Michigan’s Snowy Owl Capital

Photo by John Schwegman., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A small town in the eastern Upper Peninsula has new monkiker, named for the distinctive white Arctic owl that appears in greater numbers there each year than in other parts of Michigan. Rudyard, Michigan, located in Chippewa County, is now “The Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan”

A recent story in the Sault News (bit.ly/3kYPNY1) reports that “As of Jan. 20, Rudyard Township in the Eastern Upper Peninsula is officially recognized as the Snowy Owl capital of the state.”

That official recognition came from the Michigan House of Representatives which last September adopted HR 346, a House Resolution declaring support for Rudyard to be known as the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan.

“Whereas, Snowy owls arrive in November and stay until March or April and the official Annual Audubon National Christmas Bird Count of seventeen snowy owls in 2017, twenty-nine in 2018, thirteen in 2019, three in 2020 and twenty-three in 2021 shows the Rudyard area has a consistent winter population of snowy owls. The 2018 count of twenty-nine snowy owls, was the highest one-day snowy owl numbers in both Michigan and the United States; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the members of this legislative body declare Rudyard as the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan. We commend all of the residents of Michigan who enjoy bird viewing and bird photography;…” the final portion of the resolution reads.

Snowy Owls are identified by their distinct white plumage, which can also be mottled with brown spots. They are large owls with yellow eyes that breed north of the Arctic Circle in summer and then migrate southward during the winter. Michigan is the southern edge of their winter range. They feed on small mammals and birds and are agile flyers which prefer wide open spaces.

Photo by Tom Koerner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

“Snowy Owls mainly eat small mammals, particularly lemmings, which at times on the tundra may be all these birds eat. Sometimes they’ll switch to ptarmigan and waterfowl. Snowy Owls are also one of the most agile owls, able to catch small birds on the fly. On both their breeding and wintering grounds, their diet can range widely to include rodents, rabbits, hares, squirrels, weasels, wading birds, seabirds, ducks, grebes, and geese,” the Cornell Labratory of Ornitholgy reports on its All About Birds website (bit.ly/3RmVhHP).

The visually-striking owl is considered a “vulnerable” species whose numbers have declined by 50 percent over the last 50 years, according to the State of the Birds 2022 report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiatve (NABCI) a cooperative effort by governmental agencies, private organizations and others. The report details the findings for Snowy Owls and numerous other North American bird species. To learn more about those findings see https://www.stateofthebirds.org/2022/

Photo by Angela at Pixabay,
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Puye Cliff Dwellings

After a self-imposed two-year travel hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, it’s good to be traveling again. On a recent 10-day trip to northern New Mexico, I learned of a fascinating cliff dwelling site called Puye. Visiting, it turned out to be one of highlights of the trip. The ancient site has a visitor center and guided tours which are led by Santa Clara Pueblo members, all decendants of the Puye people.

Our tour, on a very warm day, was led by Samantha Moquino, a pueblo member whose ancestors lived in the shelters that were carved out of the cliffs and in the structures built on the mesa top. The Puye cliffs are 200 feet high, comprised of a soft, volcanic tuff meaning compressed ash and rock. That softness allowed for excavation. Visitors can choose to be driven to the top and climb down, or climb up using ladders and carved out routes up the cliff face. The cave level stretches out for a mile.

Samantha was an excellent guide and interpreter who managed to bring the cliff dwellings to life, infusing the historical facts with anecdotes and perspectives from her own life. Puye is located in Santa Clara Canyon on Santa Clara Pueblo lands, northwest of Santa Fe. Between the years 900 and 1580, it was home to more than 1,500 people. It was abandoned in the 1600s. Today it is a National Historic Landmark.

Here is a quick look at Puye Cliff Dwellings. Click the CC button on the player to see captions.

For more information go to: https://puyecliffdwellings.com/

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Winter Sunset

Ice floes were drifting down the channel into Lake Michigan, a sure sign that spring was approaching. Lake Macatawa, the river mouth, was thawing – and fast. Broken ice filled the channel and hundreds of ducks were gathered among the bergs.

