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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You’re Invited!

The Michigan Nature Association
invites you to

Foreshadowing
Endangered and Threatened Plant Species

Jane Kramer artwork

Visit Jane Kramer’s art exhibit to see her collection: images of Michigan’s endangered and threatened plants that are transferred onto handmade paper crafted from the invasive plants that threaten them.

Please join us:

Friday, January 8, 2016

Artist Talk
5:30 p.m.

Reception
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Lansing Art Gallery
119 N Washington Square, Suite 101
Lansing, MI 48933

Learn more on the Facebook Event Page

Northern lights, rattlesnakes, and city bees: this week in environmental news

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

Northern lights over northern Michigan (The Detroit News): Skywatchers received a celestial treat Monday and Tuesday nights when northern lights were visible in northern Michigan. A storm on the sun sent waves of solar particles 93 million miles to earth’s magnetic poles to create an aurora borealis. The light show stretched from New Hampshire to Nebraska treating citizens to red and green ribbons that shimmered against the inky sky.

Michigan rattlesnakes face uncertain future (Detroit Free Press): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommend putting the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, Michigan’s only venomous snake, on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and negative human interaction. While most people fear these snakes, only one or two people are bitten by the snakes each year, but there has not been a fatality for decades, according to the DNR. The best way to ensure survival of the rattlesnake is to preserve its habitat and support wetlands conservation.

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

City bees pollinate urban education (Great Lakes Echo): Urban beekeeping is an increasingly popular teaching tool that also provides support for the threatened pollinators. Rooftops and balconies are great places for beehives in the city since the bees will fly above everyone. Programs at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota are working to provide educational programs and events for various age groups and help support organizations that teach kids about bees. They also provide hands-on mentoring classes about basic beekeeping. They understand that no bees means no food and emphasize the importance of bees as pollinators and the food systems they support.

App shows energy sources, emails preferences to state officials (Great Lakes Echo): PicMyEnergyMix is a new web app that calculates the sources of energy used by people in Michigan and lets them adjust the mix on their screen to reflect their preferences. Users can denote how much of each energy source they would like to use. The website adjusts the other percentages proportionately. If a person favors only solar and wind power and selects exactly 50 percent of each, everything else lowers to zero. Michigan has recently lost ground when it comes to energy waste, so the PicMyEnergyMix app features a switch that people can turn on to convey that energy efficiency is their priority and email Gov. Rick Snyder and Sen. Mike Nofs their preferences and current utility mix.

Species Spotlight: Lakeside Daisy

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

The Lakeside daisy is sometimes called the rarest wildflower in Michigan, and rightfully so. It wasn’t even found in Michigan until 1996 when Sault Naturalists Club discovered the only patch of it in Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Since then, the Lakeside daisy has become an intriguing and important part of Michigan’s wildlife.

The Lakeside daisy is a perennial herb with striking yellow daisy-like flowers. Its stalk is hairy and can grow to be up to 40 centimeters in height. Its leaves are oblong and dark green, sprouting up from the base of the plant. The Lakeside daisy buds one flower from each stalk, but is likely to be seen growing in clumps. Bumblebees and halictid bees pollinate the plant. Wind pollination may also occur, but is less likely.

lakeside, daisy

The Lakeside daisy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There is a relatively narrow surveying period of the Lakeside daisy in full bloom. This period usually goes from late May to early June. Surveyors have to travel to the Great Lakes region to view the plant, as it is only known to exist in northern Ohio, Illinois and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is also an abundance of the Lakeside daisy in Ontario, Canada.

This plant is on the endangered list in Michigan and is ranked as threatened in the United States. Its typical habitat is limestone pavement. In recent years, limestone quarrying has become more popular, therefore destroying the wildflower’s habitat. In Michigan, the small colony of this wildflower exists on a roadside. There is a recovery plan in place in the United States to conserve the Lakeside daisy. Currently, the primary focus is protecting the delicate bit of the wildflower that exists in Michigan.

The Michigan Nature Association obtained the private land the Lakeside daisy is found on in 2005. MNA protected the land and collaborated with University of Michigan scientists to create a new colony of the Lakeside daisy within the sanctuary. The new plants were rooted in 2010 in attempt to establish a larger population of the plant in case the fragile, roadside population is damaged. Of the new Lakeside daisy population that was planted, 33 plants survived and have developed new stems growing out of the root system. MNA hopes this means the new population will have the ability to be self-sustaining.

