April 22 marks Earth Day’s 43rd anniversary

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Western hemisphere of globe

On April 22, more than one billion people around the world will participate in the 43rd Earth Day. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and NASA.

What are you doing April 22?

Will you be at work? At school? Running errands? Helping the planet?

If you plan to volunteer and help the environment, you’re not alone—April  22 is the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, a day where more than one billion people around the globe celebrate the earth and take action to protect it.

Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after he witnessed the severe damage caused by the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969. Nelson was inspired by the student movement opposing the war in Vietnam and believed he could put environmental protection on the national political agenda by taking that type of energy and coupling it with the emerging public awareness about air and water pollution. He built a staff of 85 people to promote events across the country, and on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in organized protests and rallies for a healthy, sustainable environment.

Earth Day in 1970 brought together all types of Americans—Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, urban and rural—and was part of the spark that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. In 1990, Earth Day went global, putting environmental protection on the world stage and gathering support from 200 million people in 141 countries. For its 40th anniversary in 2010, Earth Day Network launched its A Billion Acts of Green campaign, which “inspires and rewards both simple individual acts and larger organizational initiatives that reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.” Today, Earth Day Network has recorded more than 1.01 billion acts of green.

The 2013 Earth Day campaign, called The Face of Climate Change, seeks to capture the many faces of climate change: those affected by climate change and those working to fix the problem. Until April 22, the Earth Day Network is collecting pictures of people, animals and places that are directly affected or threatened by climate change, as well as images of people who are attempting to do something about it. On and around Earth Day, the Earth Day Network will show an interactive digital display of these images at thousand of events throughout the world—including next to federal government buildings in the countries that produce the most carbon pollution. In addition to showing the effects of climate change, this campaign will highlight the power of individuals that come together and take action across the world. The team hopes to inspire leaders and citizens to act and fight against climate change.

This Earth Day, you can help the planet and volunteer in your own backyard! MNA has volunteer days on April 22 at Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary in Cass County, Powell Memorial Nature Sanctuary in Lenawee County and Big Valley Nature Sanctuary in Oakland County. Check out our events calendar for more details.


4 birds to watch for during springtime birding activities

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

As MNA gears up for some of its spring bird watching events, we thought we’d feature a few different birds that come back to Michigan in the spring. Keep an eye out for these four birds as you go birding this season!

Red-winged blackbirds can weigh roughly 3 ounces and can have a wingspan of nearly 14.5 inches. The male and female look strikingly different—the male is black with a large red spot on the shoulders, while females are brown and lack any red color. They prefer marsh habitats during the breeding season and open fields and croplands in the winter. While breeding, red-winged blackbirds can be found in cattail, tule, sedge and salt marshes, as well as wetlands. They begin building their nests between March and May.

Male indigo bunting

A male indigo bunting in breeding plumage. Photo by Kevin Bolton. Coutesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Indigo bunting males are easy to spot during breeding season. The adult males are small—their bodies only range from 4.5 inches to 5 inches—but they are a brilliant blue with a purple crown. Females and young are brown and have a tinge of blue on their tail and shoulder. Indigo buntings are mainly found through eastern North America and south of the coniferous forest region, though some breeding populations exist in the western United States. They winter in the coastal regions of Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean. Indigo buntings breed between May and September in brushy and weedy areas at the edge of openings, or in weedy open areas like old farm fields or swamps.

Green herons, unlike great blue herons and other herons, are small and stocky. The green heron has relatively short legs and a body length that ranges from 16 to 18 inches. Adults have a greenish-black cap, a greenish back, wings that are gray-black and fade into green or blue, and gray undersides. Young herons have a white and brown striped neck and chest, and their backs are brown with white and beige spots. Green herons have a wide range and are generally found near wetlands in North America. They spend their non-breeding season in Mexico and Central America, but some live year-round in Mexico, Central America and parts of South America. Green herons that do migrate travel north from March to April, which is earlier than most other herons.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds, with a body measuring between 3 and 3.5 inches long and weighing between 2 and 6 grams (0.071 to 0.21 ounces). Both males and females have an iridescent green back and head and a white belly. Males have a bright red, shiny throat and a forked tail, while females have a dull, grayish throat and a square, white-tipped tail. Ruby-throated hummingbirds breed throughout eastern United States and southern Canada and spend their winters in southern Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. These birds return to their breeding areas in April.

