Stewardship Challange

The Stewardship Network of the Great Lakes has created a challenge for us this October! Every year through the Garlic Mustard Challenge, thousands of people come together to dedicate tens of thousands of hours to invasive species management. The October Volunteer Challenge will bookend the spring Garlic Mustard Challenge, and will be a way of showing collective impact, showcasing the many facets of stewardship, and telling the stories of stewards working in public parks and on private properties. This challenge is about the volunteer hours towards removal of invasive species, not a specific species. The goal is a total of 1,000 hours of collective volunteer hours. 


Blandford Nature Center holds many opportunities for eco-stewardship volunteer hours throughout the year. This October we are holding two opportunities to remove invasive species and contribute to helping the biodiversity of Blandford’s beautiful 143 acres. These eco-stewardship days are free to everyone. Afraid you won’t be able to identify the invasive species? No worries! We start with a lesson on invasive non-native plants and tree identification. Then we head out into the forest to practice our identification skills with a fabulous guide to help you with identification. Finally, we’ll cut and treat those unwanted invaders improving habitat for native species. If you plan on coming please come prepared to work off the trail. Wear layers of warm clothes and sturdy shoes that will more than likely get dirty. These opportunities are open to the public so walks-ins are welcome. Application not required for group work days. Bring a friend! Together we can help contribute to the 1,000 hour goal for the Stewardship Network challenge! (dates and times:
This Stewardship Blog Post was contributed by Brooke Mellema, Blandford Nature Center Land Stewardship Intern.

National Public Lands Day

Did you know National Public Lands Day is September 26, 2015. 100_1870

What is NPLD? NPLD is a program set up to give back to lands that are set aside for us to enjoy. It was started in 1994 with 3 sites and 700 volunteer. It has grown to the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. In 2014 alone, NPLD volunteers collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, built and maintained an estimated 1,500 miles of trails, planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants, removed an estimated 500 tons of trash from trails and other places, and contributed an estimated $18 million through volunteer services to improve public lands across the country! That’s amazing!

Want to contribute to this wonderful day? Blandford offers an Eco-Stewardship Work Day on the 26th! It is the prefect opportunity to enjoy, and give something back to   those places we love. We will start with a lesson on invasive non-native shrub and tree identification. Volunteers will learn to identify common invasive plants like buckthorn, privet and honeysuckle and then we’ll head out into the forest to practice our identification skills by cutting and treating those unwanted invaders improving habitat for native species.

It’s a great way to give back and learn something new. To get more information click here:

This Blog post was contributed by Brooke Mellema, Blandford’s Land Stewardship Intern.

Check trees for Asian longhorned beetle in August


Joel Bird, Blandford Volunteer, inspecting the trees for beech bark scale

August is national Tree Check Month, which makes it a great time for  Michiganders and travelers alike to be on the lookout for invasive, destructive pests threatening the state’s forest landscape. The Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, along with the U.S Department of Agriculture, are asking people to take time out this month to examine trees for signs of Asian longhorned beetle, a highly destructive invasive pest.

Take just 10 minutes this month to check trees around homes for Asian longhorned beetle or any signs of the damage it causes. Out for a stroll? Look for signs around the neighborhood, at local parks and Asian longhorned beetlefavorite recreation spots. Early detection and response are vital to protecting Michigan’s trees.

Adult Asian longhorned beetles are distinctively large, ranging from three-quarters of an inch to 1 and one-half inches in length, not including their long antennae. The beetles are shiny black, with random white blotches or spots, and their antennae have alternating black and white segments. They have six legs that can be black or partly blue, with blue coloration sometimes extending to their feet.

The Asian longhorned beetle was first identified in the United States in 1996, likely transported from Asia in wood packing materials. Like the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle spends most of its life cycle eating its way through the insides of trees. What makes ALB much more dangerous is that it feeds on a wide variety of tree species. Its first choice is maple, but it also will infest birch, elm, willow, buckeye, horse chestnut and other hardwoods. The damage caused by Asian longhorned beetles ultimately will destroy an infested tree.

Adult beetles are active in late summer to early fall. During that brief window, beetles may be seen and some of the telltale signs of infestation may be more noticeable. Female beetles chew oval depressions in which they lay eggs. When larvae hatch, they burrow deep into the heartwood of the tree where insecticides can’t reach, creating large chambers in the wood. The next summer, fully formed adult beetles emerge from trees by boring perfectly round, three-eighths-inch-diameter exit holes. Sometimes a material resembling wood shavings can be seen at or below these holes or coming from cracks in an infested tree’s bark. Once a tree is infested, it must be removed.

