Fall Into Fun With MNA

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

The fall season is alive and vibrant, and you should be, too! Though it brings with it shorter days and cooler weather, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the colorful outdoors and connect with nature. Join in on a guided fall color hike this coming Saturday, October 14 at Phillips Family Memorial, known for being just 1 of 3 MNA sanctuaries that protect a coastal plain marsh!

For the more leisurely hiker, birding enthusiast, individual or family just wanting to enjoy the offerings of nature at her most colorful, MNA owns a number of sanctuaries suited to a variety of interests. Check out a few of our most scenic fall favorites:

Gratiot Lake Overlook Nature Sanctuary

Lookout, Grat. Lk. - Charlie Eshbach

Near the town of Central, Gratiot Lake will make sure you are in shape if you want the best view. The new trail rises nearly 400 feet to an overlook of Gratiot Lake a quarter mile to the south.

A gushing waterfall can be found on Eister Creek by following the creek towards the lake. Please be careful, the journey can be steep and slippery.

Lefglen Nature Sanctuary

Marianne Glosenger - Lefglen (2)Lefglen has a variety of plant communities, including wooded uplands, oak barrens, cattail marsh, and prairie fen. More than 50 species of birds nest here, and Lefglen’s beautiful Lake Nirvana is completely surrounded by wetlands where sandhill cranes have been known to nest. Migratory birds such as blue-winged teal and Great egrets also stop over on their journeys.

Barvick’s Sand Dunes Nature SanctuaryBarvick's

A scenic trail loops through Barvick’s Sand Dunes, a sanctuary which consists of a 40 acre dune and forest complex containing a coastal plain marsh and hardwood conifer swamp. Rogers Creek crosses through the northeast corner of the sanctuary. The 40 acres are bounded by CR 376 (44th Ave) to the north and Becht Road (80th St) to the east.

Wade Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Wade memorialLocated three miles east of Saugatuck on the eastern end of Silver Lake, the Wade Memorial contains a lovely beech-maple forest as well as numerous dogwood and hemlock trees on a high bluff overlooking the lake. It is a fine example of a beech-maple forest with hemlocks that have grown back after a wildfire that occurred in the early 1900’s.

Silver Lake abuts the southwestern portion of the sanctuary and a canoe or kayak can be launched here for a pleasant trip amidst beds of pickerel weed and other aquatic plants.

Twin Waterfalls Nature Sanctuary

Twin Waterfalls - Olson Falls 2 - Mike ZajczenkoAptly named, as a half-mile of trails lead visitors to the beautiful Memorial Falls and Olson Falls. The vertical walls of both waterfall canyons are part of the Munising Formation, which consists of ancient buff, rose-colored sandstone about 550 million years old. Each season offers something unique at Twin Waterfalls!

Kernan Memorial Nature Sanctuary

KernanThe rocky shallow harbor at Kernan Memorial Sanctuary discourages any nearshore boat activity, making this secluded area excellent for bird watching. Several species of gulls and ducks call the sanctuary home. November and early March are the best time to see migratory birds, while spotting shore birds such as black-bellied plovers and sanderlings is best in September and October.

Members of the public are always welcome to visit and volunteer, no matter their experience level. Check the MNA events calendar for additional upcoming workdays and events. For more information on MNA sanctuaries, upcoming activities, or other ways to get involved, contact the MNA office at (866) 223-2231.

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Species Spotlight: Lake Sturgeon

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

lake sturgeon

Though Lake Sturgeon make look intimidating with their armored, angular bodies, it may be fair to classify them as gentle giants of the Great Lakes. They have lived in this region for around 10,000 years – and have existed for around 136 million. Capable of living for 150 years or longer, these ancient freshwater behemoths are the longest-lived of Michigan’s fish species, as well as the largest, having been known to reach lengths of 8 feet and weigh several hundred pounds. It may technically be female sturgeon which are the longest-lived Great Lakes fish, though, as they can outlive males by as much as a century!

Sturgeon are cartilaginous (non-bony) fish with torpedo-shaped bodies. Instead of scales, they have a kind of armor in the form of bony scutes that cover their bodies. Juveniles may be gray or brown, and appear more angular, while adults tend to be lighter in color and may be gray or olive. The growth rates of Sturgeon are highly variable, but cleaner, more temperate waters and greater food availability offer ideal conditions for these fish to grow large.

