Go Birding on MNA Sanctuaries

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Bust out your binoculars and bring your field guides! Spring is one of the best times to observe the abundance of birds to be found in MNA sanctuaries, including vast raptor migrations in the Upper Peninsula and the nesting habitats of hummingbirds, woodpeckers, warblers and finches throughout the rest of the state. Below is a list of several such sanctuaries noted to be particularly good destinations for spring birding starting in the Keweenaw and moving down to the Indiana/Ohio border.

Many more opportunities are to be found, however, so we encourage you to check out our list of other MNA sanctuaries specially selected for their seasonal offerings to those looking to enjoy the great outdoors.

 

Keweenaw Peninsula – U.P.

James H. Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw County

The drive along the mountain ridge top is often proclaimed to have the most outstanding scenery and provide the most dramatic in Michigan. A short 0.75 mile loop trail offers a breathtaking view of Lake Superior.

The outlook also provides an extraordinary opportunity to bird watch during their spring migration. Tens of thousands of hawks, eagles, vultures, falcons and other soaring birds funnel north onto narrowing landmasses, including the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Juvenile_Cooper's_hawk_(Accipiter_cooperii) Alan Vernon permission granted

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk. Photo: Alan Vernon.


Keweenaw Shores No 1 Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw County

Along the shore of Lake Superior, there is a spectacular array of rocks covered with colorful lichens ranging from pink to orange, yellow and green. A natural cove along the shore is one of the few places in Michigan where it is possible to see both a sunrise and sunset without visual distraction.

In late spring, the showy white blossoms of the serviceberry, the earliest blooming shrub in the Keweenaw, greets the hiker. The trail winds over several ridges of Copper Harbor Conglomerate and traverses four different plant communities.

Many bird species, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, boreal chickadees and American redstarts build their nests in the lichens.

The rocks of the northern shore are more than 1 billion years old.

The best time to visit the sanctuary is in the spring during migration.

Image result

Boreal chickadee. Photo: Claude Nadeau.


John J. Helstrom Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw County

The John J. Helstrom Nature Sanctuary is located high along Brockway Mountain Drive; in fact, 3/8 mile of the scenic drive passes through the sanctuary. It is located just east of MNA’s Klipfel Memorial Nature Sanctuary.

Heart-leaved arnica, an endangered Michigan species, thrives in the dry, alkaline conditions.

This overlook provides an extraordinary opportunity to watch hawks and other birds during their spring migration. The birds use thermal updrafts created by topography and rising warm air. Thousands of raptors, owls, and other birds use this method of flying.

northern goshawk by kirk zulfelt

Northern goshawk. Photo: Kirk Zulfelt.


Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw County

Two loop trails bring visitors through the towering pines and forest. The 1 mile Cathedral Grove loop passes some of the largest and oldest giant white pines, growing more than 125 feet tall and dating back 300 years. The two trails intersect and can be completed as a 2.5 mile hike.

More than 85 bird species inhabit the old-growth forest, including woodpeckers, hawks, and red crossbills. Despite thin soil and boreal climate, several wildflowers grow, such as asters, clintonia, baneberry, and violets.

Image result for red crossbills michigan

Red crossbill. Photo: gbmcclure.

Redwyn’s Dunes Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw County

The 36.37 acre sanctuary is located on Keweenaw County’s Great Sand Bay. The shoreline of Great Sand Bay receives the full force of the strong prevailing westerly winds off Lake Superior and the shoreline has sand dunes up to 100 feet in height above the shoreline.

The back inner dunes are vegetated by juniper clones as large as 15 square feet, and by wind-contorted red pines and aspen.

The sanctuary is a favorite resting spot for the migrating waterfowl in the wetlands along the back dunes. Beavers, killdeer and songbirds are also present among the varied plant life.

A one-mile trail passes interdunal ponds and leads down to the Lake Superior shoreline where feldspar pebbles are often found. In the winter, the trail can be used for cross-country skiing.

The gently rolling topography provides a pleasant hike for visitors of all ages during any time of the year.

Image result for purple finch michigan

Purple finch. Photo: Robert Royse.

