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Tag Archive | "National Park Service"

Back to the nest: Falcons return to Michigan bridges


DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson examines the wing of a peregrine falcon chick after successfully attaching a leg band June 23. The bird was one of three that hatched at a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge this year. (MDOT photo) 

Peregrine falcons have returned to the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock again this year—the same nesting spot, but this year with a choice between new and familiar nests.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed two nest boxes at the Lift Bridge in 2012—one each on the north and south bridge towers. A pair of falcons discovered the nesting site the next spring and has raised a total of 12 chicks there. But, in recent years, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has noticed the boxes were showing signs of wear. Enter some enterprising high school students.

“(DNR wildlife technician) Brad Johnson asked if we would be interested in building a pair of peregrine falcon boxes,” said Baraga Area Schools industrial arts teacher John Filpus. The idea turned into a multi-class project.

“There were a few classes that participated in the design and construction of the nest box,” Filpus said. “Our AutoCADD class worked developing a blueprint for the design of the box based on pictures of others built. Some students in Baraga’s wood shop and construction trades class built the box.”

Filpus said it took the students about a week to learn a little background about falcons and how nest boxes are built, then design the initial blueprint of the box. Building the box took an additional two weeks, with classes working one to two hours per day.

One box was deployed on March 17, just days before the nesting pair returned this spring. The second will be installed before the next nesting season. The new boxes feature tough construction, a trap door in the rear, and a roof that folds down across the front of the box to prevent chicks from falling out during banding operations.

Webcams, viewable at http://pasty.com/nestbox.html, also have been installed in cooperation with the Copper Country Audubon Club to allow people to watch potential nesting activity at both boxes.

“We went ahead and partnered with Pasty.com, an internet service provider in the area,” said Phil Quenzi of the Copper Country Audubon Club. “They provided some of the equipment. Audubon bought the cameras, and the DNR and MDOT helped us out and allowed us to put the cameras on the bridge. The feedback so far has been pretty positive. At this point we don’t have a count of the people who visit the site, but it seems like there are quite a few, locally and from elsewhere, that visit the site. And we’ve gotten a lot of good comments.”

At the other end of the Upper Peninsula, another pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, hatching four chicks this year.

“This site has hatched 24 falcon chicks since 2010, when we put in the nest box and started counting,” said International Bridge Engineer Karl Hansen, “There were more before that but we don’t know the number.” Hansen said a falcon cam for the International Bridge is also planned.

The chicks at the International Bridge were banded by a DNR team on June 19, while the Lift Bridge birds were banded on June 23. They were also named. The Baraga AutoCADD students and MDOT employees settled on naming the Lift Bridge birds Hank, Esther, and Bridgette. In recognition of Canada’s 150th anniversary, this year’s International Bridge bird names honor Canada’s first two men and first two women in space: Marc, Roberta, Steve, and Julie.

Karen Cleveland, a wildlife biologist with the DNR, said biologists try to band as many peregrine falcon chicks as they can at nest sites in Michigan. These color-coded metal bands stay on the falcons’ legs through their entire lives and give researchers a way to find out how long they live, where they travel, and whether they are able to raise chicks of their own.

“Michigan lost its peregrine falcons in the 1960s and 1970s due to the use of DDT and other environmental contaminants,” Cleveland said. “Since conservation efforts started in the mid-1980s, the number of peregrine nests has slowly increased. Now there are about 40 falcon pairs actively trying to nest statewide, with one to two new pairs discovered most years.”

The peregrine falcon has now been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. Peregrines have adapted to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges around the world. Studies have found the birds in this region tend not to nest in the same area where they were hatched, but spread out across the Midwest.

“The restoration of peregrine falcons to Michigan has truly been the result of the work of the DNR with multiple other partners” Cleveland said. “Whether it’s MDOT providing nest boxes on their bridges or more traditional conservation groups, like the National Park Service or Michigan Nature Association, protecting nesting sites on cliffs and ledges, their efforts have helped this species succeed.”

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Amazing Race experience in Sleeping Bear Dunes


Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

Last year’s Michigan Adventure Race took place at Silver Lake. Photo by Jamie Geysbeek Photography.

The Michigan Adventure Race: Sleeping Bear Edition will be held September 17, 2016, in and around Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Glen Arbor, Mich. It offers participants a unique way to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary and a rare opportunity to race in a National Park/Lakeshore. Registration is open through September 14 at www.miadventurerace.com.

Teams of one, two or three will set out from The Leelanau School in Glen Arbor by running/hiking, biking and paddling to on- and off-trail checkpoints pre-marked on a map, collecting as many as they can within either five or ten hours. Racers find that they get just enough of a break to catch their breath, stopping to read the map, punch their scorecard at each checkpoint, and transition between running, biking and paddling.

