ENDANGERED!

Photo by Susan R. Crispin, Michigan Natural Feature Inventory

At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

Wild Lilac
By Angie Jackson

Lilacs, known for their sweet and elegant aroma, are one of the most common garden shrubs in the country. Wild lilac (Ceanothus sanguineu) is a threatened species in Michigan that occurs in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

As a nitrogen-fixing shrub, wild lilac supports the growth and health of other plants. It is also an important browse species for animals such as white-tailed deer, mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk.

Physical Appearance:
Wild lilac is a perennial shrub with red or purple stems and white flowers. Its leaves are 4-7 cm long, oval shaped and green. Leaves are alternatively arranged, and sometimes the undersides are hairy. Lilacs will grow up to three meters tall in small bush arrangements, with clusters of flowers growing up to 12 cm long.

Preferred Habitat:
In Michigan, wild lilac prefers volcanic cliffs and volcanic conglomerate ridgetops characterized by scattered, shrubby tree areas, such as the northern Keweenaw Peninsula. In the western United States, wild lilac grows in canopy gaps, in mixed conifer forests and on slopes. It thrives in sunlight and hot, dry climates.

Life Cycle:
Wild lilacs flower in late May and June, and fruit in July. Seeds are covered with a water-resistant coat that only opens with exposure to heat. Fire, logging and other occurrences that expose the seeds to heat lead to rapid germination. Following this process, growth is rapid, but individual wild lilacs have relatively short life spans of 5-10 years.

Like other shrubs in the Ceanothus family, wild lilacs fix nitrogen through a symbiotic process with the bacteria of the genus Frankia. This process enhances the growth of nearby plants, restores soil and aids the repair of unhealthy land. Researchers say some forest ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest may rely on wild lilac as a main source of nitrogen input.

List Status:
Wild lilac populations are secure in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Montana. However, it is a threatened species in Michigan, with only five occurrences in Keweenaw County. Most Michigan occurrences have been near roads, making wild lilac populations in danger of road development and pesticides. Road use and foot traffic have also established the presence of several invasive plants such as Canada bluegrass and spotted knapweed in the shrub’s habitat, potentially inhibiting its survival.

Protection Efforts:
Currently, there is not a state-wide protection program in place for wild lilac. However, research suggests that controlled burns would help manage the plant and its habitat. Because wild lilac seeds require heat to open, fire would aid in spreading seeds and removing canopy-covering plants to provide sunlight.

At MNA, staff conduct routine controlled burns to manage natural areas and promote habitat health and diversity. Burns remove gaps from the forest canopy, allowing for the conservation of rare and endangered species such as wild lilac.

How You Can Help:
Help promote healthy natural communities by joining the MNA burn crew. Controlled burns are led by trained professionals who redo their training each year. During the training process, new MNA burn crew members are taught to handle the equipment, as well as methods for controlling fire like creating fire breaks and backfires. To learn more about prescribed burns, contact MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon by emailing abacon@michigannature.org or calling (517) 655-5655.

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.

Join MNA for the 2011 Annual Members Meeting!

Join MNA staff and members this Saturday, April 9, for the 2011 Annual Members Meeting from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in Fenton.

Stop by early or stay late for a sanctuary tour hosted by stewardship staff. See what MNA does in the area and around the state on this special tour only for members and friends.

Members Meeting Itinerary:

9:00 a.m. – Join us for an early tour of the Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary.
Meet at the church, then convoy/carpool approximately three miles to the sanctuary.

11:00 a.m. – State of the Organization Address, MNA President

11:30 a.m. – Financial Report, MNA Treasurer

11:45 a.m. – Break for Lunch

12:15 p.m. – Keynote Speech, Dr. Tony Reznicek from the University of Michigan
“Why it’s so important to protect the small places”

1:30 p.m. – Property Update, MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon

2:30 p.m. – Stewardship Update, MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon

3:00 p.m. – In case you missed out on the early tour, join us for a second tour of the Lyle and Mary Rizor Nature Sanctuary

Members Meeting Location:
Tyrone Covenant Presbyterian Church
10235 White Lake Road, Fenton, MI 48430

Click here for the Interactive Google Map

ENDANGERED!

