Wolf Making the Rounds

Wolf Making the Rounds by Bill Joyce Ziegler

Wolf Making the Rounds by Bill Joyce Ziegler

Bill got some stunning photos of one of the wolves in a pack south of Amasa in the UP. He shared this & another in the Pure UP group on Facebook. Check it out! Bill also wrote an article last year about the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s plans to take wolves off the Endangered Species List in Michigan. This happened in January 2021 but it’s worth a read: 

Michigan DNR wolf surveys indicate there is a minimum wolf population of 662 adult wolves. This is a minimum population since young of the year wolves are not surveyed.

Cody Norton, Michigan DNR Wolf Specialist said the average wolf litter is likely about four to six pups based on research in other similar states. Norton goes on to say in other studied wolf populations “up to 60 percent of the pups may die in the first six months due to disease and malnutrition.”

Norton stated, “The 2018 survey indicated there are 139 wolf packs in the U.P.” (mainland).

He went on to say the average U.P. pack was about five wolves. Norton continues, “Packs are typically comprised of a breeding pair, pups from the current year, offspring from previous litters, and occasionally other wolves that may or may not be related to the breeding pair.”

Norton said surveys indicate, “Wolf territories range in size from 5 to 291 square miles in the U.P., with an average of about 45 square miles. However, territory size has decreased over time, and the number of packs has stagnated, as the wolf population in the U.P. has increased.” Norton added “The U.P. wolf population appears to have been stable for the last eight years or so suggesting they’re likely nearing carrying capacity. This follows a long period of population growth from when we initially surveyed the first three known wolves in 1989 until 2011.”

…Regardless of how you feel about wolves, their population recovery in Michigan has been a success of a native species re-establishing itself. No matter what happens in terms of federal and state wolf management, residents of the Upper Peninsula will continue to live with wolves and will occasionally hear the howl of the wolf.

More from Woods n Water News.

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Signs of Spring: Red-winged Blackbirds

Red winged Blackbird by Reji TV

Red-winged Blackbird by Reji TV

One of my favorite signs of spring in Michigan is hearing the calls of red-winged blackbirds. I started hearing them last week in northern Michigan & just saw these pics today in our Absolute Michigan group on Flickr. The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web listing for Agelaius phoeniceus (red-winged blackbird) tells us:

The range of red-winged blackbirds extends from southern Alaska at its northern most point, to the Yucatan peninsula in the south and covers the greater part of the continent reaching from the Pacific coast of California and Canada to the eastern seaboard. Winter ranges for red-winged blackbirds vary by geographic location. Northern populations migrate south to the southern United States and Central America beginning in September or October (or occasionally as early as August). Most western and middle American populations are non-migratory.


Red-winged blackbirds roost and breed in a variety of habitats, but tend to prefer wetlands. They have been known to live in fresh and saltwater marshes. On drier ground, red-winged blackbirds gravitate towards open fields (often in agricultural areas) and lightly wooded deciduous forests. In winter red-winged blackbirds are most often found in open fields and croplands.

…As migratory birds, red-winged blackbirds share many characteristics with related species. They are strong fliers that will often migrate in flocks of a thousand or more. Roosting is often communal, resulting in large, centralized populations. Red-winged blackbirds are largely diurnal, spending most of their day foraging. Males defend territories during the mating season. As the mating season progresses, both males and females will spend more time within their territory or the territory of their mate. Although fighting among red-winged blackbirds is not all that common, even among males, it is known to occur. Males chase females at top speed during breeding season. Because of their broad range and tendency to colonize large roosting areas, red-winged blackbirds are extremely common, and are easy to find in the mating season when singing and sexual displays make them more visible.

This great web resource includes many more photos and blackbird calls. Go there!

Reji TV took this photo near Auburn Hills. See more in their Birds gallery on Flickr.

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Woodchuck Weather: Groundhogs dash hopes of early spring

Woodchuck by Tate King

Woodchuck by Tate King

America’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, performed his ceremonial weather forecasting duty this morning & predicts six more weeks of winter. Closer to home, the Howell Nature Center shared a Facebook Live (below) of Michigan’s own prognosticating groundhog, Woody. Sadly, her forecast matched Phil’s so I guess winter will be with us for a while.

Tate got this shot of a woodchuck not hogging the ground at all back in March of 2007. You can see another on his Flickr.

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Otter at Otter Lake

Otter at Otter Lake by Nicholas McCreedy

Otter at Otter Lake by Nicholas McCreedy

Nicholas writes that this otter spotted him at Otter Lake in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. See a couple more shots & follow him on Facebook!

