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Tag Archive | "ranger steve"

Rob Vander Zee’s ArtPrize


Rob VanderZee’s entry into ArtPrize.

Rob VanderZee’s entry into ArtPrize.

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Rob Vander Zee, talented young man, was seeking an art project while in high school and has now displayed in Artprize 2013. When I was developing a wetland learning station at the Howard Christensen Nature Center in the 1980’s, it was fortunate that Rob connected with us. I explained a wetlands vision and gave him an image. From there he created the artwork mural that still draws youth and visitors to think about wetlands. Please visit HCNC and become a member.

I gave Rob a picture of a beaver pond and he painted a wonderful realistic rendition. The work entices viewers to think about the world we live in. Rob is at native of Cedar Springs and his work helps people think about the future.

Wetlands are major contributors to Michigan’s recreation economy.  They are economically valuable assets that filter toxics from water, reduce flood damage, are major food producers, and provide desirable sites for human habitation. Wetlands modify weather conditions and determine the depth of ground water tables that recharge city and private wells.  Water moves from wetlands to ground water and vice-versa.  How we handle sewage, fertilizers, pesticides, and toxic substance disposal are important community health issues that are constantly in debate. Safe drinking water is taken for granted and there are those that want to reduce community efforts to protect water quality by reducing government programs protecting our health and the environment.

In the 1970’s we passed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species. These programs have helped restore conditions that improve our quality of life. Those protections are being challenged to reduce taxes. People forget the pollution costs were more expensive and damaging to health than the preventive tax programs. Saving tax dollars spurs efforts to reduce government programs but at what cost? They may not be perfect but the programs protect our economy, health and quality of life. Rob’s art work hopes to engage people to think about the future and I hope my articles do the same.

When we bought Ody Brook property in 1979, the home plumbing from the toilet went into a 55-gallon drum that had rusted away and other water was piped directly to the Little Cedar Creek. We installed a proper septic system and drain field. It was not until 1976 that government regulations changed construction codes to meet the Clean Water Act and provide environmental protection. We recently added five acres to Ody Brook that has an existing home. That home’s plumbing ran to the Little Cedar Creek without a septic drain field. The home construction predated the 1970’s Clean Water Act tax legislation. We recently installed a proper septic system to protect the stream, wetlands, and water quality for Cedar Springs human and wildlife neighbors.

How many homes still have systems that pollute water quality, fishing, health, and damage our community’s economy and quality of life? The current budget battle in Washington is wrestling with what is needed to maintain a high quality of life in Cedar Springs. That brings us back to Rob Vander Zee’s art.

Rob painted a mural for ArtPrize called Michigan Forest: The Future of Genetic Manipulation on an Eco System. He comments his artwork is open for interpretation. He wants people to think about society actions. His work displays possibilities for the future. He wants viewers to contemplate nature niches and our role as participants in the ecosystem. I hope many of you viewed his work. If not, view and read his comments about the painting at: www.artprize.org/rob-vander-zee.

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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Fruit Abundance


By Ranger Steve

 

Tree branches hang heavy under the weight of fruit. A falling apple hit Isaac Newton. I hit my head on a hanging apple when mowing because I did not duck low enough. My thoughts will not revolutionize science like Newton’s gravitation law, but maybe hitting my head on an apple knocked some good sense into me.

People have commented on the abundance of fruit this year and wonder why it is expensive. A news report stated the cost last year was high because fruit production was low and the market could charge more. This year, it was expected the abundance would bring down the price but it went up instead. I am not an economist and do not understand what drives market prices. Perhaps farmers are recovering last years losses.

One thought is that people want slave labor wages paid to fruit pickers but that means hiring undocumented immigrants. Orchard owners have had difficulty finding American citizens willing to work for the low wages. Even when fruit is abundant, the farmer needs to find a way to get the product to market and hopefully consumers would be willing to support fair wages for workers.

A news report proposed many migrant workers did not come to Michigan this year because they found work in other states last year and returned to those states. Others suspect tighter immigration efforts reduced the number of available cherry and apple pickers. As consumers, we only see the price at the store and do not understand why prices go up for both less and more abundant produce.

