All Along the Watchtower

A Tuesday fave. This modern rendition of Bob Dylan’s song, which was elevated by the late Jimi Hendrix, remains as important today. A global video by Playing for Change that reminds us we need to come together. Enjoy. –HM

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Trump moves to weaken Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Dark-eyed Juncos are among the common bird species that are disappearing.
Photo by Bill Thompson, USFWS.

Many North American bird populations are declining at an alarming rate. The findings of an international team of researchers, written by lead author Ken Rosenberg, a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy, showed that 29%, about 3 billion birds, have vanished from North America and Canada during the last 50 years. Those findings were released in a report last year and published in the journal Science in September 2019. To learn about the findings, visit

Currently, the Trump administration is attempting to relax provisions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to protect industries that unintentionally kill birds. The following story by Kurt Repanshek, with National Parks Traveler, presents updates on that issue. –HM


By Kurt Repanshek

Despite the loss of billions of birds over the past five decades, and the economic benefits of sustained migratory species, the Trump administration is moving forward with plans to weaken the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by allowing unintentional killings of birds.

The posting of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final environmental impact statement on the changes to the act come, ironically, despite a federal judge ruling this past summer that the revisions produced by the Interior Department are “contrary to the plain meaning of the MBTA and therefore must be vacated.”

While public comment on the EIS runs through December 28, the changes are opposed by a bipartisan collection of politicians in Congress, 25 states, and various conservation groups.

“President Trump may have pardoned a turkey this week, but he’s in a frenzy to finalize his bird-killer policy before the end of the year,” David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society, said Friday. “The administration lost in court and is sidestepping that ruling with a rushed, corrupt process designed to keep the next administration from saving the lives of millions of birds. Reinstating this 100-year-old bedrock law must be a top conservation priority for the Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress.”

To read the entire story see:

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Bear Trouble?

NOTE: It’s that time of year again and black bears are on the move in Michigan. Here are tips from Michigan DNR about preventing nuisance bear encounters in the fall. HM

Black Bear raiding a bird feeder. Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR.

Even though the weather has gotten cooler, black bears are still active throughout the fall as they prepare for hibernation and search for foods rich in calories to build up their fat reserves.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources advises northern Michigan residents to be aware of this autumn bear activity and take steps to avoid conflicts with bears.

In Michigan, bears typically enter their dens for hibernation by December, but timing can vary depending on food availability.

“When food sources are plentiful, bears can double their body weight in the fall to prepare for the time they will spend in the den,” said Rachel Leightner, DNR wildlife outreach coordinator. “Bears have an excellent sense of smell and will follow their nose in search of food. This may cause bears to move into new areas or return to areas where they have successfully gotten a meal in the past.”

Natural foods such as nuts and acorns from oak, hickory, and hazelnut trees are rich in calories and help to build fat reserves. Bird feeders also make an especially appealing and accessible food source as bird feed is high in calories. Bears also may be attracted to grills with food debris or unsecured trash. 

Tips to help keeps bears at a distance:

Remove bird feeders until the winter months when bears are in their dens.

Make sure to clean grills after use or store them in a secure building.

Store trash cans in a secure building and put them out the morning of trash collection service.

Check out this video with more tips on avoiding conflicts with bears.

Other information about preventing conflicts with bears at

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Hoping for the best

Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

It has now been two years since the National Park Service (NPS) began restoring the wolf population at Isle Royale National Park, with four arriving from Minnesota in the fall of 2018, followed by 15 more from Canada and the Michigan mainland in 2019. The wolves have since made themselves at home on the remote and rugged island park in Lake Superior and are preparing for the upcoming winter.

“What we have seen is wolves trying to pair up and establish territories, and those are the types of things we expected and hoped to happen,” said Mark C. Romanski, project coordinator for the wolf-reintroduction project at Isle Royale National Park and also the park’s natural resources program manager. Speaking in June, he said, “What we’re hoping now is that we’ll have reproduction and have wolf pups this summer, (but due to the coronavirus pandemic) we haven’t even been to the island yet.”

This story was published in the fall issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine. To read the entire story see

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Fishing for Trouble

Photography by Istock/Doug4537

By Howard Meyerson

It was one of those hot and muggy summer days on the Kalamazoo River and I had just finished securing my canoe on top of the car after a paddle, when I noticed the three young anglers parked next to me. All had come in the same truck and none were wearing masks. They were rigging their fishing rods, getting ready to walk down to the river.

