Fall 2016 Natural Exploration Newsletter
U of M-Dearborn Environmental Interpretive Center
Public Educational Programs

"Spiders By Flashlight"
Friday, September 30
7:30-9:30 PM
Get caught up in a web of fascination by watching eight-legged weavers spin their snares.  Shine a light on these talented hunters as we learn how many ways there are to catch a bite to eat!  Bring your flashlights and join us for an evening walk through the Environmental Study Area.

"Whooo's Out There?
Friday, November 11
7:30-9:30 PM
Come listen to who gives a hoot as we call to the resident owls in our Environmental Study Area.  Imitating the calls of owls in their home territory is like knocking on the door to see if they're home; it's up to the owls to respond.  Even if they choose not to answer our calls, it's a lovely way to explore the woods by moonlight....

Year-round Young Naturalist Program to start soon!


Calling all 9-12 year-olds who enjoy exploring nature, join us for this once-a-month, 9 month program. Outdoor session topics include Pond Study, Insects and Spiders, Maple Syrup Science, Owl Prowl, Spring Wildflowers, Birds, and Frogs and Toads. Participants are expected to attend most if not all of the monthly sessions. A $70 program fee covers the cost of all field equipment each participant receives including, a field pack, field guides to various plants and animals and bug box and magnifier for use during the programs.

Program session dates are mostly on Saturdays from 9:30AM-12PM
October 8; December 3; January 7; February 18; March 4; April 22; May 6; June 3. 
The November session runs from 6-9PM on Friday, November 4.  

The registration deadline is October 5. To register your child for the program, follow this LINK.  For additional information, please contact Rick Simek, the EIC Program Supervisor, at (313) 583-6371 or email rsimek@umich.edu. 
Big, small, smaller, smaller, smallest

Jessica Border , a parent accompanying a group of 1st graders in an EIC program on April 13, snapped this photo of painted turtles that were nicely arranged by size on a log sticking out of the water at Fair Lane Lake. This was one of the many serendipitous and memorable wildlife sightings EIC school groups had during a very busy spring program season. 
Over Their Heads in the Prairie Garden!

A dedicated group of Stewardship Saturday volunteers removed a large mass of invasive Canada Thistle and other non-native plants from the Rose Garden Prairie in August. This effort will give the prairie plantings at this site some time to develop the deep root systems needed to become well established. In its second summer of growth, the prairie will take about 3-5 years to completely take hold. 
Wild Turkeys Return to Dearborn!

Let's talk some turkey. That is, news from the UM-D campus Environmental Study Area (ESA) of a sighting of a female  Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo ) with approximately 7 poults (baby turkeys) on July 5, 2016. This is the first ever known observation of a family of Wild Turkeys in the ESA. 
 

The return of Wild Turkeys to Michigan is quite the conservation success story. Ancestral to Michigan, the Wild Turkey had been extirpated (wiped out) in the state by 1900. In 1954, a small number of Wild Turkeys from Pennsylvania were released into the Alleghan State Game Area in Michigan. By 1964 there were about 2000 Wild Turkeys in the state. Wild Turkey numbers really picked up and spread around starting in the mid-1980s, when more Wild Turkeys, this time from Iowa and Missouri, were released into the state. In recent years, the turkeys have made their way into southeast Michigan. After a few periodic sightings of in the ESA of individual female "gobblers" in the past several years, it's clear that a Tom (male turkey) has shown up somewhere nearby, too. Hence the poults. 
 
Judging from the number of poults with the female turkey in the ESA, it would appear that, at least for now, the species has the potential to sustain at least a small local population.  After over 100 years of being absent from the woods and fields of Dearborn, it's nice to have the opportunity to enjoy encountering these fascinating representatives of our natural heritage. And, as the sighting was just a day after Independence Day, it seems fitting that we would be able to welcome back a bird species to our area that Ben Franklin had proposed for our National Emblem. Enjoy!
 
Rick Simek
Encounters of the Field Biology Kind
The UM-Dearborn Field Biology class, held from late April through mid-June each spring, is known for offering students in the class a window into the wonderful biological diversity of our local area. Three mornings each week, the students explore the campus Environmental Study Area, where they carefully study plant and animal life. Their observations are recorded in a field notebook. This past spring, student Jacob Yesh took his camera out with him during the class, and got these captivating images of wildlife active during the early morning hours. Enjoy! 


