Monday, January 31, 2011

Seven Eagles on the Lake Michigan shore this morning

In the pale blue morning light I saw seven American bald eagles playing on the frozen ice and in the air.

A couple of them were perched on an ice foot (ice that extends into the water) and the others seemed to be playing tag before they sat down together on the frozen beach like poker players at a table. 

 There were ducks out in the open water. 

 The eagle pictured is carrying a fish, its favorite food.

Photo by Steve Damstra

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cross Country Skiing

Pigeon Creek County Park
A great place to ski
The woods were very quiet and all I could hear was the shush shush shush of my cross country skis. Usually the chickadees will follow me in the tree tops. The trees were swathed in heavy white fox fur capes and hats and a few dark blue berries were still clinging to their stalks. At Pigeon Creek Park, the groomed trails are for skiers and are marked easy or difficult. I stayed on an easy trail that led me to the creek. Its dark waters ran between snowy banks and the silent trees were reflected in their waters.

I saw the hoof prints of deer, rabbits and a few other small mammals. Squirrels had dropped some shells onto the snow from the treetops but I saw nary one squirrel.

Pigeon Creek is a tributary to Lake Michigan. It could not be more peaceful as I skied over the beautiful forested terrain.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

American Bald Eagle Eyeballs Ducks

We are seeing eagles and lots of ducks lately.  This photo was taken on the Grand River near Lake Michigan. 

The birds are attracted to open water.

Photo by Steve Damstra.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beach Scene on Lake Michigan: Winter

Grand Haven beach on Lake Michigan covered with ice and snow.  In the background is the pier.

Wave and wind action creates ice ridges when the weather is as cold as it has been the past few days.

Today I saw three American bald eagles.  They have their courtship rituals in February.  In the Middle Ages people thought February 14 (Valentine's Day) is the day the birds get married.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let Them Eat Carp Milwaukee Journal Sentinal + map

Expanding the commercial Asian carp export market to China is among several measures outlined in the Obama administration's "2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework," a $47 million plan to prevent the jumbo carp from infesting the Great Lakes. China already has a taste and demand for the mild, flaky, white fish, which is considered a delicacy.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $2 million program last July to boost commercial fishing for Asian carp on stretches of the Illinois River and sell them in China. The state contracted with a Chinese meat processing company and an Illinois commercial fishing company to harvest 30 million pounds from Illinois rivers.

Asian carp can jump across the length of a boat. Fishermen literally herd them into nets or shock them out of the water. The fish don't take bait off hooks. They eat plankton, not other fish.
The Asian grass carp was introduced deliberately into the U.S. in 1963 for aquatic weed control. Another species, silver carp, was imported from Asia in the 1970s to control algae growth in aquaculture and municipal wastewater treatment facilities, but it quickly escaped captivity.
Chapman acknowledges they can be delicious. He has">a three-part video series on YouTube that takes viewers from a boat, with Asian carp leaping all around, to the kitchen, where he explains how to debone and cook the fish.

The major downsides of cooking Asian carp are their low meat yield - 20% to 25% - and their heavy bone structure, he says.
They're filter feeders, and don't look or taste like common carp, which are bottom feeders.

Asian carp feed extremely low on the food chain, where contaminants aren't much of an issue, Chapman says. That makes them better eating fish - low in contaminants and fat, with mild meat that tastes like cod, he says.

Making Asian carp menu-worthy in the U.S. probably would require changing its name, as "carp" is considered an unappetizing four-letter word. Some have suggested calling it Kentucky carp or silverfin.

Wade isn't planning to change the name on his invasivore menu. But he will offer plenty of other tapas options for those not interested in Asian carp, which will be priced in the $8 to $12 range for the Feb. 1 reservations-only dinner.
Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, is all for the entrepreneurial spirit.

"One of the great things about North Americans is when they're dealt lemons, they make lemonade," Gaden said. "But very often, they forget that they weren't drinking lemonade in the first place, and don't even like it."

If policy makers "don't focus on prevention like a laser beam, then you have to learn to live with what comes into the Great Lakes, and ultimately you will disrupt what you enjoy," Gaden said. "It never will be as good as what Mother Nature gave you, which is suited to the environment you have."
Creating a market here for Asian carp would be "surrendering and making do with what you've been dealt - not what Mother Nature intended," said Gaden.

excerpted from a longer article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

Monday, January 17, 2011

Letter from Senator Stabenow: re Trash from Canada

Dear Barbara,

I am writing today with some very good news regarding our fight to stop shipments of Canadian trash into Michigan.

