Posted by: Kath Usitalo | March 21, 2013

Explore Michigan Wetland Wonders

Harsens Island, Lake St. Clair (HarsensIsland.com photo)

Harsens Island, Lake St. Clair (HarsensIsland.com photo)

The Explore Michigan Wetland Wonders Challenge begins March 23 with tours at two of the state’s seven managed waterfowl areas, and continues March 30 with a Harsens Island tour.

These sound like fantastic and FREE events for anyone interested in the natural habitat of the southern part of the Great Lakes State, and a great opportunity to discover a bit of Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron and Lake St. Clair on guided tours.

Here’s the scoop from the Department of Natural Resources:

This spring and summer, as part of its Explore Michigan’s Wetland Wonders campaign, the Department of Natural Resources is challenging outdoor enthusiasts to discover everything the state’s seven Wetland Wonders have to offer and learn about these unique habitats and the wildlife that inhabit them.

Michigan’s Wetland Wonders Challenge II will provide participants a chance to observe coots, peepers, darners and other critters that depend on the state’s wetlands and to enjoy a variety of outdoor recreation experiences.

Michigan’s Wetland Wonders are the seven premier managed waterfowl areas in the state:

  • Fennville Farm Unit at the Allegan State Game Area
  • Fish Point State Wildlife Area
  • St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area on Harsens Island
  • Muskegon County Wastewater Facility
  • Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area
  • Pointe Mouillee State Game Area
  • Shiawassee River State Game Area

These areas, scattered across the southern Lower Peninsula, were created in the 1960s to provide exceptional waterfowl hunting opportunities, and are still managed today to provide waterfowl habitat for nesting and migration and for the benefit of other wetland wildlife. Since the beginning, the areas have been funded by hunting license fees and area use fees, but they are open for anyone to visit, use and enjoy most of the year.

From March through August, these sites will host Wetland Wonders Challenge II events where visitors can explore and learn.

“This challenge invites the public to explore the managed waterfowl areas during the spring and summer to experience great wildlife viewing, hiking, kayaking, birding, fishing and other outdoor adventures,” said Barbara Avers, DNR waterfowl and wetlands specialist. “If you haven’t visited one these areas before, the Wetland Wonders II events are the perfect chance to discover these unique and vital habitats.”

Pointe Mouillee State Game Area Auto Tour – March 23: 

Meet at the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area Office (37205 Mouillee Road Route 2, Rockwood) at 9 a.m. for a driving tour of the game area. The tour will visit areas that the public is usually not allowed to drive, and DNR biologists will provide a history of the game area. Experienced birders from the Detroit Audubon Society will be present to help visitors find and identify the diversity of songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors migrating through the game area.

Fish Point State Wildlife Area Spring Migration Tour – March 23:

You may see Tundra Swan migration on one of the DNR Wetland Wonder tours (DNR photo)

You may see migrating tundra swans on the Fish Point Wetland Wonder tours (DNR photo)

Come to the Fish Point State Wildlife Area Office (7750 Ringle Road, Unionville) between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for a chance to see the spectacle of tundra swans during migration.

The swans stop in Saginaw Bay every year on the path between their wintering grounds and breeding grounds, and may gather in flocks of several thousand birds to feed and rest. DNR biologists will point visitors to the best swan-watching sites.

A tour will be leaving from the Fish Point office at 1 p.m. to visit a nearby lakeplain prairie ecosystem to view migrating songbirds coming through the Saginaw Bay area, and stops will be made around Wildfowl Bay for additional swan-viewing opportunities.

St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area Auto Tour – March 30:

Join staff from the St. Clair Flats State Wildlife Area and members of the Blue Water Audubon Society for a guided auto tour of the marshes on Harsens Island. Meet at the wildlife area office (1803 Krispin Road, Harsens Island) at 8 a.m. for a chance to learn about the history of the area and how the DNR maintains and improves the area for migratory birds while driving through this unique Great Lakes habitat.

Additional Wetland Wonders Challenge II events will take place throughout the spring and summer. For more information, please visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders.

Check in often, as new information will be posted as events are finalized.

The Wetland Wonders Challenge II events help to promote the Michigan Waterfowl Legacy (MWL) and the “Year of the Duck.” The MWL is a 10-year, cooperative partnership to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetlands and waterfowl hunting community. Throughout the year, numerous waterfowl- and wetland-related events will be held.

For more information about MWL, please visit www.michigan.gov/mwl.

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