Sanctuary Spotlight: Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Michigan Nature Association nature sanctuary is its accessibility to the public. Some sanctuaries are so “off the beaten-path” that they require a heavy duty off-road vehicle, and lots of determination on behalf of the visitor to make the journey. Others are so easily accessed, you might accidentally stumble across them during your daily commute. The Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary in Mackinac County is one of the latter.

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Fred Dye at the dedication of the sanctuary on August 7, 2004.

Located along the side of M-123 at the ghost town of Kenneth in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, the sanctuary was originally named “Purple Coneflower Plant Preserve” due to the abundance of purple coneflowers that can be found blooming here in late summer. It was renamed in 2004 to honor former MNA trustee, steward, and outstanding volunteer Charles Frederic Dye, Jr.

This sanctuary is unique among MNA sanctuaries, as it contains notable cultural, natural, and geological features within its 21 acres. Visitors to the sanctuary will find karst features such as exposed bedrock, thin soils, and deep earth cracks; a unique local feature resulting from the Niagara Escarpment rock formation. There are also numerous prairie species typically found in the tall grass prairie region of Illinois, Iowa and southern Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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An American Lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) on a pale purple coneflower. Photo taken at Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary during the Michigan Nature Association 60th Anniversary Odyssey Tour, by Marianne Glosenger.

The ghost town of Kenneth was a small and thriving logging town from the 1880s through the 1930s, which laid along the railroad line. For a short time until the 1930s, Kenneth established a Civilian Conservation Corps camp housing 300 men who worked primarily on repairing forest fire damage in the surrounding forests after a series of forest fires between 1915 and the 1930s. What is now the Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary used to contain the town’s general store and saloon, the foundations of which can still be found in the sanctuary.

Although there are no official trails at Fred Dye, it is easily navigated due to its open prairie habitat. As you travel along M-123 roughly 20 miles north of the Mackinac Bridge, be on the lookout for the distinctive MNA sanctuary sign along the west side of the road and remember to “take only pictures, and leave only footprints.”

 

Sanctuary Spotlight: Franklin F. and Brenda L. Holly

For decades, Frank and Brenda Holly visited the 80-acre family retreat in Mason County, just outside of Ludington. There is a small cottage near the southwest corner of the property that Frank and his family have been slowly building over the past several decades; the rest consists of hemlock and pine forest, featuring wetland and prairie fen. Mr. Holly’s grandfather, Henry Millwood, was a local farmer and artist who spent much of his spare time caring for this property. Mr. Holly explained, “Every year in early December, Henry would walk the mile-and-a-half from his farm, with saw in hand, to this place and look for a tall pine tree with a nicely formed top. Then, he would climb way up high on this tree and cut its top off and carry it home so that it could serve as the family’s Christmas tree for that year.”

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A small stream runs through the Franklin F. and Brenda L. Holly Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Lauren Ross.

The onsite wetlands are part of a much larger wetland complex which extends to the west and the southwest, and which drain into the North Bayou on Hamlin Lake. Exploring the vast forest of this property, one will find patches of sandy earth, ferns and cattails among the red maples, eastern hemlocks, and red and white pines. A small creek runs through the property, one of many in a network of arteries that wind up in nearby Hamlin Lake.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the donation of this unique property in northern Michigan. It also marks the time in which Henry Millwood would have visited the property in search of the perfect tree. In the past year, MNA has been working to develop a walking trail on the property that will serve as an educational opportunity for the local community in conjunction with a partnership with the local schools and community organizations.

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In the summer, the open spaces of the sanctuary become dense with a variety of ferns. Photo by Robb Johnston.

You can learn more about this unique sanctuary, and about the Holly Family legacy in the Fall 2019 issue of Michigan Nature magazine – available online at michigannature.org!

2019 Photo Contest Winners Announced!

We are excited to finally announce the winners in this year’s 9th Annual Photo Contest. This year’s photo contest saw more than 200 entries from over three dozen photographers. After much deliberation, the photo contest judges selected the winners based on their photographic and ecological qualities. The winning photographers were honored at our Annual Fall Recognition Dinner on Friday, November 15th. 

Congratulations to the following winners, and thank you to all who entered this year! These beautiful photos help us tell the story of why Michigan is so worth protecting and preserving for future generations.