Also gathering was an audience of sunset lovers: teens and those in their middle and later years, fans who had come out on a cold evening to witness natural beauty. The Holland State Park pierhead, on Michigan’s southwestern shoreline, is a wonderful place to watch a sunset. They arrived with their phones, their point-and-shoots and other camera gear and stood gazing in quiet anticipation. The lake didn’t disappoint.

Photos by Howard Meyerson

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Lower Grand River Water Trail Open House

By Howard Meyerson

The public is being invited to an open house February 23 to learn more about plans for a 95-mile recreational water trail on the lower Grand River which runs through Ionia, Kent and Ottawa counties in Michigan.

Organizers want input from people who canoe and kayak or fish its waters, those who own or manage public access sites, and those who have other interests. Attendees will be able to review maps of the river and identified access sites. They will be asked to share their preferences and concerns regarding amenities, safety, parking, directional signage and other important aspects of the trail.

The public open house is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids. It will be hosted by the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds (LGROW). The organization is developing the official water trail plan which is required to get state recognition and an official state water trail designation. That designation is expected to boost tourism and provide economic benefits to local communities along the river as well as enhance public concern about water quality.

At 252 miles in length, the Grand River is Michigan’s longest river. It extends from its headwaters in Hillsdale County to Lake Michigan at Grand Haven. Water trail plans for its middle and upper reaches have been completed by the Middle Grand River Organization of Watersheds and Upper Grand River Organization of Watersheds. Once the lower river plan is complete and has been accepted by the state, the three organizations say they will join forces and seek national designation for the entire trail.

For more information about the planned water trail see: https://www.lgrow.org/grand-river-water-trail

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Chasing Waterfalls

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its scenery. Stretching along Lake Superior to the north and Lake Michigan to the south, it is a beautiful part of the state, filled with national forests, dramatic cliffs, a national lakeshore and an abundance of lakes, streams and waterfalls.

On a recent hiking trip in the Marquette/Munising area (eastern-central U.P.) I set out to hunt for a few waterfalls I hadn’t seen before. There are hundreds of falls in Michigan, according to authorities. All but one is in the Upper Peninsula. Some are huge, dramatic. Many are small and peaceful. The best are accessible by road or boat and on foot by hiking trail.

Timeless in their natural beauty, waterfalls often compel us to stop for a moment, to ponder their power, to hear their songs, to appreciate their natural surroundings. They invite us to sit in meditation and absorb their sights and sounds and smells. Rushing water is a balm for the soul.

Here is a look at those I found.

Enjoy! –HM

Click on the image to see it full size.

For more information about where to find waterfalls in Michigan, check out these links:

Marquette Area: https://bit.ly/3nalBrx

U.P. Travel: https://bit.ly/3queH2l

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: https://bit.ly/3D7k3Uy

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Fall Days

Hunting for fall color. Photos by Howard Meyerson

It’s Autumn now, the color days. And the woods are becoming beautiful, a riot of color. The transformation has been slow this year, delayed by warm days and nights in October. Those were ideal conditions for hiking, biking and canoeing, but southern Michigan woods were often drab palettes of green and brown with only hints of color.

Last week, that began to change in earnest. I found these colorful trees while taking a drive in the country looking for color that continued to be spotty. A trip to Fisk Knob, the highest point in county, left me wanting. But this country road scene not far beyond inspired me to pull over. Color prognosticators say the peak color season in southwest Michigan will continue into mid-November.

It’s time to hit the road and enjoy.