In 2013, an additional 64 plants were added to the original 33. The entire population continues to be carefully monitored and preserved by MNA.

Species Spotlight: The Indiana Bat

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Michigan protects federally listed birds, snakes and plants—and one bat. The Indiana bat, the only endangered bat in the state, has been federally protected since the late 1960s.

An Indiana bat. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Indiana bats are small, with mouse-like ears and dark brown to black fur, and only weigh one-quarter of an ounce. Though these bats are small and light, they appear larger in flight and have a wingspan of 9 to 11 inches.

Indiana bats can be found in the eastern United States, with populations living in Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, New York, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia. They spend their winters hibernating in cool, humid caves or abandoned mines, and roost under loose tree bark on dead or dying trees in the summer.

In 2005, the estimated population was about 457,000 Indiana bats—half as many as there were when the species was listed as endangered in 1967. Reasons for population loss include human disturbance, cave commercializing and improper gating, summer habitat loss or degradation, and pesticide and environmental contaminants. One additional factor threatens all species of bats and has killed millions bats since 2006: a disease called white-nose syndrome.

White-nose syndrome was first observed in a cave in New York in 2006 and has spread to caves in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The disease affects hibernating bats and is named for the white fungus that appears on the bat’s muzzle and other body parts. Bats with this disease exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during hibernating months, including flying outside during the daytime and clustering near entrances of the areas in which they hibernate. White-nose syndrome has killed between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats in the eastern part of North America; in some hibernating areas, as many as 90 to 100 percent of hibernating bats have died.

A bat with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

State and national plans have been established to manage white-nose syndrome, and Michigan published its response plan in December 2010. The response plan focuses on delaying human-assisted introductions of the disease as much as possible, minimizing human dissemination of the fungus associated with the disease once it becomes present in Michigan, and conserving the remaining bat population after the disease has arrived. Thankfully, things are still looking good in the mitten state: the Michigan Department of Natural Resources conducted a statewide survey in 2012 and found no sign of white-nose syndrome.

For more information on white-nose syndrome, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s white-nose syndrome website.

Western Gray Wolves to be Removed from Endangered Species List

Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR

By Allie Jarrell

After recovering from near extinction, western gray wolves will be removed from the endangered species list this month in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to formally delist the wolves due to a “robust, self-sustaining wolf population” present in these states.

Canis lupus, more commonly known as the gray wolf, could once be found in all of Michigan’s counties, but due to past eradication efforts, the wolves were practically wiped out by the 1960s. Michigan’s gray wolf populations hit a record low in 1973 with only six wolves accounted for, and one year later they were added to the federal endangered species list. Conservation efforts, such as the introduction of wolves from neighboring states and a ban placed on hunting wolves, have helped the species to rebound, but they still suffer from forest destruction and urban sprawl.

Despite the loss of habitat, the American gray wolf population has now reached approximately 6,200 wolves.  Nearly 700 of these wolves are residing in Michigan, which far surpasses what biologists thought was sustainable. After roughly four decades and tens of millions of dollars dedicated to saving the gray wolves, the government has stepped back, allowing individual states to take charge of protecting the adaptive predator. The wolf populations will be monitored over the next five years and can be relisted at any time if the population seems to be in danger.

Image courtesy of Michigan DNR

Many of MNA’s sanctuaries in the Upper Peninsula protect the gray wolves’ habitat and have the potential to offer rest, shelter, hunting ground and a corridor. The Echo Lake and Keweenaw Shores Nature Sanctuaries are known to be areas for gray wolf migration. Thanks to conservation efforts, the wolves now exist in every Upper Peninsula county as well as certain areas of the Lower Peninsula.

If you’d like to find out more information about gray wolves in Michigan, visit the Department of Natural Resources’ website or check out this MNA blog post, filled with tips for identifying and understanding gray wolves. To get involved in protecting the western gray wolf and its habitat, you can visit the National Wildlife Federation’s site or support MNA’s efforts to protect Michigan’s land. Check out our website to find more information on volunteering at MNA!

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.