Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Get the Lead Out!

Post contributed by Martin Tow, Conservation Corps of Minnesota Youth Outdoors crew member:

Anglers can help prevent lead poisoning.
May 9th was the beginning of the 2015 fishing season in the Land of 10,000 lakes. This comes as great news for the many anglers in this state who have been anxiously awaiting the chance to get out on the water. However, as we prepare our tackle boxes with our favorite jigs and lures, we need to take a closer look at what they are made of. Any lead jigs or sinkers can have adverse effects on our environment, and especially our state bird, the common loon.
                Loons routinely swallow pea-sized pebbles on the bottom of lakes. The pebbles pass to the stomach and help in digestion, like grit in the stomach of a chicken. When fishing sinkers are lost during fishing and drop to the bottom of the lake, they can be picked up by loons or by waterfowl like ringneck ducks and trumpeter swans. Some loons also swallow fishing jigs when they mistake them for minnows. As the lead sinker or jig is exposed to the acids of the stomach and to other pebbles, lead enters the bird's system and slowly poisons the bird.
There are many alternatives to lead tackle!
                A great way to help is by teaching good stewardship to young anglers. Outfit kids' tackle boxes with non-lead weights. They are nontoxic and safer for youngsters to handle. Plus, inexperienced anglers tend to lose the most sinkers, so you'll be cutting down on the amount of lead getting left behind in Minnesota lakes and rivers.
                In a growing number of areas outside Minnesota, non-lead tackle isn't just a good idea — it's the law. So why not make the switch to non-toxic jigs and sinkers; the fish will still bite and the loons will be protected. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency maintains a list of manufacturers and retailers that offer lead-free tackle, so you don’t have to waste time running from store to store. Thank you for doing your part to help keep Minnesota’s many lakes and rivers clean. Good luck fishing!
It takes only one lead sinker or jig to poison a loon.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Emerald Ash Borer

 Post contributed by Pete, Conservation Corps Youth Outdoors crew member:
 A few weeks ago the crew leaders for Youth Outdoors attended an Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) identification and control seminar at the Fort Snelling State Park on the Mississippi River. The crew learned many important details on identification of insects, the damage they cause, as well as the trees that they affect.  They also discussed the critical state of Minnesota’s forests and the potential damage EAB has to harm them, as well as best practices for dealing with them
Emerald ash borer galleries

            Emerald Ash Borers are an invasive species from Asia that were first discovered in the United States in 2002 in Michigan. They are small metallic green insects, roughly the shape of a grasshopper without the large hind leaping legs, or an elongated teardrop shape. Adult insects are approximately the length of a penny, they spend their first year of life as larva and during this time they create s-shaped tunnels called galleries in the sub-bark (phloem) of ash trees, which is easily visible after peeling away the usually very dead bark where the eggs were laid. Finding these galleries can be done by locating woodpecker damage in trees, or finding an exit hole where an adult insect had left the tree.
            EAB affects all species of ash. Minnesota has the highest density of ash trees in the country and ash are the most abundant tree species in the state. The high population of ash trees in the state makes the control of EAB crucial to the protection of our natural woodlands. Fortunately the cold Minnesota weather may help preserve many of these ash trees, by beating back the population of the insect. EAB is not hardy to -30 degree weather which is not at all uncommon in much of the northern forests. Unfortunately for the Twin Cities, the wind chill temperatures that may be experienced with some regularity in the dead of winter rarely drop to -30 degrees and the well insulating bark of ash trees doesn’t permit wind to draw cold deep into the tree.
            On the other hand, the Youth Outdoors, who work with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation, now have the tools to identify EAB and to abide by regulations regarding it, such as lumber quarantines and disposal practices necessary to combat the insect. Hopefully they will not have to identify new problem areas in the Twin Cities, but could now easily do so, and provide a regular set of eyes in the deepest parts of our natural areas to keep tabs on the invasive insect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: May 20th, 2015

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:


There are at least 15 (and possibly 17) bluebirds over a week old on the trail this week. I did not open one box because those five bluebirds are too close to fledging and might fledge prematurely if startled. Bluebirds normally fledge in 16-22 days. I still could only count five bluebirds in the nest that had seven white eggs, though the somewhat flimsy nest seemed quite full. There are two more completed bluebird nests on the trail, for a total of five boxes in use by bluebirds.
House sparrow nest

A mother chickadee was incubating her nest of seven eggs. She flew out when I opened the box and scolded me from a nearby pine tree.

Tree swallows completed one nest, and began another. The house sparrows I evicted last week moved to a different box and built a new nest, which I removed. Two boxes remain completely empty.