Saturday, April 04, 2009

Fenner Wild Times Newsletter

Check it out, there are a lot of great opportunities.

Number 2 APRIL 2009

From the Directors
We hear it every day. Visitors like what they are getting – a high quality experience, whether they stay for a few minutes or a few hours. There are other ways of knowing. Friends of Fenner Nature Center, our invaluable support group, is seeing a marked rise in new memberships. More dollars are showing up in the donation jar. The recent Maple Syrup Festival set a high-water attendance record.
What’s not to like? A staff person greets any one who walks through the doors, determines your specific interest in being there and sets out to help you achieve it. Maybe you are coming to check out the new, huge collection of live native Michigan reptiles and amphibians housed here. With over thirty combined species of snakes, turtles, frogs and salamanders, it is one of the largest in the state.
The aquariums are right out there on tables, much more accessible – and interactive. Are the turtles looking hungry? We’ll give you a handful of food sticks to drop to them. Feed a cricket to a frog or a salamander. Want to touch or hold one of the snakes? We’ll get one out. Have you ever had a “snake-on-astick?” Ask us. We’ll serve one up for you.
There is a downside to providing this kind of attention to everyone who walks through the door. The budget supplied by the city cannot provide for a “continuous presence” in the observation room. Very often, through the week or on the weekends, our limited staff is busy with a scheduled program, a phone call or other functional necessity. We need volunteers.
That’s where you come in. If you’d like to help us in any of the capacities listed above, we would like to recruit you to fill them. Optimally, through all of our open hours, we’d like to maintain this continuous presence, always on-hand to greet and orient visitors. Of course, there will be times, especially during the week, where no one walks through the doors for long periods of time. Bring a book, work on your laptop, or chat with a friend on your cell phone. It can be pretty cushy as far as volunteer work goes. Yet, you’d be providing a valuable service in the center’s overall operation.
Anyone, 16 or older is welcome: college students, homeschool parents (bring the kids!), retirees, or anyone else who can afford a couple of hours or more on any given day, except Monday (closed). Beginning this weekend, we will have a calendar available at the center. Fill out a volunteer form and fill in a day and time, or more, when you would like to cover as the “observation room greeter.” Please call, email, or drop in if you have any questions about it, then come on aboard! Help us make your nature center the best it can be!
-Jim & Carol McGrath

Be a Fenner ATF Agent (Alien Task Force, of course!)
There is a serious botanical, ecological problem currently spreading over much of the eastern U.S. It continues to spread in a cancerous fashion through lower Michigan, including the Lansing area, Fenner Nature Center, and, possibly, your own yard or neighborhood. The invasive, alien plant is a fast-growing biennial called garlic mustard. Although it was introduced from Europe with culinary (and medicinal) intent over a century ago, and while the leaves are high in iron and other nutrients, the American palate never embraced it. Unfortunately, plants that took root here profusely seeded, then spread, explosively so, over the past two decades. Another ecological nightmare has become entrenched.
Some alien plant species that exist in our current landscape - and there are a greenhouse-load of them - are less damaging to the ecology than others. Many of these have been accepted, and fed upon by various forms of insect or other animal life that is currently here, thus keeping their density relatively in check. On the flip-side, there are others like garlic mustard. Nothing eats the stuff! Walk through a patch of woods that has been carpeted with it and see how long it takes to find a single leaf that has had even a notch chewed in it. Add to this the second-year plant’s seed producing prowess – hundreds or even a thousand per plant – and the dilemma comes into stark focus. The plant’s leaves are heart-shaped with serrated edges. The first year plant is a rosette that remains close to the ground. The second-year plant grows from the root as a stalk that often peaks at three feet in height. It produces clusters of small, white, four-petaled flowers.
Garlic mustard grows most freely in soil that has relatively little other plant growth. It is also highly shade tolerant. This makes it a specific menace to our beloved native woodland wildflowers, many of them in states of decline already, like trillium, bloodroot, spring beauty, wild hepatica, wild ginger, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit, and so many more. The stems of second-year plants begin to rise above the ground after the first week of April. They grow rapidly. Most are flowering by May. April and May are the best months to pull them. Since they tend to grow in loose soil, they come up by the root quite easily.
Fenner has many areas that are overrun with garlic mustard. We’d like to rally any and all who love Fenner, native wildflowers, working for an ecological cause, or just enjoying the outdoors with a purpose, to join us in a springtime all-out attack on these plant-diversity destroying alien invaders. We need manpower, womanpower, and even kidpower. Individuals, families, school classrooms, high school and college students, youth and adult clubs and
organizations, community service candidates and anyone we’ve missed can volunteer to pull plants on almost any schedule you arrange with us. Please consider attending one of our short information and orientation workshops and sign up as a Fenner ATF agent. Keep reading for more details.

