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Muskellunge harvest tag issue

The Department of Natural Resources has found a key error on this year’s muskellunge harvest tag.

The tag is legally required for anglers to be in possession of a muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) harvested in Michigan waters. The months of April, May and June were omitted from the tags. Anglers are requested to write the date of harvest and harvest location on the line provided on the tag, if they harvest a muskellunge during this time frame. Anglers who harvest muskellunge after June can use the tag as indicated.
The muskellunge harvest tag is free (except for those under 17 years of age and nonresident anglers, who would need to purchase a DNR Sportcard to obtain the tag) and available at all license agents. Those fishing on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters using a Wisconsin fishing license are also required to use the tag if they harvest a muskellunge in Michigan waters.

All muskellunge shall be immediately released unless the fish is to be tagged for harvest. If harvested, it should be tagged with a valid muskellunge harvest tag. The possession limit for muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) is one per angler per fishing season (April 1 through March 31). While registration of muskellunge harvest is not required, registering all harvested fish greatly assists the DNR with management of this important species and is encouraged. For more information or to register a fish, visit www.michigan.gov/muskie.

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Warblers Come and Go

By Ranger Steve Mueller

American Redstart

American Redstart

Most warblers pass through our yards unnoticed during April and May, and again in August and September. Some stay to raise a family. As a group, they are the most colorful of the birds. They work in shrubs and trees feeding on insects. Insects are essential for them to increase weight rapidly to survive their long migration.

A Chestnut-sided Warbler is setting up summer residence in the yard among shrubs near the pond (Picture 1). It is one of the most colorful with a bright yellow cap and wonderful contrasting patterns of white and black throughout the body. Scattered yellow-green is present on the wings and rump. Varying amounts of rich chestnut orange-red patches line it sides. Adult males have extensive chestnut feathers on the sides and younger birds have shorter bands of color.

Chestnut sided Warbler

Chestnut sided Warbler

When looking for warblers, most people locate them by listening for songs and search the branches for their small presence. The warbler described above is only 4 inches long and weighs less than one half ounce. To identify birds remember GISSS. First acquire a general impression (GI). Is it sparrow, robin, or crow size and does it stand tall and upright or more horizontal. Habitat will help with general impression. Expect some birds high in forest trees, others near the ground in shrubs, or some in wetlands. Most people know to think Great Blue Heron along stream or water, robins in lawns, and Red-winged Blackbirds in marshes. Each warbler has a preferred habitat.

After acquiring a general impression, focus on size, color, and shape to help identify it. Behavior will help. A Black-and-white Warbler will climb on tree trunks like a nuthatch; Chestnut-sided Warblers will be among the shrubbery as will American Redstart (Picture 2). Some warblers just pass through so expect them only in spring and fall. Others will stay for the summer. Very few stay during the winter but the Yellow-rumped Warbler is sometimes found in the cold months. The SSS in GISSS refers to the size, shape, and seasonality. Add another S if you use sound like many birders to identify a warbler. I am not good at separating species by sound. I consider myself at best 80 percent proficient so I do not document presence based on song.

Pine Warblers are considered to have a stable population of 13,000,000. This sounds large but when compared to 200,000,000 European Starlings in the US it is not. Even starlings are not a numerous as humans in the US where we number about 350,000,000. Everyone’s yard can be critical habitat in a shrinking natural world. Encourage family and others to return portions of yards to native habitat to help warblers survive.

Compare the difference between the two warblers pictured. The redstart has an all black head with white only on the belly and not mixed among the body feathers. There is bright orange on the sides instead of chestnut and it has orange in the wings and tail. Nature niches are more interesting when we get to know our wild neighbors. Warblers will come when yard habitats include native wild plants for insects and birds. Horticultural and non-native plants usually do not support insect populations needed by warblers.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  616-696-1753.