This spring, MNA is hosting a variety of birding events for members and guests. Be sure to check out one of MNA’s events this season!

For more information about MNA’s upcoming events, check out our website and events calendar.

Snowshoe or Cross-Country Ski with MNA!

Snowshoeing at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Janet Lins

Snowshoeing at Black Creek Nature Sanctuary. Photo by Janet Lins

Winter doesn’t slow us down at MNA! We will be exploring Michigan in a variety of ways this winter, including special opportunities to snowshoe and cross-country ski through some of the state’s most unique landscapes.

Last winter, MNA members and friends enjoyed snowshoe hikes in the Keweenaw.  Hikers experienced the beautiful snow-covered dunes, frozen rivers and Lake Superior shoreline. The snowshoe hikes were so popular that MNA has planned more of them this winter! We hope you’ll be able to join us to experience one of Michigan’s most picturesque areas – the Keweenaw Peninsula!

Snowshoe hikes this winter:

Saturday, January 6 – Redwyn’s Dunes Nature Sanctuary, near Eagle Harbor

Saturday, January 19 – Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, near Calumet

Saturday, February 2 – Gratiot Lake Overlook Nature Sanctuary, near Copper Harbor

Saturday, February 23 – Rooks Memorial Nature Sanctuary, near Copper Harbor

Sunday, March 3 – Robert T. Brown Plant Preserve, near Painesdale

Email nancy@einerlei.com to RSVP or for details about the snowshoe hikes. Please RSVP so MNA can advise you of any emergency cancellations.

Snowshoe hikers explore Mystery Valley.

Snowshoe hikers explore Mystery Valley.

This year, MNA is also offering two cross-country ski opportunities. On Saturday, January 26, join steward Mary Probst for a cross-country ski along the Eagle Harbor Township Recreation Trail in Keweenaw County.

In the Lower Peninsula, steward Patricia Pennell will lead a cross-country ski trip through the beautiful Five Lakes Muskegon Nature Sanctuary in Muskegon County on Saturday, February 2. If there is no snow, Patricia will still lead a hike, a rare opportunity to explore this unique sanctuary. For details about either of these trips, please visit MNA’s website.

Keep checking MNA’s event calendar for more winter events. We hope to see you in the field!

June 24 Botany Walk in the Keweenaw

By Nancy Leonard, Keweenaw Shores II Steward

Purple-Fringed Orchid

Lesser Purple-Fringed Orchid. Photo by Nancy Leonard

Twenty-seven people joined Karena Schmidt and myself for a Sunday afternoon of botanizing at Keweenaw Shores II at Dan’s Point in the Keweenaw.  This Class C plant preserve is on an ancient conglomerate beach at the northernmost edge of the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Tilted rocks and hidden crags create depressions for collected water but also provide high and dry exposures. An unusually large number of plant species ranging from bog plants to those preferring exposed dry rock as their home can be found here.

Although we were concerned with such a large number of explorers having a negative impact on a sensitive area, our worries soon diminished as enthusiastic botanizers spread out naturally in small groups, moving with great care across the rough beach terrain. Before entering the preserve, we had reviewed the importance and fragile nature of the preserve, what plants might be found here and their ranking, and how best to navigate without doing harm.

The showiest find of the day was the Lesser Purple-Fringed Orchid  (Platanthera psychodes).  In a good year, dozens of these colorful orchids can be found here.

Common Butterwort

Common Butterwort. Photo by Nancy Leonard

The Pale Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja septentrionalis), a state-ranked threatened plant, was in bloom and everyone was thrilled at their abundance to be found here.

Even though the bloom time had passed for the tiny insect-devouring Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), a plant of special concern, a few still-blooming plants were discovered in a protected place beside a liverwort.  The lichen-covered rock captivated some members of the group and Karena readily shared her knowledge of lichen lore with them.

Weather-wise, the day was just as perfect.  A slight breeze off Lake Superior kept participants cool and comfortable even though it was sunny.  Most were reluctant, even after more than two hours of exploring, to leave this beautiful preserve.

If you’d like to join MNA on a field trip at a sanctuary near you, visit MNA’s Calendar of Events. We hope to see you in the field!