To date, there are no known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in Michigan. However, the beetle has been found in areas of Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Ontario (Toronto).

“Though the beetle does not move long distances on its own, it can be transported in firewood,” said John Bedford, Pest Response Program specialist at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  “When traveling, leave your firewood at home. Buy it at your destination point and burn it there.”

Anyone observing an actual beetle or a tree that appears to be damaged is asked to report it. If possible, capture the beetle in a jar, take photos, record the location, and report it as soon as possible through the USDA’s Asian longhorned beetle website, or contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 or

MDARD’s Asian longhorned beetle Web page provides more information and photos to help identify the beetles and signs of the damage they cause to trees.

Monitoring Bluebird Boxes

The first surprising thing about monitoring the boxes is that I don’t actually have many bluebirds.  Only one of my nine boxes has a pair of bluebirds in it.  They have successfully fledged five young birds this season, and are on their bluebird boxessecond nest right now.  The other boxes are occupied by tree swallows, house wrens, and chickadees, most of which have recently fledged.

Each species I have encountered has a very distinctive nest style, so even if I don’t see any adult birds in the area, I know what species I’m dealing with.  Blue birds make neat nests entirely of grasses.  Chickadees will lay down a layer of moss, and then line it with fur.  Tree swallows create grass nests, and then line them with a layer of found feathers.  House wrens nests are the most cacophonous.   They pile their boxes full to the brim with twigs, making it hard to get a good count of their eggs and hatchlings.  When a pair of house sparrows claimed a nest box, I found a large messy nest made of bits of anything they could find from grasses to bits of garbage.

tree swallowThis is my first time monitoring bird boxes, and I love being out there and seeing the birds grow.  Building the nest and laying eggs can take a few weeks for a pair of birds, but once the eggs hatch, it all happens very fast.  The hatchlings grow from tiny little dinosaur-like creatures to fledglings ready to leave the nest in the span of a couple of weeks.

I had a slight problem with a pair of house sparrows claiming a nest earlier this season.  House sparrows are an invasive species and pose a huge problem to other cavity nesting birds.  They are violent protectors of their nests, and are willing to kill native birds in order to take over their nesting sites.  I managed to deter the sparrows by removing their nest from the box.  My plan was initially just to slow them down and buy myself some time to catch them.  I fully expected to return the next week to find that they had built another nest, and I was ready with a sparrow trap that Peggy Falk (the previous bluebird monitor) had sent me.  When I got to the nest box, I found that a pair of tree swallows had built a new nest there.  I kept a close eye on that box to make sure the sparrows didn’t return, but I haven’t seen them in the area since.  The tree swallows laid two eggs in the box, one of which survived to leave the nest.

bluebird 3

I am fascinated with the behavior of the different species of birds I have encountered.  Blue birds are very tolerant of me   checking the nests.  The parents usually vacate the box before I even get close to it, so I don’t see them very often.  Chickadees are similar in that regard, but tree swallows and house wrens let me know that my presence is unwelcome.  When I check a house wren box, at least one of the parents will hover on a nearby branch and chirp angrily at me until I leave.  Tree swallow behavior changes as the nesting season progresses.  They don’t seem bothered by me while they are working on the nest, or right after they have laid a clutch of eggs.  A week after they lay the eggs though, the mother will not leave the box.  During that time, I can’t get an accurate count of the eggs.  By the next week, the eggs have usually hatched, and again the parents seem watchful, but unbothered.  Once the young are close to fledging, however, the parents get more protective and will swoop around, nearly hitting my head until they’re satisfied that I’m leaving.”

Written by Kaitlind “Kaiti” Fasbury, Blandford Nature Center Land Stewardship Volunteer


Sights and Sounds of the Meadow

Thanks to ongoing restoration work, visitors to Blandford Nature Center can enjoy the sights and sounds of a wet meadow community. “When you walk into a meadow it’s so full of life; it’s just teeming. It’s noisy with the buzz of the pollinators, the chirping of the crickets, the flutter of the birds and the butterflies. It’s really alive. It’s much more than a field that needs to be mowed. It’s full of life.” Peggy Bowers, Horticulturistaquatic  invasives

The biodiversity of this area can increase. One day we hope it will represent a healthy wetland complex filled with native plants. What now has become a wet meadow once had an extensive drainage system put in place in order to create farmland. The 10 acres was a corn field for a long time. In recent years, through the Bert Hewett Memorial Fund and Fish and Wildlife Service’s  removal of the drain tiles, it has been turned back into valuable wetland habitat. Management and stewardship continue to help preserve this landscape as a valuable historic reference point, illustrating the native community which was once visible throughout the Grand Rapids region.