Upper Peninsula (outside of the Keweenaw)


Braastad Nature Sanctuary

Marquette County

Located in the north-central Upper Peninsula, the 238-acre Braastad Nature Sanctuary contains amazing diversity in landscape. Part of the sanctuary features an old bog, with other parts forested. There is even an old lakebed filled with leatherleaf.

Throughout, deer and songbirds are plentiful. You may even see an occasional black bear.

A number of orchids, trailing arbutus and gentians call this place home as well.

Image result for Black-backed woodpecker. Photo: Greg Schneider

Black-backed woodpecker. Photo: Greg Schneider.


Fred Dye Nature Sanctuary

Mackinac County

The 36-acre sanctuary has no trails, but is easily navigable due to its openness. The prairie seems somewhat out of place in the Upper Peninsula, and it is suspected to be a result of human activity. The dolomite bedrock and karst features scattered throughout the sanctuary contribute to the grass-dominated, open habitat. The shallow, exposed bedrock and thin soils make it difficult for hardwood forests to fully develop. The karst features found in the sanctuary today may eventually turn into caves or sinkholes after centuries because of the eroding bedrock.

Many bird species can be found year-round at Fred Dye. Visitors can see many breeding and migratory birds in the summer, as they thrive in the sanctuary’s prairie habitat. Ruby-throated hummingbirds can be seen around the wildflowers.

The diversity of plant species at Fred Dye result in different sets of wildflowers blooming through all points of the growing season. In the spring, visitors are welcomed by round-lobed hepatica and wild columbine. In summer, pale purple coneflower, prairie cinquefoil, and toadflax are in bloom. The fall brings leathery grape fern, pale spike lobelia, and fringed gentian.

Image result for ruby-throated hummingbird michigan

Ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo: J.S. Jourdan.


Pat Grogan Shelldrake Nature Sanctuary

Chippewa County

Located about six miles northwest off Paradise of Vermillion Road, this sanctuary is home to numerous plant species, including pink moccasin flower, pitcher plants, small cranberry, and sundew.

A lucky visitor can also see sandhill cranes, gray jays, pine martins and American bittern.

Ancient lake levels created this beach bar, providing a narrow spit of pine-covered sand for the trail.

Image result for sandhill crane michigan

Sandhill crane. Photo: MNA Archives.

Northern Lower Peninsula

Julius C. and Marie Moran Peter Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Alpena County

The Peter Memorial Nature Sanctuary is wild and remote. Those who walk on the old path to Grass Lake encounter many interesting plants, such as purple flowering raspberry, buffalo berry, columbine, and spurred gentians. In early June, the dwarf lake iris grows four to six inches tall, while the bird’s eye primrose flowers bloom beautifully. Both prefer this sanctuary’s alkaline soil.

The Grass Lake edge fluctuates from year to year and is home to sedges, pitcher plant, false asphodel, arrow grass, and sweet gale. The open sections are ideal for bird watching, as the lakeshore is home to ducks, shorebirds, hawks and warblers.

Image result for Black-throated green warbler michigan

Black-throated green warbler. Photo: Matthew Studebaker.

Southeast Michigan

Sharon Zahrfeld Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Genesee County

Rolling hills and wetlands make it an attractive spot for songbirds. There is a nature trail that runs through the sanctuary, giving visitors spectacular views of the forest and creek.

The lower areas of the sanctuary are seasonally wet and include ephemeral ponds and Save It Creek. The sanctuary is in the Shiawassee River watershed, with the creek eventually joining the Shiawassee River and then the Saginaw River. The southern half of the Shiawassee River basin, where the sanctuary is located, consists of alternating east-west fine or medium-textured ground moraines, till plains and outwash plains.

The seasonal variation of the creek’s water level plays a vital role in this southern floodplain forest community, which is one of Michigan’s most endangered habitats. The sanctuary’s several wetlands make it an attractive spot for songbirds and other wildlife.

Skunk cabbage, scarlet oak and the Michigan lily are a few of the species that call Zahrfeld Memorial Nature Sanctuary home. Spring visitors are greeted with a diverse wildflower display, including beautiful marsh marigolds.

Image result for chickadee, genesee county michigan

Black-capped chickadee. Photo: Rodney Campbell.


