DNR News: Peregrine falcams, secretive marsh birds, firewise landscaping tips

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News Digest - Week of March 8, 2021

lily pads

Check out how you can help survey "secretive" marsh bird populations.

Some of this week's stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers' needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For 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.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Waning winter at Warren Dunes

warren dunes

Want to see more stunning pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Danielle Grandholm at Warren Dunes State Park in Berrien County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Peek at peregrines with these falcon webcams

peregrine falcon

Since the 1980s, when the DNR started a program to restore Michigan’s peregrine numbers, dedicated nest watchers have played a vital role in understanding this species. These tireless volunteers help us better understand the timing of peregrine falcon reproduction, breeding and chick-rearing behaviors and sources of mortality. Up until a few years ago, this meant long hours with binoculars or a spotting scope watching an urban nest box or a remote cliffside ledge.

Today, technology makes the job a lot easier. With multiple webcams across the state, from the northern U.P. to the Detroit suburbs, anyone can become an amateur naturalist from the comfort of home. With this convenience and close-up views, we get valuable insight into falcons' conservation needs and ways to help peregrine landlords in cities provide the best possible nesting habitat.

Want to discover this species for yourself? Check out some of the webcams provided by our conservation partners and find answers to some of the questions they’ve helped us solve, like these:

  • Do all of Michigan’s peregrines start breeding at the same time? If they don’t, is there a pattern to when they start?
  • How long does it take a peregrine to lay all of her eggs?
  • How much time does a peregrine spend incubating eggs?
  • Do the parents share incubation, hunting and feeding duties?
  • How soon will a chick start growing flight feathers and losing its down?

Peregrine webcam list:

To learn more about the peregrine falcon, see the All About Birds: Peregrine Falcon page and Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas Peregrine Falcon species account. You can also check out the Midwest Peregrine Society and The Peregrine Fund.

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Volunteer to monitor Michigan’s secretive marsh birds

pied-billed grebe

By Stephanie Beilke, conservation science manager at Audubon Great Lakes

Under cover of grasses, reeds and rushes, “secretive” marsh birds go about their lives, often unbeknownst to us. Marshes can be mysterious places, but countless birds and other wildlife need them to thrive. Unfortunately, many marsh bird populations across the Great Lakes region have declined with the disappearance of the wetlands they need. 

“Marsh birds such as sora, Virginia rail and least bittern are all regularly found in marshes during the spring, summer and fall, but their stealthy behaviors often prevent them from being detected by people,” said Erin Rowan, senior conservation associate with Audubon Great Lakes and Michigan DNR. “Because marsh birds are hard to spot, it can be difficult to know how numerous they are.” 

To better understand marsh bird population trends, MI Birds is looking for marsh bird survey volunteers to search for these birds in locations across Michigan.


Community scientist volunteers visit designated wetlands, play recordings of marsh bird calls and monitor marsh bird responses to the calls. These efforts help identify where marsh birds are located and roughly how many individuals are present at a given wetland site. Participants must conduct three morning surveys between May 1 and June 30. Volunteer training, including bird identification by sight and sound, and supplies will be provided. Sign up to learn more!

“Marsh bird surveys also tell us about the health and condition of the region’s remaining marshes, and how marsh birds are responding to restoration efforts like ours,” said Rowan. “For example, marsh birds like the pied-billed grebe depend on marshes for large areas of open water to dive for prey, sufficient cover for hiding its nest and young, and wetland vegetation to construct their nests. When the level of vegetation and water does not meet their needs, birds like the pied-billed grebe must move elsewhere.”

Want to do even more to help marsh birds? Learn the calls of these focal species: American bitternleast bitterncommon gallinulepied-billed grebeVirginia railsora and king rail. Then report them to eBird when you encounter them at marshes like Pointe Mouillee State Game Area or Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, both of which double as Important Bird Areas.  

MI Birds is a public outreach and engagement program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, aimed at increasing Michiganders' engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands that are important for birds and local communities.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and sign up for email updates

Questions? Contact Emily Osborne at 414-841-5273.

Get your yard ready for wildfire season


As you enjoy the first rays of spring sunshine and begin to dust off garden tools, take a fresh look at your yard through the eyes of a firefighter. Whether you live in a forest or in a neighborhood, a few key actions can reduce wildfire risk to your home.  

“The first thing a firefighter will look for is how easy it is to find a home in a wildfire situation,” said DNR fire prevention specialist Paul Rogers. “Stand at the end of your driveway and check to see that your house numbers are clearly visible. They should be mounted on a reflective background so they can be seen in dark or smoky conditions.”

While standing in that spot, take a look at the driveway itself. To accommodate a fire engine, driveways should be 15 feet across, with overhanging branches trimmed 15 feet up for clearance. 

“Trees should be pruned of limbs 6 feet from the ground or higher,” said Rogers. “This helps prevent grass fires from climbing up into the canopy. Canopy fires are dangerous because airborne embers and sparks from the crowns of trees can land on the roofs of homes and ignite.”


Tree limbs should not hang over the roof of a home. If trees are packed tightly together and branches are touching, consider thinning them out to put distance between them.

Around a home is a critical 30-foot zone where landscaping influences fire risk. When pruning and raking, dispose of brush beyond this zone to prevent buildup of flammable fuels. 

Closer to the house, keep an eye out for potential fuel sources. Never stack firewood or tires directly next to your home. If ignited, these fuel piles burn hot and fast and can be a danger to your house. Gutters should be cleaned out in the fall and spring. Most exterior home fires are started by embers floating on the wind, and a gutter full of dry leaves and pine needles can easily ignite.  

Long-term investments in fire safety can include removing conifer trees in the 30-foot zone, replacing an older roof with a metal one and separating areas of the yard with hard paths to act as fuel breaks. A fuel break is an area that will not burn, such as a sidewalk or driveway, which can bring a scorching ground fire to a halt. These actions are highly recommended in fire-prone areas such as jack pine forests. 

Find more fire prevention information at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires or the National Fire Protection Association. 

Questions? Contact Paul Rogers at 616-260-8406.

ICYMI: Celebrate #WomensHistoryMonth with the Mann sisters

mann sisters

Sisters Jessie Ellen Mann (left) and Mary Ida Mann Cady (right), namesakes of the historic Mann House in Concord, Michigan, were pioneering women for their time. Active participants in their community, they supported local agriculture, participated in community cultural events and institutions and advocated for the right of women to vote.

In 1970, they donated their family home and all its contents to the State of Michigan to become a museum and a learning tool for school children. The Mann House museum is now part of the Michigan History Center museum system.

In case you missed it, you can learn more about the Mann sisters and their home by watching this virtual tour created for the home's 50th anniversary as a museum.


As snow melts and spring arrives, remember that using muddy trails can cause erosion and safety issues. Review trail etiquette tips and help protect these natural landscapes for all to enjoy.


Looking ahead to warmer weather? Make sure you have a boater safety certificate in time for the season. Also remember boat registrations expire March 31 the third year of issuance, so renew soon.


There are tons of ways to help shape the future of your favorite natural or cultural resources. Check out the upcoming public meetings and make your voice heard. Public input is invaluable for these resources.

Enjoy responsible recreation

Stay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response