This summer volunteers, Niko Schroeder and Lauryn Taylor, are working to protect the plant community by cutting and treating invasive glossy buckthorn​ growing among the sedges in the wet meadow. If the glossy buckthorn is left untreated, it will put the life of the meadow frogs at risk.

One frog tleopard froghat lives in the meadow makes the sound of a low gutteral snore-like rattle, which has been compared to a small motor boat engine. These snores are accompanied by a number of different chuckles and croaks.  Summer volunteer, Jacob Phillips, from Green Mountain College, will be doing a herpetology survey to monitor the Northern Leopard frog as well as other amphibians and reptiles.  The surveys will provide valuable information that will add to our understanding of species conservation. The results of the surveys will assist Blandford’s land management efforts in making decisions that will maximize the chances of continued success for the native species. The data he finds will be added to the Michigan Herp atlas.

Blandford’s donors and members play an important role in supporting the ongoing efforts to preserve and improve this beautiful bio-diverse landscape. You too can get involved in the stewardship efforts.  Come out and join in on one of the monthly Ecostewardship workdays. If you would like to volunteer or be involved at Blandford Nature Center please call (616) 735-6240 or visit

While you are at it, we welcome you to become a member and help help support these important efforts.

Exotic Forest Pests

If you have been out on Blandford Nature Center’s trails recently youfunnel trap may have noticed these odd contraptions hanging around. These strange devices serve to assist Kyle Redilla and James Weiferich from Michigan State University’s forest entomology lab conduct a forest insect survey. In addition they are trapping the Emerald ash borers.

The smallerwing trapr traps you might see – referred to as wing traps – are designed for catching defoliating moths, some which are similar to gypsy moth, the notorious defoliator of Oak trees. “Little brown moths” is a fairly accurate depiction.

So now that you know their purpose at Blandford, continue reading to find out further details about the study.

Cooperative Risk Analysis and Detection Surveys in Michigan

Michigan is at exceptional risk for the introduction and adverse consequences of invasive forest pests, thanks to the extensive forest resources found across the state, combined with high-risk pathways for exotic pest invasion. As a major manufacturing center, a wide variety of products are shipped into Michigan from around the globe. These products are often transported with wood crating or pallets, which can harbor a variety of wood-boring beetles and other pests. Michigan also boasts the 5th largest nursery industry in the United States. Live plant material, known to be a major pathway for exotic pest movement, is shipped into Michigan nurseries from other states, and in some cases, other countries. Outdoor recreation is another major industry in Michigan. State-owned campgrounds attract 22 million visitors annually, including approximately 6 million people who reside in other states. Potential introduction of exotic forest pests in firewood remains an ongoing concern. Recent estimates have shown that exotic forest insects, particularly insects that feed under the bark of trees in forests and landscapes, cost households and municipal governments in the U.S. at least $2.5 billion per year.

Why is the Exotic Forest Pest Survey important?
Early detection of potentially damaging, exotic forest pests can facilitate efforts to eradicate, contain or manage populations of potentially invasive organisms. Early detection is also critical for preventing additional introductions of exotic pests. The risk factors outlined above, along with economically important plant-based industries, and the extensive forest resource, make it clear that exotic pests, particularly wood-boring insects, represent a serious and ongoing risk to the state.

Our primary objective is to survey sites that may be at relatively high risk of exotic forest pest introduction and establishment. We will use a varilong beetleety of traps baited with artificial lures designed to attract and capture exotic longhorned beetles (e.g., Asian longhorned beetle), bark beetles (e.g., walnut twig beetle) and other defoliators (e.g., Lymantria monacha moths). Insect samples collected from traps will be sorted, screened and identified by trained entomologists. If any suspect pests of significance are captured, specimens will be forwarded to federal regulatory officials for confirmation.

Who is involved in the Cooperative Exotic Forest Pest Survey?
Scientists from Michigan State University (MSU) are leading the survey. Entomologists from the USDA Forest Service, invasive pest managers from the MI Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and forest health specialists from the MI Dept. of Natural Resources, are also collaborating on this effort.