Sexual maturity in males is reached anywhere from 8 to 22 years for males and 14 to 26 years for females. Spawning occurs in early spring, usually from April to June, when water temperatures warm to 53-64° F in clean, shallow waters and fast-moving stream rapids. Though they accomplish this impressive feat on average only once every 6-7 years, females lay millions of eggs when spawning – that’s an average of 5,500 eggs per pound of fish!

Once, the range of lake sturgeon extended from parts of Canada down to Alabama, and populations in the Great Lakes region were estimated to have numbered in the millions. However, only remnant populations remain. Historic overfishing in the 19th and 20th centuries nearly led to the extinction of lake sturgeon, as well as pollution and habitat loss from dams and deforestation. They are now listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern in all but one of the states throughout their range.

Thankfully, Michigan sponsors efforts to protect sturgeon and restore parts of their habitat. Their spawning period is an especially crucial one, as their preferences for shallow waters make them vulnerable. If you happen to come across sturgeon in the wild, count yourself fortunate to have witnessed these living fossils. Learn more about this iconic Great Lakes species from the DNR website.

Join MNA on Sunday, October 8 for our annual Sturgeon Sprint Family Fun Run & 5K in Detroit! Run along the scenic roadway of Belle Isle State Park. The fee for adults is $25, and $10 for kids. As always, a t-shirt is included and all runners receive a participatory medal! Proceeds will promote efforts to protect the Lake Sturgeon. Register online or contact Jess Foxen at jfoxen@michigannature.org for more information.

A pre-party will be held at Blaze Pizza, located at 3129 Fairlane Drive, Allen Park, from 3-7 pm. Present this flyer with your fast-fire’d creation and Blaze will donate 20% of their proceeds to MNA! Happy running!

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Species Spotlight: Monarch Butterfly

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Beautiful and bold, butterflies have captured the interests and imaginations of people for millennia. Few have been as iconic as the Monarch butterfly. With a historic range spanning over 3,000 miles across North and Central America, as well as the northern part of South America, it is also the most well-traveled. Every spring, millions of these winged wonders make the journey north as far as Canada from their wintering spots in Mexico.

It’s one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena, as no living Monarch has ever made the journey before, and yet they reliably fly in the same direction, year after year. By the time they reach the northernmost part of their range, five generations of Monarchs will have lived, bred and died, leaving their offspring to carry the torch. This final generation, born in late summer, will be the lucky ones to migrate south to overwinter for eight months before beginning the journey north again the following spring.

Monarch on a goldenrod – Wendy Caldwell, Monarch Joint Venture

As many of us have seen, the Monarch is a mid-sized butterfly with a distinctive orange and black wing pattern accented with white spots. Predators should take care not to confuse it with the strikingly similar Viceroy, whose hind wings have a black line that the Monarch lacks. This small difference is important to note, because the Monarch is toxic. Its caterpillars have an equally distinctive appearance, their stout bodies banded with yellow, black and white. Because Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed plants, the caterpillars grow up eating nothing else – rendering them their toxicity.

Largely the result of habitat loss, there has been a nearly 90% decline in the population of the Eastern monarch, which is the largest subset of the species and that which carries its migration into Michigan. The loss of habitat includes breeding grounds across the U.S. and overwintering habitat in Mexico, as well as a variety of habitats in which to rest and refuel on their exhaustive journey. This is a grave concern, as pollinators supply 1/3 of the world’s food and 3/4 of its flowers, and apart from being lovely, Monarchs are one of the most common and widespread butterfly species.

Few insects are as beloved as the Monarch. Several initiatives are underway to preserve the necessary habitats to sustain their populations, including the Monarch Joint Venture and Journey North. The Michigan Nature Association is hosting its annual Monarch March Family Fun Run & 5k at Mayor’s Riverfront Park in Kalamazoo on Sunday, October 1 to promote efforts to preserve Monarch habitat throughout Michigan.