As a naturalist, I have a better understanding for why plants may be producing a bumper crop of fruit this year. Growing conditions have been very good. Last year frost killed flowers that resulted in trees storing energy instead of spending it on fruit production. Insects that year did not have flowers for nectar and they suffered from the frost. Pollinating insects found better survival conditions this year so they were able to do their work of helping plants with successful fertilization.

Because flowers were killed last year, the plants were able to store more energy for use this year. Oak trees normally produce a small crop of acorns the year following a large crop because they do not have the stored energy for the task. It serves them better to produce a large crop one year and a smaller crop the next. Wildlife cannot eat the large supply in a good year and surviving seeds produce young trees. A low crop likely means a lower survival rate for animals but that is not trees concern.

Tree reproduction is determined by weather conditions, insect abundance, and the ability to be flexible enough to survive good and bad production years. Each tree only needs to replace itself during its lifetime to maintain a stable tree population.

My thoughts are that trees saved energy and stored it in roots last year. Fortunately, this year they encountered great growing conditions and had stored energy for massive fruit and seed production. Farmers are resilient like trees. They survived tough times last year and this year they are reaping the benefits of a good growing season. Farming horticulture depends on nature’s growing conditions and farmers roll with the punches. Fortunately, an excess of fruit production allows us to enjoy apple pie. Migrating birds get to fill their stomach for their long trip. Squirrels and deer get to enter winter with a good supply of fat.

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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Red Flannel Warmth


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Amazing methods for surviving cold weather abound in nature. Cedar Springs became famous by spreading warm red flannels around the world. Humans are not endowed with adaptations for cold climates. Fortunately we have devised many ways to create a tropical climate around our bodies. Homes are heated to tropical temperatures. We clothe to hold heat between clothing and skin so a tropical environment exist in that narrow space even when we venture into freezing outdoor temperatures.

Mammals are changing summer coats to winter coats. Their underfur thickens in fall but it is not waterproof. Outer guard hairs have oils that repel water. The number of hairs in underfur increases producing dead air space to hold warm air near the body. Opossums do not produce a thick under underfur and they become vulnerable to killing cold. There tails are especially are at risk for frostbite.

Birds produce insulating down feathers for winter and those are protected from getting wet by contour feathers that we see covering the body. At the base of the bird’s tail is an uropygial or preening gland that produces an oily substance the bird retrieves with its bill to spread on contour feathers. This water repellant keeps feathers dry in wet weather. Ducks as well as songbirds use the oil to prevent down feathers from becoming waterlogged and losing the ability to provide warm dead air space.

Insects have a variety of adaptations to maintain populations until summer. Most wasps freeze to death after the first few hard frosts but the queen leaves the nest and finds a log to crawl under or some other protected place. There she survives the winter to begin a new colony in the spring.

Viceroy butterflies lay eggs that hatch in late summer and the tiny caterpillars use silk to attach a willow leaf to a branch. The caterpillar hibernates hidden and suspended in the curled leaf until spring. Woolly Bear Caterpillars are seen walking about on warm fall days. They hibernate in secluded locations like leaf litter until spring conditions warm to encourage plant growth. The caterpillar in spring continues feeding and development. A white winged Woolly Bear moth will emerge from the pupa in summer to begin the cycle anew. Many aquatic insects, like dragonflies, winter as larvae in streams with the some adult dragonflies, like darners, migrating south.

June beetle grubs burrow into ground to get below frost line. In 1985 our dog, Ody Brook, died and we buried him in January. Yes, Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary is named after him in 1979. A fire was built with a reflector to direct heat downward to thaw the ground. It was a cold winter and the frost line was deep. We dug the grave and found a large white June beetle grub four feet deep at the bottom of the grave. Had the beetle only dug three feet deep, it would have frozen.