 

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Registration for Rogue River Expedition Closes on May 31

N-rogue_river_pic

This is your last chance to sign up for this 3-day public journey of discovery to experience conditions and opportunities of Michigan’s Rogue River and its watershed. It will be held June 19 through the 21. The Expedition team will travel by land, canoes, and kayaks, and provide demonstrations, interactive displays, and exhibits in communities along the Rogue River.

* Thursday, June 19th: The Expedition will begin with an opening ceremony at the Howard Christensen Nature Center, followed by a land tour of the Rogue River’s Headwaters. The night will conclude back at the Howard Christensen Nature Center with a dinner, owl walk, and camping.

* Friday, June 20:  Participants will gather at Nash Creek in Sparta for the paddling portion of the Expedition. The Rogue River Watershed Partners and the Village of Sparta will be hosting a Watershed Showcase that is free and open to the public with water demonstrations, hands-on activities for kids, and free prizes. Expedition participants will kayak down Nash Creek in to the Rogue River and take out at Camp Rockford right at the mouth of Stegman Creek.  Participants will enjoy dinner in downtown Rockford along with live music and microbrews at Rockford Brewing Company. $1 of every pint sold that evening at Rockford Brewing will be donated to conservation and restoration efforts in the Rogue River watershed.

* Saturday, June 21: Water activities (stream insects, fish, birds) will take place at Camp Rockford and our open and free to the public.  Expedition participants will float down to the City of Rockford and enjoy lunch and a presentation by the Rockford Historical Society. A watershed booth will also be at the Farmers Market so stop by for some free stuff and watershed information.  Expedition participants will finish the last leg of the Rogue and have a wrap-up event and celebration at the park along the Grand River.

Join this journey and learn more about the Rogue River. Cost for the full trip is $75/person. For more information about the Rogue River Expedition and to sign-up please visit the website at www.swmtu.org/rogueriverexpedition.  Thank you to our major sponsors – the City of Rockford, the Rogue River Expedition Planning Committee, Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited.

 

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Birding Without Ears

By Ranger Steve Mueller

An American Woodcock flew over my head this spring and landed 100 feet away. It began its courtship buzz-like pneet. I cupped my hands around my ears to listen. Meanwhile behind me, I heard a distant cow from the Phelps farm. When I turned, I realized the sound was from a woodcock 50 feet away. Many birders would think that is ridiculous. How could one confuse a woodcock and a cow?

I saw nighthawks return earlier than normal in spring 1975. Experts wanted to know if I was confusing woodcocks and nighthawks. This sounds ridiculous unless one knows the two sound similar. My identification was visual and correct.

Tracking bird sounds has become more challenging. As my hearing declines, I still hear birds and look in their direction but have discovered the sound to be closer than I thought. I needed to recalibrate sound to distance measurements. It also became difficult to triangulate the bird’s location. It’s like vision with one eye and not having depth perception.

It has been frustrating but sound never made much sense for me. I have always depended on vision for identification. At best I consider myself 80 percent proficient with sound identification and that is not adequate for documenting species.

High school and church junior choir directors both asked me to mouth singing in concerts. I sat at the piano to match notes but could not. Both directors said I was tone deaf. To sing in the school choir a C average was required. I had a B on written work and D on vocal work. The C average allowed me in concerts but I was asked not to sing.

Breeding bird surveyors stop for three minutes, identify birds by song and move to another location. Its great for covering considerable territory in limited time. That is not where my abilities can contribute. It also is not how I enjoy birding. I prefer watching birds, their behavior, and associating them with habitats. I’m too antsy to sit in observation blinds like photographers or hunters. I miss details they observe.

I could learn more if I observed with the patience of a photographer in a blind. There is a place for different kinds of observers. I seldom bird watch with others so I have not improved auditory skills well. Many improve listening skills with bird tapes. I don’t. When listening to songs in nature, I often do not locate the bird and leave without associating song and bird.

I first discovered the wonder and beauty of bird song as a teenager. A particular bird species became a favorite when I heard it on an annual fishing trip with my brother. We camped, fished, and explored nature niches. It was ten years before I discovered it was a Veery making that most wonderful song. The bird remains a favorite.