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Contact Jess Foxen at jfoxen@michigannature.org to learn more, or register online. The fee for adults is $25, children $10, and includes a t-shirt and participatory medal. If you’re more into pizza than running, you can also show your support for the majestic Monarch by showing this flyer with your order at Blaze Pizza at 5015 W Main Street in Kalamazoo on September 30th from 3-7pm. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to MNA to support their mission of preserving Michigan’s natural heritage.

Read more about MNA’s involvement with Monarch conservation and keep current on other important news with the Fall 2017 publication of Michigan Nature magazine!

Species Spotlight: Eastern Box Turtle

As Michigan’s only true terrestrial turtle, the Eastern box turtle might often be mistaken for a small tortoise. It is one of four box turtle species native to the United States. Though an uncommon find, it ranges throughout Michigan’s lower peninsula. It spends its life in small patches of open woodlands, sometimes bordering open fields or wetland. Throughout its life, the Eastern box turtle remains small- to mid-size, growing between 4-8 inches in length. It can be extremely long-lived – occasionally over a century.

Their unique hinged shell Box Turtleallows them to retract their head, tail, legs and arms for full protection. Males and females can be most readily distinguished by the color of their eyes. While males often have red eyes, females have yellow to match the vivid markings on their dark carapaces and bodies. They reach sexual maturity at about 10 years of age. Mature females lay between 3-8 eggs per clutch, and breed at most once per year. During winter, they burrow into mud or bury themselves beneath leaf litter for warmth and camouflage.

Like most turtle species, the Eastern box is an opportunistic omnivore. This means it will eat just about anything food-like that it comes across, including insects, worms, grasses, fruit, mushrooms, flowers, and even carrion and garbage.

Because this species is long-lived and slow to breed, populations can be difficult to exact. However, the species has gained status as Special Concern in the state of Michigan. Habitat loss and fragmentation are primary concerns to populations, as urban and agricultural development extend further into their range and roads cut through much of what is left. If you come across a turtle you suspect to be an Eastern box turtle, admire it from a comfortable distance. If the turtle is found on or near a road, escort it back to safety first!

 

Fall 2017 Michigan Nature Magazine

Fall means back to school, and that new reality brings a seasonal change to the daily migration routes for many Michigan families.

Fall is an especially great time of year to connect kids to nature and the incredible changes that unfold. As students – and their parents – adjust their new clocks and adapt to a new school year, here at MNA we are working with teachers to enrich their student’s classroom learning by using MNA nature sanctuaries as living laboratories. Our schools-to-sanctuaries initiative is creating exciting new partnerships across the state, like the one described by Addison High School teacher Aaron Wesche in this issue’s Q&A (p.33).

Cooler temperatures and decreasing daylight are signals for migratory birds and insects that it is time to leave their northern breeding grounds for warmer winter climes. Some make extraordinary difficult journeys to do so. One of the most astonishing dramas in nature is the annual Monarch butterfly migration from the northern U.S. to a tiny strip of forest in Mexico. Take yourself to a Great Lakes beach or an MNA nature sanctuary with open fields this time of year and wait and watch. You’ll very likely see one of these stunning and fragile beauties flit by as they make their miraculous journey to Mexico.

Sadly, those who have spent a lifetime watching the Monarch migration for the sheer joy of it will tell you they don’t see as many butterflies anymore. Scientists who study the Monarch have confirmed this. In this issue, noted Michigan author Bill Rapai tells the story of how the Monarch migration is now in serious danger of disappearing (p. 18).

The good news is that we can play a role in helping this extraordinary migration (while also helping other declining pollinators). We know that many of our nature sanctuaries provide necessary places for fuel and rest for Monarchs on their journey, but we also know much more needs to be done.

With your continued support MNA will be working to create more Monarch-friendly habitat within our statewide network of sanctuaries; help inspire the next generation to care about Michigan’s natural wonders like the Monarch butterfly through our education programs; and coordinate our work on Monarch conservation with the work of like-minded groups in Michigan, across the Midwest, and Mexico.

Running for Michigan Moose

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By Eugene Kutz, MNA Intern

The Michigan Nature Association is hosting the Moose on the Loose Family Fun and 5K this Saturday, August 26, 2017 in Marquette, MI. This event is a great way to show support for responsible conservation efforts and wildlife management in Michigan!

