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Nature Now

Check back often for new & fun tips on connecting with nature from home and in your own backyard! 
Here are just a few ways you can get involved:  
Enjoy KNC all year by becoming a member. Support KNC by making a donation. Join our Facebook group, Nature Now, for daily updates and ways to connect.

Explore with KNC
Forest Games

Forest Games

Getting out in nature is fun, educational and can also be a source of healing and calming. When you get out into the forest with the family, it sometimes helps to have some structure for your adventure.  This list of forest games is a great resource. 

Credit to Healing Forest for creating this document. Learn more about the benefits of forest walks, forest bathing and more at healingforest.org/walks/

 

 

Spring Wildflower Walk

Join KNC Educator Lorri as she explains what makes our Spring Ephemerals unique. This week we’ll look at Dutchman’s Breeches, False Rue Anemone, and Trout Lily!

Virtual Creature Features each Saturday

Join a KNC naturalist for a virtual Creature Feature each Saturday at 3 pm! Tune in on Facebook Live.  For a playlist of past Features, visit our Youtube page.

Meet Carmen & Juni!

Mindfulness Walk

Mindfulness Walk

KNC community programs director Jen Rice and her children visited the SWMLC Bow in the Clouds preserve this month and participated in the self-guided Mindfulness walk on the trail.  Jen developed this carry-along Mindfulness Walkscript that you can use anywhere! Click on the image for more details. 

Birding with John & Liam

KNC Kids: Nature Activities
Roll Over a Log

Roll Over a Log

Roll over a log! What can you find? We found a red backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus). Interesting note: these salamanders do not have lungs so they breathe through their skin instead. They live in a wet environment to keep their skin damp enough to breathe!

Ice Cube Painting

Ice Cube Painting

Freeze some food coloring into an ice cube for frozen water color painting. Place a popsicle stick or similar object inside for a handle. You can use a cookie sheet for a tray. Thanks to Nature's Way Preschool for the great idea!

Frog Hops

Frog Hops

Guess how many frog hops to the end of your driveway and back. Hop and count. How close did you get? How many hops to your mailbox, how many hops to an object in your yard...keep guessing, keep playing!

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

Want to attract more birds to your yard? Make your own pinecone bird feeder! Find a pinecone, the bigger the better. Cover your pinecone with something edible and sticky; peanut butter, honey, and shortening (like Crisco) are all great options. Roll the pinecone in birdseed and tie a string around the top. Hang in your backyard and watch the birds enjoy their snack!

KVBO at Kleinstuck Preserve

The Kalamazoo Nature Center started performing daily spring bird surveys in 1973 at Kleinstuck Preserve. Kleinstuck was chosen for a variety of reasons: relatively small size (around 60 acres), which means it could be covered thoroughly in a short amount of time (2-3 hours a day). This site has a good variety of habitats with a Conifer (mostly planted) and Deciduous mix of woods surrounding a small wetland. This creates a good amount of edge habitat which is a great place to find birds, with 208 species being found over this time frame. Kleinstuck is also located in an area of mostly houses, creating a green space that birds would navigate to.  

- John Brenneman, Research Project Coordinator

Learn more about KNC's Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory here.

Kleinstuck Preserve Bird Survey 2020
24 Mar

Fox Sparrows & White-throated Sparrow

Most of the usual year-round birds were present, along with a few additions.
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While the Kleinstuck Preserve Survey typically begins on March 23, yesterday was a snow storm so we began on March 24.

Most of the usual year-round resident birds were present, along with a few Fox Sparrows, the first migrating songbird in the state.  They usually pass through starting in mid-March through mid-April. There was also a White-throated Sparrow found, but this bird could have been here all winter.

25 Mar

Winter Wren & Eastern Phoebe

A possible year-round bird and a flycatcher species that breed in Kalamazoo.
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A new migrant showed up called a Winter Wren.  This bird like its name suggests can stay in this area during the winter especially during years of low snow cover.  They migrate to Northern Michigan and beyond and can be found usually until mid to late April. It was also the first day that an Eastern Phoebe showed up which breed right here in Kalamazoo.  They are a flycatcher species that can vary it’s diet to eating dried berries etc… when the weather is not favorable for flying insects so can be found much earlier than any other Flycatcher species.

