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Wildflower Update

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (2)

      April is the month when things begin happening in our woodland wildflower garden.  Usually the first forbs to send up green leaves are the wild leeks.  The cut-leaved toothworts, spring beauties and Dutchman's breeches usually follow with the Dutchman's breeches developing the first buds which will eventually become flowers.  A few days ago our hepaticas sent up shoots that opened into fully-formed flowers - the first to flower this spring.  Recently the Virginia bluebells, large-flowered trilliums, woodland phlox, celladine poppies, yellow trout lillies, blood root, wild columbine, wild geraniums, Solomon's seals, wild ginger and some of the ferns have been sending-up greenery.  Leaves of the Bishop's Cap, plantain-leaved sedge and the rue anemone remained green through the winter - now brightening up.  

      We were happy to see that the Prairie Moon Nursery seed sown late last year is sprouting throughout the middle and lower tiers.  Won't be long and we should be seeing a number of colorful blooms on mature/established forbs.  Will have to get some photos added to our site soon.  

- Jim Burns

Pileated Woodpecker Update

Posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

      Those interested in our pileated woodpecker visits will be happy to hear that the birds have become regular/established guests at our feeder arrangement!  Not only do we have a mature adult pair visiting on a regular basis, but at least one sub-adult individual has taken advantage of the suet snacks.  In addition to visiting the suet cage on the top of our main upright support beam, they have included the nearby hanging log feeder in their landings.  They seem to be hanging around in our nearby woodlot working over a lot of the snags.  Hopefully they are considering nesting nearby?!  Time will tell.  

- Jim Burns

Michigan Wolf Management

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (4)

      As many of you know, Michigan held its first wolf hunt in late 2013.  Although less wolves were harvested than what the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) had hoped for, they deemed the hunt a "success" due to the fact that the culling operation went smoothly and a number of problem wolves in key areas were removed resulting in a reduction of wolf/human conflicts coming from those particular areas.  

      I was disappointed that traps were not allowed to be used which I believe would have given the State the harvest number they wanted.  Hunting a wary predator in a densely forested region of the State during challenging weather conditions no doubt posed a major challenge for sport hunters - most of whom had never hunted wolves before.  I was glad to hear that the State is now considering trapping as a possible additional management tool.  The Great Lakes States of Minnesota and Wisconsin have successfully employed trapping in reducing wolf numbers -accounting for more than half of the wolves tagged.  

      Michigan's Department of Natural Resources along with the Natural Resources Commission (NRC), the governing body in charge of game laws, are wanting to retain citizen sportsmen-conducted wolf culls as a viable management plan in the future.  A organization called "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected," a front group funded and staffed by the nation's largest animal rights organization - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has a referendum drive underway to repeal Public Act 21 of 2013 which authorized the NRC to name game species and issue fisheries orders using sound science and provided free licenses to military members.  Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP) wants all wolf harvest plans removed from the table with game animal status determined by popular vote.    

      To counter this anti-hunting effort, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM) was called into action with a petition drive of its own known as the "Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act to protect Michigan's outdoor heritage."  CPWM hopes to obtain approximately 258,000 valid signatures by the end of May to place a citizen-initiated law before the State legislature retaining the NRC as the sole determiner of game animal status.  With a largely pro-hunting legislature currently in place, CPWM officials are hopeful that the legislature will pass the measure without amendment - preventing it from going to ballot at the next general election.  The Act, if passed, will protect hunting rights by making sure that game decisions are made with sound science, provide free hunting and fishing licenses to active military members, and fight Asian carp by establishing an aquatic invasive species emergency response fund.  

      Here are some frequently asked questions on the above act with replies by CPWM staff:  


