Archive for the ‘Study Nature’ Category

Using road stream crossing surveys to understand creek health

Road Stream Crossing team getting into it!

Road Stream Crossing team getting into it!

Advanced volunteer Larry Sheer led our pilot Road Stream Crossing this year. This project is helping us in numerous ways: developing our Norton Creek Management Plan, expanding our data collection options, expanding our volunteer opportunities, and creating more leadership in our organization. Kudos to Larry!

See Larry’s article on the Road Stream Crossing program, published as part of his participation in MSUE’s Michigan Lake and Stream Leaders Institute.

Autumn Roundup: October 3

Find insects, crayfish and other small river creatures as a part of the River Roundup!

Kids and adults welcome! Photo by Rick Martin

Kids and adults welcome! Photo by Rick Martin

Join a small team with your friends and family for a unique activity and (hopefully) some time in gorgeous spring weather! Collect a sample of the bugs and other creatures that live in our streams.  Like canaries in a coal mine, these creatures indicate the health of our creeks and rivers.  In healthy places, the amount of life  in these fresh water systems is amazing!

All volunteers first meet in Ann Arbor, and then trained volunteer leaders take you to two stream sites, where you help them search through stones, leaves, and sediment.  Only trained volunteers have to go in the water.  Dress to be in the field for a couple hours.   Please register.

Children are welcome to attend with an adult.

WHERE: Meet at the HRWC office in Ann Arbor.  Then car pool to two streams in Livingston, Oakland, Wayne and/or Washtenaw Counties.

WHEN: Two times: October 3, 2015 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM, or 10:30 AM to 5 PM

DEADLINE: Registration closes on September 30, 2015.

NEXT STEPS: Fill out the registration page for the time and general area that you desire to work in.

1. 9 AM. Washtenaw and Livingston Counties

2. 9 AM. Belleville and Flat Rock

3. 9 AM. Western Washtenaw and Livingston Counties

4. 9 AM. Oakland County

5. 10:30 AM. Washtenaw and Livingston Counties

MORE INFO: Please email Jason at jfrenzel@hrwc.org.

PHOTOS and STORY: Get a sense of what this event is like from a HRWC volunteer here.

Birds, Bats, Butterflies, and Dragonflies: Part 1

What is something that birds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies all have in common?

Well, yes, they do fly.  But something that doesn’t occur to the typical person not well-versed in these animal types is that all of these creatures migrate.  Now that summer is ending, days are getting shorter, and the air is just a bit cooler out there, we can expect to see these animals on the move soon.

This blog is part one of a short series on migrating animals. First topic: birds!

Migrating Birds

In southeast Michigan, August marks the beginning of the migration season and migrations continue throughout the fall. Summer residents leaving our area soon will be the Green Herons, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpipers, flycatchers, Chimney Swifts, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (along with many others).

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird credit: Flickr user Senapa

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird credit: Flickr user Senapa

Obviously not every bird species leaves for warmer weather.  Mourning Doves,  Black-Capped Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches, and the Tufted Titmouse (along many others) are found in southeast Michigan year round. Great Blue Herons stay as long as there is open water.

The Great Blue Heron in flight. credit: John Lloyd

The Great Blue Heron in flight. credit: John Lloyd

For other species, Michigan is a warm winter destination, as long as they can find open water. Without open water, they keep on heading south.  Several water fowl species like the Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, and the Common Goldeneye are found in Michigan during the fall, winter, and spring but migrate north in the summer. The Dark-Eyed Junco and American Tree Sparrow also fit in this category.

The Common Goldeneye. Credit: USFWS

The Common Goldeneye. Credit: USFWS

And finally, other species only use Michigan as a stop along their migration path. Warblers in particular are known for this; examples include the Cape May Warbler, the Magnolia Warbler, the Canada Warbler, and the Palm Warbler.

The Cape May Warbler. credit: USFWS

The Cape May Warbler. credit: USFWS

Ebird.org is a great website for tracking what bird species come and go throughout many areas of the world. To find out more about a specific species mentioned in this post, see allaboutbirds.org.