Elmer and Irene Jasper Woods Memorial Nature Sanctuary

St. Clair County

Red, white, and painted trillium all occur in Jasper Woods, each blooming at slightly different times of the season and in different habitats. Red trillium is earliest and can be found in the forest’s rich wet deciduous woods. It typically blooms in early May, depending upon spring weather conditions. White trillium begins to bloom a few days later and appears in drier woodlands, especially on the west side of the sand trail that ends at a private gate. Painted trillium appears latest, from mid- to late May.

Some of the sanctuary’s early flowering plants include wood anemone, blue cohosh, and saprophytes such Indian pipes.

Jasper Woods is an excellent place for bird watching and provides habitat for many species of nesting birds, including the wood duck, rose-breasted grosbeak, ruby-throated hummingbird and black-throated green warbler.

Jasper Woods has a short trail, but visitors are free to explore the sanctuary at their leisure.

Image result for rose-breasted grosbeak michigan

Rose-breasted grosbeak. Photo: Brian E. Small.


Goose Creek Grasslands Nature Sanctuary

Lenawee County

Over 200 plant species have been identified at Goose Creek Grasslands, including seven types that are classified as rare. Sedges and rushes are found among many fen plants, including buckbean and pitcher plant. Aquatic plants, such as pickerelweed and pondweeds, take advantage of the wet prairie, along with various types of goldenrods and asters. Adding color to the landscape are Goose Creek’s dozens of prairie flowers, including culver’s root, Indian paintbrush, sunflowers and Joe-Pye weed.

Goose Creek Grasslands is also an excellent location for bird watching. Sound carries well across the flat landscape, and visitors may hear the calls of sandhill cranes, yellow warblers and willow flycatchers. Hawks are regularly observed in the skies, with eastern meadowlarks, common yellowthroat and red-winged blackbirds below.

Related image

Red-winged blackbird. Photo: G. Lasley.


Anna Wilcox and Harold Warnes Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Macomb County

One mile of trail takes visitors through a forest that supports an array of trees and wildflowers. Massive tulip trees and bottle gentian highlight the diversity of vegetative species present within the sanctuary.

The clear stream that runs through the southern part of the forest is also home to inhabitants of the sanctuary; the brightly colored Laura’s clubtail dragonfly is one of the species that relies on the high-quality water that the stream provides. The monkeyflower, which requires moist soil or even shallow water, also thrive in the marsh habitat.

Many wild turkeys and the occasional great horned owl are seen throughout the sanctuary. Visitors with a keen eye may be able to spot warblers and finches.

The abundance of large tulip trees highlights the incredible habitat and wildlife diversity of Wilcox Warnes Memorial Nature Sanctuary.

Image result for great horned owl michigan

Great horned owl. Photo: Ellen Hodges.


Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary

Oakland County

Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary is the Michigan Nature Association’s largest sanctuary in southeast Michigan.

Visitors can get a firsthand look at the hardwood swamp and second-growth hardwood forest on the two-mile loop trail. The path is often swampy and wet, so it is recommended to bring proper footwear and stay on the trail. Despite recent impacts to the understory due to a high deer population, numerous wildflowers, including trillium, maiden-hair fern, and wild geranium are present. Acadian flycatcher, scarlet tanager, and red-eyed vireo are found throughout the swamp in the spring and summer.

The habitats of swamp and forest provide an ideal environment for birds, mammals, and amphibians. The great blue heron, great horned owls, and several species of hawks call the canopy of Timberland Swamp home.

With its diverse habitat and incredible beauty, visitors will get a true glimpse into the past when they visit Timberland Swamp.

Image result for blue heron michigan

Blue heron. Photo: Mike Baird.

 

Southwest Michigan

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary

Cass County

The 384-acre Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary is considered a “crown jewel” of MNA’s sanctuaries.

The easily navigable 1.5 mile loop trail allows visitors to observe all the sights and sounds Dowagiac Woods has to offer. The path is complete with boardwalks over seasonally wet areas, as well as benches for visitors to relax and take in the beauty.