Category: Flora & Fauna

Honorable Mention, Julia Schachinger for “Green Heron & Painted Turtle”

GreenHeron&PaintedTurtle Julia Schachinger - HM FF

3rd Place, Mary Rasmussen for “Predacious Diving Beetle Underwater”

Mary Rasmussen predacious diving beetle - 3rd Place FF

2nd Place, Martha Hitchiner for “Blue Racer on Tree Stump”

Martha Hitchiner blue racer - 2nd Place FF

1st Place, David Dalrymple for “Greater Yellowlegs”

greateryellowleg David Dalrymple - 1st Place FF


Category: Landscapes

Honorable Mention, Deb Traxinger for “Fall Swamp Sunrise”

Fall Swamp Sunrise Deb Traxinger - HM Landscape

3rd Place, Tom Ala for “Hungarian Falls”

Tom Ala - Hungarian Falls - 3rd Place Landscape

2nd Place, Jeremy Salo for “Misty morning in Brighton on the river”

Jeremy Salo - 2nd Place Landscape

1st Place, Paul Mrozek for “Fall Pond”

Namikong Pond, North Country Trail, Hiawatha National Forest, Em


 

Category: People in Nature

Honorable Mention, Randy Butters for “In the Light of Day”

In the Light of Day-2 - Randy Butters - HM People

3rd Place, Nan Pokerwinski for “Shade”

Shade - Nancy Pokerwinski 3rd Place People

2nd Place, Greg Bodker for “Learning Nature”

Our future - Inquisitiveness

1st Place, Randy Butters for “On the Long Blue Edge of Summer”

On the Long Blue Edge of Summer - Randy Butters 1st Place People


 

Overall Winner

William Rowan for “Sandhill Crane Mother with Adopted Canada Goose Gosling.”

Rowan_1 - William Rowan - Overall Winner

Sanctuary Spotlight: Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Those familiar with Michigan history will know of the bootlegging activities that took place on the shores of Lake Huron between Michigan and Canada during the Prohibition Era. Local Huron County lore tells of a place along this shore that was popular with bootleggers due to its limestone shoreline – ideal for speedboats looking to drop their loads quickly. This place was called Whiskey Harbor. Three miles to the north, the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse may have aided these bootleggers in locating Whiskey Harbor. Though not all completed their journey, as evidenced by several shipwrecks offshore, and neighbors having reported finding whiskey bottles washed up on shore.

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Leopard Frog at Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Jeff Ganley.

Though a cabin once dotted the landscape, this piece of land has never been developed; bypassed by major roadways like M-25, a dirt road was only extended near this property in 1957. Then, in October of 1989, MNA purchased the lot with a bequest of Mr. William J. Kernan, Jr.’s estate. The more than 45 acre Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary has protected critical wetland and shoreline habitat since that day, as well as protecting a piece of Michigan’s rich history.

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A group of visitors peer across Whiskey Harbor at the Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Katherine Hollins

Birders know the property as a great place to spot migratory and shore birds, as the mud flats provide ideal habitat for frogs, which some birds can feed on as they pass through. There is also an incredible amount of plant diversity between limestone cobble shore, the uplands of the southern mesic forest, and varying riparian land from a creek that runs through the sanctuary to Lake Huron.

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An 1837 Government Surveyor’s map of the area around Whiskey Harbor.

The Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary also offers researchers the opportunity to study how land use within a watershed affects coastal wetlands. MNA is proud to protect Michigan’s natural heritage with unique lands such as those found at Whiskey Harbor. You can learn more about this work, and find a sanctuary near you at michigannature.org.

Celebrating Bat Week 2019

by Sarah Royalty Pinkelman & Michigan Nature Association

Word has spread about the essential pollinating behavior of bees and the seed-spreading habit of birds, but the bat, the only flying mammal, is also a significant player in the ecology of animal and plant mutualism. In warmer climates, bats play a similar role as bees and hummingbirds, drinking nectar and pollinating blooms that produce fruits like the banana and agave. Colder climates like Michigan provide a home for insectivorous bat species that consume a significant number of insects that harm humans and plants alike.

Michigan has nine different bat species, but Michiganders most often encounter the little and big brown bats. We see them at dusk gulping insects at a voracious pace, eating from 600 to 1,000 per hour. A mother supporting her young can eat more than her body weight in insects in a single night.

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A big brown bat at the Leslie Science & Nature Center. Photo courtesy Sarah Royalty Pinkelman

In fact, bats such as big browns feed on specific mosquito species that are vectors for many diseases, including Eastern equine encephalitis. Michigan’s bats also help clear the air of corn and soybean crop–eating insects. While healthy bat populations save the farming industry billions of dollars a year in pesticide use, their benefit to Michigan’s ecology is priceless; by reducing the need for agricultural pesticides, eating disease-carrying insects, and holding a key spot in the nocturnal food web as predator and prey, they’re an integral part of a healthy ecosystem.

Like many species across the globe, bat numbers are declining. Two Michigan species are endangered (the northern long-eared and Indiana bat) and others may follow. A top threat is White-nose Syndrome (WNS), or Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Dr. Allen Kurta, an Eastern Michigan University researcher, has called it the most devastating wildlife disease North America has faced since European arrival. More than 6.7 million bats have been lost to the disease continent-wide since its arrival in New York in 2006. The disease repeatedly wakens hibernating bats, draining their energy in winter when there’s no food available. Most infected bats die from starvation. Dr. Kurta cites an 83% decline in bats since the arrival of WNS.