Trees do not maintain heat to survive winter but have special nature niche adaptations. They remove most of the water from cells to prevent cells from bursting when water freezes. If the cells kept water, it would expand and rupture tissues killing them. Trees must maintain their trunks and branches so they move water to roots and that protects from frost damage. The antifreeze nature of rich sugar water prevents freezing. Desiccation in winter can kill tissues. Bud scales help prevent bud tissue drying by covering delicate tissues that wait for spring. The above ground portion of herbaceous perennial plants dies but living tissue survives in the ground. New spring growth arises from underground tissues. Annuals die except for the seed that carries new life to spring. Wear red flannels and survive until spring.

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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Pod People


 By Ranger Steve Mueller

Common milkweed gone to seed.

Common milkweed gone to seed.

Many of us remember the movie where giant pods took over human bodies while people slept. Now when I talk about pod people, I refer to people that collect milkweed pods to gather seeds to take over patches of the yard to help monarch butterflies. Suggested methods of collecting and spreading seeds will help milkweed success. Following my recent monarch article, I received questions about when and how to best plant milkweeds. Now is the time to be a pod person and collect pods.

Milkweed seeds need a cold period to improve germination. Keep seeds dry when cold treating during winter to prevent mold or bacteria from causing destruction. Milkweeds are herbaceous perennials that grow from rootstocks in the spring so seeds are not their only way to maintain a population. The seeds have a parachute called a coma for dispersal. The coma or plume spreads seeds when blown by the wind.

To plant seeds it is best to remove the comas so they do not disperse from where you want them. The easiest way to remove them is by collecting mature pods that are ready to open. Squeeze the pod to open. If pods open easily, they are mature and ready for harvest. Seeds will be brown rather than pale or green.

After the pod is opened grab the center support stalk at the pointed end and hold it tightly. Use your thumb to remove seeds from the coma. Store dry seeds where they will receive prolonged cold. In spring it is helpful to further vernalize seeds by placing seeds between damp paper towels for a few cold weeks. They can be kept in plastic bags during this cold treatment. An alternate method is to refrigerate dry seeds and place them in warm water for 24 hours to improve germination rates. Store seeds dry to protect from mold and bacteria and keep them secure from insects and mice.

Milkweeds grow best in sandy (light) soils rather than clay (heavy) soils. Their nature niche is adapted for disturbed soils in full sun where competition from existing plants is few or lacking. Plant the seeds in spring while weather is still cool because high summer temperatures may prevent germination. The plants produce large numbers of seeds because few survive to grow. The method described helps improve seeds germination and plant survival rates as well as providing greater opportunity for monarch survival. Monarch caterpillars feed on the leaves and the adults of many kinds of butterflies find the nectar from milkweed flowers among the best nature has to offer.

Enjoy smelling the rich fragrance when milkweed flowers perfume the yard better than most wildflowers.

The following You Tube video shows the milkweed seed collecting process:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFXWitrxOmQ

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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Monarch Migration Plight


OUT-Nature-Niche-MonarchPopulationEstimate_graphic3By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

In September people see Monarch butterflies migrating south.

Mrs. Tacoma, a kindergarten teacher at Cedar Trails Elementary, collects Monarch caterpillars on milkweed plants and feeds them until they form a chrysalis. When the adult butterfly emerges to pump fluid into its bright orange wings, students see a miracle that most people have not witnessed. Once fluid has dried in the butterfly’s wing veins, the class releases it for a 2000-mile journey to south central Mexico.

This year fewer Monarchs will be migrating. It has been a rough year and decade for survival. Dr. Lincoln Brower predicted long ago that migrating Monarchs would become a thing of the past during the first decades of the 21st century. It is hoped his prediction will prove wrong. The predictions of Brower and other scientists are based on several factors that have been building to diminish wildlife in North America.

Dr. ‘Chip’ Taylor, of Monarch Watch, highlighted factors. He said, for monarch recovery, we need to create a lot of milkweed habitat and need to mobilize people to do it to save wildlife, by creating habitats in yards and gardens. He continued that gardeners across this country could help by planting milkweed and using native plants to stabilize native pollinator communities. People now have another purpose for creating a garden. The purpose is conservation.

Taylor identifies factors that have led to the sharp drop in the monarch population.