The larger size of the property is essential in maintaining the diversity of plant and animal life found here. A mixed matrix of floodplain, southern-mesic forest, and hardwood swamp allows for nearly 50 species of nesting birds and several reptiles, such as the black rat snake. Along with nesting birds like the barred owl and yellow-throated warbler, neo-tropical migrants use the river and forest habitat.

Spring in Dowagiac Woods offers an incredible wildflower display. More than 50 species of wildflowers carpet the forest floor, including the blue-eyed Mary, trillium, and dutchman’s breeches.

Both first-time guests and regular visitors to Dowagiac Woods will continue to find new discoveries in its impressive diversity.

Image result for yellow-throated warbler michigan

Yellow-throated warbler. Photo: Zak Pohlen.


Lawrence and Mary Bell Wade Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Allegan County

Wade Memorial is a fine example of a mesic-northern compound mix of deciduous trees with scattered hemlocks. The trails are flat and easy to navigate, consisting of a bisected rectangular loop, creating two square-shaped trails that total about one mile. The sanctuary is well-suited to the study of both terrestrial and aquatic plants. Flowering dogwood and trillium can be found in the wooded areas during the spring, while pickerelweed and bur-reed inhabit the shore and lake.

Waterfowl and other birds are a common sight throughout the sanctuary. Wood ducks, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers all inhabit the canopy and shoreline of Wade Memorial. Along with birds, various species of frogs and turtles also call the sanctuary home. Visitors are welcomed by an assortment of plant life, including skunk cabbage, marsh marigold, jack-in-the-pulpit, hepatica, blue flag iris, trailing arbutus, and dogwood, among others.

The beautiful lake views and varied plant life make Wade Memorial a destination for visitors looking to experience nature.

Image result for Red-bellied woodpecker. Photo: Ken Thomas.

Red-bellied woodpecker. Photo: Ken Thomas.


Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary

Newaygo County

Prairies are one of the most endangered habitats in the state because many owners converted open acres to farmland in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Despite its size, Newaygo Prairie Nature Sanctuary has no trails. However, the open landscape makes it easy for visitors to navigate and explore.

More than 100 prairie species survive here, including the porcupine grass, June grass, and Fall Witch grass. Prairie ragwort, rock spikemoss, goat’s rue, sand cherry, and prickly-pear cactus also contribute to the variety of plants.

Several species of birds rely on the open habitat at Newaygo Prairie for nesting and foraging. Bluebirds and grasshopper sparrows nest in the open areas of the prairie, while eastern towhees prefer the shaded areas near the wooded edges.

Image result for bluebird. Photo: Philip Schwarz.

Eastern bluebird. Photo: Philip Schwarz.


White Pigeon River Nature Sanctuary

St. Joseph County

Located just three miles southwest of White Pigeon off Burke Rd, White Pigeon River is a great place to go for a quick walk or spend all day. The sanctuary is home to more than 50 species of birds, snapping turtles, lizard’s tail, huge clumps of silver maple, green dragon, wild cucumber, and moonseed. The sanctuary contains floodplain forest with dry upland forest.

Image result for cerulean warbler michigan

Cerulean warbler. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Monarchs, American Wetlands Month, and Migratory Bird Festival: this week in environmental news

Monarch butterflies winging their way north to Michigan (MDNR): With spring now sprung in Michigan, soon we’ll be welcoming back to the state one of the most distinctive signs that summer is on its way – the brightly colored monarch butterfly. Monarchs are on their way north from Mexico, where they spend the winter months. While National Start Seeing Monarchs Day is observed annually on the first Saturday in May, it may be a few more weeks before they make their way across Michigan. One of the most well-known and beloved butterfly species in North America, with their easily recognized orange and black wing pattern, monarchs have become a much less common sight in recent decades. The eastern monarch butterfly population has declined by 90 percent over the last 20 years due mainly to habitat loss, both in their summer range – including Michigan – and in Mexico, where they overwinter. The alarming declines in monarchs and other pollinators have sparked conservation programs across the nation. There are many ways that Michigan residents can contribute to ongoing monarch conservation efforts as well. Creating habitat for monarchs and other pollinators, whether it’s in your backyard or a large field, is a great place to start. Other resources include the Create Habitat for Monarchs web page from Monarch Joint Venture and “How to build a butterfly and pollinator garden in seven steps” from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Another way you can contribute to monarch butterfly conservation efforts is to monitor monarch populations by reporting any sightings at Journey North or getting involved in other monarch citizen science opportunities.

