Species spotlight: four hummingbirds occasionally found in Michigan

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

When Michigan residents hang their hummingbird feeders, the most common species they see is ruby-throated hummingbird. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only regularly occurring hummingbird in Michigan, but four other species have been spotted in the state: rufous, broad-billed, green violet-ear and white-eared hummingbirds.

Anna’s hummingbird. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Anna’s hummingbirds are among the most common hummingbirds along the Pacific coast—but with their emerald feather and rose-pink throats, they are anything but the most common in appearance. Anna’s hummingbirds make a strong impression with their courtship displays: males will climb 130 feet into the air, then swoop to the ground, using their tail feathers to make a burst of noise. Anna’s hummingbirds are accidental in Michigan, which means they have been recorded in the state fewer than three times in the past decade. Two Anna’s hummingbirds were recorded in Michigan in 2010.

Female rufous hummingbird. Photo by Brendan Lally. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The rufous hummingbird has been called the “feistiest hummingbird in North America.” Normally found in California, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains, these tiny birds are relentless at flowers and feeders and will often attack even large hummingbirds that may double them in weight. Male rufous hummingbirds have bright orange backs and bellies and a vivid red throat, while females are mostly green with a spot of orange on the throat. The rufous hummingbird is the most common hummingbird in Michigan aside from the ruby-throated hummingbird, and has been recorded 20 times in the past 10 years. In the last decade, rufous hummingbirds were recorded in 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Green violet-ear. Photo by Joseph C. Boone. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Green violet-ear are casual in Michigan, meaning they have been recorded more than three times but fewer than 30 times in the past decade, and were recorded in fewer than nine of the last 10 years. Green violet-ears have a green throat, chest, belly and back, with a violet ear-patch on the side of their necks. They are typically found in southern Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, western Panama, northern Venezuela, western Venezuela and western Bolivia, but have been recorded in Michigan seven times. Green violet-ears have been spotted in Michigan in 1996, 2002, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

White-eared hummingbird. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

White-eared hummingbirds are green on their upperparts and breast and white on their undertail coverts. The most predominant feature on both males and females is the white eyestripe, which is more boldly colored for males. Males are more brightly-colored than females, with a turquoise-green throat and violet and black crown. The white-eared hummingbird is found from northern Mexico through New Mexico to Texas. It is accidental in Michigan and was recorded in 2005.

Broad-billed hummingbird. Photo by Dick Daniels. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Male broad-billed hummingbirds are strikingly colorful, with a green back, blue throat and green chest, and a long, red bill with a dark tip. Females have a dark ear-patch, gray underparts and a white line over the eye. The broad-billed hummingbird typically lives in southern Arizona and Mexico and has only been recorded in Michigan in 1996 and 2000.

Michigan residents will most likely see a ruby-throated hummingbird at their feeders this spring and summer, but if you spot another type of hummingbird, take a picture (if possible!) and submit a Rare Bird Report Form to the Michigan Audubon.

MNA has a series of videos of ruby-throated hummingbirds on our YouTube channel for a closer look at Michigan’s only regularly occurring hummingbird species. A DVD of those videos can be purchased on our website.

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Parking lots, 20-pound fish and a Michigan trailblazer: This week in environmental news

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Each Friday, MNA highlights environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here are five of this week’s stories on nature and the environment:

Renovations to a parking lot near Lake St. Clair will help cut down on pollution in the lake. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Huge ‘green’ parking lot will reduce Lake St. Clair pollution (Macomb Daily): Macomb County officials have wrestled with the pollution problems in Lake St. Clair for 20 years and concluded that a major cause of this pollution is rainwater that runs off streets and parking lots into the lake. A $3.3 million project to substantially alter a 42-acre parking lot, located within 100 feet of Lake St. Clair, will break ground on May 9 and make the parking lot more environmentally friendly. Half of the parking lot will be reconstructed and will combine parking spaces with ponds, swales, grassy areas, trees and shrubs. Stormwater will be diverted into those areas, rather than into the lake. The other half of the lot will receive a new “seal coat” on the asphalt.

20 Pounds? Not Too Bad, for an Extinct Fish (The New York Times): Last year, fisherman Matt Ceccarelli caught and released a 24-pound Lahontan cutthroat trout—a trout once believed to have gone extinct. The Lahontan cutthroat trout has been the focus of an “intense and improbable” federal and tribal effort to restore it to its home waters at Pyramid Lake in Nevada after the lake’s strain was declared extinct in the mid-1940s. In 2006, federal officials began stocking Pyramid Lake with Pilot Peak cutthroats, which have an exact DNA match to the cutthroats once found in Pyramid Lake. The fish is making an apparent comeback—since November, dozens of anglers have reported catching cutthroats.

Wet spring offers some relief for low Great Lakes levels, experts say (The Detroit News): The wet weather Michigan’s been having may boost water levels in the Great Lakes, but experts are uncertain by how much the levels will rise or how long it will last. Runoff from melting snow and rain showers typically causes the lake levels to rise in the spring, and Lakes Michigan and Huron have risen 6 inches this month. However, Keith Kompoltowicz from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that the lakes need several more wet winters and springs to return to their normal levels.

