Preserving the Coast, Viewing Owls, Tracking Birds

For Friday, Jan. 29, 2021

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1 – A $2.5 million Lake Huron Coastal Preserve project is underway to permanently protect nearly a mile of coastline. 

Huron Pines, a Gaylord nonprofit, has purchased 145 acres of lake property and plans to turn it into a public park in coming years. 

The property is located in Alabaster Township just south of Tawas City. It was purchased from the U.S. Gypsum Co. with the help of a short-term loan from The Conservation Fund. 

Clockwise from the left: Huron Pines board member, Ned Caveney with one of several mature oaks on the preserve property. A view of the southern shoreline. The Alabaster Township Bike Path and Arboretum on the property’s western edge. Credit: Huron Pines

The township plans to assume ownership of the preserve in 2022. Huron Pines and other regional partners plan to support the care and stewardship of the land in perpetuity. 

The Conservation Fund is a Virginia-based nonprofit with a Great Lakes presence in Bay City.

The property includes nearly a mile of Lake Huron frontage, along with trees and wetlands. 

A trailhead and parking area for an existing bike path and arboretum are located on the property’s south side. 

Project organizers say there’s potential for future walking trails and public access to Lake Huron.

Other funding for the $2.5 million project is expected from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Huron Pines also is seeking $280,000 to guarantee permanent protection and maintenance of the property. 

2 – Who knows their owl-viewing etiquette? 

Michigan natural resource officials note that leafless trees and frozen landscapes make winter a great time for birding

The snowy owl is one visitor to the state during the winter months. 

Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Officials say that if you’re owl-spotting, you should keep in mind that these owls are a bird of the northern tundra and are not often around people. 

They might not seem startled by your presence, but that doesn’t mean you should get too close. 

Snowy owls hunt during the day, so they’re more easy to spot. 

But hunting means the owls are hungry and searching for food. You should watch from a distance, through binoculars or a spotting scope. 

Winter also is breeding season for native great horned owls in Michigan, which offers a chance to listen for owls calling to one another on calm moonlit nights. 

3 – Speaking of birds, volunteers for the Audubon Society are tracking how local birds are responding to climate change in the Great Lakes region. 

They’re taking a tally of vulnerable bird species as part of Climate Watch, a twice-annual community science program.

A coordinator with the program says birds like the Eastern Bluebird and Red-Breasted Nuthatch are environmental indicators that tell us about the health of our ecosystems.

According to a 2019 Audubon report, two-thirds of North American birds are threatened with extinction due to climate change. 

Information collected in the project helps test climate models and target conservation work. 

You can find out more and participate in the Climate Watch project by accessing audubon.org

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard Friday mornings in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Public Radio 90.1 FM (streaming). Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

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