For tips on identifying birds, where to look for birds in the watershed, how to make bird migration easier and some great local resources, see Bird Migration, Finding feathered friends in the watershed, Huron River Report, Spring 2014.


Osprey Return to the Huron

Enjoy the most recent video produced by the Huron River Watershed Council that displays the benefits of a unique partnership!

“Osprey Return to the Huron” details the Huron River Watershed Council’s efforts to increase osprey populations in Southeast Michigan by installing two nesting platforms along the Huron River. The video features the Osprey history in Michigan, how diverse groups came together to support this project, footage from the actual construction, and a successful Osprey family on the river.

Early in the 20th century, osprey – a fish-eating bird of prey – lived throughout Michigan. The osprey population was depleted during the mid-20th Century due to overuse of harmful pesticides. Over the last 30 years, organizations have worked to re-establish the osprey population in Michigan. The number has risen from 81 pairs in 1975 to 166 by 1988, and has been on the rise ever since.

The Huron River Watershed Council worked in concert with ITC Holdings Corp, the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company, Osprey Watch, the Audubon Society, and the City of Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation Department.

Thanks to Jennifer Poteat, Mike Staebler, and Jon and Kathy Bowdler for their support.

Hungry for more? You’re in luck! HRWC has produced three other RiverUp! videos featuring stunning aerial and underwater footage of the river, transformation of Dexter’s waterfront, and fly fishing with local expert Schultz Outfitters in Ypsilanti. You can view them all on HRWC’s Youtube Channel here.

Conservation Stewards Leadership Training

indian springsLooking for a way to expand your knowledge about ecosystems, invasives, and the history of conservation in Michigan?

The Michigan Conservation Stewards program has been brought back to Washtenaw County by a collaboration of HRWC and peer organizations. We hope you, as a supporter of the Huron, will take the opportunity to strengthen your knowledge and thus ability to advocate for our natural resources. This 6-week course covers all the basics of conservation, introduces participants to a wide-array of topic experts, and is a great networking opportunity.


Click here for details and to register.



News to Us

2014_05_23_Greenhills_teaching_(2)_-_smallIn News to Us this edition, HRWC receives a grant to teach students about the river and a new app allows citizen scientist to record invasive species locations.  Also, Great Lakes Echo produces a podcast reviewing the month in Great Lakes environmental news. Finally, the oil and gas industry makes headlines again in our area.

Grant Will Help Huron River Watershed Council Take Classroom Learning Outdoors HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator, Jason Frenzel contributes to a piece highlighting a recent grant we received to work with K-12 students throughout the watershed to get them out in the rivers, learning how to sample and building an understanding of the condition of our creeks and streams.

To catch a predator: Citizens enlisted to track invasive species  Here at HRWC we are proud of our citizen scientists.  They do much to help support our mission and protect the natural resources of our area.  Now there is another way you can contribute right through your smartphone.  MISIN, or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, has developed an app that lets you report locations of non-native species.  With a lot of eyes on the ground (and in the water), MISIN can gain insights into the spread of invasives and how to stop them.

Great Lakes in review: mayors on algae, restoration update This great podcast series recently came to our attention.  Great Lakes Echo is producing monthly podcasts summarizing the month in environmental stories from around the Great Lakes.  If you want to stay up to date on regional environmental issues, tune into this series.  The most recent podcast covers September including the Summit on Water Resources lead by the region’s mayors and spurred on by the Toledo drinking water ban, and updates to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which now require projects incorporate climate change adaptation.

We continue to see a lot of news on oil and gas issues both within the Huron River watershed and the broader Great Lakes region.  Here are two recent articles on a proposed pipeline that would be built through Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and how local communities are responding.

Underwater Mussel Shenanigans

While doing a habitat assessment on the Huron River, I was lucky enough to see a pocketbook mussel in the process of attracting a fish host and managed to get some pictures and a video of it.

Please excuse the poor video quality- it looks like a bubble got trapped on our underwater camera lens! But you can make it out. The mussel is buried in the sediment, positioned so that its opening is facing up. The mussel is extending a part of its mantle into the current to use it in its reproduction process.