Nature education has been by fumbling my way in wild places with limited direction or help. I must qualify that statement. I worked on a field biology degree in college where instructors honed my skills and provided direction. However it was personal time in the field developing skills that allowed me to become a knowledgeable naturalist. I never learned to make sense of sound and it remains a mystery. I love music and bird songs. Perhaps that is because it makes no sense. It is a wonderful mystery. Knowing the maker would be nice. It is great for those able to recognize bird songs.

Empathize with those of us with little sound intelligence or those that lost the physical ability to hear a broad range of sound. I retain sound range but must reduce the distance by 50% or more to hear what younger ears are catching. I seldom know the names of music groups or bird songsters but I love their music. I simply marvel and enjoy the music without understanding or knowing the maker. Having low sound intelligence does not equate with lack of appreciation. Others like me marvel at bird sound with pleasure but little understanding.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

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Safety first, for fun times on the water

Safe boating week

Did you know there were 22 fatalities in Michigan last year from boating accidents? It’s National Safe Boating Week in America, and the The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is on board with the theme of this year’s campaign: “Ready, Set, Wear It.”

“One of our biggest concerns is making sure people understand the importance of wearing PFDs (personal flotation devices),” said Lt. Andrew Turner, the DNR’s boating law administrator. “The Coast Guard estimates that 80 percent of boating fatalities could be prevented by wearing life jackets.”

Though all boaters are required to have PFDs on board for all boat passengers, generally only those younger than 6 years old are required to actually wear them. “In an emergency, people don’t have time to find them and get them on,” Turner said. “Today’s PFDs are not the old bulky orange vests that everybody remembers as a kid. Now they’re lighter and more comfortable. They’re designed to be worn all the time. There are inflatables available now that are very low-profile, comfortable and suitable for many activities.”

Many, but not all activities, Turner continued. Personal watercraft operators, or people being towed behind vessels, such are skiers, are required by state law to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD, but inflatables are not approved for those and some other uses.

Boating is getting safer in Michigan, Turner said. Last year there were 20 fatal accidents—resulting in 22 fatalities—down from 32 fatalities five years earlier.
“I think we can directly link that trend to boating safety training,” Turner said.
A state law, passed in 2012, requires that anyone born after July 1, 1996, is required to attend (and be certified in) safe boating training in order to operate a motorboat. The change in the law, which once required only those younger than 16 years of age to be safety-trained, means that over time everyone who operates a motorboat will have received the training.

“The leading age group for boating accidents is people in their 50s,” Turner said. “We wouldn’t think of letting someone drive a car without driver’s education, but many people simply don’t consider getting boater’s safety training before operating a vessel.”

Boating safety training is available from a number of sources, including the DNR. Training is also available through county sheriffs’ departments (82 of Michigan’s 83 counties offer the training through their marine programs), volunteer groups, and online. The online option makes it easy for anyone, Turner said.

“There are two great programs – boat-ed.com and boaterexam.com – that allow people to earn their safety certification completely online,” Turner said. “Students can print their certificates when they successfully complete the course. There is a fee, but most people don’t mind paying it because of the convenience.”

Turner said boaters should familiarize themselves with safety equipment and make sure they have it and it is in good working order. Boats with a permanently installed fuel tank or enclosed compartments are required to have a fire extinguisher on board, for instance. The DNR also recommends that boaters have a marine radio, or at least a cell phone, to use if their vessel becomes disabled or they otherwise need assistance.

Boating under the influence remains a big issue for Michigan as well as the rest of the country. “It’s a serious concern,” said Turner, noting that about 10 percent of boating accidents list alcohol as a contributing factor. “Just as it is with motor vehicles, it’s dangerous and unlawful to operate a vessel under the influence.”

Turner said boaters should also keep a sharp eye out, and be aware that there are increasingly more personal watercraft (PWC) out on the water. PWCs, which make up only about 8 percent of the registered boats in Michigan, are involved in roughly a third of boating accidents.