When will the survey take place?
We will begin setting traps in sites in southern lower Michigan in May, then work our way north. Traps will be checked at 2 to 3 week intervals during the summer to collect insects and to replace lures when needed. Trapping will continue through August or September.

How were the trapping sites selected?
We developed risk maps for Michigan using GIS technology and several databases. Variables used for  the risk maps included forest cover type, imported commodities (amount, type and origin), the zip codes of state park visitors, and locations of sawmills, campgrounds, railroads and highways. Spatial and point data were overlaid to identify sites at relatively high risk for specific forest pests. For example, a state park surrounded by maple-dominated forest would be considered a high risk site if the park attracts visitors from areas where Asian longhorned beetle populations are present. We identified approximately 50 sites across Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas for trapping. Some sites could get an array of up to 12 different traps while other sites will get a single trap.

Global Youth Service Day

MI—Global Youth Service Day, along with the support of Youth Service America, Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Michigan Community Service Commission, has awarded Blandford Nature Center a grant of $500 for the upcoming “Protecting Forest Floodplains and Neighboring Waterways” restoration work day on Friday, April 24th. This work day will bring many area organizations and three Grand Rapids Schools together as they work towards a common goal: keeping Blandford Nature Center’s ravine habitat healthy and beautiful.

High school students from Grand River Preparatory School , 8th graders from CA Frost Environmental Science Academy and 6th graders from Blandford Environmental Education Program (BEEP) will partner together in four teams so that every student has a chance to become an Eco-Steward.  Guided by Blandford volunteers and staff, student teams will work along the banks and floodplain of Brandywine Creek with each team going through four, 30-minute work and learning clean-up

Session 1—Creature Comforts: Blandford trail guide volunteers and interns will lead students to high-quality ravine habitat where they may see turtles, frogs, snakes, and birds. Here, guides will share how erosion control and rock placement can protect wildlife habitat. Working with their partners, students will transfer small boulders and rocks in place to stabilize the shore and learn how erosion plays a part in smothering out macro-invertebrate

Session 2—Cut the Mustard!: Students will learn how invasive plants can destroy Michigan’s habitats by limiting animals’ access to clean water, food sources and nesting sites. Next, they will learn to identify three common invasive non-native plants found here in Michigan: garlic mustard, dame’s rocket and creeping jenny. Then, each team will pull and collect these invasive plants in biodegradable garbage bags for later disposal.

Session 3—Stream Makeover: A stream is only as healthy as the land around it. With their partner, students will look for evidence of frogs, snakes, salamanders, newts and turtles along the creek banks. They will learn what makes a good habitat and make this habitat even better by carefully removing man-made debris and learn why fallen limbs and dried leaves should be left in place. Debris will be hauled in wheelbarrows to our dumpster and sorted for recycling.February

Session 4—Buffers for Dragonflies and Other Wildlife: Students will learn the importance of natural “buffer zones”—plants that grow near lakes and streams that filter run-off water and catch silt. They will learn how replacing invasive species with native species can result in not only cleaner streams but better habitats for reptiles, amphibians, birds and other animals.

Each team will put this knowledge to use as they plant native fruit bearing shrubs. These shrubs will be marked with the group’s name and date.

Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world and the only one dedicated to the contributions that children and youth make 365 days of the year. “There are a million lessons to be learned in restoration work,” said Jessie Schulte, Land Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator at Blandford Nature Center. “We are proud to have Grand Rapid Public School students protecting our most precious natural resources”. Having children directly immersed in nature and practicing stewardship to keep their community’s naturescapes healthy is part of Blandford Nature Center’s mission.

As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the nature center is dependent on generous donations and passionate volunteers to meet its mission of educating, engaging and empowering our community to become stewards of the natural world that sustains us. Many community partners and organizations will be assisting with this restoration work day.

  •  Blandford Nature Center student interns, volunteers and staff
  • Grand Rapid Public Schools’ Blandford Environmental Education Program (BEEP)
  • Cornerstone University (intern)
  • Grand Valley State University, student volunteers
  • Grand River Preparatory School
  • Ottawa Conservation District and Kent Conservation District

If you would like to volunteer or be involved at Blandford Nature Center please call (616) 735-6240 or visit

A 32-Year Legacy of Service

Lenkiewicz – A Legacy of Service Over thirty years of caring for Blandford

Volunteers leave a lasting legacy at Blandford. Our dear Shirley Lenkiewicz was one of them. Shirley passed away on April 3 after more than 34 years of dedicated volunteer service to Blandford. She began volunteering after she saw a small ad in the Grand Rapids press.volunteer

Former director, Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray, visited Shirley at St. Anne Home recently. She said, “Shirley was one of those volunteers I trusted to unlock the buildings or watch over the center when staff was away at meetings.” She gave a cheerful welcome to thousands of visitors from Blandford’s front desk.

