Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter events 2010-11

Days are shorter and nights are colder but there are still plenty of things to do around Kalamazoo in Winter.

Winter Events in West Michigan
November 29, 2010 Marshall's 46th Annual Christmas Parade 7:00 PM Marshall

December 3, 2010 Sinterklaas Eve Procession 7:00 PM Holland

December 4, 2010 Jingle Bell Parade 6:00 PM Grand Haven

Dec 4, 2010 Snowshoe Making Class 10 am to 5 pm Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center Kalamazoo

January 7-8, 2011 Downtown Holland Ice Sculpting Competition Holland

January 8-9, 2011 M.U.S.H. Dog sled races, Fort Custer State Park

January 15 Schrier Park Winter Sports Fest Portage 12 noon -3:30 Portage [Update: The printed Winter Recreation brochure confirms the date: pdf.]

Jan 22, 2011 Fly Tying 101 1 pm to 2:30 pm Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center Kalamazoo

January 25-29, 2011 Muskegon Snowfest Muskegon

January 29th, 2011 Winterfest Grand Haven

February 4-6 2011 Ice Breaker South Haven

February 12, 2011 Winter Festival (pdf) Alamo Township Park Alamo

Feb. 18-21 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count

Feb 19-20, 2011 Free fishing weekend throughout Michigan

Feb 26, 2011 Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Fest Grand Rapids

February 27 Polar Bear Paddle Paw Paw River

Longer-running events

late November-December International Festival of Lights Battle Creek

Late November through mid-December weekends Holiday Kerstmarkt Holland

November-December (various dates) Christmas Bird Count throughout Michigan

See also:
Pure Michigan Connect's November-December Events and their Events in January and February

CommunityLink Winter in Kalamazoo

Event listings from Discover Kalamazoo

Calendar of West Michigan Races & Running Workshops from Gazelle Sports

Outdoor Athlete maintains a list of winter running, ski, and snowshoe events in Michigan.

Midwest Weekends has a calendar of Winter Festivals throughout the upper Midwest

Winter is also the season for cross-country skiing in Kalamazoo or skating at the Portage ice rink

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

In my family, we've been trying to establish a holiday tradition of giving. Michigan's quality-of-life depends on a large number of non-profit groups. These local nature organizations could use your support:
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Kalamazoo Nature Center

Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Michigan Nature Association

Nature Conservancy (Michigan)

Michigan Audubon Society

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), the iconic bird of the Pilgrims, were nearly extirpated by American settlers. A 100 years ago, market hunting and habitat destruction had completely eliminated turkeys in many eastern and midwestern states, including Michigan, and severely reduced their populations throughout the country. Today, turkey populations have rebounded, perhaps reaching their highest levels in 300 years.

What happened? ---Taxes and government regulation saved the turkey.

By the end of the 19th century, states were beginning to pass laws to restrict market hunting. The Lacey Act, a federal law passed in 1900, outlawed the interstate sale of illegal wildlife products. Together these regulations slowed the decline of the turkey but it wasn't until a new tax was introduced during the Great Depression that the birds started to recover.

In 1937, The Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act imposed a sales tax on hunting equipment. The tax was supported by sport hunters since its revenue was used for habitat acquisition and improvement, reintroduction of species, and research & education. This successful program, administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, funded the return of the turkey (and many other species).

Today, wild turkeys are pretty common. In Kalamazoo, I frequently see them on my commute to the college. In Michigan, turkey population estimates are 40 times higher than they were in the 1960s. In some places, turkey-human interaction has led to conflicts.

If you're interested in reading more about wild turkeys, the National Wild Turkey Federation has interesting article, "History of the Wild Turkey in North America"(pdf). If you're interested in hunting turkeys in Michigan, try the Michigan Wild Turkey Hunters Association.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Salmon's end

Each year, Michigan's Department of Natural Resources stocks millions of hatchery-raised young salmon in tributaries of the Great Lakes. As a result, Lake Michigan salmon fishing and fly-fishing for salmon have become popular local sports. Salmon spend four years in the Lake before returning to the rivers to breed and die. The DNR collects eggs from these returning fish to raise in its hatcheries.

Last weekend, we saw a big Chinook in the Pere Marquette river. The run was several weeks ago, so this one was in pretty bad shape. It was still an impressive fish.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has an extensive history and analysis of Lake Michigan's fish population (pdf)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

50 Hikes in Michigan Part 2

50 Hikes in Michigan
2nd edition with 10 extra hikes
Sixty Walks, Day Trips, and Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula
by Jim DuFresne 1999

In an earlier post I listed several hikes near Kalamazoo from this book's "Heartland" section. Author Jim DuFresne also recommends trails throughout the entire state. I've selected a few hikes from his Lake Michigan section that aren't too far from Kalamazoo.