  • Q:  How does this initiative protect hunting rights?  A:  By making decisions about fish and game species based on sound science, rather than emotion, biologists can structure seasons and limits that are good for fish and wildlife.  Hunters, anglers and trappers don't want to take more fish or game than are supported by sound science.  If this initiative passes, anti-hunters won't be able to arbitrarily block hunting that is supported by sound science.
  • Q:  The Natural Resources Commissioners aren't all biologists, so how can they make scientific decisions?  A:  The NRC takes testimony from MDNR biologists, independent biologists and experts, and public input.  They also review scientific data, biological studies, and MDNR reports, memos and recommendations from MDNR biologists.  Just as a jury has a duty to consider the evidence presented to it at trial, the NRC has a duty to use principles of sound scientific fish and wildlife management when issuing fish and game orders, including designating game species.  While the NRC is appointed by the Governor, they are statutorily required to be bipartisan.  
  • Q:  What does the appropriation do?  Will it block the anti-hunters from a third referendum?  A:  It will have that effect, but its purpose is to support the NRC's authority to issue fisheries orders using sound science.  Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species represent a significant threat to Michigan's fisheries.  Once aquatic invasive species establish a reproducing population in Michigan waters, they are extremely difficult to eradicate.  The appropriation creates a work fund that the MDNR can use for rapid response to aquatic invasive species like Asian carp so that they can protect Michigan's fisheries.  
  • Q:  Isn't this just about hunting wolves?  A:  No.  While the anti-hunters attack on the wolf hunt alerted us to the need to make fish and game management decisions scientifically, this initiative is about fundamentally how we manage fish and wildlife species in Michigan.  If the anti-hunters win, fish and wildlife decisions will be determined by who can spend the most money on television commercials.  This initiative will ensure that fish and game decisions are made based on biology.  In fact, this initiative will not guarantee a wolf hunt; it will only guarantee that the decision about whether or not to have another wolf hunt is based on scientific data and the recommendations of professional biologists.  That's how wildlife management decisions should be made.  
  • Q:  Why does this bill contain free licenses for active military members?  Don't they already get them?   A:  Because they deserve it, and yes, they'll be able to receive free hunting, fishing and trapping licenses beginning in March 2014 under current law.  The anti-hunters are trying to repeal that law, though, SB 288, which also contained the NRC authorities to name game species and fisheries orders.  By including it in this initiative we protect free licenses for active military members from the anti-hunters' referendum.  
      I wish the Scientific Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act was limited strictly to the game animal issue in regards to gray wolf management, but as usual, other items often get tacked on to petitions for various political reasons.  Fortunately in this case, I believe that I can live with the other two added initiatives although I question how effective an emergency response fund would be in enabling the MDNR to take on a full scale silver and bighead carp invasion on the Great Lakes?!  I made a decision to support CPWM last month by becoming an official petition circulator and signature gatherer as I am determined to see the HSUS and its front group KMWP defeated in its efforts.  I strongly believe that our MDNR and NRC should have the ability to establish hunting and/or trapping seasons for gray wolves just as they currently do for other Michigan predators including black bears, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, fishers, martens, badgers, mink, weasels, skunks, raccoons, opossums and otters.  Under the North American wildlife management model no designated game species has ever been reduced to dangerous population levels due to sport hunting/fishing and fur trapping activities.  In fact, these species have thrived under game status due to a heightened economic incentive to conserve these creatures.  
      I highly recommend that all hunters, fishermen, fur trappers, conservationists and anyone wanting to see a healthy gray wolf population in Michigan's Upper Peninsula contact me as soon as possible to sign the petition.  Petition signers must be registered Michigan voters.  Let's allow our NRC to determine game animal status and harvest quotas so that we can hear the awesome howl of Canis lupus far into Michigan's future!
- Jim Burns


Brutal winter/land restoration

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (1)

    This has been a brutal Michigan winter so far.  We've been long overdue for one.  The reality of the weather should suppress the efforts of local global warming alarmists!  :) The deer are sticking to defined, beaten-down trails in sheltered areas.  See a lot of them on the roads, where they can freely move about expending less energy, at night while I am driving.  

    Had finished a bunch of work on our native woodland wildflower "Tree Island Garden" just before the cold and snowy weather hit in December of 2013.  Removed nuisance poison ivy and Virginia creeper vines along with a number of exotic/invasive species earlier in the fall.  Into the middle tier of bare soil, via a purchase from Minnesota's Prairie Moon Nursery, went a shady woodland forb/grass seed mix of wild leek, columbine, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, poke milkweed, Drummond's aster, arrow-leaved aster, Short's aster, harry wood mint, tall bellflower, pointed-leaved tick trefoil, wild geranium, goldenseal, great waterleaf, bishop's cap, sweet cicely, Jacob's ladder, Soloman's seal, woodland knotweed, lion's foot, hairy mountain mint, Soloman's plume, elm-leaved goldenrod, early meadow rue, hairy wood chess, gray sedge, slender wood sedge, common bur sedge, beak grass, silky wild rye, Virginia wild rye and bottlebrush grass.  Around the west and northwest perimeter of the garden I added some rose milkweed.  Put down an inch to two-inch layer of shredded white pine needles as a protective mulch once the seeding was done.  A big thanks to my close friend "Practical (Ryan) Parnaby" for the use of his motorized shredder for this endeavor!

