Hello Members and Friends,
It is hard to believe that we are in 2022, but here we are and hopefully this year will be a little more normal than last year. As it turned out the decision to not have a meeting worked out ok since the DNR personnel were having to meet virtually, which is still kind of the case right now. Also there has been huge changes in the department with all of the retirements and transfers. And of course with the retirement of Al Stewart,we and the Sharp-tailed Grouse lost our main cornerstone of support from Lansing so things have definitely changed.
I am happy to say that the hardest part of doing this newsletter(other than forcing myself to sit down and do it) is the fact that I have so much good information and good news to share. I have been to several meetings and have had many phone conversations over the last couple of months that have me very excited about about our sharp-tailed grouse and their habitat. I will include a few attachments at the end of the newsletter instead of trying to explain them all.
We have several very dedicated Biologists and Techs with the DNR, Feds, and the Sault Tribe that are working very hard for upland game. I bother them quite a bit with questions or concerns and they always help me out and certainly listen. We have also gained a huge advocate for the us and our birds. Heather Shaw, who has attended many of our meetings while she worked for RGS, now works for MDNR in the Cusino office, has an interest in Sharp-tailed Grouse, and already has a few plans that will benefit sharpies including putting the Kingston plains back in the headlights. Heather has also supplied me with material that I will include at the end of the newsletter. One being an MUCC on the ground project for the Bullock Ranch to remove brush and shrubs to enhance lek site conditions. This will be on August 20th,and we will meet at the Seney road side park on M-28 at 9:00am. Bring work clothes and a little ambition. I might also consider doing a meeting after the work bee, we will see. Lunch will be provided, so if you can, try to attend, these kind of projects are fun and very rewarding.
Now to the Hiawatha National Forest, there are many great projects planned in the near future which will benefit Sharpies along with MANY others birds, mammals insects reptiles and whatever else relies on or inhabits grasslands and early succession habitat. They have received a $50,000.00 grant for Sharp-tailed Grouse habitat and $32,000.00 for pollinator habitat, which is directly related to Sharpies. Also planned is a prescribed burn in the Racco area. I have also been involved through the Ruffed Grouse Society on a multi-year, 100 acre plus non commercial aspen cut on the Hiawatha. These cuts are in areas not accessible by logging equipment or the quality of the timber is so poor that it doesn’t have any marketable value, but we do not want to lose the aspen stand. Just a quick explanation, in case someone is not aware, if an aspen stand gets old too where it starts to fall down and die the stand will die out forever, but if cut it will reproduce and regenerate. so they are having to be hand cut these stands to save them. And although the pretense was for Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock, it will certainly benefit Sharp-tailed Grouse as well. I am also enclosing a long term lek survey from the Hiawatha that is not great news, this downward trend is disturbing, extremely complicated and it would take me pages to try and explain it with my very limited knowledge of the subject. I can assure you though that the issue is being looked at very closely by the Hiawatha, MDNR and the Sault Tribe personnel.
Speaking of the Sault Tribe, Biologist Eric Clark informed me of all the great research they are doing including a project this year using GPS solar transmitters on some birds. They have also been focusing on habitat needs for our birds. It was also great news to learn that they now have Danielle Fegan a Student @ MSU doing her dissertation on sharp-tailed grouse habitat needs. She was so kind as to send me a short explanation of her work but instead I just included it as an attachment so I don’t mess it up.
One thing I have found to be so ironic this year is that the three involved entities, State Federal & Tribal are all focusing in the same direction, and to the best of my knowledge, they did not plan it that way. That is Habitat, ie, warm season grasses, pollinators, and early succession aspen. So between fire, cutting and re-introduction of native grasses, flowers/ pollinators I see a lot of exciting work being done.
Now on to the State level, It is getting close to Spring and the Spring lek surveys. The last two years have been messed up because of the bug. This year SHOULD be back to normal. If you would like to volunteer you may call Jayne Roohr at the Newberry office at 906-293-5131. Please remember that Jayne or Dave Jentoff biologist at the Sault St Marie office 906-635-6161 are not Tour guides, they will be happy to point you in a direction but they don’t have the time to guide or bring you to a lek site. Thank you. Dave also managed to burn 300 plus acres at the Munuscong pot holes. Definitely a great long needed project.
Last year they found more birds on occupied sites, but they cautioned me to not read to much into that. Using volunteers is great and needed but it also puts an uncertain variable into any scientific study.
Dave Jentoff also has some habitat plans for the eastern end. Though we do not have a harvest report for the last couple of seasons we do know that the number of hunters has been on a steady increase. but I do not remember if those are licenses purchased or hunters signing in at the HAP projects.
On a personal note I have spoken to many hunters and property owners that have given me encouraging news. As far as hunters go, the few I talked to who hunted this year were extremely happy about the amount of birds that they had seen. Friends have also told me about the number a birds hanging around Moran. The reports from Duck Lake fire area is, lots of birds. I met with a private landowner south of the Sault and he feeds a couple dozen birds all winter. I meet with a lot of people through the year and I am very encouraged with the anecdotal reports. Other encouraging reports were Ruffed Grouse, Woodcock hunters moving many Sharp-tails while hunting typical young aspen stands.
We are accepting 2022 dues they are still $25.00. I have spent a few dollars on my RGS habitat project north of St Ignace, and will want to provide lunch for the folks who attend the August on the ground event. Currently we have $1600.00 plus in the bank and although it is never much I will like to support a few youth, and habitat projects when possible. We have had a couple of requests asking if dues can be paid online, unfortunately the answer is no. To be honest most of the people I send this out to are not members nor pay dues, but I keep trying. As far as Facebook or any other social media, again I will beg anyone that sees a posting to respond because I never do.
I know it is hard on those of you down south, but I would like to try and have a meeting in the UP this year, I know that many biologists in our area would probably attend if it were here, but would not be able to drive downstate, so we will have to see about that.
Well two pages is enough, I put in quite a few facts and figures so if I mixed something up I apologize ahead of time. Hopefully I don’t have too many mistakes. My wife has found many of them, but I’m sure there are more.
Any questions or comments please call me @ 231-420-8600
President Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association