The 5-hour race includes the opportunity to conquer five Amazing Race-like challenges, revealed just before the race. These require no special training; just a little brain and body power such as running into a woods to find and solve a few word puzzles or tossing and catching refreshing Lake Michigan water between teammates. Five-hour racers can use a mountain or road bike to get from one area to another. Rentals available. A short paddle section will be available as well but race organizers will provide the boats.

Those choosing the challenging 10-hour race must trek, bike and paddle to more difficult and distant checkpoint locations in place of the Amazing Race challenges. Ten-hour racers must have a mountain or cyclocross bike. Rentals available. Rental canoes and kayaks also available or racers can bring their own to save some money.

While adventure racing shares some elements of triathlons, the most striking difference is that adventure racers must figure out their own route from one checkpoint to another using a pre-marked map and cutting through woods often void of trails. A good sense of direction and teamwork are critical skills. Basic compass skills are helpful as well (a free clinic will be available on August 27 in Grand Rapids; an online version is on the race site in the Learn More section).

The charity partner is Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear whose mission is to preserve and interpret the rich heritage of historic structures and cultural landscapes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Multiple Amazing Race-like challenges during the race will involve these historic structures or cultural practices of those who once lived here.

For more information about the race and to register, go to www.MIAdventureRace.com and visit www.facebook.com/MIAdventureRace to join a growing community of adventure racers.

 

Posted in Featured, SportsComments (0)

North Country Trail to run through area


Kurt Mabie (right), Chair of the Community Building Development Team, signs the document for the National Country Trail to come through our area. Christopher Loudenslager from the National Park Service is on the left.

Kurt Mabie (right), Chair of the Community Building Development Team, signs the document for the National Country Trail to come through our area. Christopher Loudenslager from the National Park Service is on the left.

By Judy Reed

It’s no longer a question of “if” the North Country Trail will run through Cedar Springs—it’s only a question of exactly where.

Representatives of the Community Building Development Team, the City of Cedar Springs, Solon Township, National Park Service, North Country Trail Association and Michigan DNR met last Thursday for the signing of the document solidifying the North Country Trail route through Cedar Springs.

All of these representatives had to sign the documents for the intention of the White Pine Trail to come through the Cedar Springs area. From left to right: Christopher Loudenslager, National Park Service Trail Planner; Bob Ellick, Supervisor of Solon Township; Jerry Hall, Mayor of the City of Cedar Springs; Scott Slavin, of the Michigan DNR; and Kurt Mabie, Chairman of the CBDT.

All of these representatives had to sign the documents for the intention of the White Pine Trail to come through the Cedar Springs area. From left to right: Christopher Loudenslager, National Park Service Trail Planner; Bob Ellick, Supervisor of Solon Township; Jerry Hall, Mayor of the City of Cedar Springs; Scott Slavin, of the Michigan DNR; and Kurt Mabie, Chairman of the CBDT.

“Cedar Springs is now home to a State Trail (White Pine Trail) and a Federal Trail (North Country Trail) crossing each other in our town, and we have a National Park that runs through town and through Solon Township out to the Rogue River State Game Area! It feels so good to have achieved this milestone!” said CBDT secretary Carolee Cole.

The North Country Trail is one of 11 National Scenic Trails, and stretches 4,600 miles, across seven states, from the New York/Vermont state line, to North Dakota. It is the longest of the 11 trails.

An optimal location review was done to connect the National Country Trail from the Russell Road and White Pine Trail intersection, to existing trail off Red Pine Drive in the Rogue River State Game area. The review noted that points of interest along the trail route include Long Lake County Park, Howard Christensen Nature Center, Duke Creek, Cedar Creek, Solon Township Hall and the park they are planning, and the City of Cedar Springs, with the planned boardwalk along Cedar Creek and other attractions. Several alternative routes were mapped.

The new part of the trail will be approximately seven miles long. But the exact route is not yet established since easements have to be obtained before the trail is officially certified.

However, certain sections of the trail may not be certified. “At this time the trail will not be able to be certified on the White Pine Trail, as the trail can only be certified in locations that are free of motorized vehicles,” explained Cole. “The Michigan DNR is in the process of approving the possibility for a parallel walking trail that could then allow the trail to be certified. It’s not unusual to have parts of the trail all along the route remain uncertified because a section must share with a motorized trail.”

So what’s next? “Well, a lot more work!” said Cole. “We have to secure easements (talk to people), then build the trail (clear a narrow, hiking only trail to certain specifications) and then maintain it (be willing to go out after a wind or ice storm and clear debris). So we need more people to get on board. A lot more people to get on board!”

If you would like to contribute to this piece of history in Cedar Springs, please contact Amy Anderson at a2andy@yahoo.com and let her know you would like to help with the creation of the North Country Trail.

Posted in Featured, NewsComments (0)


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