Mussels reproduce by releasing their glochidia (microscopic larvae) in the presence of fish.  The glochidia latch onto the fish’s gills and fins where they dwell for days or weeks, depending on the species and water conditions.  During this time the glochidia develop into microscopic juveniles and eventually drop off the fish.  If they land in a suitable place, they can create a new mussel bed.

mussel reproduction

Therefore, since fish are integral to a mussel’s life cycle, the mussels have developed ways to get a fish’s attention. By extending the colorful mantel into the current, the mussel acts like an angler’s fish lure! When a fish gets closer- the mussel shoots out the glochidia!

Special acknowledgments go to Ryan and Marty of ECT, for experiencing this really cool find with me.

Paddle and Pedal the Huron this Sunday

We have a paddle trip for people looking for adventure and an interest in trying their skills at biking and paddling.  This Sunday, September 21st, at 1:00 we are hosting a paddle trip from Hudson Mill Metropark to Dexter-Huron Metropark with a bike to the beginning along the recently completed border to border trail.Huron River Watershed Council

Ron Sell and Barry Lonik, experienced paddlers (and bikers), will be leading this trip down a beautiful stretch of the river in the Natural River’s zone.  Elizabeth Riggs, HRWC’s River-Up Manager will be on the trip too, adding her expertise and knowledge of RiverUp! and Huron River Water Trail improvement projects within this section of the river.  Join the fun and learn about the river and try your skill with paddling and pedaling! Register here.

News to Us

Beckwith Preserve on Portage Creek.  Photo Credit: Legacy Land Conservancy

Beckwith Preserve on Portage Creek. Photo Credit: Legacy Land Conservancy

This edition of News to Us will let you know how your legislators are doing on environmental issues, introduce a Catch-22 for water conservation, and share some research findings on the impacts of underwater pipeline failures. A recent tour of a preserve in Stockbridge got HRWC and watershed residents out to enjoy what makes our watershed special.  Finally, Michigan Radio has done an excellent series on arsenic in groundwater that may be of particular interest to those of us who draw our drinking water from private wells.

Michigan League of Conservation Voters give local legislators high marks  Several local legislators scored very well on the annual Environmental Scorecard completed by MLCV recently.  In general, however, the report finds the State moving in the wrong direction on environmental issues that impact our land, water and air.  This article shares local legislators opinions on where the State of Michigan is at on important issues such as fracking, alternative energy and biodiversity protection.  A link to MLCV’s full Scorecard report is available at the end of the article.  Check out how your legislators are doing.

Huron River Watershed Council naturalists visit the Beckwith Preserve  Earlier this month, HRWC’s Watershed Ecologist, Kris Olsson, led a walk at the Beckwith Preserve near downtown Stockbridge.   This 30 acre property was donated to Legacy Land Conservancy and has frontage on Portage Creek, a lovely tributary to the Huron River. Private land donations like this play an important role in preserving lands that keep our forests, air and water in good condition.

Drought-Plagued Regions Struggle to Conserve Water and Make Money As infrastructure ages and water availability fluctuates, water utilities struggle with a catch-22. Utilities have operating expenses they need to recoup from consumers and demand they need to meet.  During periods of lower water availability (peak use time, drought) encouraging water conservation is a strategy for prolonging supply and minimizing the burden on water resources.  However, if they are successful and customers use less, less revenue is generated or rates may need to be raised.  This article explores this issue in depth and discusses some innovative ways to promote water conservation while keeping the business of drinking water production viable.

Study: Pipeline break would devastate Great Lakes  We have seen a lot of news lately about oil and gas development, pipelines, waste products from fuel production, and spills in our rivers and lakes. One issue getting a lot of attention is an aging pipeline that transports oil under water in the Straights of Mackinac.  This article shares the outcomes of a recently released study on the impacts of a pipeline failure.  HRWC is urging the US Department of Transportation to evaluate the risks of ruptures and leaks in pipelines crossing Michigan’s rivers, streams and lakes.