LIVE AT FENNER: Six Swallows & a Swift
Sunday, April 5, 1:00pm.
$4/person. $2 for members, at the door.
All six of Michigan's swallows (and one swift!) return from the tropics throughout April. In this one-hour Powerpoint presentation by Fenner director Jim McGrath, learn how to tell these agile insect-devouring aerialists apart either in
flight or perched on a wire. Jim will also discuss each species' fascinating behavior and ecology as well as what you can do to make your yard or neighborhood more inviting to them. After the presentation, Jim will lead interested participants on an hour-long birding walk. Bring binoculars if you have them.

Attend any of these free 20-30 minute events in the visitor center to learn more about garlic mustard and how and where you or your group of “ATF agents” can pull it on the nature center grounds. Pull it by yourself, with your family, or with a small organized group (scouts, after-school kids activity, high school and college students, etc.). Your club or family can adopt an acre (or more, or less), or you can just come out to pull it on a trailside of your or our choice. If you can’t make one of the above meetings, stop in anyway. One of our staff will gladly deliver a quick, impromptu orientation and send you on your mission. Organized groups can contact us for a special orientation appointment.
We do request that anyone interested in pulling stop into the center to check in. It is Fenner’s policy to discourage walkers from leaving the trail in order to minimize disturbance, but, of course, as an ATF volunteer, you are granted special access in order to accomplish your task. We ask that you wear a tag while pulling off the trail to identify yourself and your intentions while you are working.
Wednesday, April 15, 4:00pm.
Saturday, April 18, 9am. Our regular monthly “work day.”
Sunday, April 19, 12:30pm. Part of Fenner’s Earth Day event. See page 4.

TODDLER PATROL (ages 2-3 yrs with adult)
Mondays, April 13-May 11.
Enroll for either 9:00-10:00am or 10:30-11:30am.
Fee: $30 Lansing resident; $35 non-resident.
This spring, introduce your toddler to the wonders of nature. This hands-on program, led by naturalist aide, Francine Clark, is designed to enhance the natural curiosity of two and three-year-olds. Each week features activities with live animals, outdoor exploration and a story.

Sunday, April 19. Noon to 4pm. Free!
Join us for a day dedicated to recognizing the splendor of our natural environment, while also giving it a helping hand. Here are some planned events.
• Garlic Mustard workshop (12:30pm) and pulling (any time through the day). See Page 2.
• Guided birding and nature walks throughout the day.
• Visit with our live Michigan reptiles and amphibians. We will feed many of them in front of visitors throughout the day, and take some outside for mini-presentations if weather allows.
• Two showings of the 55-min video, On a Wing and a Prayer (1:30 & 3pm). This program is one of a PBS New Explorers series that originally aired in the late 90s. We are losing our tropical migrant songbirds at an unsettling rate. This program explains why, and what we can do about it. Fenner’s directors, Jim and Carol, assert that, whether you have a personal interest in birds or not, everyone should see this program.
• Incubating Bobwhite Quail eggs! An incubator will be set up in the observation room to begin incubation of the eggs. The Bobwhite is a southern quail. In the northern limits of its range, southern Michigan, populations have a difficult time becoming established because of harsh winter conditions. Most Bobwhite populations that exist in Michigan were established through release programs. When these birds are grown, they will be released on Fenner grounds this summer. We are going to try to time the hatching of the chicks near Mother’s Day!

LIVE AT FENNER: Bird Nesting 101
Sunday, April 26, 1:00-2:00pm.
$4/person. $2 for members, at the door.
As we move into the heart of bird nesting season, what better time to learn more about it. Fenner director Jim McGrath will use Powerpoint images and audio recordings as he covers the nesting lives of birds, both inside and outside of your backyard.
Where do most birds nest? In a bush or a tree? The answer may surprise you. The more we learn about and understand the requirements each species needs to successfully reproduce, the better its chances of success. Find out what environmental factors are most damaging to bird nesting success and what you can do to help minimize their impact.
An hour-long birding walk with a nesting-season slant, follows the presentation.

FENNER NATURE CENTER 2020 E. Mount Hope Road Lansing, MI 48910
(517) 483-4224

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