Who's Your Tiger?
Detroit Tiger baseball fans may be surprised to learn that Comerica Park isn't the only place to find tenacious Tigers in this area.  We are surrounded by tigers at this time of year in some unexpected places-one might be in your backyard right now!  What am I talking about?  Three different insects are among those with the predatory name tiger: two are impressive hunters of other insects, and one is a lovely tiger striped flyer that "preys' upon flowers for a sweet sip of nectar. 


Like the outfielders at Comerica, our first tiger catches flies, too-as well as other unsuspecting prey!  The tiger in our forests can fly, but spends much of its time on the ground.  Named for its Golden Glove abilities for shagging flies as well as its "uniform," the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle is a small but spectacular jewel along our wooded trails.  
There are more than 2,600 species of tiger beetles in North America!  Flat heads, bulging eyes, and wicked-looking jaws distinguish these beetles from the rest.  The six-spotted species is one I see frequently while leading hordes of school kids through our trails.  Their metallic emerald green wings glisten as I see them sunning themselves in a bright patch on or beside the path until they take off just a few feet in front of us like a runner stealing second base.  When not playing games with us, the adults lie in wait for a meal to wander or fly into view, whereupon they act quickly using those jagged jaws to grab a bite to eat.  The beetle grubs, or larvae, are also efficient predators, living in their own "dugouts"-vertical burrows with their heads right at ground level, ready to snatch whatever comes by like a ground ball to second base.  (I'm awfully glad I'm not a little forest invertebrate....)
To find our second tiger, you have to visit an aquatic habitat, such as the Rose Garden Pond.  Predatory in both larval and adult stages, like the tiger beetle, the water tiger will change into the aquatic
Predacious Diving Beetle.   True to its name, this ferocious looking (and acting) larva will grab whatever it can hold with its piercing "tongs."  This observation was reported in a 2010 paper by the Field Methods Class at the University of Virginia's Mountain Lake Biological Station: " Two conspecific and similarly sized [tiger beetle] larvae were captured by the Field Methods Class seining (netting) on Tuesday in the pond; occupying the same dish for 24 hours resulted in a 50% drop in the population. In addition to cannibalism, these larvae also consume insects, snails, tadpoles, and fish."  The adult beetle is an equally "self-motivated" player and has the ability to fly off to another playing field, aquatic or otherwise, if the prey abundance is lacking.  (Sort of brings a new meaning to the home town motto "Go get'em, Tigers!")
The last tiger floats erratically through the air like a knuckleball pitch, flitting from
flower to flower, using its long proboscis like a straw to sip sweet stuff within the bloom. 
Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies are large and conspicuous with their butter yellow wings and black tiger stripes.  Found around forest edges and swampy areas, adults sip nectar from a variety of flowers.  Like many human children, however, the caterpillars are pickier eaters.  Larval host plants that hit a home run with these "cats" include the leaves of Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana), Black Cherry (Prunus serotina), Swamp Bay (Persea palustris) and Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera).  Since the caterpillars are considered a juicy morsel by birds and other insects, they employ a unique camouflage technique in early life: they look like bird poop!  Not many things want to eat bird droppings, so many predators leave them alone.  As they develop, they change their appearance to look like a green monster with huge eye spots to scare off predators.  No guarantees, but an intimidating offense makes a good defense.  The green monsters that survive metamorphose into the flying striped tigers in our gardens!
So be on the lookout for these wild animals in and around your neighborhoods.  Since I've addressed the tigers in our neighborhoods, maybe in a future article I'll write about the "lions" and "bears" that live nearby.... 
                                                  -Dorothy McLeer
EIC Staff Member and UM-Dearborn 
Graduate Student Receives Award!