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Michigan’s Isle Royale moose study sidelined by pandemic

Chickenbone Lake Moose by David Clark

Chickenbone Lake Moose! by David Clark

The Associated Press’s John Flesher writes that one of the world’s longest-running wildlife field studies, the Isle Royale moose & wolf study,  has fallen prey to the coronavirus pandemic:

Since 1959, a research team has spent most of the winter observing the interplay between wolves and moose at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. But this year’s mission has been scrapped to protect the scientists and support personnel from possible exposure to the virus, Superintendent Denice Swanke said Friday.

Experts from several universities, the park service and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa had planned to assess how an effort to rebuild the wolf population is affecting the ecosystem.

The remote park is closed from Nov. 1 to April 15. The winter researchers use a single cabin, which wouldn’t allow for social distancing. Also factoring into the decision to cancel the expedition were the border closure between the United States and Canada, and a shortage of flight resources to bring supplies, Swanke said.

The park service and partners will try to document wolf population changes this summer using remote cameras and other techniques, Swanke said. But they won’t have the benefit of aerial observations that can be done only during winter, when the animals are easier to spot.

“There will just be a hole in the data that nothing can be done about,” said John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University, one of the biologists who have produced annual reports about the wolves and moose that roam the island park, as well as its other wildlife and vegetation.

More at the AP & you can read a lot more about Isle Royale & moose in Michigan on Michigan in Pictures!

David writes: As we were hiking from West Chickenbone Lake campground to McCargoe Cove, I saw a fallen tree’s roots across the narrow arm of the lake. Then the roots turned and looked at me. Moooooose!! See more in his Isle Royale 2017 gallery on Flickr & for sure check out his blog posts about the trip in his excellent blog Cliffs & Ruins!

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Mallards will be mallards

Mallards will be mallards by Glen Suszko

Mallards will be Mallards by Glen Suszko

Here’s the latest addition to the Michigan in Pictures Duckie Gallery, which for some reason is a thing. ;) 

Head over to Glen’s Flickr for many more great photos!

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Snowy Owls are Back!

Snowy Owls are Back by Kevin Povenz

Snowy Owls are Back by Kevin Povenz

While these arctic owls are not found in the summer, the Michigan DNR shares that Snowy Owls & other winter visitors spend time in our state during the winter months:

Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of these species can be found in Michigan.

Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time.

Kevin took this photo back in the winter of 2016, but he’s been hearing that they are back in Michigan now. See more in his Birds of Prey album on Flickr & be sure to follow Kevin Povenz Photos on Facebook.

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Nature’s Simplicity

Nature's Simplicity by Lisa Flaska Erickson

Nature’s Simplicity by Lisa Flaska Erickson

“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy.”
~Isaac Newton

Lisa shares a nice pop of color (and a pretty cool pic). Follow her on Facebook & Instagram for more!

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Trees, Reflected

Trees Reflected by Joel Dinda

Trees Reflected by Joel Dinda

Here’s a lovely shot from the Maple River State Game Area which:

…is mid-Michigan’s largest contiguous wetland complex, an extensive area of floodplains, lowlands, and marshes along the Maple River that begins in Gratiot County and spills into Clinton County … Hiking opportunities are available in the East Unit, however. Straddling US-27, the East Unit features pools and diked-in ponds that serve as the water basin for the Maple River and attract migrating birds. Hiking along dikes is easy and the spectacular congregations of birds among the cattails in the warm glows of a late afternoon sun makes this trail system scenic and interesting for families and anybody who enjoys birding.

…Wildlife can be viewed practically year-round in the game area. Spring viewing from March through May is excellent as thousands of ducks, geese, and swans use the wetlands as a stopover on their migration to northern breeding grounds. Throughout the summer herons are a common sight in the area while the observant or those who pack along binoculars might spot bald eagles or ospreys perched on dead snags.

See more in Joel’s massive Trees photo album on Flickr & have a great week!

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The Swamp Angel of Leo Creek

Swamp Angel by Mark Smith

Swamp Angel by Mark Smith

Mark writes that the nave, altar and the stained glass windows are all in alignment in his photo from the Leo Creek Preserve, a pretty cool outdoor learning laboratory & permaculture garden in Suttons Bay. The mission of Leo Creek Preserve is:

…to use its unique creek, forest, and agricultural spaces to provide, for all people, an outdoor learning laboratory to investigate water and woodland ecology, intensive soil regenerating practices, and to bring art into the garden gathering spaces. We value strengthening our connection to the natural world and bringing people together to work towards a beautiful, healthy, productive and regenerating environment, and sharing its abundance.

Pretty cool! Follow Mark at downstreamer on Flickr for more great photos!

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