–HM

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Sailing DeTour Passage

I recently had the good fortune to spend a week aboard Alwihta, a 28-foot Maurice Griffiths design that was built by a friend of mine, Fritz Seegers of Kalmazoo. Fritz is an artist and marine illustrator who draws regularly for Good Old Boat Magazine. (goodoldboat.com). He was cruising aboard, as he does every summer, when I caught up with at DeTour Village, the eastern-most tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

DeTour Passage is the narrows there, on the St. Mary’s River which connects northern Lake Huron with Lake Superior at the Sault Ste. Marie locks. It’s a great place to sail and see freighters up close as they navigate the shipping channel. Our plan was to explore several islands in the area, but our goal proved aspirational. Though we dropped anchor and spent the night at two of them, heavy weather and intermittent problems with the roller furling headsail limited our days on the water.

It was a delightful trip just the same and great opportunity to sail together again, as we have many times over the years, given the constraints of COVID-19 last year.

Alwihta was built 40 years ago by Fritz, in Kalamazoo. It’s a hull design based on the Kylix design that Griffiths, the British boat designer, author and yachtsman, built for himself at 70-years old for retirement. Griffiths was the editor of Yachting Monthly, a British sailing magazine, for 40 years. He died in 1979.

To see more of the trip, check out this short (2 minutes, 30 seconds) video on my YouTube channel: youtu.be/as5igLY8FSk Enjoy!

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Arizona Trippin

This trip is one of my faves in recent years, full of regional history, local color and great eats. The hiking was excellent; the scrambles were fun. The red-rock trails and buttes near Sedona are magnificent. These and other images from my trip to Arizona, the last before the COVID pandemic shut things down, have been woven together in a short presentation now up on my YouTube page. Check it out at https://bit.ly/3sJimXx

Having developed an interest in cliff-dwellings and cliff-dwelling cultures on prior trips to New Mexico, my partner Susan and I took advantage of opportunities to visit ancient tribal dwellings/pueblos: Tuzigoot National Monument (nps.gov/tuzi) near Clarkdale and Montezuma Castle National Monument near Camp Verde (nps.gov/moca). Both are managed by the National Park Service and have fascinating histories.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time at Montezuma. It was a bit of a drive after touring Tuzigoot and the rangers let us know, upon arrival, that the park would soon close. Our visit was short, but it provided views of an awesome cliff structure, compelling enough to warrant going back once I’m willing to fly again. I’m looking forward to that – and others. –HM

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Flying High

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Once endangered and teetering on the brink of extinction, the Bald Eagle is doing well; actually, very well, according to a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report that says those eagle populations have quadrupled since 2009. Scientists in the agency’s Migratory Bird Program estimate the population has climbed to 316,700 eagles in the lower 48 states. They know of 71,000 nesting pairs, a huge jump from 1963 when only 417 nesting pairs were known of, an all-time low.

Their return has been attributed to ongoing conservation and protection efforts along with banning the then popular pesticide DDT, which weakened eggshells and hindered reproduction. The current tally, detailed in a 2020 survey report  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Report: Bald Eagle Population Size: 2020 Update can be found online.

The survey work that led to the report was conducted over 2018 and 2019, using flyovers and ground observations in cooperation with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the citizen science data that is collected on the popular online birdwatching database called eBird, found at https://ebird.org/home.

“The recovery of the bald eagle is one of the most well-known conservation success stories of all time,” FWS Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams recently told the press. “The Service continues to work with our partners in state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government organizations and with private landowners to ensure that our nation’s symbol continues to flourish.”

Breeding eagles lay one to three eggs each year. They hatch about 35 days out and are flying within three months. In 1782 when America adopted the Bald Eagle as national symbol, the country “may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles,” FWS reports. Loss of habitat, shooting and DDT poisoning all contributed to their decline. Some also die from ingesting lead shotgun pellets.

Bald Eagles today are a joy to behold in both wild and rural settings. Their presence draws attention and praise whenever they are seen. –HM

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A new beginning

Photo by Howard Meyerson

We had wandered through thickly forested dunes for more than an hour when we emerged on the barrens. The contrast was stark. Only scrubby vegetation lay in all directions. These lone trees caught my eye as we hiked into the barrens bowl and up another sand dune back to the trail near Grand Haven, MI.

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