After European settlers arrived in Michigan, “moose were pretty much all over” the state, said Rachel Clark of the Michigan History Center to Michigan Radio. Following this, Michigan’s moose population declined as a result of overhunting and habitat destruction from human settlements and logging. Eventually, moose mostly disappeared from the Lower Peninsula.

Moose are currently found in two areas of the Upper Peninsula: the reintroduced population in Marquette, Baraga and Iron counties, and a smaller remnant population in the eastern UP, found primarily in Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce and Chippewa counties.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the most recent moose population survey of January 2011, an estimated 433 animals in the western Upper Peninsula were counted. No formal survey of the eastern U.P. moose population has been conducted, but estimated at about 100 animals from field observations and reports from the general public.

Moose populations in the Upper Peninsula have risen and fallen in recent years, and despite a rise in western UP populations, moose are still in need of habitat management and protection, including a balanced relationship with their natural predators, like wolves.

Populations have declined on Isle Royale, but dwindling wolf population to a single pair of adults has allowed moose to thrive, as considerations to import wolves to the island are being made to maintain predator-prey balance and vegetation growth for moose diet.

While currently listed as a “species of special concern,” the US Federal Government considered adding the moose back on the Endangered Species List last year, as this status does not afford the animals or their habitat any protections, and nearly 60% of Minnesota’s moose population has declined in the last decade.

Past attempts to repopulate the Upper Peninsula with moose, which involved shipping moose to the mainland from a large moose herd on Isle Royale, failed to restore previous numbers but succeeded in establishing a moose population, largely due to healthy habitats and increased poaching enforcement, even as poaching threats were low as citizens of the Upper Peninsula were involved with the repopulation project and had adopted the new moose population as their own.

In an interview for MLIVE, DNR Wildlife Division chief Russ Mason said moose populations are declining for a variety of reasons, which include habitat loss, predation and climate change, and because moose are conditioned to live in cold climates, warmer temperatures are putting all moose at risk of overheating, which leads to malnutrition and compromised immune systems.

This summer MNA celebrated Michigan Mammals Week by exploring interesting facts on native Michigan wildlife, including the moose!

For more info on Michigan moose, visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website.

Moose 5K logoThe Moose on the Loose Family Fun and 5K will be a must for moose and wildlife enthusiasts and families!

Participants will have the opportunity to run along the scenic roadway of Peter White Drive on Presque Isle, a 323 acre forested oval shaped headland/peninsula which juts into Lake Superior!

Proceeds promote efforts to protect the threatened Moose throughout Northern Michigan. For more information and to sign up for the challenge go to: https://runsignup.com/Race/MI/Marquette/MooseontheLooseFamilyFunRunand5K

For questions, contact Jess Foxen: 866-223-2231 / jfoxen@michigannature.org

Working Together to Protect Michigan’s Species

DNR moose survey results estimate a population increase (Upper Peninsula DNR News): Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists estimate the number of moose in the western Upper Peninsula core population area at 378 animals, up from 285 in 2015.

Help continue to protect moose throughout Northern Michigan by participating in MNA’s Moose on the Loose Family Fun Run & 5K on Saturday, August 26 at Presque Isle Park in Marquette!

Image result for northern michigan moose

Studying Michigan’s massasaugas, the state’s poisonous rattlers (Showcasing the DNR bulletin): Michigan has become an important laboratory for the study and preservation of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous viper that inhabits the state. Massasauga rattlesnakes were listed as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2016 and are thereby protected animals.

Help protect habitat for the threatened massasauga at the Rattlesnake Family Fun Run & 5K on September 17 on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester!

Massasauga rattlesnakes are found in wetland areas in Michigan.

Climb aboard as the DNR surveys lake sturgeon (Showcasing the DNR bulletin): The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring sturgeon populations on the St. Clair River for the last 25 years with a technique that is as old as fishing itself. DNR crews use set lines that are anchored to the bottom of the river channel and sport numerous hooks to catch and tag the mysterious prehistoric fish.

Learn more about lake sturgeon on October 8 at the Sturgeon Sprint Family Fun Run & 5K on Belle Isle in Detroit!

Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries assistant Jason Pauken Jason Pauken shows off a St. Clair River sturgeon.