Arsenic in Michigan’s Groundwater.  Michigan Radio has done a series of pieces over the past two weeks chronicling the issue of elevated arsenic in Michigan’s groundwater.  The counties in the Huron River watershed do have occurrences of elevated arsenic. This only affects people on private wells as city water is required to remove arsenic from water during treatment. There are not elevated arsenic levels in all wells and there are treatment options for private wells.  If you are in a county that has registered elevated levels in groundwater, consider having your well tested. Here are links to the series:

Rounding Up the River

River and creek sampling

Thanks to 108 volunteers who contributed a total of 643 volunteer hours, the 2014 River Roundup was a great success!  The weather was perfect for our volunteers as they split into 21 teams and traveled to 42 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.  This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.

You can see all the results in April 2014 River Roundup Report.

  • Emily checks out a crayfish! credit: Max Bromley Emily checks out a crayfish! credit: Max Bromley
  • Bruce collects insects in South Ore Creek. credit: Dick Chase Bruce collects insects in South Ore Creek. credit: Dick Chase
  • Picnic tables! Volunteers love these. (Mill Creek at Warrior Park in Dexter) credit: Eric Bassey Picnic tables! Volunteers love these. (Mill Creek at Warrior Park in Dexter) credit: Eric Bassey
  • Sampling the Huron River by Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. credit: Kristen Baumia Sampling the Huron River by Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. credit: Kristen Baumia
  • Hay Creek winds through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto Hay Creek winds through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto
  • Sorting the bugs on ID Day! credit: David Amamoto Sorting the bugs on ID Day! credit: David Amamoto
  • "What the heck is it?"--Paul Steen.  credit: David Amamoto "What the heck is it?"--Paul Steen. credit: David Amamoto

Current Watershed Healthconditions April 2014

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

Fourteen sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County.  Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.

Fourteen sites are significantly improving.  Twelve of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Malletts Creek, and several places on Mill Creek. One site is improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).


The finger-net caddisfly (Philopotamidae) had never been seen in Malletts Creek before the spring of 2014. credit: Jude Walton

The finger-net caddisfly (Philopotamidae) had never been seen in Malletts Creek before the spring of 2014. credit: Jude Walton

1. Malletts Creek is an urban creek in Ann Arbor that has been the focus of restoration efforts for well over a decade. Last fall, we noticed a more diverse insect community in Malletts Creek than had ever been seen before.  We are happy to report that this spring we once again saw a healthier insect community than ever before.  From 1993-2013, volunteers have found an average of 5 insect families in spring samples, but in 2014 volunteers found 9 insect families. One of these insect families is a finger-net caddisfly, which is common in healthy streams but has never been found in Malletts Creek until now. The increase in insect families over time is statistically significant.

Our congratulations go out to all of the partners involved in fixing Malletts Creek! An increase in the diversity of aquatic insects reflects an increase in the overall water quality, water stability, and habitat quality. This is a major accomplishment!

2. The volunteers who sampled in Boyden Creek along Delhi Road pulled in a bonanza of caddisflies! They found 5 different types of caddisflies: the common net-spinner (Hydropsychidae), the square barked case- maker (Lepidostomatidae), the northern caddisfly (Limnephilidae), the finger-net caddisfly (Philopotamidae), and the rock case-maker (Uenoidae).  They also found two families of stoneflies and two families of mayflies.  We have been seeing good changes in Boyden Creek for several years now, and this sample was one of the best taken this spring.


The volunteers who sampled at Greenock Creek near South Lyon were not impressed with the size and abundance of the leeches they pulled out of their trays, nor were they impressed with the total abundance and diversity of the overall insect community.  Greenock Creek was never a very healthy creek, but conditions have significantly worsened here since monitoring began in 1993.  The creek is located downstream of Nichwagh Lake, which is impounded by a dam.  Water exiting the lake and entering the creek is quite warm, regularly reaching 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, which is too warm for many types of aquatic life. It is quite possible that dissolved oxygen levels are very low in the creek also (even in the non-summer months when the water is not as warm).  This is something that HRWC will look into.

Looking upstream in Greenock Creek, October 2012.  It looks picturesque, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to water quality! credit: Max Bromley

Looking upstream in Greenock Creek, October 2012. It looks picturesque, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to water quality! credit: Max Bromley

 What’s next?

Consider being a creekwalker this summer!  You can learn more about this experience through our recent blog series. Check it out here: Part 1 and Part 2.  You can register to be a creekwalker here.

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