Celebrate American Wetlands Month by exploring Michigan’s wetlands (TV6): May is American Wetlands Month – a month to appreciate and enjoy the wonders of wetlands. The Department of Natural Resources encourages Michigan residents to get out and enjoy some of the outstanding wetlands the state has to offer. Try visiting one of Michigan’s Wetland Wonders for a day of hiking, birding, kayaking or fishing.

DNR+Common+Yellowthroat+bird

The Keweenaw’s Migratory Bird Festival (Copper Harbor Birding): Join the Copper Harbor Birding group in celebrating the spring bird migration by offering a season full of bird and other nature related activities. The birds are the main focus, so get out there! Guided bird and nature walks are offered throughout the season.

Making your native plant choices for Michigan inland lake shorelines (MSU Extension): Michigan’s inland lakes draw many people for a variety of reasons. Being close to nature and being a part of a relaxing natural environment are not the least among them. However, the reality of owning a lake home often is at odds with what nature provides. When choosing native plants for your shoreline you should have a landscape design plan and know the Lake fetch or prevailing wind direction on your lake in relationship to your property. Then go about choosing what plants will serve your needs and aesthetic. The important thing to remember is to choose the right plant for the right place.

Small snail, big problems: Researchers track invasive New Zealand mudsnail in Michigan rivers (MDNR): A tiny invader is threatening prized trout streams in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula.  A mere 1/8-inch long, the New Zealand mudsnail is barely distinguishable from a grain of sand, but over time its invasive habits can affect the quality and quantity of trout and other fish in the Au Sable, Pere Marquette and Boardman rivers where it has been found. The Department of Environmental Quality recently released a new video providing an overview of New Zealand mudsnail identification. The video is the premiere in the “MDEQ Minute” series, offering 60-second views on a broad range of topics including new and potential invasive species in Michigan. If you think you have found a New Zealand mudsnail in a waterway outside of the Pere Marquette, Boardman or Au Sable rivers, report your finding using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network website, www.misin.msu.edu, or download the MISIN app to your smartphone.

Migratory Birds, Invasive Plants, and Citizen Science Projects: this week in environmental news

bird-radar

A radar image shows a large migration event that occurred recently. Bubble size indicates the relative bird density; arrow direction and length indicate the migration direction and speed. This image represents about 25-50 million birds aloft. Image: Birdcast

How our unseasonably warm fall is affecting migratory birds (Interlochen Public Radio): 2016 has been on a record-breaking warm streak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. So what does this unseasonably warm fall mean for birds that need to start packing up and heading south? Andrew Farnsworth, research associate with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says how weather patterns affect birds varies by species. Some birds are dramatically affected. Some species may stay around for quite a lot longer than they might otherwise if temperatures are warmer. This effects waterfall: common loon and ducks on the Great Lakes, for example. On the other hand, some species are less affected by temperature, and instead time their trips south based on changes in the amount of daylight, such as warblers known as calendar migrants. Farnsworth says that while in general, birds are able to respond quickly to changes, they might not be able to keep up with the pace of human-caused climate change.

New research shows invasive plants can feed farms, power homes (Interlochen Public Radio): Researchers who work in wetlands in Michigan are taking a new approach to invasive plants. Instead of removing plants like phragmites and switchgrass, they’re harvesting them. They say these plants are a threat to biodiversity, but they can benefit farmers and even power homes. Scientists are working in the middle of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which has 10,000 acres of marshes and bogs, forest and farmland. Their team is removing invasive cattails from the area. Once these nutrients have been harvested, they are then put to good use. Working with local farmers, the harvested cattails are shredded and applied directly to crop fields where the biomass breaks down, providing organic material, as well as recycled chemical fertilizer. The invasive plants may have other economic uses as well.

shiawassee

Scientists are experimenting with new uses for invasive cattails in the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Image: Sam Corden

Interactive map helps bridge science-citizen divide (Great Lakes Echo): People can help keep their local lakes, rivers and streams healthier with a new app. The non-profit Ontario Water Rangers won the event put on by the Great Lakes Observing System to encourage the use of open source data either from GLOS or other water data collection services. The app functions like a Google Map. Clicking on a dot zooms in to display small magnifying glasses. Users can then contribute observations including but not limited to wind speed, algae growth or invasive species and read a summary of past observations.