 In March, Donna Posont received the Sandy McBeath Outstanding Seasonal/Part-time Interpreter Award from the National Association for Interpretation at the Region 4 workshop in Columbus, Ohio, recognizing her accomplishments as Project Coordinator for the Birding By Ear and Beyond program.
Housed in the Environmental Interpretive Center, this program welcomes blind and visually impaired people to participate in science-oriented activities while bolstering confidence in other areas of everyday life.  Donna also oversees the Sensational Adventures in Summer Science (SASS) camp here at the EIC which involves not only blind and visually impaired campers, but instructors and scientists as well.  The program's goals are to increase awareness of challenges for blind and visually impaired people to engage in the sciences.
Nominated by EIC Program Coordinator Dorothy McLeer, Donna wants to be a part of the change that creates opportunities for blind and visually impaired students to gain understanding of the sciences through sensory experiences.  To learn more about these programs, visit the Community Programs section of our web site (https://umdearborn.edu/eic/education/birdingbyear.html). 
Local Boy Scout Eagle Service Project helps improve the health of a wetland in transition

A high value wetland in the UM-Dearborn Environmental Study Area  formerly known as "the swamp" due to the dominance of over 50 large ash trees, is rapidly changing due to those trees being killed off by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer.  No longer shaded by the trees, the wetland is transitioning to more open, sunny marshland. Also, with no liquid water being taken up and released as water vapor by the trees anymore, larger volumes of surface water are present in the wetland for longer periods during the year. 
 
Erik's project planting crew at work. Note the many standing and fallen dead ash trees in the background.
This sudden and dramatic ecological change, or "disturbance," created the perfect conditions for invasive plant species to quickly become established in some parts of the wetland. To help head off further invasive plant encroachment at the site, the EIC has decided to manage the marsh toward a healthier native marsh plant community. The goal is to have the wetland better host and support increased biological diversity and native species abundance.  
Erik (right) and a fellow project volunteer prepare native bulrush plugs for planting in the marsh.
Thanks to Boy Scout Erik Prudil, another major step toward achieving that goal has been realized. This past June, Erik planned, coordinated, and oversaw the planting of over 300 plugs of two native marsh plant species: Great Bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), and Brown Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea) at the marsh. These plants, which compete well with invasive plants once established, are known to provide excellent food and/or cover for an assortment of native marsh birds, including Wood Duck , Sora , and  Virginia Rail  .  Thanks to Erik and his crew of wonderful Scouting volunteers, these native birds and other marsh wildlife will be more effectively encouraged to inhabit this wetland in the coming years. We greatly appreciate Erik's efforts in this fine bit of "habitat doctoring" and congratulate him on the well-earned rank of Eagle! 
U of M-Dearborn Community Organic Garden
Recipient of 6 Awards!
Two landscape features at the Community Organic Garden (COG), the Enabling Garden and the Monarch Butterfly Waystation, were the focus of awards given at the 2016 conference of the Michigan Garden Clubs, which took place in Frankenmuth. The EIC would especially like to acknowledge the wonderful volunteer efforts of Mary Lenart, whose direction and vision for these two garden sites has been so influential in enhancing the overall quality of life experience at the COG. Congratulations, Mary, on these well-deserved award acknowledgements!
The awards are as follows:

Enabling Garden
Michigan Garden Club Award: 
First Place District 1, 
Michigan Garden Clubs, 
First Place for photographs of flowers grown at the Enabling Garden.
National Garden Clubs-Central Region- Sharing Our Gardens Award: 3rd Place for Enabling Garden Iced Tea and Dessert Event and garden walk.

Monarch Waystation
National Garden Clubs-Central Region-First Place District 1: 
First Place Michigan Garden Clubs.
National Garden Clubs-Central Region-Sharing Our Future Award:  Third Place.
National Garden Club President's Project-Service in Action-Conservation in Action Roadside Development Award: Second Place overall. 
National Garden Club President Project Service in Action-Monarch Watch/Waystations: First Place, Large Garden Club. 

Screech Owl by Day.............and Night!


EIC volunteer Joe Turek took these photos of a gray phase Eastern Screech Owl in the same tree cavity. Note the two points of light that indicate the owl's open eyes at night. Though well-camouflaged, the two feather tufts sticking up from the owl's head gave away its presence during the day. 
Garlic Mustard Busters!

Garlic mustard presents an ongoing invasive plant management challenge for the EIC. Thanks to this group of honors students from Edsel Ford High School that came out in late April, that challenge is being addressed, one hand-pulled bunch of garlic mustard at a time! Their teacher, Tara Haddad, arranged for the group to come out and help. Here the students pose with the many bags they filled with their invasive harvest.