Shirley’s favorite time of the year was the beginning of spring wildflower season. She had a passion for all things green. Even when old age kept her from maintaining a large garden, she had a small box garden because she said, the microbes in the soil promote health and increase serotonin.

Jessie Schulte, Blandford’s Volunteer Coodinator says, “When I welcome new volunteers I tell them about Shirley Lenkeiwicz. Her long, active and generous life is a model for us all. So this spring, when we get our hands dirty and enjoy the benefits that nature offers, we will be paying a kind of tribute to this beloved Blandford volunteer.”

Sugar Maple Forest Management

We must make every effort to preserve, conserve, and manage biodiversity. Protected areas, from large wilderness reserves to small sites for particular species, and reserves for controlled uses, will all be part of this process. Such systems of protected areas must be managed to take account of a range of ecological and human-induced changes. This is no small task; yet humans must be equal to this challenge, or risk becoming irrelevant. – Peter Bridgewater

What does it take to improve the habitat and increase the biodiversity at Blandford Nature Center? The answer is implementation of our DNR approved forest management plan. Thanks to the efforts of Grand Valley State University, Professor Ali Locker and student Adam Chandler, a quality before and after snapshot of the changes made will be recorded as they measure the basal area of Blandford’s management units. Professor Locker and her students will continue to measuring the basal area.  The documentation needs to occur to continue the funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS).  A NRCS EQIP program has provided financial support for the continued timber stand improvements.

sugar maple stand

Stand 4C is a dense sugar maple monoculture. Many of the trees exhibit the poor structure of pole size trees in a crowded stand, that is, small, narrow crowns and few lower branches. There is no understory because of the crowded upper story preventing any sunlight to reach the ground. This stand presents an opportunity for Blandford Nature Canter to manage this stand for future syrup production. This will provide a unique educational opportunity to teach visitors about the management of forest for maple syrup production.

With crop tree management, focus is put on reducing competition to sugar maples with stems that are free from insect and disease and have vigorous crowns. Competitors should be removed from at least two sides of the crop tree to give the crown full freedom to grow. The goal is to provide at least 4 to 6 feet of space between adjacent crowns. This management will focus on eliminating individual trees competing with sugar maples, which are healthy and have vigorous, large crowns.

This stand has a high basal area, 237.5 ft²/acre. The basal area should be reduced to 70ft²/acre within the next 15 years following this time table:

  • 1-3 years: Remove to 125ft²/acre
  • 5-10 years: Remove to 100ft²/acre
  • 10-15years: Remove to 70ft²/acre

Removed trees may be used to create the brush pile for 4B and for firewood for the nature center. As trees are removed the subsequent canopy openings will need to be monitored and managed for invasive plant species which are likely to colonize the openings.

Management and stewardship will help preserve this landscape as a valuable historic reference point, illustrating the native communities which were once widespread throughout the Grand Rapids region.

Trees have been tapped!

Trees have been tapped and the first, sweet taste of spring is here. The next time youtapping 2015 are out for a visit, be sure to check out the new and improved spiles.

In the past Blandford Nature Center has used the large traditional 7/16′ taps. Dr. Gary W. Graham, a Natural Resources Extension Specialist at the Ohio State University Extension Center, advised BNC to change out the spiles. Thanks to a generous donation, BNC is now using these smaller spiles. Even with the smaller size Graham’s research indicates that there will be no difference in the amount of sap flow, however the holes will be able to heal faster. This is better for the tree’s health.

So, now the time to harvest the sap has begun.  How long will it continue and how long will the spiles remain in the trees? That is the question and not something you can do by a calendar.  Blandford plans to watch the weather and taps will be  pulled as soon as the season ends from when the sap stops to flow and the buds start to burst.  So get out to see the taps while you can because as soon as the sap stops, within days they will be out.

Stay tuned to find out more about how Blandford manages the maple stand to preserve the biodiversity and ensure the future heath of the ecosystem.