Lake Superior gates to be automated, improving fish spawning (Newstimes): A set of gates that helps control water flow out of Lake Superior is being automated. An 80-acre area of rapids just downstream is one of the Great Lakes’ most productive fish spawning areas. Officials say the project will give the Corps more flexibility to operate the gates in ways that will improve conditions for fish.

CISMAs, Migratory Bird Treaty, and Sea Lampreys: this week in environmental news

Collaboration key to stopping spread of invasive species across southeast Michigan (Metromode): Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) are a new model of collaborative management unfolding across the state. They are designed to get people working together to address the threats posed by invasive species. The Michigan Nature Association is a partner to both the Oakland County CISMA and the St. Clair CISMA in southeast Michigan and MNA is included in both funded grants. The two CISMAs will work with the Stewardship Council and each other to mobilize new areas for collaboration and care for their shared land and water. Their ultimate goal: bringing people together.

Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial 1916-2016 (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service): The Migratory Bird Treaty and Act is commemorating its Centennial this year. These efforts have helped manage and conserve millions of acres of wildlife habitat benefiting migratory birds. Congress passed the Migratory Bird Act in 1918 to formally implement the provisions of the 1916 Treaty. Specifically, the Act prohibited the hunting, killing, capturing, possession, sale, transportation, and exportation of birds, feathers, eggs, and nests. It also provided for the establishment of protected refuges to give birds safe habitats and it encouraged sharing of data between nations to monitor bird populations.

migratory bird treaty

Odes to the Great Lakes: GVSU exhibition showcases collaborative pieces (Great Lakes Echo): Two department chairs at Grand Valley State University have curated an exhibition with collaborative works that showcase the Great Lakes region.  The exhibit is called Great Lakes: Image & Word, which is now open until April 1 at the GVSU Performing Arts Center.

sea lamprey

Sea lamprey mouth. Photo: T. Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Siren song for lamprey closer to Great Lakes use (Great Lakes Echo): Sea lampreys are one of the most costly and destructive invaders in the Great Lakes region. But new understandings of the functions and behaviors of these animals has given researchers a new way to try to combat this invasion, including the first vertebrate biopesticide ever discovered. The biopesticide is registered as a lamprey pheromone – a pheromone is an odor that is intentionally released as the purpose of communicating with another individual. It could take several more years of research to make sure the biopesticide does not have unintended consequences and is ready for use. But registration gives the compound the legal foundation needed for eventual mass production.

What are migratory bird stopover sites?

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

A flock of migrating birds. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A flock of migrating birds. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When birds migrate to warmer climates, their long distance travel requires them to take frequent breaks to rest and refuel in order to complete their long journey. Just like people need to make pit stops for food and rest during long car rides, birds need places along the way that provide areas with food, water and shelter from the weather and predators. These sites are known as stopovers and they are essential for bird migrations. Areas like woods, wetlands and beaches with an adequate amount of food and shelter help the species survive and migrate from year to year. The Great Lakes area provide important stopover sites for waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and owls.

There are three types of stopover sites for birds and each one serves an important purpose for migration. They are fire escapes, convenience stores and full-service hotels.

Fire escapes

Fire escape stopovers sites that receive less use because they are lacking in food and other resources but they are essential during high stress situations. These areas are typically small isolated patches of habitat. They can be a city park, a small island on the Great Lakes, a freighter, a docked boat or a lighthouse. Birds use these fire escapes when they need a short term break break from flying due to bad weather or predators.

Convenience stores

Convenience stores sites that are larger than fire escapes, such as a county park and forested patches in cities. They provide a limited source of shelter and food, but enough for birds to take a short rest and eat enough to gain energy to continue their migration.

Full-service hotels

Full-service hotels are sites where migrating birds can rest fully for several days and load up on food without a risk of predators. They are extensive, intact areas that are rich in resources with a diverse array of habitats that can house a large number of birds. Examples of full-service hotels are state or national parks, expansive forests, national wildlife refuges or state wildlife areas.