1. Monarch numbers seen each year in the eastern United States and Canada are determined by the amount of habitat that remains. New roads, housing developments, and agricultural expansion serving a growing human population transform a natural landscape in ways that make it impossible for Monarchs to live.

2. Month to month temperature and moisture conditions are critical factors and are affected by climate change. Climate change is well documented but the question of how much is human caused is still not precise. It is clear human activities are affecting the rate of climate change but quantifying exactly how much is exceedingly difficult.

3. Increased planting of genetically modified corn in the U.S. Midwest promotes greater use of herbicides, which in turn kills milkweed. Monarch decline is coincident with the adoption of Roundup-ready corn and soybeans. We’re basically creating a desert out there, except for the corn and the soybeans.

4. The increase of soybean and corn crops as bio-fuels has reduced wildlife habitat.

5. Extreme weather events threaten to become more common and may have a negative impact on Monarch populations and other wildlife.

6. Taylor points out that sustaining the monarch migration will be a challenge that requires support and cooperation of Canada, the United States and Mexico. This is symptomatic of issues affecting plant and animal nature niches and may impact our national wellbeing.

7. As human populations grows, lumbering, clearing land for growing food and grazing cattle reduces space essential for survival of other life forms, on which society is dependent.

8. Our own population is projected to increase by two billion people by 2040 so Taylor doesn’t see the monarch in that future world. Our population cannot continually grow and also maintain a healthy world. We are going to see a lot of changes. There are natural restrictions on how fast populations can grow based on food production, declining arable land, and limitations of water. If we don’t get with it and if we don’t start modifying our behavior, life is going to get to be pretty tough.

He says the Monarch issue is his way of introducing people to the larger issues.

9. Monarch over wintering sites are vulnerable for a number of reasons. A census taken at the monarchs’ wintering grounds found their population had declined 59 percent over the previous year and was at the lowest level ever measured.

Italics in this article are my commentary additions. To read Taylor’s complete discussion go to http://e360.yale.edu/feature/tracking_the_causes_of_sharp__decline_of_the_monarch_butterfly/2634/

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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No Child Left Inside (Part 2)


Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

No Child Left Inside Coalition (NCLI) has 2,200 organizations that have joined together to examine strategies to re-energize and strengthen partnerships throughout the conservation and education communities. Amidst growing concerns with cutbacks in environmental education in our schools and the impacts of “nature deficit disorder” on the health, well being, and success of our nation‘s youth, organizations flocked to the NCLI cause. To date conservation, education, business, health care, faith-based and recreational organizations throughout the country have joined the Coalition.

NCLI coalition has the opportunity fueled by unprecedented partnerships between schools, federal and state agencies, and community stakeholders, working together towards a common goal of giving students much needed environmental and outdoor education.

What is the effort and purpose? Under the name NCLI, legislation was introduced five years ago and has been building support. It takes years for legislation to be discussed for implementation. Congress is discussing funding opportunities for environmental literacy and seeking state and local school system perspectives on how to incorporate environmental literacy in various subjects to raise student achievement.

Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland stated, “Environmental education is a down payment for success in education, energy and environmental policy, health care, and our economic competitiveness. Investing in environmental education will help nurture the next generation of scientists, promote environmental stewardship, and encourage Americans to live healthier lives.”

Research has indicated that hands-on environmental education has a measurably positive impact not only on student achievement in science, but also in reading, social studies, and mathematics.

NCLI Progress Report:

1. Introduction of NCLI legislation in Congress to make environmental and outdoor education systemic in the nation‘s K-12 schools.

2. Efforts in more than 40 States are developing to implement statewide environmental literacy plans.

3. Inclusion of environmental education in Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – the first time environmental education has been identified as a priority by the U.S. Department of Education.

4. Creation of an advisory panel of stakeholders and development of a vision to plan for the future of environmental education.

The previous information has been gleaned from the NCLI newsletter.

It is my hope that members of local conservation organizations will discuss NCLI at club events and become partners to get youth outdoors for experiential education with their club members and to support environmental and outdoor education in schools programs. Schools cannot succeed alone. Conservation groups cannot succeed alone. Society needs committed individuals and individuals need a committed society to succeed. Nature Niches are intertwined.