Lake Michigan hikes

1. Mt Randal Trail, Warren Dunes State Park
4 miles
"This 1,952-acre park offers to hikers a 4-mile loop that includes a bit of everything: a stroll along Lake Michigan, stretches through forests, knee-bending climbs up mountains of sand."

Access: From I-94 exit 16. South on Red Arrow Highway about 2 miles. Camping. Crowded in mid-summer
Warren Dunes State Park

2. Warren Woods, Warren Woods Natural Area
2 miles
"The natural area is open daily from 8 AM-dusk year-round, but the best time to come is late September through mid-November when the leaves take on their autumn colors. Birders arrive in the spring, however, to look for warblers and other songbirds, while skiers enjoy the trails during the winter when there is sufficient snow. The trail is easy to follow and makes an ideal family outing."

Access: posted trailhead on Warren Woods Rd, 7 miles east of Warren Dunes State Park. Or unmarked access from Elm Valley Rd.
Warren Woods Natural Area

3. Baldtop, Grand Mere State Park
2 miles
"The unique land formations and flora that attract naturalists to the park are the reasons Grand Mere was designated a National Natural Landmark. The glaciers that scooped out the Great Lakes 10,000 years ago also carved out a number of smaller depressions along the western edge of the state, which evolved into interdunal lakes, ponds, and wetlands."

Access: South of St Jospeh. Exit 22 from I-94, then west on John Beers Rd which becomes Grand Mere Road. Then south on Thorton Dr to park.
Grand Mere State Park

4. North Trails, Saugatuck State Park

2.5 miles
"Saugatuck State Park is an 899-acre preserve that includes 2 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, windblown dunes, scenic vistas, and, right in the middle of this seemingly undeveloped wooded tract, the Michigan Dunes Correctional Facility."

Access: Exit I-196 at exit 41 onto Blue Star Memorial Highway, west. Then immediately turn right on 64th St. Go north 1 mile to 138th Ave. Left on 138th to park. Popular with x-country skiers.
Saugatuck State Park

5. Homestead Trail, P.J. Hoffmaster State Park

2.7 miles
"In Michigan, we are blessed with a shoreline that showcases 275,000 acres of sand dune formations, the largest display of freshwater dunes in the world. They stretch from the tip of the state's thumb off Saginaw Bay to the giant perched dunes above Lake Superior and include the country's most famous dunes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes,off Lake Michigan. Perhaps the best place to learn and study about these truly remarkable formations is at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park, where you can combine a visit to Gillette Nature Center, Michigan's Sand Dune Interpretive Center, with a hike through the various life zones of a dune along the Homestead Trail."

Access: From I-96, take exit 4 (Fruitport) south on 148th Ave, Then right (west) on Pontaluna Rd. 6 miles on Pontaluna to park.
P.J. Hoffmaster State Park

6. Dune Ridge Trail, Muskegon State Park
6.5 miles
"The trail system is a series of loops that wind through an amazing variety of landscapes including open dunes, interdunal ponds, stands of century-old pines, and an area called Devil's Kitchen, where the mist rises and swirls as if Satan is stirring his caldron. The northern portion of the system surrounds the park's Winter Sports Complex and was cut as cross-country ski trails."

Access: from US 31 exit 118 onto MI 120. Take MI 120 southwest to Memorial Drive which goes into the park. Three campgrounds.
Muskegon State Park

7. Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Silver Lake State Park

6 to 7 miles
"One of the most unusual hikes in the Lower Peninsula isn't on a trail at all. This trek is a journey through Silver Lake State Park's trailless backcountry, a mile-wide strip of dunes between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. There's not another hike like this in Michigan or even the Midwest because no other stretch of dunes is so barren."

Access: From US 31, south of Ludington, exit west onto Shelby Rd. Six miles to County Rd B15 (18th Ave). Right on B15 (north) for 5 miles. Pass park headquarters and park campground, then left on Hazel Rd. Follow signs to ORV parking lot.
Silver Lake State Park

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many libraries.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is an interesting prairie grass. At only 3 feet tall, it's much shorter than Indian Grass, Big Bluestem or Switch grass. In Fall, clumps of Little Bluestem can be striking, as the fluffy seedheads catch the light, drawing your eye to the orange-colored stems.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Milkweed seeds

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) provides food for Monarch caterpillars during the summer. By now the Monarch butterflies have started their 2000+ mile migration to Mexico for the winter. The milkweed is also moving to the next stage in its lifecycle. The silky fibers use wind power to disperse the seeds of the next generation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Indian Grass

Grasses define the prairie, yet in summer the bright blooms of coneflowers and sylphiums disproportionately attract the eye. Now, the petals have dropped and the brilliant yellows of summer have been succeeded by the muted tones of Fall and the true dominance of the prairie grasses becomes obvious.

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is one of the most important plants of the Tallgrass Prairie. The grass grows over six feet high and its roots extend six feet underground.