26 Mar

Golden-crowned Kinglets

These are the smallest birds to brave a Michigan winter! Also found were Brown Creepers, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Eastern Towhee.
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Two new migrating birds were found today: a Golden-crowned Kinglet and Brown Creeper.  Golden-crowned Kinglets are the smallest bird that will brave a Michigan winter weighing in at almost half of a chickadee!  They usually travel in small groups and migrate to N. Michigan and beyond. Brown Creepers also traveling to N. Michigan are a bird that spends most of its time on the main trunk of a tree creeping slowly upwards before flying down to the base of another tree. Other species seen for first time today:  Yellow-rumped Warbler(migrant) and an Eastern Towhee (summer resident)

27 Mar

Hermit Thrush

The first Hermit Thrush showed up today, another species that will breed in Northern Michigan.
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30 Mar

Pied-billed Grebes

This pair is very vocal with their weird clucking sound.
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The resident Pied-billed Grebes showed up today.  They usually split into breeding pairs and nest in small wetlands most of the ice has melted.  This pair is very vocal with their weird clucking sound.

2 Apr

Swamp Sparrow

It was heard singing from the wetland.
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A Swamp Sparrow which is a returning breeding bird was heard singing from the wetland today.  A hard bird to get a good look at as it stays hidden in the grasses and cattails.

4 Apr

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

For the next couple of weeks, you can see both species of Kinglets. 
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 I heard the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet which is migrating to Northern Michigan and beyond.  For the next couple of weeks, you can see both species of Kinglets. 

5 Apr

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Sapsuckers get their name from drilling lines of small holes in trees and then lapping up the sap and any insects that might get caught. 
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The first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker showed up for me although this species was seen by another observer 2 days before.  Sapsuckers get their name from drilling lines of small holes in trees and then lapping up the sap and any insects that might get caught.  They breed in N. Michigan and beyond.

8 Apr

American Woodcock

Not often found in Kleinstuck
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An American Woodcock was spooked out today.  This species is not found in Kleinstuck too often and is more common at other sites near to where it does it unique courtship display when the male flies hundreds of feet into the air while its wings make a whirring sound. 

9 Apr

Pine Warbler and Rusty Blackbird

The Rusty Blackbird can be found in Kalamazoo usually during the spring and fall seasons, since it breeds primarily in Northern Canada. 
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Two new species found today: A Pine Warbler and Rusty Blackbird.  The Pine Warbler is a hardy species of warbler found like its name suggests in Pine Stands and Forests.  There are local breeding populations in Kalamazoo County (Kellogg Forest).  The Rusty Blackbird was seen and heard singing its rusty gate type song.  This species is uncommon and declining over most of its range and can be found in Kalamazoo usually during the spring and fall seasons, since it breeds primarily in Northern Canada. 

19 Apr

Blue-headed Vireo

This species used to be called the Solitary Vireo.
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Vireo solitarius

So I finally had a new migrant, a Blue-headed Vireo, weather has held up most of the migrating birds at this time. This is the first species of vireo to be found heading north in the spring, they breed in Northern Michigan and beyond.  They do not have a blue head more like bluish gray. This species used to be called the Solitary Vireo but was split into 3 species: Blue-headed, Plumbeous, and Cassin’s.  They prefer to nest in a Conifer/Deciduous mix of woods. 

22 Apr

Brown Thrasher

These birds are uncommon in Kleinstuck Preserve.
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Toxostoma rufum

A Brown Thrasher was found today.  They have been around other parts of Kalamazoo County for the past 3 weeks however they are uncommon at Kleinstuck.  This is the only regularly found Thrasher species found in the state and is easy to identify with its reddish-brown color, long tail and large black curved beak.   

23 Apr

Field Sparrow and House Wren

Both of these species breed here in Kalamazoo.
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Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) and House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  

Both of these species breed here in Kalamazoo with the Field Sparrow arriving over a month ago and is an uncommon species for Kleinstuck since it prefers grasslands and open woodlands.  They are a small sparrow with a long tail, white eye ring, pinkish colored bill and no markings on its breast.  They have a distinctive song that starts slow and finishes fast like a ping pong ball being dropped.  House Wren also called the “Jenny Wren” can be heard from most neighborhoods all across the lower 48 and will readily nest in nest boxes.

