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Tag Archive | "kayaking"

Kayaking, canoeing, and wildlife


OUT-RangerSteveMuellerRanger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Taking to open water in a kayak or canoe can be a quiet pleasurable wildlife encounter. There are liveries in Rockford and Newaygo for easy floats on the Rogue or Muskegon rivers. For those with their own vessels, the opportunities are greater, for one can be put in and taken out at various locations. A bit farther away, one can kayak the Glass River, from the Michigan Audubon Otis Sanctuary in Barry County near Hastings. Go north to canoe the Pine River for a challenge or Little Manistee with more moderate water in the Cadillac region. Canoeing the Les Cheneaux Islands in northern Lake Huron can provide a protected paddle on big water, where the islands help calm waves. I am not after the thrill of white caps or white water but seek wildlife instead.

Karen and I enjoy quiet calm wildlife viewing on our trips. When I was a teenager our church youth group goal was splashing, dumping, and cooling on a hot summer’s day, but our family paddles were quiet and wildlife oriented. Boy scout trips were longer and included over night camping. A most mysterious experience in my life was while camping along the Rifle River on a scout trip. That night we heard the sound of large bubbles emanating from deep within the earth. For several years I heard the unnerving sound with no clue to its origin but it seemed extraterrestrial. The sound has become considerably more rare but can be heard in scattered locations if one is near a sizable marsh. The maker is the American Bittern, a bird in the heron family. I have heard it described as a thunder bird because of its sound but more frequently it is described as sounding like a water pump. I prefer my bubble description.

Other herons are croakers and the last time Julianne, Charlie, Karen and I canoed together we heard and saw both Green and Great Blue Herons. Many ducks paddled along near the shore at a distance. Belted Kingfishers make their rattle call as they fly ahead or back over us in route to favorite fishing locations on their family claim on the river. Choice locations for kingfishers include sandy bluffs where they dig six-foot deep nesting tunnels in the bank.

A bit harder to see without binoculars are the warblers, flycatchers, and sparrows that sing vibrant songs along shrubby or forested shores. They are present because mayflies, caddisflies, dragonflies and many other insects have found healthy nature niches. It is always a joy to watch the aerial excellence of Common Whitetails, darners, and baskettail dragonflies capturing insects. We try to disturb fly fishers as little as possible as we float past them with our paddles stationary. They are casting special hand made flies in hopes of a good sparring with a fish before releasing it back, so the fish can find the real insect that is being imitated on the end of a line. Depending on whether the stream is catch and release or not, the fish may become a great human meal.

I like to paddle near shore to see many butterflies species nectar on a host of beautiful flowers. Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed, and other flowers abound. Bird watching in May and June are best when bird song is at its peak and they are easier to see. We like August because it is warm, usually more sunny, and biting insects have subsided. A monthly, weekly, or even daily canoe venture would be nice. If only I could live a thousand lives at once to be exploring a thousand outdoor adventures in a thousand different natures niches simultaneously.

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

 

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Paddle the Muskegon River with a DNR biologist July 27


Looking for a great way to spend a warm July Saturday? Join the DNR and Highland River Adventures on July 27 for a fun kayaking trip down the Muskegon River through the Muskegon State Game Area.
During this three-hour excursion, instructors from Highland River Adventures will provide basic kayaking lessons to get participants on the river and paddling. No prior kayaking experience is necessary.
Once attendees have mastered the art of paddling, a DNR biologist will lead a guided tour through the State Game Area, pointing out area wildlife and other natural features.
Two trips are scheduled on July 27: one from 9 a.m. to noon and another from 1 to 4 p.m. Both trips begin at Holton Duck Lake Road. Space is limited. Registration is $20 per person, which includes kayak rental. To register, visit http://trailspotters.net.
This event is part of the DNR’s Michigan’s Wetland Wonders Challenge II, a contest sponsored by Consumer’s Energy to spark interest in Michigan’s wetlands.
This summer, several Wetland Wonders Challenge II events will take place throughout the southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan at seven Managed Waterfowl Areas. Those who attend challenge events will be entered into a drawing for seven ultimate Michigan exploration packages courtesy of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. To learn more about the Wetland Wonders Challenge II, visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders.

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