While watching the birds and squirrels eat on our seed logs, the naturalists observed a visitor that brings new meaning to the word “birdfeeder.” A Sharp-shinned Hawk had swooped in hoping to grab a snack of a tasty Tufted Titmouse or a Black-capped Chickadee. The gray squirrel, too large to become a meal, chased the intruder away. Many people will see this species or Cooper’s Hawks their slightly larger cousin hanging around their bird-feeding stations this winter. If you only get a quick glance, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two Accipiter species (hawks that feed primarily on birds). Train yourself to look for these signs. The Sharp-shinned is smaller (about the size of that squirrel), has stick-like legs and its tail has a square tip with a narrow white band. The Cooper’s Hawk is larger, has stout legs, and its tail is longer and rounded with a wide white band.
The nature center building will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, but the trails will remain open. Participate in a scavenger hunt for the whole family during business hours until Jan. 5 on the nature center trails. Sign up for cross-country ski beginner lessons for adults on Saturday, Jan. 11, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Enjoy the winter with cross-country skiing. Adult fee is $10 for two-hour lesson and $5 for equipment rental. Please call 269-927-4832 to register.
Mother Nature cannot make up her mind if it is going to be winter or late fall, with constant changing weather patterns. Fishing action is light as most anglers are waiting for ice, have put up their boats for winter or the weather keeps them at bay.
Ellinee Bait & Tackle on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reported a few anglers doing some shore fishing and catching panfish for their efforts. There has been a little ice in the Van Auken channels that was fishable and Lake of the Woods had some fishable ice also local farm ponds. Just remember to be extra careful as the weather has been odd enough lately to make going on the first ice dangerous.
Catch-and-keep bass season closed on January 1, but the catch-and-release bass season is still open.
Eager for the chance to catch one of Michigan’s most unique fish? The wait will soon be over. The lake sturgeon season on Black Lake, in Cheboygan County, begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 1, so make sure your license and registration are in order. Registration is required to participate in this season.
The total 2020 season allocation on Black Lake is seven lake sturgeons to be taken. However, to reduce the risk of exceeding this limit, officials will close the season when one of two scenarios occurs: the sixth fish is harvested or five fish have been harvested at the end of any fishing day.
Daily season fishing hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The season will either end at 2 p.m. Wednesday, February 5 or when one of the above scenarios is met, at which point the DNR personnel on the ice will immediately notify anglers to stop fishing for lake sturgeon.
Anglers are highly encouraged to take part in the early registration on Friday, Jan. 31 but those unable to do so may register the next day. Morning registration begins at 7 a.m. each day of the season. If you have questions, contact Tim Cwalinski at 989-732-3541, ext. 5072.
High water levels force continued dredging at Grand Traverse Harbor in Keweenaw County. Copper mine tailings, (stamp sands), over the past 100 years have been moved by wind and waves south down the shoreline for roughly five miles. The sand is inundating natural sand beach areas and threatening to cover spawning habitat and recruitment areas important to Lake Superior whitefish and lake trout in and around Buffalo Reef.
Over the summertime, workers cleared the harbor of the dark-colored stamp sands, but late season fall storms – coupled with high water levels on Lake Superior – have worked in concert to again choke the waterway.
The dredging efforts are part of a wider strategy to address the issue. In addition to the dredging, crews have worked to move the stamp sand pile at the original deposit site back from the shoreline at Gay. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/BuffaloReef.
Hunters flocked to public lands in southern Michigan this fall in pursuit of pheasant hunting opportunities made possible by the Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative. The Michigan Legislature appropriated $260,000 from the General Fund for a pheasant release program during fall 2019 and 2020.
In partnership with the Michigan Association of Game Breeders, rooster pheasants were released weekly throughout the October and December hunting seasons on 11 state game areas across southeast and southwest Michigan. In addition to the releases, “Learn To Hunt” events were held at Allegan and Shiawassee River state game areas. Geared toward hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation, also known as R3, these events provided more than 80 participants, a memorable day of mentorship and pheasant hunting.
The Michigan Coastal Management Program (MCMP) in the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is awarding $700,865 in grant funds to coastal partners for 13 grant projects and statewide initiatives.
Projects include community planning to address coastal hazards and high Great Lakes water levels, providing public access to coastal waters, supporting marinas and coastal communities in water quality and environmental protection efforts, and restoration of natural habitat using nature-based solutions.
For further details on specific award amounts and individual project descriptions, please view the 2020 Coastal Grants Factsheet on the MCMP website, Michigan.gov/Management.
Learn about food plots, ice fishing, wild mushrooms and more at 2020 Outdoor Skills Academy. The DNR Outdoor Skills Academy 2020 class schedule currently is filled with more than a dozen opportunities to do all this and much more, starting with the Hard Water School (Ice Fishing) January 25-26 at Mitchell State Park in Cadillac. Additional classes will be added as details are finalized.
Learn more about the academy and full class schedule at Michigan.gov/Outdoor Skills. Or contact Ed Shaw at 231-779-1321.
For many people who love spending time in Michigan state parks, serving as a campground host just might be the perfect gig. Right now, the DNR is accepting applications for campground hosts at many locations across the state.
Volunteer campground hosts enjoy waived camping fees, in exchange for 30 hours of service per week, handling things like: Helping people find their campsites; planning campground activities; performing light maintenance duties.
Anyone seeking more information about this program is encouraged to contact Michelle Coss at 517-881-5884.