At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

Kirtland’s Warbler
By Brandon Grenier

The Kirtland’s warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) is in the beginning of a species-recovery success story. Fifteen years ago, it was only known to nest in the northern region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Now, this rare bird is also found in the Upper Peninsula and parts of Canada and Wisconsin. Known to on insects and small fruits, warblers help manage populations of insects such as flies.
Photo by Cindy Mead

Physical Appearance:
The Kirtland’s warbler is approximately six inches in length, and is one of the rarest members of the wood warbler family. It has a bright yellow breast and blue-gray back tail feathers covered in black streaks. The males are songbirds with eyes surrounded by white ringlets. Females are more dull in appearance than their male counterparts, do not sing and do not have ringlet markings. In fall and winter, both sexes have brown plumage, and are much less recognizable.

Preferred Habitat:

This warbler is very particular about where it will nest, nesting only on the ground or in the low hanging branches of jack pine trees. Kirtland’s warblers only nest in trees between the ages of five and twenty; after this the lower branches begin to die and it is no longer suitable. The warbler also requires a large area to sustain populations; each pair typically needs six-to-ten acres for nesting territory. Warblers migrate in the fall to make their voyage to the Bahamas for eight months and return to the Midwest in early May.

Life Cycle:
Once warblers return to Michigan in May, females lay four-to-five eggs, followed by an incubation period of 13-16 days. Both parents help feed the young, which leave the nest within nine days to live on the lowest branches. Parents continue to feed the chicks for five weeks. Most Kirtland’s warblers live for two years.

List Status:
The Kirtland’s warbler is listed as a federal endangered species; however, populations have been improving steadily after a number of programs were enacted to protect its habitat.

Kirtland’s warblers are proof that forest fires are healthy for ecosystems. Jack pine forests were traditionally renewed by forest fires, clearing out old trees and allowing for new growth, and in turn, new nests for warblers. Fires also open the seeds of the pinecones, so when humans prevent natural forest fires to protect their homes and land, the warbler’s habitat is minimized.

The brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) also poses a significant threat to warblers. The cowbird is a nest parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. The cowbirds’ eggs hatch earlier than other songbirds’, so their young start off stronger and often win fights for food. As the Kirtland’s warbler has no developed defense against this parasitism, cowbirds have ravaged their populations.

Protection Efforts:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Forest Service, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Audubon Society began working together in 1972 using live traps to catch cowbirds in Kirtland’s warbler breeding areas. Since then, an average of 4,000 cowbirds have been removed per year. The USFWS has also monitored jack pine forests for years, using rotation cuttings, fires and reseeding to maintain breeding areas for warblers. From 167 Kirtland’s warblers in 1974, the number of singing males increased to 1,826 in 2009.

How You Can Help:
You can help ensure the survival of this beautiful bird by:
• Staying out of posted nesting areas
• Camping only in designated campgrounds
• Prohibiting pets from running wild through labeled nesting areas
• Practicing extreme caution with fire
• Tell your friends and family everything you know about this endangered species

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.

A Natural Solution to Repelling Pests

By Tina Patterson

Touted by many and even sold by conservation district offices as a surefire way to combat mosquitoes, Garlic Mosquito Barrier has been around for about 20 years. While opinions differ on its effectiveness, the potent spray made from garlic cloves is said to be safe for pets and garden vegetables.

Sold for around $24 a quart bottle (which when applied covers about 1.25 acres), Mosquito Barrier might be great for those reluctant to apply DEET or other topical repellants. Proponents say it is 100 percent safe, non-toxic and useful for keeping pesky Canadian geese off lawns by making the grass unpalatable without hurting them. Advertisers say it can also be sprayed on fruit trees to keep birds from feasting on Michigan’s cherries and other fruit tree crops.

Stopping mosquitoes before they take flight is a goal of many families who wish to enjoy summer days without the application of repellants. Mosquito Barrier proponents suggest mixing the product with canola oil and spraying ponds and still water to kill mosquito larvae before they hatch.

But does it work? Claims on the Internet say the spray keeps not only mosquitoes but ticks, grasshoppers, black flies, gnats, fire ants and fleas from your yard, and that one application lasts for a month.

MNA would like to know if you have tried Mosquito Barrier, and if so, what were your results? How did you use it and would you recommend it to others? Is this a product that would have value at our group outings to sanctuaries? Please send an e-mail to Matt Hund news@michigannature.org and tell us what you think.