.gov/dnrdigests

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Bald eagle sighting

This bald eagle is looking for his next meal.

Wendy Russell sent us this photo she took of a bald eagle near Meijer, in Solon Township on Friday, March 23. She said he grabbed a squirrel but then dropped it in the middle of 17 Mile Road.

Thank you, Wendy, for sending us your photo!

Do you have a photo of wildlife you’d like to send us? Email it to news@cedarspringspost.com, along with some info about the photo and your contact information. We will print as space is available.

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Michigan’s 2018 fishing license season kicks off April 1

 

A new fishing license is required April 1 to coincide with the 2018 fishing season. Anglers can pick up a license and a 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide at retailers located across the state.

Don’t forget—new license required

For those interested in going fishing in Michigan, a new license is required starting Sunday, April 1. That day is the kickoff to the state’s 2018 fishing license season, as well as the new fishing regulation cycle. All 2018 fishing licenses are good through March 31, 2019.

Anglers have eight options to choose from when making their purchase. All fishing licenses are good for all species.

  • Resident annual – $26
  • Nonresident annual – $76
  • Senior annual (for residents age 65 or older) – $11
  • 24-hour (resident or nonresident) – $10
  • 72-hour (resident or nonresident) – $30
  • Resident combo hunt/fish (base, annual fishing, two deer) – $76
  • Senior resident combo hunt/fish (base, annual fishing, two deer) – $43
  • Nonresident combo hunt/fish (base, annual fishing, two deer) – $266

There are several regulation changes this year, creating many new fishing opportunities for anglers. The new regulations go into effect on April 1, 2018, including the following: 

  • Muskellunge harvest season has changed statewide to the first Saturday in June and includes a new catch-and-immediate release season open all year.
  • A new suite of waters has been added where anglers may retain an additional five brook trout in their daily possession limit of trout (10 brook trout possession waters).

Additionally, a new registration system has been put into place for anglers who harvest a lake sturgeon or muskellunge. The lake sturgeon fishing permit and harvest tag and the muskellunge harvest tags are no longer required or available. An angler who harvests a lake sturgeon or muskellunge is now required to report the harvest within 24 hours, either online at michigan.gov/registerfish, by calling the toll-free number 844-345-FISH (3474) or in person at any Department of Natural Resources Customer Service Center during normal state business hours with advance notice of arrival. Please note that fish registrations won’t be accepted at any state fish hatcheries or DNR field offices, only at DNR Customer Service Centers.

For more information on Michigan fishing licenses and regulation changes, check out the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide—available at license retailers or online at  www.michigan.gov/dnrdigests. The online version is always up to date and available to download.

Don’t forget, there are two simple ways to buy a fishing license in Michigan:

Visit a local license retailer or DNR Customer Service Center and make a purchase in person.

Use the E-License system to buy a license online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just visit mdnr-elicense.com on your computer, smartphone or tablet to get started.

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Enhancing community health

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Nick Sanchez, our district forester with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, is sharing a cost-effective incentive to help protect our health, stream health, ground water, and air quality. A healthy community depends on people caring for themselves, neighbors, and community. The program available was included in the Farm Bill in 2014 that Congress approved.

Nick states, “Trees have many benefits. They provide food and a home for wildlife, and even help keep your family happy and healthy! Did you know that trees filter dirty water and keep our topsoil from washing away? Trees also help store water underground, preventing flooding in the spring and low levels during summer drought. Even the shade from trees provides a benefit, keeping streams clear and cold, ideal for fish like trout! Planting trees along a stream provides big benefits and we want to help you keep our home rivers clean and healthy for your family, fish, and other cool wildlife!” 

He would like community members and farmers know about the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. A representative from the Rogue River Partners came to Ody Brook to enlist my advice for protecting the quality of the local environment for the benefit of people and wildlife. 

Nick would like all to know, “Conservation partners have teamed up to bring farmers and forestland owners access to a unique pool of funding to help them take actions on their land to help prevent soil loss, and to create and improve fish and wildlife habitat in the Rogue River and Indian Mill Creek watersheds, a 250 square mile area in northern and western Kent County. Financial assistance is available now to help you plant: filter strips, grassed waterways, cover crops, and riparian forest buffers, as well as many other options to help in this effort. This special opportunity is available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) over the next four years. Call Matt Soehnel, NRCS District Conservationist, at (616) 942-4111 ext. 3 for more information!” Programs are available for others besides farmers. Give Matt a call to learn how NRCS can help you be a good land steward in your neighborhood. 

I receive requests asking me to address the PFAS groundwater issue, the water mining issue impacts on wells and wetlands, and other pressing issues. I could write an article a week on issues for the entire year. Environmental quality for our lives depends on sound science-based data being scrubbed from the EPA website. Information is being censored to downplay the impact of human caused climate change that is degrading the environment. The long-term cost of anti-environmental policies threaten a sustainable economy, our health, and future generations. Scientific data supported by decades of research is not “fake news.” 

I encourage people living in the Rogue River Watershed to take positive action locally to enhance the health of the environment that supports our physical and financial health. First contact the NRCS at the number listed above to learn what you can do on your property and in the community to enhance the health of our neighborhoods. Second contact your US Representative and Senators to protect environmental laws established in the 1970s that are currently on the chopping block. They protect a sustainable economy and our health. Both actions are important for your family. The current administration is working to remove Water, Air, Endangered species, and Wilderness Act protections. Such actions will allow a return to things like PFAS dumping that was stopped decades ago. Things like the PFAS contamination that occurred prior to the federal environmental protection acts could result again if laws are dismantled.

It is less expensive to protect the environment that supports our livelihoods and health than to try to clean it up after we discover it is injuring our health, killing people, and causing economic hardship such as lowering home and property values. Contaminated fish and wildlife affects their health. It makes them dangerous for us to eat.

Nature niche health for fish, bees, birds, and mammals ensures healthy conditions for people. The triple bottom line of economic, social, and environment stewardship protects your family’s future. 

 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 seeks info on bald eagle death

Bald eagles are no longer endangered, but they are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This eagle was spotted a few weeks ago in Solon Township. Photo by J. August.

Anyone with a tip should call or text the Report All Poaching line

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are asking for citizen assistance with an investigation into the death of a bald eagle in Mecosta County.

On Thursday, March 1, conservation officers were called to the vicinity of 20 Mile Road near Grant Center in Grant Township, where the mature bald eagle was discovered. The bird was lodged in the limbs of a large tree near the road.

Officers recovered the eagle, which had sustained a traumatic injury. It will undergo a necropsy at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Lansing. Lab results may be used to confirm a cause of death and provide evidence that will be critical to the investigation.

“Bald eagles are a majestic, protected species. It’s important we resolve this case and that any violators are held accountable,” said 1st Lt. John Jurcich, district supervisor for the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “The public’s cooperation often makes a positive difference in these types of investigations. We value our partnership with the communities we serve and ask that anyone with information do their part by reporting it.”

Anyone with information is asked to call or text the Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 800-292-7800. The RAP line is a convenient, effective way for citizens to report the illegal taking of fish or game, or damage to the state›s natural resources. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An individual offering information that leads to a successful conviction may be eligible for a reward through the RAP program. While citizens can remain anonymous, they must provide their names if they wish to be eligible for a reward.

The penalty for killing a bald eagle is up to 90 days in jail, a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000, or both; and reimbursement to the state of $1,500 per eagle.

Learn more about eagles and other bird species at www.allaboutbirds.org/.

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