25 Apr

Broad-winged Hawk

They can travel in flocks that number in the thousands during migration!
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Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)

 The Broad-winged Hawk is a local breeding bird here in Kalamazoo County.  It is a small hawk about the size of a crow, the adult bird has a broad white band on its tail and they have a piercing whistle type call that is very distinctive.  They can travel in flocks that number in the thousands during migration.    

26 Apr

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

 A small bird with a long tail which it fans out frequently while flitting through the trees. 
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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Polioptila caerulea

 A small bird with a long tail which it fans out frequently while flitting through the trees.  Besides the long tail it has a blue-gray back and a white eye ring.  Song is an easily overlooked wheezy note sort of cat like.  It is returning to Kalamazoo County to nest for the summer.

28 Apr

Tree Swallow

Like all swallow species you will see them mostly in flight.  They have a beautiful metallic blue green back.
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Tree Swallow
Tachycineta bicolor

This species returned to Kalamazoo County over a month ago and is uncommonly found in Kleinstuck.  It is found more commonly around bodies of water or open spaces..  They are a cavity nester and will readily make use of bluebird boxes.  Like all swallow species you will see them mostly in flight.  They have a beautiful metallic blue green back.

29 Apr

NINE new species at Kleinstuck Preserve today!

New species were Solitary Sandpiper, Great Crested Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. 
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The first big push of migrants happened today.  New species were Solitary Sandpiper, Great Crested Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  I can’t talk about all of these species but will pick a few.  Ovenbird is a species of warbler that breeds in Kalamazoo County.  They have a distinctive song, a loud “Teacher, Teacher, Teacher”.  They are mostly a ground dwelling species that is named after its nest which resembles an Old Dutch oven.  Yellow Warbler is a common warbler that nests in Kalamazoo and is found around most wetlands.  They like their name suggests are yellow with the male bird having red “pin Stripes” on its breast. Rose-breasted Grosbeak is usually a crowd pleaser and looks more like a tropical bird with a striking black and white back and a gorgeous rose red breast.  They have a musical song that sounds like a Robin that has had singing lessons and also nest in Kalamazoo County.  The next three weeks will be the peak of the Spring migration so expect new birds showing up almost daily now.   

29 Apr

Gray Catbird, Wood Thrush, and Yellow-throated Vireo

These three were new today to Kleinstuck Preserve.
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Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)

Gray Catbird is a skulking species that prefers to be on or near the ground.  It is all gray with some black on the top of its head and a brick colored undertail.  If you ever hear one mewing you will understand how it got its name.  They are pretty common over most of Kalamazoo during the summer.  Wood Thrush a large thrush with a rufous colored back and tail and large black spots on its breast.  It breeds in Kalamazoo County and can be found in most forested areas.  It has a beautiful song that sounds like a flute.  Yellow-throated Vireo which also breed in Kalamazoo County are usually found mid to upper levels of the trees. They have a bright yellow throat and two white wing patches and have a burry song.  

2 May

Six new birds sighted today

Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Barn Swallow, Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Least Flycatcher
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Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia), Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens), Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula), Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea), Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus)  

The Black-and-white Warbler is so aptly named because those are the only colors it has.  They breed in mid-Michigan and North.  They act more like a Nuthatch hunting for food usually along the trunk of a tree instead of in the canopy. 

 Black-throated Green Warbler is impressive with their jet black throat and olive green colored back.  This species can breed in Kalamazoo County but is usually found mid-Michigan and North.  They have a distinctive song that sounds like a buzzy zee zee zoo zee. 

The Barn Swallow was a fly over and is commonly found around farms and parks building a mud nest on manmade structures.  The Baltimore Oriole most people know and love because they will readily come to oranges if you put them at your feeders.

Indigo Buntings will also come to your bird feeders eating black oil sunflower seeds and the male has a bright Indigo blue body that is hard to mistake.

Finally the Least Flycatcher like most flycatchers is hard to identify but this species is very small with a white eye ring.    

