News Digest – Week of Nov. 30, 2020

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Use one of these wonderful winter scenes from the DNR for your next virtual meeting.

Here’s a look at some of this week’s stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Take advantage of December pheasant and ruffed grouse seasons

pheasantExplore Michigan’s winter wonders in December while hunting for ruffed grouse or pheasants. Beginning Tuesday, the late ruffed grouse season and Zone 3 pheasant season will be open through Jan. 1, 2021.

The December pheasant hunting season is open only in select portions of Zone 3 (see the map on page 55 of the 2020 Hunting Digest) and pheasant hunters may bag two male pheasants a day. Pheasant hunters need a free pheasant/sharp-tailed grouse endorsement on their hunting license, unless hunting pheasant only on hunting preserves.

Want to become a ruffed grouse and American woodcock cooperator? Download the cooperator report and tell us about days spent afield and what flush rates were like. This information provides an indicator of the hunting season and population trends for grouse and woodcock.

For more information on the 2020 pheasant and ruffed grouse season regulations and dates, see the 2020 Hunting Digest available at

Questions? Contact Rachel Leightner at 517-243-5813.

Heading out? Join a winter bird count!

cardinalWhether you’re at home or visiting a nearby natural area, wintertime provides plenty of opportunities to observe birds across Michigan. Our open lakes and rivers have turned into a cornucopia of waterfowl and water bird activity. Northern finches, sparrows and owls are descending upon forests and suburbs, and woodlands and grasslands provide winter cover and seeds for birds like the dark-eyed junco, white-throated sparrow and American tree sparrow.

You can contribute to community science, too, by joining a bird count this winter. With bird populations in decline since the 1960s, it is increasingly important that scientists and land managers understand all aspects of a bird’s life cycle. Winter bird counts help scientists track bird movements, assess bird population health and guide meaningful conservation action. There are a few ways to get involved in a winter bird count near you:

cardinalParticipate in Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count

The CBC is the longest running community science bird census in North America. For more than a century, birders and volunteers have braved snow, wind and occasional rain to take part in this early-winter bird census. Join a local count, which will take place over a 24-hour period between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5. Explore the interactive CBC map to join a Christmas Bird Count near you!

Keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect CBC participation. Pending local restrictions, many counts will be done under the COVID-19 guidelines sent to compilers, while others likely could be canceled. See the map for current information.

Join a Winter FeederWatch Count

If you have a bird feeder visible from a window at your home or office, you’re ready to participate in a winter feeder survey, taking place now through April 2021. Monitor your bird feeder as often as you’d like. Participation is easy, and all age levels and birding skills are welcome.

MI Birds is a public outreach program presented by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, aimed at increasing all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of the public lands that are important for birds and local communities. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Questions? Contact Erin Rowan at 313-820-0809.

Zooming in a winter wonderland

zoom bgA snowy, lantern-lit trail, a cardinal’s crimson plumage, ice-bejeweled berries and more – these scenes, found in the DNR’s collection of virtual videoconferencing backgrounds, can brighten the backdrop for your next virtual call. They’ll add some charm and beauty next time you’re meeting by screen with friends, family or colleagues.

With these new additions, you can enjoy the wonders of winter while remaining cozy indoors – or get inspired to go out and try a new winter activity like snowshoeing, winter hiking or fat-tire biking. Browse the gallery, which is available at in the Photos and Videos section.

In addition to their visual appeal, virtual backgrounds serve a practical purpose. When you’re meeting online with people outside your immediate contacts, security experts recommend using virtual backgrounds to obscure details of your home and surroundings. Steps to enable and upload backgrounds in a Zoom account are available on the Zoom virtual background support page. The high-resolution images should be compatible with other virtual meeting platforms, too, and can be used as computer backgrounds.

Questions? Contact Beth Fults at 517-284-6071.

ICYMI: #ADA30 and the growth of accessible recreation

track chairThis year marks the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The landmark civil rights legislation – which the U.S. Department of Justice said prohibits disability discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life – was patterned after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on color, race, sex, religion or national origin.

In case you missed it, to commemorate the signing of this important legislation, the DNR recently released a video exploring the expansion of accessible recreation in Michigan and capturing testimonials from officials, staff and residents about these evolving opportunities and the hard work and drive that got us to this point. Read the full Showcasing the DNR story for more information.


Though many of our winged friends are heading south, there are still plenty of birds to peep this winter. Check out winter birding opportunities to get started.


Too early to think about Memorial Day camping? We don’t think so! The six-month window for reservations is open, so start thinking ahead and book your favorite spots soon.


If you’re having a great deer season and want to support hungry families, share part of your harvest with Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger or make a donation.

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at