There are several ways to support our bat populations, and habitat protection is primary. For example, in winter bats hibernate in caves, structures, and abandoned mines, and it is vital to respect the signage at these sights. There are a number of steps you can take at home to help bats, learn more about these and International Bat Week at batweek.org.

The Michigan Nature Association works to protect habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species across the state. By protecting habitat for target species, we are benefiting the broader population of plants and animals that call Michigan home. Join us on October 24th, 2019 at the Red Cedar River Plant Preserve in Williamston, Michigan with a bat expert from the Bat Association of MSU for our Bat Week Walk, exploring what makes a good bat habitat, and learning more about this ecologically important species. For more information about this event, contact us at michigannature@michigannature.org or 866-223-2231.

bat week walk photo by Keith Saylor

The Michigan Nature Association & Bat Association of MSU will be holding a Bat Week Walk at MNA’s Red Cedar River Plant Preserve on Thursday, October 24th, 2019.

Sanctuary Spotlight: Two Hearted River

Michigan’s Two Hearted River was made famous in the 1920s short story by Ernest Hemingway, Big Two-Hearted River. As chronicled in the story, the river has historically provided excellent trout fishing opportunities. You may have even heard of the Michigan beer of the same name. The river is fed by five main tributaries – Dawson Creek, and the North, South, East, and West Branches, the last of which is where you will find MNA’s Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary.

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The Two Hearted River meanders through the southern end of the Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Rick Baetsen.

Located in the northwest section of Luce County, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this very remote sanctuary protects a variety of rare plant and animal species and their habitat, such as the indian pipe flower, pitcher plant, moose, and pine martin.

Acquired in September 2000, this sanctuary was one of the last that MNA founder Bertha Daubendiek was involved in purchasing, and one that she felt passionately would be a beneficial addition to MNA’s statewide network of sanctuaries.

Surrounded to the east and south by The Nature Conservancy’s Two-Hearted River Forest Reserve, and to the north and west by Lake Superior State Forest, this MNA property protects dry northern forest, as well as hardwood conifer swamp habitat, both of which are listed as vulnerable natural communities with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Combined with these other conservation lands, MNA’s Two Hearted River Nature Sanctuary plays a role in protecting nearly 200,000 acres of unbroken land, and contributes to the overall health and diversity of the ecosystem.

Learn more about this and other sanctuaries at michigannature.org

Coastal Sanctuaries Protect Changing Shorelines

With ever-fluctuating weather conditions, and uncertainty in how climate change will affect water levels in the Great Lakes basin, the work that MNA is doing to protect habitat for rare, threatened, and endangered species is now more important than ever.

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Volunteer Ashley Schilling uses her hand as a measurement for the dwarf lake iris.

One of several coastal sanctuaries that MNA currently maintains is the Spitler Shore Nature Sanctuary in Presque Isle County. This 50-acre sanctuary includes more than 1,500 feet of Lake Huron shoreline, and contains populations of the federally threatened dwarf lake iris. This sanctuary’s habitat, like much of the Great Lakes shoreline, is at risk from extreme and unpredictable fluctuations in water levels, affecting much more than just its magnificent sunrise views.

During the period between 1998 and 2012, Lakes Michigan and Huron experienced persistently low average water levels. This was due in large part to increased evaporation – to which the lakes are susceptible whenever they are not covered by ice. But the winter of 2013-14 brought extended periods of extreme cold, resulting in increased ice cover and protecting the lakes from the much of this evaporation. Since that time, all of the Great Lakes have risen to record-high average levels, the product of both limited evaporation, and heavy precipitation and runoff from the many rivers and streams that feed the lakes. Water levels in 2019 have proven to continue this trend of new record highs, with meteorologists having estimated a 10-inch rise on Lakes Michigan and Huron through July (representing 8 trillion gallons of water) – the lakes were recorded at 13 inches above their 2018 levels, by the end of June.

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Many shipwrecks and their associated debris were newly uncovered during this reduction and influx of water along the shorelines of Huron and Michigan. The photo here shows some of these shipwreck timbers which today rest peacefully once again underwater, discovered by a father and daughter from Camp Chickagami. Photo by John Porter.

These extremes have had profound effects on developed shoreline statewide, with much of Belle Isle being inundated with rising St. Clair River water, and roads in the Upper Peninsula at risk of eroding into Lake Superior. The impact on non-developed shoreline, like that found in Spitler Shore Nature Sanctuary, is yet to be realized, but it is now more clear than ever that these spaces need protecting, so that they can continue to support the diversity of plant and animal life required for a healthy ecosystem.

You can learn more about MNA’s statewide nature sanctuaries online at michigannature.org.