“PWCs are fast, very maneuverable and can turn on a dime,” Turner said. “The operational characteristics of PWCs vary a great deal from traditional vessels and this underscores the importance of training,” Turner said.

Michigan is about as big a boating state as there is, Turner said. “We’re second only to Florida in terms of the number of registered vessels. We have tremendous resources. We want people to enjoy those resources but we want them to do it safely.”

For more information on boating safety or to find out about boating safety classes, visit www.michigan.gov/boating.

 

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Vernal Ponds

 

Rich vital habitats known as vernal ponds, burst with music during spring in neighborhoods. Vernal ponds are temporary but contain water into summer. Most lose standing water during the summer months but might keep shallow pools. They are vital habitats for frogs and salamanders because their drying prevents fish survival.

Fish eat eggs and tadpoles in permanent water reducing amphibian survival. Ephemeral ponds contain water long enough for the tadpoles to transform to adult air breathing individuals. Once grown, they leave the pools and return to reproduce in subsequent springs.

In essence, life springs from temporary spring ponds. Frogs and salamanders move to woodland habitats and wild residential yards to feast on insects and worms. In summer, my daughter found daily roosts for Gray Tree Frogs in nooks at corners of the house siding. At night they come out to feed. American Toads dig holes in the garden under footpath stones or rocks for daytime hiding. At night they sits like a stone statues waiting for insects or worms.

The first songs of spring come from Wood Frogs that are an obligate vernal pond species. That means they cannot survive without temporary ponds. Their singing starts when some ice remains. Loud and abundant songs come from Spring Peepers and Western Chorus Frogs during April and May. These tiny frogs have bodies the size of an adult’s thumbnail. When you walk by a pond, they quiet but if you stop and sit a few minutes the choral group resumes its serenade. First one brave individual starts and quickly others join.

Egg masses are laid and males fertilize them. Eggs develop in two to three weeks depending on temperature and tadpoles hatch. They breathe with gills while feeding on plant material. Tails absorb and disappear as legs grow. By the time the pond is drying, breathing transforms from external gills to internal lungs. They also breathe through a thin moist skin that must stay moist to function.

When the frogs leave the ponds to take up summer residence in forest and shrublands, they usually stay within 700 hundred feet of breeding pools. Having many small vernal ponds throughout the woodlands is important. Temporary ponds frequently get filled during construction of housing developments. If you are fortunate, you might have a vernal pond near you.

A neighbor advertised he wanted free clean fill for a vernal pond on his property. Contractors looking to dispose of material obliged and after several years filled this pond. The owner now has high dry ground posted for sale. It is temping to destroy nature niches to increase family income. I encourage people to value the lives and the benefits provided by wild neighbors by allowing their home to exist.

Allowing wild places in your yard is a way for nature to thrive among our growing human urban/suburban population land development. Nature’s life forms are a gift trying to share living space with us. We can be stewards of the natural world by allowing life’s places to abound.

Many wildlife species depend on amphibians. Even if you do not see frogs, they are important members of the food chain. I appreciate frogs for song, as agents of natural insect control, and appreciate they share our residence. Sparingly use fertilizers and pesticides. A well-manicured garden and lawn looks beautiful but usually spells death to most life. I prefer abundance of life instead of a picture perfect yard. Organizations schedule outings to Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary to experience life where over 100 bird species, 24 mammal species, 11 amphibians, and 51 butterfly species enrich our lives. We’ve documented about 250 plant species. A trout fisherman was hopeful at creek side recently.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  616-696-1753.

 

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DNR creel clerks to collect angler information

As this year’s open-water fishing season gets started, the Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that over the next few months Fisheries Division personnel will be visiting lakes, rivers and Great Lakes ports to collect data about anglers’ fishing excursions.
DNR creel clerks will be stationed at boat launches and piers, asking returning anglers questions about their fishing trips. The clerks will collect information on trip length, target species and number of fish caught. In some cases, they may ask to measure or weigh fish and to take scale samples. It usually takes only a couple of minutes to answer the questions and the DNR appreciated anglers’ cooperation.