I watched with mild consternation as two of them crossed the parking lot headed for the riverbank. Somewhat conflicted, I decided to say something and turned to the third, a nice 20-something area resident and said: “Do you know you can’t eat the fish in these waters? The sign down there by the boat ramp says they are contaminated.”

He looked up at me with surprise in his eyes and calmly said, “No. This is our first time here.”

“Check it out for yourself,” I responded pointing to the sign I had noticed earlier when three of us (all over 60) had launched solo canoes, each having driven our own cars to try to maintain social distance, masks in our pockets should we need them.

I was reminded of the ways of my youth — impulsive, spontaneous and sometimes unaware. Today, I don’t think of eating fresh-caught fish without knowing whether they are safe, meaning uncontaminated. When in doubt I check the online advice and warnings that are provided by Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Service’s fish consumption advisory program.

We don’t hear much about the fish consumption advisory program these days, but there is a wealth of information there about safe fish to eat, what lakes or rivers are contaminated, how many portions are safe to consume of various species and which not to eat at all, particularly if you are pregnant or young and plan to have kids soon, or have diabetes or cancer. It also describes how to prepare and cook fish to reduce contamination levels if those levels are low enough to allow limited consumption.

The information is found at where you can find answers to questions about what is safe, or not. Click “Find your Area” for specifics about various waters and the fish that are caught in them. There are also general statewide guidelines for waters that do not appear on the list organized by county, and what to consider with regard to mercury and other chemicals.

Many have heard about the contamination problems on the Kalamazoo River after
the Enbridge oil spill, but the problems there predate that incident. PCBs or Dioxin are the concern and most of the river has Do Not Eat warnings for popular species. Many other popular waters around the state have their problems, too. There are good health reasons to add fresh fish to your diet, and fishing is fun, but choosing wisely which fish you eat means fewer toxic chemicals get consumed and accumulate to cause later health problems.

I don’t know what the three young anglers decided to do, but as I drove out of the parking lot, I did notice them all standing around the sign reading it. That, I figured, was a pretty good start.

This column was published in the fall 2020 issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine. See:

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Early Start on a New Year

Things have been quiet here for the last few months. It’s been a busy and creative period, having accepted a new position as managing editor of Michigan BLUE. This is the 10th year for BLUE, a statewide lifestyle magazine with an emphasis on water and waterfront living. Take a look if you haven’t seen it. The winter issue is out on the racks at bookstores all over the state. Enjoy!


Third coast boat builders:  Upper Peninsula boat building school grows.


Earth-friendly approach: Making organic wines, ciders and beers.

Source: BLUE Home

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Ahh Yeaah! Shopping on Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas all. Hope you enjoy this little groove from one of my favorite musicans.

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Invasive Asian carp less than 50 miles from Lake Michigan

Great Lake states and the federal government continue to devote money and brainpower to stopping a potential Great Lakes ecological disaster

Source: Invasive Asian carp less than 50 miles from Lake Michigan

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Nothing beats fall for paddling

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Invasive Plants and Birds: Research Shows Native Plants Are Better for Nutrition


When given a choice, the Swainson’s Thrush and other migrating bird species will pick native plants to feed on over non-native plants. Photo: Josh Haas.

By Howard Meyerson

Kay Charter isn’t shy about letting people know that native plants are preferred when it comes to providing nutrition for birds. She and her husband, Jim, restored 30 acres of prairie on their 44-acre Omena bird preserve, Charter Sanctuary. The couple created it to provide a landscape where bird conservation was a top priority.

“The most important thing is removing non-native plants,” notes Charter, executive director for Saving Birds Thru Habitat, a conservation and education nonprofit that promotes protecting, enhancing and restoring habitat for birds. “You don’t have to buy a bunch of plants. We did that here, though, spent thousands of [grant] dollars on native plants—and converted 30 acres to prairie by planting native grass and forbs [flowering plants] . . . and planted shrubs like elderberry and service berry around a wetland, and other trees and shrubs.”

Native plant species have larger insect populations, Charter said. Insects are crucial because they provide the protein young birds need to grow. Charter recognized that fact some years ago, and she ardently promotes Dr. Doug Tallamy’s work. Continue reading

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