The Natural Fall Transition

By Abby Pointer, MNA Intern

As our summer slowly shifts into Michigan’s favorite season, the humidity will disappear into a brisk breeze and leaves will turn happy orange and red. You might partake in festive, nature oriented activities such as apple picking, birding, or fall color walks. Our reason for doing this is to enjoy some time with friends and family, but have you thought about the reason why nature acts as it does in the fall?

Migrating-Birds-Swans-Bill-and-Sharon-Draker-Rolfnp-comSince Autumn is a transitional season, often the plants and animals we see are in a transition period as they prepare for a long winter. For instance, birds are migrating back from their summer homes to somewhere less chilly for the winter. To many avid birders’ delights, we are lucky in Michigan to be able to see rare species such as warblers, vireos, and thrushes migrating. If you visit Whitefish Point, it is an excellent place to spot the migrating loons and, if you look towards the skies, you might also spot the soaring wingspans of sharp shinned hawks, bald eagles, and ospreys.

While the birds fly south, mammals take advantage of fall fruiting trees and plants. Species such as squirrels, chipmunks, and even bears might be more active as they prepare themselves for winter by gathering food and preparing nests or dens. Many types of berries and nuts ripen for consumption in the fall, and as the temperature cools, fungi also begin to sprout. The production of berries, nuts, and seeds this time of year cleverly coincides with the time that birds are stopping to snack during migration and when small mammals bury nuts for sparser months. These fruits and nuts are the structures that enable the dispersal of seeds, so these animals in transition are essential in the process of creating new plant life for some tree and shrub species such as red chokeberry, blackhaw viburnum, and common ninebark. Acorns from oak trees and hickory nuts serve the same purpose and are spread by small mammals in a process sometimes known as “scatter hoarding”.

lefglen nsWhile animals collect the nuts from trees for winter hibernation, the trees themselves have a very charismatic process that prepares them for their own kind of hibernation. During the winter months, deciduous trees go into a period of dormancy where they survive off the energy they stored during the sunny summer months, and they drop their leaves that contain chloroplasts (structures that turn light from the sun into plant food) to conserve energy. Leaves of trees can sense a shortening period of daylight, and eventually stop producing the chemical chlorophyll that make leaves green, and then we can see bright colored pigments such as orange and red that were previously masked by green all summer. We see the best fall colors when there is a wet growing season followed by a cool, frostless fall. Visit an MNA sanctuary to see this trees in action. Enjoy the colors!

Ring in the New Year with a New MNA Sanctuary

Dear MNA Friends,

I can think of no better holiday gift to share than this news:  just this week MNA signed the paperwork For Proj Summ6and acquired a spectacular new nature sanctuary on the shores of Lake Huron in Presque Isle County. The 51-acre property on Albany Bay includes 1,500 feet of shoreline and was donated by a generous landowner wishing to protect this unique, lakefront habitat.

The new sanctuary is home to a significant population of the threatened dwarf lake iris. The property and surrounding shoreline earns the highest ranking for biological rarity.  Trails on the property will provide public access to the beautiful forest and shoreline, and we will get to work in 2018 to prepare the sanctuary for visitors.

Please watch for updates in the New Year!

For now, I invite you to pause in your holiday plans to take a sneak peek at this video and “fly” over this beautiful new sanctuary and the surrounding tropical-like blue waters of Lake Huron. (The Lake Huron bottom lands immediately offshore of the new sanctuary are part of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary—watch for the remains of the steamer Albany that sank in 1853.)

We extend our deep appreciation to the landowner for this incredible gift of nature.  And we also thank all of you—your generous support makes it possible for MNA to acquire and hold forever this new sanctuary and many other exceptional places throughout the state.  Together, we can—and do—protect Michigan’s rarest natural treasures.

Thank you and Happy New Year!

Garret Johnson

Garret Johnson
Executive Director

 

Field Experience at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary

Two enthusiastic interns and a grant from the Franklin D. Adams Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint made a big difference this summer for one of MNA’s most popular nature sanctuaries, the Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Fenton.

Andrew Borin recounts his summer internship experience:

Our time with MNA has proved to be a positive experience for both Ashlie and I. Neither of us could have imagined the positive reactions that we received from the volunteers, MNA staff and community members who recognized the work we accomplished in our time at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary. Ashlie and I came from different academic backgrounds but shared one common goal during the internship: to work hard and make the largest impact we could. Every day we gave our all and pushed through the never-ending wall of invasive shrubs that plagues the sanctuary. The most common of which was autumn olive. Dauner Martin was our home for the summer and offered many challenges.

