DNR News: Seasonal songbirds, First Day Hikes and ice safety tips

Share or view as webpage  |  Update preferences

News Digest - Week of Dec. 21, 2020


Some of the items in this week's news digest reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is adapting to meet customers' needs. Public health and safety are our biggest priorities, and we will continue to share news and information about the safest, and sometimes new, ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on facilities and reopening dates. For the latest public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Bring out your bird feeders and enjoy winter songbirds

bird feeder

The snow is already flying in some parts of the state, and there are still plenty of bird species flitting about in the snowflakes. Northern cardinals, red-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrows are ready to visit your backyard bird feeders. This year, Michigan is experiencing a rare irruption – a sudden, sharp increase of a natural population due to favorable changes in the environment – of northern finches. Common redpolls, pine siskins and evening grosbeaks have arrived in record numbers in search of cone and seed crops across the state. Now that Michigan winter weather has set in, you can watch these seasonal songbirds flock to your outdoor bird feeders.  

When deciding which feeder to use, consider using a tube, hopper, suet or platform bird feeder, rather than spreading the seed directly on the ground. This will help prevent uninvited guests, like squirrels and bears, from visiting. Be sure your feeder is inaccessible to deer and elk, too, as feeding these animals is banned in the Lower Peninsula and in the Upper Peninsula's core chronic wasting disease surveillance area, which covers portions of Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties. A mess-free birdseed can help keep the ground clean and a fence around the feeder can keep it out of reach. You can find more tips on the DNR Bird Feeding Tips page. Learn more about CWD and the deer and elk feeding ban at Michigan.gov/CWD.

If you live in black bear range, don’t worry about your winter bird feeders! Most black bears should be settled in for their winter hibernation. Just mark your calendars to take your feeders inside come March, when bears exit their dens and begin searching for a replenishing meal. 

Are you a birding beginner? Listen to the Wildtalk Podcast episode “This Podcast is for the Birds” to hear from MI Birds, a public outreach program by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, on resources to help you get started.

Learn about all things Michigan birds by following MI Birds on 
FacebookInstagram and Twitter and visiting MI Birds online.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at DNR-Wildlife@michigan.gov or 517-284-9453.

Kick off 2021 on the right foot; First Day Hikes go virtual

first day hike

Each year, thousands of people greet the first day of January by joining America’s State Parks First Day Hikes events. These hikes have become an annual tradition, letting people usher in the year by exercising and connecting with the outdoors.

In 2019, nearly 85,000 people from across the country rang in the new year by collectively hiking more than 176,366 miles on guided hikes. Michiganders contributed more than 3,000 of those miles.

Michigan is one of many states adapting its First Day Hikes to a virtual or self-guided format. First Day hikers can spread out in state parks or on nonmotorized trails. The goal is to have all Great Lakes State participants collectively hike, cross-county ski, ride (horse or bike) or snowshoe 2,021 miles or more New Year's Day. Participants choose the route and distance, while setting the tone for a year of outdoor fitness and fun!

“Everyone could use a little more fresh air and one more reason to get out of the house,” said Elissa Buck, DNR Parks and Recreation Division event coordinator. “This is a great opportunity to get outdoors, start ticking a few items off your bucket list.”

Always dress appropriately for the weather. Although outdoors, please remember to stay at least 6 feet from people who don’t live in your household and wear a mask if you’re going to be near others.

To sign up, visit Michigan.gov/FirstDayHikes to RSVP. After you’ve hit the trails, you can log your miles on the same page.

Find more ways to enjoy Michigan's winter wonderland, including snowshoeing, skiing, winter camping, ice fishing and more at Michigan.gov/WinterFun.

Questions? Contact Elissa Buck at 989-313-0000.

Keep safety in mind out on the ice

ice fishing

With winter now (officially) begun, many anglers are heading out to the ice for some frozen fishing fun. It’s important to make safety your top priority anytime you’re on the ice. Remember: there is no reliable “inch-thickness” to determine when ice is safe.

Your safety is your responsibility, so always make sure you’re prepared. Dress warmly and bring a life jacket, ice picks and a cell phone that will have signal while you’re on the ice. Avoid areas of ice with protruding debris and areas with weak ice, which will appear milky.

Never fish alone (but make sure to practice proper social distancing of at least 6 feet if you’re with people who don’t live in your household), and always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.

Use extreme caution if temperatures begin to rise or fluctuate during the season. Repeated thawing and refreezing of ice weakens its integrity, decreasing its ability to support additional weight of people, snowmobiles, ORVs and shanties. Deteriorating ice, water currents and high winds increase the probability of pressure cracks, which can leave anglers and others stranded on ice floes or at risk of falling through the ice.

Visit Michigan.gov/IceSafety or watch this ice safety video for more in-depth tips, including what to do if you fall through the ice.

Ice fishing is a great way to enjoy time out in nature. Check out the DNR’s ice fishing page for more info on techniques and where to fish.


Are you ready to claim the title of "Ultimate Michigander?" Test your knowledge of Michigan’s wildlife, history, trees and more with MichiGame or MichiGame Jr.!


The snow is flying and the trails are calling! Always "ride right" when snowmobiling and make sure you have your trail permit and your safety certificate handy.


Ring in the new year by supporting natural and cultural resources when you shop our These Goods are Good for Michigan partners or at Michiganology.com.

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.