Natural Resource Spring Newsletter 2016 #2

Introduction

Spring has definitely sprung and so has the Garlic Mustard. So far this season we have pulled over 56 bags, and with each bag weighing in at approximately 38 lbs., that means we have removed over 2100 lbs. of garlic mustard from the Metroparks with the help of volunteers. This does not include the acres that the Natural Areas Crew has chemically controlled. While this is great we have one more month left to get this aggressive invasive out of our natural communities so we need to keep up the momentum. We still have several opportunities for you to Get Out and Help in YOUR Metroparks in the month of June. You can join us at Kensington or Stony Creek, see dates and times below or on our website.

Workdays

Kensington – Garlic Mustard
  • Group Camp
    • June 14 10a-1p
    • June 18 10a-1p
Stony Creek – Garlic Mustard
  • Nature Center Parking Area
    • June 16 10:00am – 1:00pm
Hudson Mills – Invasive Shrub Removal
  • Activity Center Parking Area
    • July 12 10:00am – 1:00pm
Willow – Invasive Shrubs
  • Big Bend Picnic Parking Area
    • July 21 10:00am – 1:00pm
Kensington – Invasive Shrubs
  • Spring Hill Parking Area
    • July 16 10:00am – 1:00pm
Lower Huron – Invasive Shrubs
  • Bobwhite Trail Parking Area
    • July 30 10:00am – 1:00pm

Building Wildlife Habitat In Huron-Clinton Metroparks

Habitat loss is the leading cause of decline for species diversity and populations. Huron-Clinton Metroparks has implemented several habitat projects beyond vegetative community restoration.

One of the most popular projects among photographers are the Osprey nesting platforms. Osprey are a unique raptor due to their ability to dive into water to catch live fish. We have aided in their return by erecting nesting platforms within Stony Creek and Kensington Metroparks. In Kensington, a breeding pair returns annually to the platform built in a flooded area adjacent to the Huron River. This site is located between Buno road and the Milford Road toll booth. At Stony Creek Metropark a nest can be seen over the water, where Osprey Trail runs parallel to the lake. Mating pairs will return to their nesting site year after year, adding more nesting material. Some nests have even been recorded to be over 10 feet deep and over 5 feet in diameter. While the Osprey’s diet is primarily fish, the Bald Eagle prefers fish but will also eat small rodents.

Bald Eagles can also be found at several parks, and like Osprey, Bald Eagles prefer to nest near water. Bald Eagles are known for stealing an Ospreys catch. Founding father Benjamin Franklin said they would make a poor emblem for the United States, saying “He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his living honestly”. To see these species interact watch the video at the following link, here. While we are not building nesting platforms for them we do enforce the distance buffer for activity of 330-660 feet during the breeding season, depending on nest location and activity. We also monitor the Eagles for health and reproduction. We currently have breeding pairs in Lake Erie, Kensington, Stony Creek, Oakwoods and Hudson Mills Metroparks, but these two raptors aren’t the only wildlife that have been helped through the direct efforts by the Metroparks.

One of the most amusing sights is that of the Great Horned Owl nesting in a metal tub at Lake St. Clair. The metal tub was placed years ago, for unknown reasons, high up in a tree at Lake St. Clair Metropark. Great Horned Owls don’t build their own nests, rather they adopt one that was previously built by another animal. While nests are not typically used more than once, due to its sustainability the metal tub has been used year after year for raising owlets.

Blue Bird boxes have also been placed in various locations throughout the parks. In the early twentieth century Eastern Bluebird populations fell because of the introduction of aggressive House Sparrows and European Starlings as well as logging practices. Sparrows and Starlings were using the natural nesting holes that Bluebirds frequented, and old native trees with nesting cavities were removed from the landscape. Several campaigns started in the 60’s and 70’s to build Bluebird boxes, which had entrances that were too small for the larger Starling to use and nesting site competition. The Metroparks utilizes volunteers for maintenance and upkeep of the over a hundred boxes throughout the 13 parks.

The Metroparks have also taken steps to promote reptile and amphibian habitat. In Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie we have constructed turtle basking areas, snake hibernacula, and mudpuppy habitats. Turtle basking areas were made by removing the vegetation from a flat expanse on the edge of a wetland, and then covering it with sand or mulch. These basking zones are easier to access than a steep shoreline covered in vegetation.

A snake hibernaculum is an area with small crevices that are below the frost line yet above the water table, these spaces are where snakes over winter. A hibernaculum can be used by just one snake, or several hundred as well as different species. The snake hibernacula was created by digging a hole, dropping in large boulders, covering them with logs, laying down landscaping cloth, then backfilling. This allows the snakes to overwinter in a relatively warm area safe from most larger predators such as raccoons.

Mudpuppies are unique species of salamander. They are strictly aquatic, have visible external gills, and are the only salamander known for making noise (it is a squeaky sound that some say resembles a dog’s bark, hence the name). They live on the bottom of lakes and ponds and come out at night to hunt for prey. During the day they hide themselves among bottom vegetation and under rocks, logs or other submerged debris. Mudpuppies are considered an indicator species of an environmental problems due to their sensitivity to pollutants and poor water quality. To create mudpuppy habitat large chucks of broken concrete was submerged just off the coastline in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie Metroparks.

We are adding to our wildlife habitat creation repertoire this year as well. As part of a grant we will be excavating shallow channels and small ponds in the emergent Black Creek Marsh at Lake St. Clair to create fish spawning habitat. Sampling will be performed both before and after restoration to document the difference in species use and abundance. Some of the species that we are hoping to aid are Sunfish, bowfin, largemouth bass, and northern pike. We are hoping that these efforts will increase both diversity and abundance of fish in this coastal zone of Lake St. Clair.

And, as always, we continue to restore native communities within the Metroparks that Michigan wildlife rely on. By removing invasive species from the parks, and encouraging native species to take their place, we are creating food sources and habitat for a large diversity of wildlife. For example, by managing the Phragmities stands at Lake. St. Clair we have seen the return of many shore and marsh birds such as Sora’s and a variety of rail species. By managing open grassland ecosystems we encourage the grassland bird, butterfly and dragonfly species. By repairing our wetlands and adjacent uplands we support the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. We hope that through both our direct and indirect efforts we will promote the establishment of diverse and re-silent populations and wildlife throughout the Metroparks.

Spotlight Invasive: Dames Rocket

While it is Garlic mustard season right now, and we are going after it hard, let’s not forget its family member, Dame’s rocket. Along roadsides and in backyards these tall purple/white flowers are in full bloom, while beautiful this species are aggressive and invasive. A European native, it was introduced in wildflower seed mixes. Dame’s rocket is a showy biennial or short lived perennial that that prefers full sun but can tolerate light shade. It grows along roadsides, ditches, woodlands, wetlands, open fields, and flower beds. One plant is capable of producing up to 20,000 seeds. Dame’s rocket can be easily distinguished from its native doppelganger, wild phlox, by counting the petals. Native wild phlox has five petals while Dame’s rocket only has four. The best control method for this invasive is to hand pull it and bag or burn the plants to keep the seed pods from continuing to develop. Chemical control can also work in either early spring or in late fall on the first year rosettes. To learn more about Dame’s rocket, and other Michigan Invasives, visit the MISIN website by clicking here.

Quote

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .”
― Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water
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