We all remember when, in 2003, Toronto shut down its landfill and began shipping all of their trash to Michigan. For them, it was a matter of simple economics. Michigan's trash dumping charge is the lowest in the region, which turned our Great Lakes State into a magnet for garbage from Toronto and other Ontario cities. Instead of using their own landfills, Ontario cities started filling up ours. Although these dumping charges are set by the state, we took the fight to stop the trash to Congress. Legislative efforts in the U.S. House and Senate got the attention of the Canadians.

In the fall of 2005, our efforts brought Ontario officials to the negotiating table and Senator Carl Levin and I hammered out an agreement that Ontario would stop sending their city trash to Michigan by the end of 2010.

I am pleased to report that the agreement worked. As of December 31, 2010, Toronto and three other municipalities stopped sending their city trash to Michigan.

Of all the proposed solutions to deal with Canadian trash, this is the only one that has shown a real, measurable reduction in waste coming into our state. In fact, more than 40,000 truckloads of trash would be entering Michigan each year had we not reached this agreement.

Many legal experts feel that if proposed federal legislation to simply ban Canadian trash passes, it will be subject to lengthy court challenges under international laws for many years. One of the reasons our agreement has been successful is because it could not be challenged in court.

Canada has always been a great neighbor and we want to thank the Ontario officials and citizens who worked with us over the last four years to honor their agreement with our state. While this is an important victory, the fight is not over.

In the coming months we will turn our attention to stopping the remaining trash coming into our state from private companies that was not covered by this agreement. We won't give up until all trash trucks coming into our great state from Canada are stopped.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support for our efforts to stop Canadian trash. With your help, we have stopped approx 1.5 million tons of waste from coming into Michigan landfills every year!

Debbie Stabenow

United States Senator

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ice on Lake Michigan

On the Beach in Grand Haven, MI: January 15, 2011

Confessions of an Ice Watcher

As I walk out on the icy shoreline on a cold January day, the wind blows through my wool balaclava and my foot slips on glazed patches on the sand.

My leather gloves are not warm enough to keep the wind from freezing my fingers.

My long down coat though is keeping me warm enough to hike along the shoreline.

I pull my Canon (camera that is) out of my pocket. I didn’t want my camera to freeze. Ice fascinates me. My distant relative, Roald Amundsen was a polar explorer from the north of Norway who studied ice and figured out how to reach the South Pole with dog sleds. Maybe that explains my fascination. Maybe. Or it may be that the way the wind and waves change the ice patterns every day is the fascination. From my perch on the dunes, I watch.

In mid-February of 1979, four of the five Great Lakes froze all the way across. This was the first year this had happened in the recorded history of the National Weather Service. For years the harbor has not had fast ice where the Coast Guard Ice breaker had to try and break through.

I watch. I walk and I watch some more.  There is information about ice on the Great Lakes in the Dynamic Great Lakes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The best price for a new, updated copy of The Dynamic Great Lakes is here: $9.95 + shipping.

I wrote this book about the Great Lakes as a system.  The five Great Lakes are connected and hold an array of life in their freshwaters as nowhere else.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Palisades Nuclear Power Plant: a poem

This poem is from my book, The Wilderness Within available from and  It is a protest poem, but it protests gently.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lake Michigan Ice

Lake Michigan Ice

All the long night west winds roar

boom icy shrapnel on the shores:

cannonballs fly, bounce, roll, clatter

ice on ice crunch, bash, shatter.

Curled green walls of glassy jade

smash on pack ice wave on wave

tremble out high icy plumes

fans of white peacock

collapse, resume.

Waves slap hands, gleeful high fives

slam dance back—twist, leap, dive.

Hard daggers dazzle caves of ice—

a crevice opens then

closes like a vice.

Wind waves ice in wild dance.

Lake Michigan ice packs

on a spree.

Angels dressed in red and green

walk the shores

on days like these.
This poem is an excerpt from my book, Sophia's Lost and Found: Poems of Above and Below.  It may be ordered from or

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lake Michigan Shore Ice

What a difference a couple of weeks make.  With the cold weather shore ice is forming along West Michigan again.  Read about how ice forms along the shore in my book, The Dynamic Great Lakes.