Birding Trails, Fungi, and Protecting Native Species: this week in environmental news

Birdwatchers celebrate two new birding trails in Michigan (Great Lakes Echo): Michigan’s Northwest Lower Peninsula is a paradise for birdwatchers. Piping plovers, on the endangered species list, and the snowy owl nest there in the winter. The region is a stopover for thousands of birds on their way to breeding grounds. The Petoskey Regional Audubon Society, in partnership with local conservancies, plans to celebrate the launch of the Sunset Coast Birding Trail later this year. The trail will start in Mackinaw City and follow a coastal corridor through Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties. According to a report of the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, a nonprofit organization that educates the public about the birds and their migration, 47,090 birds migrated through the straits in 2016. Another new trail, The Blue Water Birding Trail in St. Clair County, is also expected to launch this year. Michigan has six birding trails already – North Huron Birding Trail and Superior Birding Trail in the Upper Peninsula, and Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, Beaver Island Birding Trail, Sunrise Coast Birding Trail and Saginaw Bay Birding Trail in the Lower Peninsula.

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The piping plover. Image: United States Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain Prairie

Fantastic Fungi in Michigan (Oakland County Times): “Fantastic Fungi in Michigan: You don’t have to go to the rain forest to see amazing mushrooms” speaker program is being held on Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 beginning 7:30 pm at the Royal Oak Middle School (709 N. Washington). Join Mary Fredricks, Nature Society mycologist, and learn about mushrooms tiny enough to grow on oak leaves, beautiful mushrooms that are among the most poisonous known, mushrooms that are easy to overlook during the day but glow at night, and more, all growing right here in Michigan. There is no preregistration or cost for this program.

Usually the villain, invasive species odd hero for native fish (Great Lakes Echo): A native fish may be poised for a comeback in the Great Lakes with the help of an invasive species. Great Lakes cisco, also known as lake herring, typically grow about 12 to 15 inches long and at one point supported one of the largest commercial fisheries in the region. They disappeared from much of the basin around the 1950s. Now it looks like the stage has been set for their return–by an unlikely ally. Invasive quagga mussels have depleted nutrients in the lakes. Cisco do well in low-nutrient environments, unlike competing species like the invasive alewife. That gives cisco space to thrive.

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Cisco caught in Lake Michigan. Image: Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS.

Trump admin delays listing bumblebee as endangered (The Detroit News): The Trump administration delayed what would be the first endangered designation for a bee species in the continental U.S., one day before it was to take effect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted a rule Jan. 11 extending federal protection to the rusty patched bumblebee, one of many types of bees that play a vital role in pollinating crops and wild plants. It once was common across the East Coast and much of the Midwest, but its numbers have plummeted since the late 1990s.

 

Forest Birds, Fish Slides, and Rare Butterflies: this week in environmental news

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Magnolia Warbler. Image: Jon Swanson.

Great Lakes forest birds mostly stable or increasing (Great Lakes Echo): A record study that took 25 years and 700 birdwatchers and researchers has found that most birds at three different national forests in the Great Lakes region are either increasing or stable. The study is another great example of the important role volunteer bird watchers can play in tracking populations of the birds they love. The count became an annual tradition for many bird enthusiasts. The study is cause for guarded optimism about the state of forest birds in the Northwestern Great Lakes Basin.

Fish slides, anyone? (Great Lakes Echo): Sturgeon go back to the river to spawn safely. But hydroelectric dams often block rivers, forcing fish to spawn in more dangerous spaces. Listen to this podcast to learn more about how the River Alliance of Wisconsin is giving fish a little boost.

Healthy ravines for healthy watersheds (Great Lakes Echo): Created by the same retreating glaciers that carved and filled the Great Lakes, you could say lakeshore ravines are the lakes’ blood relatives. Great lakes ravines face deterioration at the hands of invasive species and pollution. Conservationists are working to address this issue.

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The Poweshiek Skipperling is an endangered butterfly that lives mainly in prairie fen wetlands in southeast Michigan. Image: Dave Cuthrell, MSU Extension.

Rare butterfly rests its wings in unique SE Michigan ecosystem (Great Lakes Echo): Listen to WKAR’s radio story about Kevin Lavery’s expedition to find the endangered Poweshiek Skipperling. It’s only found in a half a dozen places on Earth, and two-thirds of them are in Michigan. The rare butterfly once thrived on the Great Plains is now fighting for its survival in Michigan.

Race for Michigan Nature!

5K Race Banner for social mediaShow your support for protecting Michigan’s rare, threatened and endangered species — and experience Pure Michigan at its finest!

