04-02-2020 Outdoors

It’s officially spring and even though most of us are stuck at home, the flora and fauna are making moves!

Some sights and sounds of spring I and other naturalists have been seeing the past few weeks include ephemeral wildflowers such as skunk cabbage, cut-leaved toothwort, and leaves of trout lily and wood poppy.

Migrating birds are on the move and some of our spring/summer migrants are starting to nest. A pair of fish-eating osprey (a kind of large raptor) arrived to their nest in Buchanan Township this week. American robins and eastern phoebe are nesters that stick close by or even nest on buildings and can be observed even from inside your home in early spring.

Male frogs can be heard calling for a mate in ponds and other wetland areas. Spring peepers, chorus frogs, and if you’re lucky – wood frogs, are the usual culprits right now.

Reptiles have been observed on the warmer days basking in the sunlight. Seventeen painted turtles covered the logs of the pond at my house one day last week. The biggest surprise I happened upon on a backyard walk this week though was a pair of mating garter snakes. I think they were more surprised to see me!

What have you been seeing in your backyard?

The Nature Center building will be closed until further notice. Our trails will remain open during this time.

Fishing

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has temporarily suspended their weekly fishing report. They explained that they usually put out a weekly fishing report to let you know what’s biting and where, but the current global COVID-19 situation means they must share more critical information.

Head out to fish only if you are feeling well. Practice social distancing, at least six feet away from another person. Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water, or use hand sanitizer. If driving to or from your nearby fishing spot, roll the windows down a bit for air flow.

There is nothing like time on the water for stress relief, and we all could use that right now. Just do your part to keep yourself and others safe. Get up-to-date information at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus or CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

The Ellinee Bait & Tackle shop on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma report that there is a lot of fishing activity in our area on local lakes. Anglers are getting some nice catches of crappie as the fish start moving toward shore. Once the water warms, the crappie will start bedding. Quite a few bluegills are being caught too, but farther from shore. Anglers are getting a few coho on the Paw Paw River.

Captain Kenny Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reports quite a few anglers have been out on the pier when the wind and waves co-operate. A few nice coho and steelheads have been caught. Right now, the water is stirred up from the wind and rain the first of the week, but should start clearing and settling down by the weekend.

Coho and steelheads are being caught in most of the local rivers, with the Allegan Dam producing some nice steelheads. The farther south along the Michigan shore, the better the bite. As the water warms on the local inland lakes the bite is improving for crappie and bluegill.

In accordance with Gov. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the governor’s Executive Order 2020-21, the DNR has determined that charter and fishing guide operations that involve boats, canoes and other marine vessels are not currently permitted.

These activities should cease immediately and not resume until at least April 13. In addition, the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division, Michigan State Police and local law enforcement agencies have full authority to enforce the provisions of this order.

Hunting

Otter registration for fur harvesters has been extended at the DNR field offices. With the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order currently in place, fur harvesters are encouraged to stay at home and, once the order is lifted, bring their animals in for registration at that time.

In response to COVID-19 virus, permits for open burning will be suspended across the state. Gov. Whitmer issued the order Monday, aimed at further protecting public health and safety.

“We need to make sure our emergency response resources are available where they are needed at this time,” said Dan Laux, fire supervisor for the DNR Forest Resources Division. “Less open burning means less potential for escaped fires, and that means staff can deal with other, more critical needs.”

Open burning in some parts of the state may still be allowed in areas where the ground is still snow-covered. Burn permits in the southern Lower Peninsula are issued by local fire departments and governmental offices. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, permits are issued through the DNR’s website Michigan.gov/BurnPermit. Residents are encouraged to frequently check the website to see when restrictions are lifted.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) reminds Michiganders to flush ONLY toilet paper to avoid clogging public sewerage systems. Paper products including “flushable” wipes do not break down effectively in the sewer system, which can result in raw sewage backups in basements and expensive plumbing repair bills.

From a community and public health perspective, it is critical that wastewater treatment plants continue to function properly so they can disinfect sewage and avoid untreated discharges. Hypochlorite and other disinfectants that treatment plants use has shown to be effective in addressing COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence to date of transmission of COVID-19 through sewage.

The DNR reduced amenities at state parks, recreation areas and trails. To protect public health, violations of social distancing guidelines may result in misdemeanor fines, penalties.

DNR Director Dan Eichinger said, “No matter how people are choosing to get outdoors, it is critical that everyone follows the social distancing guidelines. If they don’t, we will be forced to close public access to all state-managed lands.”

Closures and reduction in services include:

In order to minimize the chance of people gathering in groups current closures include, but are not limited to, concessions, playgrounds and play equipment, viewing platforms, fishing piers, GaGa ball bits, volleyball and basketball courts, designated dog areas, disc golf courses, radio-controlled flying fields, pump tracks, and picnic tables and shelters.

All bathroom buildings and vault toilets will be closed including those at campgrounds, boating access sites, trailheads at state-designated trails, etc. People are encouraged to plan accordingly to avoid needing a restroom during a visit.

There will be minimal trash service available. Visitors are encouraged to bring trash bags to carry trash home and minimize litter.

No hand washing stations will be provided. Please carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes containing at least 60% alcohol, as well as a trash bag to carry out used wipes.

Follow the DNR’s COVID-19 response webpage for the latest closure information related to events, meetings and facilities, including campgrounds, harbors and other sites.

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