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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No Child Left Inside Part 1


OUT-RangerSteveMuellerBy Ranger Steve Mueller

 

No child left inside is locally important for all things start at home. I emphasize what people can do to promote healthy nature niches on their property for families and wildlife. Our children are among those that live in our home nature niches.

An organized No Child Left Inside movement has been around for over a century in many forms by different names and sponsors. Field and Stream Clubs across the country have programs where youth get immersed in the outdoors. The emphasis focuses around hunting and fishing with a goal to help youth understand the natural world they depend on for life. They gave me a scholarship to wildlife camp for a week in 1964 where I learned about birds, mammals, fish, outdoor skills, and habitat management.

The National Audubon Society Junior Audubon program takes kids outdoors to experience birds, plants, insects, and all ecology our lives depend upon. The local Junior Audubon is the longest running program in North America according to Grand Rapids Audubon leader Wendy Tatar. My parents subscribed me to Junior Audubon booklets monthly for years that taught about soil, worms, insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, plant communities and the list goes on and on.

4H programs focus primarily on animal husbandry and plant propagation for making ones livelihood but it leads to understanding how all nature’s creatures like soil bacteria and mycorhiza fungus are essential for maintaining a healthy world. Paige Gebhardt, 4H student, graduated salutatorian this year from Cedar Springs High School and will attend Michigan State University studying wildlife programs. She told me this spring she would love to work with wolves and become a wildlife biologist to enhance healthy nature niches essential for the health of our community.

Boy and Girl Scout programs have been among the most influential for my personal development. Boy Scouts got me outside canoeing, camping, hiking, observing with focused activities where I could study the natural world. The leaders often did not have the best nature knowledge but they loved it. By the time I was in high school, scout leaders and other scouts often turned to me with nature questions because I immersed myself in outdoor study. The first nature book I bought with my own money was A Field to the Butterflies, by Alexander Klots. I had been chasing winged jewels for years and wanted better understanding.

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) is an organization of outdoor leaders and teachers focused on experiential outdoor recreational activities and for responsible environmental stewardship that is not environmentally destructive. I was president of MAEOE working to lead local communities in Michigan to help return environmental and outdoor education as a priority again in 2007. In 1986, Dale Elshoff and I both moved to Michigan and we were already trained Project WILD facilitators. Together we led the first statewide teacher training in Project WILD to establish it in Michigan. It is a form of no child left inside that teachers and organization leaders use with youth.

It was the beginning of June 2005 when I was called to the Kent ISD office and told to lay off the staff at the Howard Christensen Nature Center on the last day of school. The superintendent told me they were closing HCNC because environmental education was no longer a priority in America. I objected and he commented that he was not saying it was not important but it was no longer a priority in America, Michigan, or our community. There were several people throughout the county that contacted the ISD and even the Grand Rapids Press but environmental education had become a political football instead of a community value so it was closed. The Kent County Soil Conservation District reopened it a year later for two years and then a nonprofit organization called Lily’s Frog Pad assumed management. Their programs and community involvement are growing at HCNC to promote No Child Left Inside.

Next week’s nature niche will focus on the current No Child Left Inside movement.

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

 

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Perseid Meteor Shower


OUT-RangerSteveMueller

I got up about 4 a.m. on a clear black night for the Perseid meteor shower. By the coals of a small campfire I waited. Each year in August, nature’s fireworks celebrate my birthday. In the distant past, a comet traveled through Earth’s August orbit around the sun. Remaining debris in space left by the comet annually drifts into Earth’s orbital path. As the Earth moves through the area, it collides with debris that gets caught in its gravitational pull. Debris falls toward Earth generating heat and light. Most particles are the size of sand grains that heat and light up brightly in a form we call shooting stars.

Two brilliantly bright shooting stars and more normal flashes streaked the sky on my watch. Most traveled from north to south emanating from the Cassiopeia constellation region. Light from each lasted less than a second.