The Michigan Nature Association is hosting the Race for Michigan Nature, a statewide series of Family Fun Runs & 5Ks stretching from Belle Isle in Detroit to Marquette in the U.P. Each race spotlights one of Michigan’s rarest species and helps promote the importance of protecting Michigan’s remaining natural areas.

The first race of the series, the Karner Blue Butterfly Family Fun Run & 5K, is in Grand Rapids on May 22 at Millennium Park. The remaining five races will take place over the summer and into fall. The runs are endorsed by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports and each qualifies for the Pure Michigan Challenge. Join us for the race nearest you, or take the challenge and run all six!

Participants learn about Michigan’s endangered species, receive race t-shirts, medals, and complimentary memberships to the Michigan Nature Association. Each 5K race will be timed and there are prizes for the male and female overall winners. Not a runner? No problem! Walkers are welcome, too! Bring the whole family! Kids can walk/run their own short course and receive a complimentary membership in MNA’s Junior Explorers Kids Club.

The races and locations are listed below. Early registration is open! Contact Cassie for questions at (866)223-2231 or cmiller@michigannature.org. We hope to see you there!

Michigan Historic Places, North Trail Hikes, and Wildlife Inventions: this week in environmental news

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Rice Bay on Lac Vieux Desert. Photo: National Register of Historic Places

National Register adds Michigan’s Rice Bay, historic Ishpeming building (Great Lakes Echo): The National Register is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Two sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have been added to the National Register of Historic Places – one culturally important to members of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and the other related to a strike important to labor and women’s history. The first site is Rice Bay in Gogebic County, which is a wild rice-growing area covering a square quarter-mile on northeastern Lac Vieux Desert. Wild rice is an aquatic grass that is culturally important to the tribe. The second site is the 128-year-old Brasstad-Gossard Building in downtown Ishpeming, which started as a factory and later renovated into an interior mall and offices.

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Snowshoeing the North Country National Scenic Trail near Petoskey, Michigan. Photo: Dove Day

North Trail hikers set 100-mile centennial goal (Great Lakes Echo): Veteran hiker, Joan Young of Scottville, Michigan, has prepared to commemorate the National Park Service centennial in a 100-mile hike challenge sponsored by the North Country Trail Association, headquartered in Lowell, Michigan. The longest of 11 nationally designated scenic trails, North Country wanders between North Dakota and New York, following the Great Lakes through 12 national forests. The challenge is 100 miles for the 100 years of national parks. It’s a way to celebrate an important anniversary and to prepare a new generation for the next 100 years of national parks.

Secret MSU location is site of world’s longest running scientific experiment (Great Lakes Echo): The world’s longest running scientific experiment has been in operation for the past 137 years, and it’s been happening on a secret spot on the MSU campus. 137 years ago, MSU botany professor William J. Beal filled 20 bottles with seeds from common plants covered by sandy soil. Then he buried them all in a secret spot on campus. That was the beginning of what would become the world’s longest running scientific experiment and W.J. Botanical Garden. They only dig up one of the bottles every 20 years.

5 student inventions that help wildlife (Mother Nature Network): Wildlife conservation is an equal-opportunity field. With a little ingenuity and technical know-how, a person of any age and educational level can make a valuable contribution. Thanks to these five impressive student creations, many endangered species will be getting a much needed leg up on survival. The creations include an electronic scent dispenser, mushroom water filter, drones to keep an eye in the sky on poachers, squid-jet, and a hoglodge: a hedgehog haven.

Bat Study, Songbird Forest, and Nature Programs: this week in environmental news

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White-nose syndrome has killed 98 percent of the little brown bat population. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bat recovery slow from white-nose syndrome (Great Lakes Echo): Little brown bat populations are unlikely to recover from a widespread fungal disease anytime soon, according to a recent study. This is worrisome since bats have a crucial role in the ecosystems in the Great Lakes and globally. They are the primary predators of night-time insects, pollinate over 300 species of fruit, and also keep forest ecosystems healthy. Studies about the diminishing bat population have pressured state officials to promote bat conservation. There are things ordinary citizens can do to help too, like replacing dead trees with bat houses so bats have a safe place to raise babies and replace lawns with wildflower gardens so bats have food.

‘Songbird Forest’ expands to save species (Mother Nature Network): A small nature preserve in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest has just grown by nearly 50%, thanks to conservationists working to save its array of wildlife from extinction. Known as Mata do Passarinho – Portuguese for “Songbird Forest” – this patch of Atlantic Forest has expanded to add 766 new acres, raising its total area from 1,586 to 2,352 acres. The forest is a haven for songbirds, many near extinction. Its most at-risk species is the critically endangered Stresemann’s bristlefront, whose estimated 15 survivors all live here.