Dauner Martin - Andrew BaconWhat Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary lacks in rare species, it makes up for in the role it plays within the community. The sanctuary sits within a business district in Fenton, Michigan. This urban setting makes it a unique sanctuary for Michigan Nature Association and offers benefits and problems not found within their other properties. With two entrances into the sanctuary located close to a busy road, the roughly 4.5 miles of trails are frequented by Fenton’s local citizens. Having a 155-acre green space in a city offers many positives ecologically and for the community. Not only do visitors get to hike and enjoy the pine plantations, prairies, wetlands and hardwood forests offered by the sanctuary, it is also used by local organizations to help promote outdoor activities and an appreciation for nature. On the ecological side of things, the sanctuary also acts as a haven for an assortment of wildlife and promotes ground water recharge.

native plant garden - Andrew BorinOur common workday included a variety of activities. Trash clean up and trail maintenance was usually reserved for our down-time. We also installed a 1,700 square foot native garden which we hope will grow and flourish. But the majority of our time was spent cutting down invasive shrubs using power tools and treating the stumps with herbicide. After the shrubs were cut, we would haul the branches through the understory and stack them into piles. Overall we cleared over 10 acres performing these day-to-day activities.

Ashlie and Andrew at DMWith the internship completed, Ashlie and I are headed back to school to finish our final two semesters before entering the workforce. I will be finishing my degree in Plant Biology at Michigan State University with the intention of working in habitat conservation and restoration. Ashlie intends to work with fisheries in the Upper Peninsula after completing her degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at the University of Michigan. As we look towards our futures, I speak for both of us when I say that we will always look back at our time at Dauner Martin fondly and I’m sure we’ll be back to see what improvements have been made to the sanctuary. We can’t thank MNA enough for giving us this experience and will use what we have learned as a platform, upon which we will build our future careers.

Thank you Andrew and Ashlie for all of your hard work!

Celebrate Spring with MNA!

By Michelle Ferrell, MNA Intern

Spring has sprung, and has already brought with it markedly warmer weather and the beginning buds of plants sprouting back to life. In addition to numerous sanctuaries ideal for Michiganders eager to invigorate their muscles and minds after another winter, MNA has several upcoming events and activities for nature enthusiasts to look forward to. It’s a great time to be outdoors and reconnect with nature and one another through seasonal family-friendly fun!

Participate in a 5K

The Karner Blue Butterfly and Family Fun Run & 5K will be hosted Saturday, May 20 at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids as part of the Pure Michigan™ FITness Series Challenge; in addition, there will be a Kids 1 Mile Fun Run as well. As if being active in the great outdoors and supporting a good cause isn’t motivation enough, participants who earn a mere 5 points will be entered for grand prize drawing for a trip up the Mackinac Bridge Tower! Proceeds from the race go to the protection of habitat for the endangered Karner blue. Read up on this small yet splashy species and its preferred habitat here.

Celebrate Earth Day

A fun and earth-friendly activity is planned for visitors to the MNA booth Sunday, April 23 during the Ann Arbor 46th annual Earth Day Festival, held from 12-4pm at the Leslie Science and Nature Center. The festival is a great opportunity to engage in activities that celebrate Earth and learn about environmental topics through live-animal presentations, naturalist-led hikes, informational presentations and discussions. You can even dress up as your favorite plant or animal! Nature lovers of all ages are welcome. No signup is necessary.

Earth Day - GVSU interns and Five Lakes steward

Visit a sanctuary

Many MNA sanctuaries that are open to the public are ideal destinations for visitors to enjoy and connect with nature through various outdoor activities like scenic hikes and peaceful walks, seasonal wildflower displays, birding and photography. Below is a list of MNA sanctuaries selected for these springtime activities, but a more comprehensive list allowing you to search for sanctuaries in your area can be viewed here.

Sharon Zahrfeld Memorial Nature Sanctuary

Zahrfeld

Keweenaw Shores No 1 Nature Sanctuary

Keweenaw Shores 1 - Charles Eshbach (2)

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

estivant-pines-2-photo-by-charles-eshbach.jpg

Twin Waterfalls Plant Preserve

olson-falls-3-mike-zajczenko.jpg

Trillium Trail Nature Sanctuary

Prairie trillium at Trillium Ravine

Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Timberland Swamp Nature Sanctuary

EPSON DSC picture

Become a volunteer

MNA coordinates numerous volunteer workdays throughout the year, providing participants with information and experience on the removal of invasive species for the preservation of native plant communities that form the basis of ecologically important habitats. Find a day to get involved with workdays in your area by keeping tabs on the MNA events calendar! Upcoming workdays include Dolan Nature Sanctuary, Dowagiac Woods, Mystery Valley Karst Preserve, Riley-Shurte Woods, Black Creek Nature Sanctuary, and Grinnell Nature Sanctuary. Also upcoming is a guided nature hike through Dorion Rooks Nature Sanctuary.

workday at Goose Creek

Become a steward

Those looking for additional involvement can become a steward for MNA. It is both easy and rewarding, with a minimum requirement of visiting a sanctuary once per year and completing a comprehensive monitor report. The ideal steward also leads field trips and educational events, marks boundaries and maintains trails at the sanctuary. If you are interested in becoming a steward, please contact MNA Stewardship Coordinator Andrew Bacon by email at abacon@michigannature.org or by calling the MNA office at (866) 223-2231.

Bill McEachern and David Mancini at Kernan - Rachel Maranto