Veteran hopes to boost economy, fitness by blazing Michigan trail (Great Lakes Echo): Chris Hillier of Taylor, Mich., was recognized Thursday as a nominee for the Governor’s Fitness Award for Veteran of the Year. This award honors a military veteran who goes “above and beyond” to promote healthy lifestyles in the state. Hillier has hiked more than 6,000 miles since 2011, mostly across Michigan, and is starting a 924-mile hike that will take him from Belle Isle in Southeast Michigan to Ironwood in the Western Upper Peninsula. This route was proposed by Gov. Snyder last November and “connects existing pathways with new trails to showcase Michigan’s waterways, diverse forests, and unique animals.” This new trail could boost local economies and establish Michigan as the top trail state in the country.

Earth Month: 12 intriguing environmental books (USA TODAY): Wendy Koch, USA TODAY’s environment and energy reporter, shares 12 new books about the environment in celebration of Earth Month.

Meet the MNA Staff: Matt Schultz

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

MNA’s staff is full of people committed to protecting Michigan’s natural habitats. In addition to stewards and volunteers that help manage the sanctuaries, MNA has a group of regional stewardship organizers that oversee the volunteers and organize stewardship projects. Our three regional stewardship organizers are Adrienne Bozic, Katherine Hollins and Matt Schultz.

Matt S. 2 - 2011 Spring Adventure - Kurt Jung

Matt Schultz, regional stewardship organizer for the western Lower Peninsula. Photo by Kurt Jung.

Matt became an MNA steward in 2007. After finishing his master’s degree in sustainable development and conservation biology, Matt moved to Michigan with his girlfriend (now wife), who was completing a Ph.D. at Michigan State University. He looked for organizations to volunteer or work with, and found MNA. Matt joined the staff after serving as a volunteer and steward for three years.

Matt is now the regional stewardship organizer for the western Lower Peninsula and works with 58 sanctuaries in the western Lower Peninsula and Lenawee, Hillsdale and Jackson Counties. His duties involve engaging MNA volunteers, managing restoration activities at the sanctuaries, monitoring the sanctuaries and overseeing stewards. In addition, he does a bit of grant writing and is on the burn crew.

We sent Matt a few questions to learn a little more about himself and his experiences at MNA. Check out his responses below!

Q: What is your favorite part about being a regional stewardship organizer?
A: I like to be out in the field, but not every day. I’m happy to engage in conservation work and to be doing hands-on things to protect rare species and natural communities.

Q: What is your favorite Michigan species?
A: I like the Pitcher’s thistle. It’s pretty and not spiny for a thistle. Plus it’s a Great Lakes endemic and while not very common, not so rare that you never see it.

Q: If you could be any species, what would you be?
A: I’d like to be a tree. I’d live a long time and see the same place change slowly over time. Maybe burr oak because the acorns are cool.

Spot wildflowers in bloom at MNA’s spring events

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

White trillium at Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Ron Grogan.

White trillium. Photo by Ron Grogan.

Throughout spring and summer, many of MNA’s sanctuaries are covered with abundant, colorful wildflowers. This spring, MNA is hosting a variety of wildflower-focused events, including a hike at Trillium Ravine Nature Sanctuary on May 1 that will give visitors a chance to check out the sanctuary’s three rare trillium species, which should be blooming throughout the sanctuary at the time of the hike.

Trilliums are spring ephemerals, or wildflowers that bloom in early spring and die after a short growth and reproduction phase. They appear to be plants with unbranched stems, but they actually produce no true leaves or stems above ground; the “stem” is really an extension of the horizontal rhizome (a stem that grows continuously underground and puts out shoots and roots) and produces small, scale-like bracts that look like leaves.

Red trillium at Jasper Woods Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Al Menk.

Red trillium. Photo by Al Menk.

Trilliums are divided into two major groups: pedicellate and sessile.  Pedicellate trilliums have flowers on stalks, while sessile flowers have no stalks and sit directly on the plant’s bracts. In all, there are 38 species of trillium, four subspecies and seven varieties.

Four trillium species are protected in Michigan. The state lists toadshade, prairie trillium and snow trillium as threatened and painted trillium as endangered. MNA sanctuaries protect several trillium species, such as red trillium, drooping trillium, painted trillium, prairie trillium and toadshade, among others. Trillium Ravine has three trillium species, but Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary, Jasper Woods Nature Sanctuary, Joan Rodman Memorial Plant Preserve and other sanctuaries protect a few species, as well.

Visitors have more opportunities to see the spectacular wildflower displays in MNA sanctuaries throughout the summer at the 2013 Wildflower Walkabout. The Wildflower Walkabout is a series of guided tours through our nature sanctuaries from May to September. Each sanctuary was picked for its unique wildflowers, and each trip is planned during the time when those wildflowers are best for viewing and photographing. For more information on these tours, visit the MNA website.