These efforts are part of the DNR’s Statewide Angler Survey Program, a long-term monitoring program designed to track recreational fisheries across Michigan’s waters of the Great Lakes. This is one of the most comprehensive angler survey programs in the country, with DNR creel clerks interviewing upwards of 50,000 anglers in most years.

“This program helps us gather information that is critical in managing the state’s fisheries,” said DNR fisheries biologist Tracy Kolb.

Anglers may visit the DNR website to see surveys of the Great Lakes ports from previous years. Data on inland waters also is available on the site.

 

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Be careful of Salmonella in reptiles and amphibians

The Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Division is advising the public to be very cautious if handling reptiles and amphibians, as they can be carriers of Salmonella bacteria. Whenever possible, wild reptiles and amphibians should be left in the wild unless they are being harvested according to state regulations.

“As the weather warms and spring turns into summer, people are reminded that if they handle any reptiles or amphibians, they should wash their hands thoroughly before moving on to their next activity,” said DNR fisheries biologist Tom Goniea. “Reptiles and amphibians have the potential to carry Salmonella on their bodies and transmit the bacteria regardless of how clean or healthy the wildlife appear. Furthermore, animals may carry the germs whether they are pets, at a school, in a petting zoo, or in the wild.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that each year, Salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the U.S. Common symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps (within 12 to 72 hours after infection) that last four to seven days. Although most people recover without treatment, the severity of the illness can lead to hospitalization.

A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration brochure explains the connection between reptiles and amphibians and Salmonella and offers some precautions people can take to limit their risk of getting sick. The emphasis of the brochure is on small turtles, because children are more likely to come into contact with them and then touch their mouths or eyes. However, the suggested precautions can be applied to all reptiles and amphibians.

For more information and to download the brochure, visit http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm247899.htm.

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Catch of the Week

It’s back—get out those cameras!

It’s that time of year again when anglers big and small like to tell their fish tales! Send us a photo and story of your first, best, funniest, biggest, or even your smallest catch. Include your name, age, address, and phone number, along with the type and size of fish, and where caught.  We can’t wait to hear from you! Photos published as space allows. Photos/stories may be sent by email to news@cedarspringspost.com with Catch of the Week in the subject line, or mail to: Catch of the Week, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

 

OUT-Catch-KadenPlite

Kaden Rydz Plite, son of Alisha Rydz and Derrick Plite,  caught his first fish last week while fishing with this grandpa, Tony Rydz. They were fishing in the backyard pond in Pierson, MI. Early start for Kaden he is only 3 years old.

Congratulations Kaden on making the POST’s Catch of the Week!

 

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Help protect habitat at state parks

Volunteers needed to remove garlic mustard

 

Residents are invited to enjoy spring weather, flower blooms and the outdoors at Michigan state parks, and do some good at the same time.

The Department of Natural Resources recently announced the schedule of May volunteer steward activities at state parks in southwest Michigan. Volunteers are needed to help remove garlic mustard, an invasive, non-native plant that grows in the forest understory. This invasive weed crowds out native wildflower populations, like trillium and bloodroot, and can spread rapidly if not kept under control. Removal is similar to weeding a garden and it’s an enjoyable way to spend time outdoors.

Dates, times and locations (counties) of group workdays are:

Saturday, May 3; P.J. Hoffmaster State Park (Muskegon), noon to 2 p.m.

Sunday, May 4;  Holland State Park (Ottawa County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 10; Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, May 17; Muskegon State Park (Muskegon County), 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, May 18; Ludington State Park (Mason County), 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, May 31; Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan County),10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Volunteers should wear appropriate clothing for outdoor work (including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes) and are asked to bring gloves and drinking water.

Volunteers are also able to work on an individual basis pulling, mapping and locating garlic mustard populations. Large groups are asked to register using the forms available on the DNR website. Please contact Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov for registration or questions about the volunteer steward workdays.

 

 

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