Satellites scurried across the sky shining brighter and dimmer behind invisible moisture. No clouds were present but varying light reflected from the satellites indicated moisture was present to filter light.

I enjoyed the brilliance of constellations and am thankful a dark sky prevails at Ody Brook Sanctuary. Looking southward lights at 14 Mile and Northland Drive obscure good night sky viewing and the same holds true for 17 Mile and US 131. Lights constructed to shine down instead of up light more efficiently, use less energy, and intrude less on night’s beauty. To the south of Ody Brook a house was remolded with mercury vapor light added to come on at dark and go off at daylight. During the winter months it interferes with night sky viewing but in summer tree leaves block its light. New neighbors bought the home last year and I have spoken with them about putting the light on a motion sensor so it is off when not needed. That would save energy and protect night nature niches.

The night sky provides connections with distant places beyond comprehension.  I looked at the Andromeda galaxy. It is the closest galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy and is the only one visible without telescopes. Like our galaxy, it spans a great area and is shaped somewhat like a Frisbee or dinner plate. View yourself on Earth in our solar system in a plate-like galaxy of stars. The sun would be located about 2/3 of the way from the center of the plate. Looking across the length of the plate would be the greatest concentration of stars but most are so distant they appear only as the white glow we know as the “Milky Way.”

Looking upward through the thin depth of the plate we see closer stars as brilliant pinpoints of light. Beyond those are distance stars but not in the abundance seen as we look across the flattened saucer of the Milky Way.

On the 13th I began my birthday celebration watching the Perseid Meteor fireworks, constellations, and a distance home in Andromeda Galaxy. In the 1970’s when I was director of the Environmental Education School at Bryce Canyon National Park, the teachers had a world map and asked children to place pins in locations of their home cities. My friend Bob Raver and I claimed we traveled on a beam of light to take up residence on Earth from Andromeda. The teachers listed Andromeda on the map and we placed our pins there. A news reporter wrote an article about the environmental school and listed places from where people visited including Andromeda. We all know that if it is in the paper it must be true so Bob and I claim Andromeda as a valid previous home.

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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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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Newaygo Butterfly Count


The Newaygo Butterfly Count was held on July 27, 2013 in the Manistee National Forest. Six participants from age 8 to seniors enjoyed the two track roads in Newaygo County. None of the observers were from Newaygo County. All came from our region. The weather was not ideal but we had great observations and good company. The temperature started at 63 but it was cloudy. If the sun were shining, the cooler temperature would be prevent many butterflies from flying. The temperature rose to 65 but dropped to 60 in the afternoon. Winds picked up and that keeps butterflies low. Our observation sites are somewhat protected from the wind so butterflies were active at nectar sources. We saw 15 adult species and additional butterflies in early stages of life. 105 adult individual were counted and 20 early stage individuals.

While observing butterflies, we take time to enjoy others encounters along the way. We saw a Map Turtle that is Michigan Threatened. Sandhill Cranes flew over and many other species of birds were heard and seen. We spend time looking at wild flowers. Several Disjunct species were seen including the Meadow Beauty. A Disjunct species is one that is about 500 miles from other known populations. The ones we saw have their relatives living along the Atlantic coast. These are mostly likely relics that were stranded here after glaciation 8000 thousand years ago and have managed to survive generation after generation. Our nature outings are great opportunities for time in the outdoors with family and friends.

 

Newaygo Butterfly Count Sightings

Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars- 2

Orange Sulphur – 1

American Copper – 2

Eastern Tailed Blue – 1

Karner Blue Butterfly – 5 Federally Endangered Species

Aphrodite Fritillary – 8

Silver-bordered Fritillary – 4

Pearl Crescent – 5

Red-spotted Purple – 13

Red-spotted Purple eggs – 6

Viceroy – 1

Northern Pearly Eye – 2

Appalachian Eyed Brown – 2

Common Wood Nymph – 4

Monarch – 1 caterpillar

Silver-spotted Skipper caterpillars – 9

Duskywing species caterpillar larva – 2

Northern Broken Dash – 20

Little Glassywing – 4

Common Roadside Skipper – 3

Dun Skipper – 30

 

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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