    This spring a dozen bareroot stock Virginia bluebells, a dozen bareroot stock goldenseals and a dozen bareroot stock shooting stars, all rare/protected species in Michigan, will be arriving complements of Prairie Moon Nursery.  I will plant these in bare areas in our top tier of the three-tier Tree Island Garden.  Will be nice to see some mature plants possibly flower in their first year.  If not, the second year for sure.  Will have to be patient with the seed as it may take three to five years before mature/flowering plants are visible!

    On my personal "want list" for future woodland plantings are more hepaticas and baneberries (both red and white), and bunch berries, twinleafs, oak ferns, ostrich ferns, cinnamon ferns, marginal wood ferns, bulblet ferns and maidenhair ferns for the first time.  

    Although wildflower gardening is a lot of work, it is fun and rewarding to see the fruits of one's efforts once the forbs show their beautiful blooms.  Man's first assignment from God was to be a tiller and keeper of the garden (Genesis 2:15).  There is something special about working the soil.  An array of native species provides the benefits of biodiversity in a landscape that is quickly becoming overrun with exotic and invasive species.  Our family hopes to continue land restoration efforts in other sectors of our property on a yearly basis until most of the workable estate is covered with well-established native grass, fern, forb, shrub and tree species.  We look forward to sharing our progress with you.

- Jim Burns

Pileated Woodpeckers Arrive!

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

*Note:  This particular Blog category covering outdoor happenings on the Burns Family property has been named "Wildlife Way Journal" in recognition of the name given to our driveway leading to our 6-acre upland property.  

    After seven years of feeding birds on the Burns property we finally were rewarded with the visit of a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on our top suet feeder!  

    At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 18th of 2014, Amy was in the kitchen looking out the window when the large bird swooped down to perch on the main vertical post holding a square suet cage.  The woodpecker proceeded to pick away at the suet, a ten ounce Scotts Morning Song Year-Round cake containing rendered beef suet, black oil sunflower and white millet, remaining in place long enough for Amy to take a digital photo (see image on our Home page) with her Sony Cyber-Shot.  Upon capturing the image, Amy excitedly announced the sighting to the rest of the family.  Although we all arrived at the viewing window too late to see the bird, we enjoyed viewing the exciting screen images of our new visitor.  I noticed right away that the individual was a male bird because of the distinctive red 'mustache' below the bill.  The female pileated doesn't sport this feature.    

    For years I was envious of a Gull Lake area client of mine who had a pair of pileateds regularly visiting his feeder arrangement.  Being amused at my interest in the pair, he announced:  "You can have mine - they're hogs at the feeder and scare other birds away."  On subsequent mornings since the first sighting I am beginning to see what the client was referencing in his comments to me.  The male bird returned to our feeder, but this time his mate was in tow.  Together the pair took turns winging past the feeder flashing their huge, gaudy black-and-white wings.  In doing so they easily scared all the other birds, including the aggressive blue jays and northern flickers, off the feeder.  With the feeder cleared they set about helping themselves to the suet cake.  Over a three day period of this they had the ten ounce cake reduced to half its original size.  They even managed to pry open the suet cage dislodging the remaining suet on to the ground!  Interestingly, they haven't visited the nearby hanging log feeder with suet logs in the holes yet.  

    Enter Natika, our Siberian husky, into the mix.  I must admit that she has been both a bane and a blessing in the four years that we have had her. Bane in that she regularly flushes birds off the feeder that we want to view.  Blessing in that she has reduced the rabbit, woodchuck and deer visits to our yard - resulting in a successful vegetable and native wildflower garden.  With the pileateds being wary of humans and their pets, Natika has been able to limit the pair's feeder visits to the early morning hours.  I've since re-loaded the suet cage and zip-tied the door shut to prevent a repeat of the last incident!

    Pigs at the feeder they may be, but I still embrace the presence of our new feeder friends.  Pileated woodpeckers with their regal look rank at the top of my "personal favorites" list.  They remind me of the majestic, now believed to be extinct, ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) which they most likely are genetically related to.  Hopefully continuing biological research will shed light on what mechanism was responsible for the rapid diversification of wildlife family groups into the various genus clumps and species that we observe today.  

    The arrival of the pileated woodpecker brings our grand total bird count to 38 species on our feeder arrangement!

- Jim Burns



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