Winter Lovers: Dark Eyed Junco

By Stephanie Bradshaw, MNA Volunteer

Dark-eyed Junco  © Gary Mueller, MO, Rolla, February 2007

Dark-eyed Junco
© Gary Mueller, MO, Rolla, February 2007

It might be surprising that anyone would love the cold and snow of a Michigan winter, but it is the perfect climate for the Dark Eyed Junco. As the Robin is a symbol of the coming Spring, the Dark Eyed Junco could be called a symbol of winter. A type of sparrow slightly bigger than the ordinary house finch, Michiganders will often see these gray birds with white undersides at their feeders but only with a backdrop of snow. The slate-colored breed is the type of Junco that people in the Eastern states see only in the winter months. Dark-eyed Juncos can be found throughout the United States and Canada at different seasons. They are one of the most common birds in North America with an estimated population of 630 million individuals.

Why does the Junco appear only in the winter?             

Juncos, like many other birds, migrate “South” for the winter months; however, lower Michigan is their South. These little birds live in Canada for the rest of the year and come down to lower parts of America only in the winter. Juncos are commonly found in coniferous and deciduous forests, but during winter migration they may journey to woodlands and fields.

Where do Juncos build their nests?

Juncos prefer their nests lower to the ground: in a depression, rock ledge, or roots of upturned trees. However, these birds easily adapt, and around people they may place their nest in or under buildings, in window ledges, flower pots, or light fixtures. The females weave the nests out of pine needles, grass, and sometimes small twigs. The birds may incorporate mosses, hairs, and leaves into the nests as well. They rarely reuse nests, so they will build a new nest at each of their destinations.

What do Juncos eat?

Seeds of chickweed, buckwheat, lamb’s quarters, and sorrel are the Juncos’ favorites. At the feeders they will pick out the millet and leave the sunflower seeds. They also eat insects such as beetles, moths, butterflies, caterpillars, ants, wasps, and flies.

If you see a Junco, be sure to say hello and enjoy his presence because when it starts to warm up he will be heading North in search of cooler regions.

Did you see any Juncos this winter? 

Michigan bird guide, financial case for carbon rule presented and the social network of prairie dogs: this week in environmental news

An American Robin. Photo by John Beetham courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

An American Robin. Photo by John Beetham courtesy of the Great Lakes Echo.

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:

Winged Wednesday: A Great Lakes summer bird guide (Great Lakes Echo): There are 47 million bird watchers in the nation over the age of 16, according to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey. With this nationwide trend, the Great Lakes State offers diverse habitats throughout both peninsulas, making it difficult for birdwatchers to pick a favorite location.

Peter Marler. Photo by Ingbert Gruttner. Courtesy of the New York Times.

Peter Marler. Photo by Ingbert Gruttner. Courtesy of the New York Times.

Peter Marler, graphic decoder of birdsong, dies at 86 (New York Times): Basic animal science in the 1950s made the claim that animals made noises very unlike human conversation. Yet, when Peter Marler, an animal behaviorist born in Britian, came along, he showed that songbirds learned to sign in varieties or dialects of their region.

White House pushes financial case for carbon rule (New York Times): According to an analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers released Tuesday, carbon emissions causing climate change could cost $150 billion per year. The report serves as another way to further Obama’s plan of cutting carbon emissions and reducing climate change.

Vicious cycle: Air conditioning is making your city even hotter (Conservation Magazine): Rising temperatures start creating a cycle of turning on the air conditioning, emitting carbon into the air and causing temperatures to continue to rise in the long run. Yet recent research has shown that air conditioners are also making temperatures hotter just through the absorption of hot air in a room and its emission outdoors.

Prairie Dogs. Courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Prairie Dogs. Courtesy of Conservation Magazine.

Creating a prairie dog “Facebook” to aid conservation (Conservation Magazine): In recent studies, researchers have attempted to gain more insight into the social world of animals via “social network analysis.” This method in research has helped scientists to take a closer look into the complex social networks, hubs and connections of prairie dogs.