3 May

Chimney Swift, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Palm Warbler

Chimney swifts make their nests with saliva and small sticks!
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Chimney Swift, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Palm Warbler 

The Chimney Swift was seen flying over and can be found all summer long above Kalamazoo zipping around with it fast wing beats.  They sort of look like a cigar with wings and get their name because they will nest inside chimneys and smoke stacks.  They make their nest with saliva and small sticks that they attach to the walls.  Lincoln’s Sparrow is a skulking species that is breeds in mid-Michigan and North.  They are smaller than a Song Sparrow and have buffy sides with black “pin stripes”, they have a habit of raising the feathers on top of their head which can make their head seem cone shaped.  Palm Warblers breed in the UP and farther North into Canada.  They have a rusty cap and yellow on the undertail and throat of varying degrees of brightness.  They also have a habit of constantly pumping their tails while foraging along the edges of woodlands and wetlands. 

4 May

Double-crested Cormorant

This species breeds on islands in the Great Lakes.
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Double-crested Cormorant  A small flock of Cormorants were seen flying over Kleinstuck today.  This species is a migrant in Kalamazoo and breeds on islands in the Great Lakes.  A more typical location to find this species would be large bodies of water like Gull Lake.

7 May

American Redstart

The male American Redstart is a stunning and unmistakable bird.
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American Redstart  The male American Redstart is a stunning and unmistakable bird with its jet black plumage and orange highlights on its tail, wings and and flanks.  It breeds here in Kalamazoo County and can be found in most deciduous forests with some understory.

8 May

Orchard Oriole 

The adult male is a nice chestnut color with a black hood and wings and is smaller than the more commonly seen Baltimore Oriole. 
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The Orchard Oriole breeds locally in Kalamazoo County and its range and population have been expanding all across southern Michigan.  The adult male is a nice chestnut color with a black hood and wings and is smaller than the more commonly seen Baltimore Oriole. 

10 May

4 New Species today

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush
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 The Chestnut-sided Warbler can breed in Kalamazoo County found in Decidous Woods with a good amount of secondary growth.  Like its name suggests the male has chestnut colored sides along with a yellow cap and greenish colored back.  The song sounds like it is saying “very very pleased to meet ya”. The Blackburnian Warbler male is unmistakable with its flame orange colored throat which can be seen as it feeds in the treetops where it spends a majority of its life.  This bird breeds from Northern Michigan northward.  Orange-crowned Warbler like its name suggests does have a dull orange patch of feathers on top of its head but is hidden most of the time.  The bird is a dull yellow-olive color overall with a thin eye line.  The lack of any field marks is the best way to identify this bird.  This bird is just passing through Michigan on its way to Northern Canada.   Gray-cheeked Thrush Is a true long-distance migrant traveling from South America to the Northern parts of Canada to breed and is only passing through Michigan.  They are more uncommon than the other thrush species and can sometimes be difficult to ID.  They lack the buffy coloration around the eye like a Swainson’s Thrush and have a dull brown back and tail unlike the Veery and Hermit Thrush.  

11 May

Black-throated Blue Warbler and Swainson’s Thrush

The Black-throated Blue Warbler's song is a buzzy “I am so lazeeee”! 
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The male Black-throated Blue Warbler is a wonderful mix of black, dark blue, and white and is quite striking.  It is a warbler that is usually low and can be found near the ground.  It breeds in Mid-Michigan northward.  The female of this species is dimorphic meaning it looks nothing like the male.  The song is a buzzy “I am so lazeeee”.  Swainson ’s thrush breed from Northern Michigan into Canada.  They have an olive-brown back and tail with a buffy color around their eye.  They are one of the most common thrushes that migrate through this area.  They should have arrived at least a week or two ago but everything is behind this Spring.

15 May

NINE New Species at Kleinstuck Preserve today!

Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo,Northern Parula, Tennessee, Mourning, Magnolia and Canada Warblers
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Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo,Northern Parula, Tennessee, Mourning, Magnolia and Canada Warblers.  So we had a major movement of birds last night as can be seen by the 9 new species today.  The Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee and Eastern Kingbird are all types of Flycatchers and all breed in Kalamazoo County.  The Acadian and Wood-Pewee prefer mature deciduous woods with the Pewee being the more common of the two.  The Eastern Kingbird is found more often in wetlands and grasslands.  The Warbling Vireo arrived in Kalamazoo a couple weeks ago and is more commonly found in and around lake sites and waterways where there are plenty of Cottonwood trees.  The Northern Parula, Tennessee, Magnolia and Canada Warblers are passing through to breed in Northern Michigan and northward.  The Northern Parula is usually found high in the canopy and is heard way more often than it is seen.  It has a very distinctive ziiiiiipppp song like a zipper.  The Magnolia Warbler is found usually in the mid-levels of the forest canopy and has a stunning yellow breast with a necklace of black streaks, a black mask, gray head and a broad white wing bar.  The Tennessee Warbler can be found from tree top to very low in the canopy.  They are less colorful than most of the other warblers species but do have a gray head with an indistinctive eye-line and a greenish colored back.  When the Tennessee Warblers are here in peak numbers their song can dominate the woodlands.  Canada Warbler is usually found closer to the ground level and has a yellow breast decorated with a black necklace and a slate gray back.  Finally the Mourning Warbler can breed locally in Kalamazoo and are a skulking species usually hidden in the undergrowth.  They have a dark gray head, dark green colored back and a dark yellow belly and under tail.  

12 May

Scarlet Tanager and Veery.

The male Scarlet Tanager is unmistakable with its scarlet red body and tail with jet black wings
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Scarlet Tanager and Veery.  The male Scarlet Tanager is unmistakable with its scarlet red body and tail with jet black wings.  They breed in Kalamazoo County preferring Oak dominated woodlands.  The song of a Tanager sounds like a Robin but is burry sounding, like it needs singing lessons.   The Veery also breeds in Kalamazoo County.  They have a warm reddish brown back and tail and weak spots that sort of look like they have been erased under the neck.  Their song is a downward spiraling “vreeer vreeer vreeer” 

16 May

Wilson’s Warbler and Alder Flycatcher. 

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Wilson’s Warbler and Alder Flycatcher.  The Wilson’s Warbler is passing through with a few birds breeding in the UP but most are found in Canada.  Both males and females are lemon yellow with the males having a full black cap.  They are found usually in wetlands with lots of cover.  The Alder Flycatcher use to be lumped with the Willow Flycatcher and both were called the Trail’s Flycatcher.  They are almost identical in appearance with voice being the best way to distinguish them.  The Alder can be found locally breeding here in Kalamazoo but most are found in Northern Michigan northward.    

 

In the Garden
Rainbow Smoothies

Rainbow Smoothies

Did you know that a colorful plate of fruits and veggies is a nutritionally diverse plate? When you “eat the rainbow,” you get different phytonutrients from each color that provide many benefits for your body.
Make a recipe using fresh food from every color of the rainbow, and share your recipe photos with us!  Learn more and get a recipe on the KNC Fair Food Matters page!

Explorar con KNC
Señales de que la Primavera está cerca

Señales de que la Primavera está cerca

¿Sabías que la primavera ya está aquí? Estas son algunas de las señales de la primavera que se encuentran fácilmente.  Ver y descargar el pdf aqui.

Busqueda del Tesoro

Busqueda del Tesoro

¿Qué mejor manera de pasar un día afuera que con una pequeña aventura? ¡Salga a caminar e intente encontrar todos los artículos! Ver y descargar el pdf aquí.

Birds & Blossoms

Eastern Bluebird

A note from Kalamazoo Valley Bird Observatory Director Rich Keith:

"Spring migration has begun! Waterfowl are still staging here in significant numbers and sparrows, blackbirds and others are coming in daily.  By mid-April warblers will arrive. This is one of my favorite times of year. Birdwatching is a cheap sport, doesn't need a crowd to be enjoyed, and provides significant emotional benefit. Go outside, look up, and enjoy."

Check back for a how-to on using birding apps soon!

Virtual Field Trips

Kids with binoculars

Take a (Virtual) Field Trip!

There are a number of museums offering online resources during this time. Explore the Field Museum, the Smithsonian, and the American Museum of Natural History, just to name a few.