The winter finches have arrived and remind us it’s time to start restocking the birdseed supply (which we sell curbside at Sarett) for the hungry migrants, as this could be a good year for winter irruptions, or large amounts of more northerly birds coming south for the winter. For almost fifty years, Ron Pittaway, a biologist in Canada, has provided us with the Winter Finch Forecast, a prediction of the movements of enigmatic birds like the evening grosbeak and crossbills. These birds and other winter finches rely on cone and berry crops in the boreal forest, and if those crops don’t produce a lot they will irrupt south. Pittaway came to these conclusions after collecting surveys from his volunteers, who rate the seed crops of trees like pines, spruces, and hemlocks across Canada. He compiles all the data to generate a seed map before releasing his predictions. He retired this year, but we welcome the continuation of the Winter Finch Forecast from his collaborator Tyler Hoar. This year may be a good flight year for several species due to poor to fair areas of cone crops which means we should be on the lookout for birds like pine siskins, purple finches, redpolls, and maybe even red crossbills. This week at the bird feeders at Sarett we welcomed red-breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, white-throated and white-crowned sparrows, and purple finches. To view the Winter Finch Forecast online, visit www.finchnetwork.org.
Fishing The past week has been very windy, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported, which has limited many anglers’ opportunities to get out and fish. This has resulted in limited reports on fishing for this week. Captain Kenny Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reported many charter captains are getting their boats out of the water and ready for winter. The few anglers that did make it out onto Lake Michigan found lake trout in depths of 120 to 170 on the bottom. Most were taken with laker-takers. There were no reports of perch fishing and none was being done off the South Haven piers. The Black River has been quiet, but at the Allegan Dam on the Kalamazoo River they have been catching steelheads and a few kings and coho. Ellinee Bait & Tackle located on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma noted, those going to smaller inland lakes last week caught a few panfish that were feeding, getting ready for winter. The Paw Paw River has still had activity in Watervliet at the old paper mill site, catching a few salmon. The bait shop reported that they talked to one of their out-of-state suppliers about the difficulty of getting hooks and other needs. They asked if it was because most were made in China and COVID-19 was interfering with the deliveries. The supplier said they had a few issues, but the hooks are actually made in the USA. The problem was getting them from the main plant to another for the lines to be tied on and then going onto a third location to be packaged and shipped. He noted that most of that had been smoothed out now. He added that an additional factor was so many people have either started fishing or come back to it and demands climbed during the first part of the COVID-19 shut down. St. Joseph anglers were being kept off the water by the strong winds. Pier anglers have not been having much luck and fishing has been slow on the St. Joseph River. On the Grand River near Grand Rapids, coho, steelhead and Chinook numbers have been decreasing. Anglers are mainly using spawn, spinners, thunder sticks and wet flies. Some anglers were catching panfish using red worms and crickets. There were some reports of crappie being caught on minnows and red worms. Although many folks have hunting on the brain, there are some anglers who are enjoying a few more trips to the streams right now to find steelhead. Those having success are probably following a few basic tips: Target lesser-known streams that may have been stocked by the DNR in the past few years. Don’t fish on the weekends – when everyone else is – and instead, focus on midweek if you can. Tough out the weather, some of the best fishing occurs when the weather is the worst. Focus on going in the early morning or at night. Check out the steelhead page on the DNR’s website and the Trout Trails for lesser-known locations for steelhead.
Hunting As more hunting seasons open up, it’s a good time to brush up on safety. Hunters using a tree stand or an elevated platform during their hunt should keep these tips in mind: Wear a full body harness that is properly attached above the head; always maintain three points of contact when climbing up to or down from the stand; ensure the tree stand is securely attached and stable before using it. No matter how anyone chooses to hunt, they need to make safety their top priority. The Michigan DNR teaches tree stand safety, safe firearm handling, first aid and other important skills as part of their hunter education program. Read more hunting safety tips or earn an online hunter safety certificate at Michigan.gov/HunterEducation. Contact Lt. Tom Wanless at 517-284-6026 with any questions. Deer check station locations and hours and days of operation will be reduced in 2020 to prevent unnecessary risk to hunters and DNR staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. CWD testing will continue free of charge for all deer harvested in southern Jackson, southern Isabella and western Gratiot counties, and from the core CWD surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula (portions of Dickinson, Menominee and Delta counties) from now until January 4. In addition, deer heads from counties where CWD has been detected (Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm) will be accepted for testing at no charge November 15-18. Information about CWD testing and deer check station safety procedures can be found at Michigan.gov/CWD.