Bird Town: Detroit Bird Conservation Efforts on the Rise

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Nature and industry meet on the Detroit River. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

Call Detroit Michigan what you will: Motor City, Hockey Town, Tiger Town or Motown. Increasingly, it is becoming a Bird Town. Greening efforts all across its urban landscape, from tree plantings in parks and overgrown lots to urban gardens and wetland restorations—all are improving living conditions for birds.

“Detroit is a hotbed for birding,” notes Greg Norwood, biologist for the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge (DRIWR) which encompasses 10,577 acres of quality habitat along the Detroit River and western Lake Erie. Those include coastal marshes, islands, wetlands and shoreline parks. “This is an internationally recognized good birding area because of its geography. We have a world renowned hawk migration and a really significant waterfowl migration here.”

Established in 2001 and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service, DRIWR it is the only international wildlife refuge in North America. Its purpose is preserving habitat that otherwise would be lost, including stopover habitat for migrating birds and waterfowl.  Several hundred thousand Broad-winged Hawks and Turkey Vultures come through each fall headed south. Giant flocks of Tundra Swans, Redhead Ducks, Scaup and Canvasbacks also move through during their west-to-east migration between nesting areas on the North American prairies and wintering grounds on the Atlantic seaboard. Continue reading

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Grand Rapids-Area’s Winter Adventure Race is the largest in the U.S.

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Racers run, snowshoe, bike and use a map and compass to find checkpoints. Photo:  Jamie Gaysbeek Photography.

By Howard Meyerson

More than 400 hearty winter adventurers will test their mettle and wits this weekend when they gather in the woods outside of Grand Rapids to compete in the 5th annual Michigan Adventure Race Winter Edition – the largest winter adventure race in the U.S.

“It’s us against the elements; we don’t race against the clock,” declares 44-year-old, Kent Snoeyink, a retired Standale school teacher who will team up with his 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, and compete for a third time. “It’s fun thing to check off on my bucket list – and it’s a thrill to compete with Hannah. I’ve run marathons and mud runs. Marathons are boring. This has a lot of variety.”

That variety – running, snowshoeing, fat-tire cycling and navigating the 6-mile route by map and compass – is drawing the race’s largest crowd yet, according to organizer, Mark VanTongeren.

To find out more about the race and the fun and challenges the competitors face, take a look at my latest piece on the Experience GR Blog, published by the city of Grand Rapids. Read more: Largest winter adventure race in the U.S.

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Predator-Prey study: Wolves not threat to deer you may think


Researchers are learning that predators, winter weather and habitat influence deer populations and survival. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR.

By Howard Meyerson

In the snowy woods of the western Upper Peninsula, wildlife researchers are learning a thing or two about deer survival: what preys on adult whitetails and fawns — and what else contributes to their deaths.

Some in the hunting community presume the answer is wolves. Many know harsh winters take a toll. Both are true, according to recent research, but a lot depends on other factors, such as the availability of young forests and food, predator density, and what other prey are available.The study, started in 2009 by Mississippi State University and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, has turned up some surprises.

“We’ve been surprised by a few things in Phase I (low‑snow study),” notes Dean Beyer, a researcher with the DNR. “We learned that adult does were avoiding core wolf areas and that coyotes were avoiding them, too. That put coyotes and does in the same area, which probably resulted in a greater mortality by coyotes. And we were all surprised by the rate at which bobcats killed fawns. The rate is much higher than other species.” Continue reading

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Use of mating pheromone approved in lamprey fight

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Mating pheromones will be used to manipulate lamprey behavior. Photo: C. Krueger, GLFC.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich – A sea lamprey mating pheromone used experimentally to manipulate lamprey behavior got a green light last month from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It can now be used as a wide-spread management tool in Great Lakes and other waters.

“Until now it has been experimental,” said Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which funded development of the male sex pheromone known as 3kPZS. “Its use has been in the lab or on a stretch of river like the Ocqueoc where there has been very limited use. We now have approval to use it on a management scale. This brings us one step closer to using it as management technique.”

The EPA approved registration of 3kPZS as a bio-pesticide in December, 2015. Researchers note that it is the first-ever vertebrate pheromone bio-pesticide.  It is not a compound that kills lamprey in the manner of FM or Bayluscide, which are regularly used on Michigan waters.  The pheromone has been tested as an attractant odor to draw sea lampreys into traps so they can be removed from river systems. Its use improved trapping efficiency by 53 percent, according to Dr. Weiming Li, the Michigan State University professor who discovered the pheromone.

“I started to work on this in 1998,” said Li, E.J. Fry Chair of Environmental Physiology at the university. “Previous work (research) showed it’s often the male that gets to the spawning ground before the female. It was speculated that males were releasing pheromones (to attract the females). Many knew that males got to spawning grounds and started to build nests. The females joined them later. (Another researcher) showed on a small scale that females are attracted to males when they are sexually mature.” Continue reading

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View from the top

Watchman Tower, Crater Lake National Park. Photo by Tyler Roemer

Watchman Tower, Crater Lake National Park. Photo by Tyler Roemer.

Found on Facebook @ Crater Lake National Park.

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Michigan’s winter paradise: groomed ski trails and fat bike destinations

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Cross-country skiers look over the route at Pentwater Pathway. Photo by Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

While southern Michigan snowfalls haven’t amounted to much so far, winter is a long way from over. If you’re inclined to get out on cross‑country skis, consider heading north where the snow is deeper.