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A male Stresemann’s bristlefront in Mata do Passarinho, the species’ last-known refuge. Image: Ciro Albano

Ruling the sky: Presentation to focus on Michigan’s birds of prey (MLive): Great predators of the sky will swoop into Muskegon as part of a unique presentation later this month. The two-session event scheduled for 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 will be held at the Lakeshore Museum Center in downtown Muskegon. The presentations will discuss the habitats of both common and rare Michigan hawks and owls, as well as their importance to the ecosystem.

Nature Center Offers Variety of Programs for Preschoolers (Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch): The Farmington Hills Nature Center is offering a variety of nature preschool classes this winter. Winter preschool classes meet Jan. 19 through March 14 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings. Each preschool class offers a different nature theme every week and time outdoors if weather permits.

Species spotlight: piping plover

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

As Michigan tourists pack up their bags and head for beaches in the north, they should keep an eye out this summer for the endangered piping plover.

The piping plover population has significantly declined in the Great Lakes areas because of recreational beach development and tourism.

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The piping plover stands atop shells in sand in shallow, flowing water.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The piping plover is a sand bird which nests in North America in the Great Plains, along the coasts of the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

The piping plover is sandy in color on top with a white underbelly. The plover also has a black band around its neck and a black crown on its head. Its legs are orange but fade to yellow in the winter.

Piping plovers prefer to make their habitat in sandy areas such as dunes, gravel beaches and sand bars.

Sites where the piping plover is most commonly found are Texas, Louisiana and Florida because of the high concentration recorded in those areas. Out of a total of 1,372 breeding pairs, only 32 have appeared in Michigan.

This bird has been classified as endangered since 1986 — it is endangered in the Great Lakes area and threatened in other North American regions.

The plover feeds on wet sand, in any nearby areas it can find: algal flats, shorelines of streams, ephemeral ponds and lagoons to name a few.

They utilize small sand dunes for protection from hot and stormy weather.

Breeding begins in March and extends through mid-May, with the piping plover laying three or four eggs in a shallow, camouflaged nest of pebbles and shells. Both parents are involved in prenatal care of the eggs, each sitting atop them to keep them warm. After the eggs hatch, both parents feed the chicks until they are able to take flight.

The chicks will fly after 30 days and starting in July through October, they will take off on their journey.

An unscathed habitat is a necessity to ensure hatch-lings will be able to survive and make it to migrating season. Unfortunately, land development and tourism has deterred the piping plover population from using Michigan beaches as its habitat.

 

Peregrine Falcons, a resolution against drilling, and sustainable options: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

The Peregrine Falcon huddles over its eggs outside the BWL Eckert electric generating plant. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

The Peregrine Falcon huddles over its eggs outside the BWL Eckert electric generating plant. Photo courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

Mid-Michigan Peregrine Falcons expecting (Great Lakes Echo): Peregrine Falcons are expecting this season in Michigan and although they have been taken off the federal endangered species list, are still considered an endangered species under Michigan law. The falcons have been spotted nesting at the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s Eckert electric generating plant.

Proposed drilling doesn’t sit well with Washtenaw County officials (MLive): Officials went on the record Wednesday night stating their opposition to any local oil drilling. In a 6-1 vote, the opposing vote from commissioner Dan Smith R-Northfield Township, they approved a resolution that would advocate against any future drilling in the area, similar to a resolution passed by Ann Arbor City Council. 

Walmart: the corporate empire’s big step for sustainability (The Guardian): Rob Walton, the chairman of Walmart and now chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee, has had his hand in trying new ways to get Walmart to be a more sustainable business. The journey toward sustainability started a decade ago, and Walmart looks for ways to reduce waste such as reducing water consumption and packaging. Walmart officials have been negotiating with their suppliers on new methods of sustainability

Rep. Don Young calls rules on oil drilling in wildlife refuges a ‘hare-brained idea’ (Huffington Post): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services opened the forum for comments earlier this year to learn how to update regulations on oil and gas development on areas which are protected under the National Wildlife Refuge System. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has expressed his opposition to these new ideas for rules at a Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

The big melt accelerates (The New York Times): As glaciers continue to melt, scientists have declared that some have shrunk to the point of no return — a risk that could set off a “chain reaction” bringing the remainder of the ice sheet to its demise. This research of the glaciers reaching the “point of no return” has signaled to many scientists that even if climate change came to an immediate halt, it may already be too late.

The difference between Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska between 1941 (left) and 2004 (right). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

The difference between Muir Glacier at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska between 1941 (left) and 2004 (right). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.