It should be a good season for cross‑country and fat‑bike enthusiasts. Department of Natural Resources staffers report skiers will have their choice of 47 groomed cross‑country ski trails on state lands this season.Twenty six are at state parks and 21 are in state forests.

The grooming may be done by agency personnel or by local friends and
support groups.

“We’re going great guns on trails right now,” said Todd Neiss, recreation trail specialist at the DNR’s Cadillac office. “We’ve had limited skiing so far, but we are getting reports from the Friends of the Cadillac Pathway that they have done some grooming.”

Cadillac Pathway is 11.3 miles long. It is found 5 miles northeast of Cadillac in the Pere Marquette State Forest.

The ski and hiking trail was built in the 1970s, but its popularity has risen in recent years, according to Neiss. So much so that parts of it may be rerouted in future years to make it an even nicer trail.

“There’s been a heightened interest in the trail, and we are looking at how to improve it,” Neiss said. Continue reading

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Grand Rapids Golf Course Becomes Winter Bike Destination

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Team Apex competitor, Jame Gunderman, gets a workout at Indian Trails. Photo by Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

The middle of winter may be a treacherous time for cyclists, but you wouldn’t know it to visit Indian Trails Golf Course. That’s where fat-tire bike enthusiasts gather on Wednesdays to ride its snowy, three-mile groomed trail. The 88-year-old golfing center, at 2776 Kalamazoo Ave SE, is becoming an in-city winter bike destination.

“The fireplace is always going, and we always have hot chili and cold beer,” notes Lance Climie, the Indian Trails clubhouse manager. “We get men and women and families out here. We have heated restrooms and a comfortable environment to sit and socialize.  Many people come out every Wednesday. It’s close to home. They can ride after work and have a place to change. It’s not like driving an hour and a half (to a trail) and then having no facilities.”

Looking for a winter-riding buzz this winter?  Want to test-drive a fat-tire bike? Well check out Indian Trails Golf Course where that buzz is alive and well. You can find out more about the course and the state and national championship fat-bike races scheduled there in my latest piece for Experience GR Blog.  Read more:  Golf Course Becomes Winter Bike Destination.

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2016 Outdoor Show Season Gets Underway


The Field & Stream Outdoor Life Deer and Turkey Expo (above) is one of 14 outdoor shows this winter in Michigan. Courtesy photo.

By Howard Meyerson

The start of a New Year is always fun in Michigan. The weather may be unpredictable, but the winter outdoor show season goes on regardless. With 14 shows scheduled around the state between now and mid-March, outdoor enthusiasts have their pick of venues. There are shows for hard-core hunters and anglers, boaters, archers, paddlers and fly tiers.

“We are very focused on deer hunting,” said Jake Steingraeber, executive director for Field & Stream Outdoor Life Michigan Deer and Turkey Expo, which returns this year to the Lansing Center, February 19-21. “I am really very excited about the line-up of seminars which focus on hard-core enthusiasts.”

You may recall the show, now 30 years old, was formerly the Michigan Deer and Turkey Spectacular. It was acquired by Bonnier Corporation in 2011, the publisher for Field and Stream and Outdoor Life magazines.

The show was moved from Lansing to Dimondale in 2013 due to a scheduling conflict, according to Steingraeber. But attendees largely preferred the Lansing venue, and so it is returning. Continue reading

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Reef-rehabilitation project improves spawning for Grand Traverse lakers

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Dropping stone to create a reef. Photo by Mattew Dae Smith, Big Foot Media.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, MI – Efforts this summer to improve lake trout, whitefish and cisco populations in Grand Traverse Bay, by building a stone reef near Elk Rapids, produced some good results during the fall spawning season. Lake trout spawned there and deposited more eggs than last year, but that wasn’t the case with ciscoes and whitefish.

“We don’t know why,” said Randy Clarmunt, fisheries research biologist for the Michigan DNR, who has been studying the area and knows they have spawned there. “Ciscoes (lake herring) are finicky. Their egg deposition there isn’t promising. It’s safe to conclude that they didn’t spawn there in any great numbers, but this is the first year.

“With lake trout we went from less than one egg per square meter (last year) to an average of six per square meter – and as high as 10 per square meter,” Clarmunt said. “If you multiply that by entire surface area (of the reef) we estimate having 10,000 native fish eggs there this first year. We’ll go back in spring and look at the emerging larvae to see if we have a tenfold increase. That would be exciting.”

The reef project was completed in August. It required placing 450 tons of limestone on top of what researchers thought was a degraded natural reef. Stone was piled up to provide protective nooks and crannies for eggs and protective nursery areas for young larval fish. Both were susceptible to predation by rusty crayfish and gobies that are plentiful there, and being swept out of the old reef by strong wave actions. Continue reading

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Grand Rapids Area Gun Clubs Offer Plenty of Winter Fun

By Howard Meyerson

Once winter arrives in West Michigan and fields get blanketed with snow, shooting sports enthusiasts turn to area clubs for fun and camaraderie.  Regardless of their shooting preference, trap, skeet and sporting clays or dressing up like a cowboy for a Wild-West experience, most say winter target shooting is a great way to beat cabin fever.

If you are looking for venues where men and women shoot, places that are group-friendly and don’t require membership, take a look at my latest story on the Experience GR Blog, published for the city of Grand Rapids.  Read more: Grand Rapids Area Gun Clubs Offer Plenty of Winter Fun

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