The Chicago Ornithological Society (COS) trip began on Saturday, May 25, with a guided tour by Michigan Audubon and Michigan Department of Natural Resources that departed from the Ramada Inn in Grayling, Michigan, to the managed, protected habitat of the Kirtland’s Warbler.
The warbler, once nearly extinct, has made a tremendous comeback. We were fortunate enough to spend time with William Rapai whose recently published book on the Kirtland’s Warbler will tell you everything you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
Such as the capture and killing of certain numbers of Brown-Headed Cowbirds. So far, the Kirtland’s has not developed its own defense against cowbird predation.
The above sign depicts how the land and the Jack Pine trees on it are managed for the Kirtland’s to breed. Kirtland’s breed only in stands of young Jack Pine trees. They build their nests on the ground between the low-lying branches of the young trees. When the trees mature enough to have lost their bottom needles, they are no longer suitable habitat for breeding Kirtland’s Warblers. Further, the only way for Jack Pines to reproduce is by fire; their seeds are designed to open and germinate only under the intense heat of a forest fire, which clears the land and gives the Jack Pines room to grow. Remember Smokey the Bear? He and his ilk unfortunately caused the Kirtland’s Warbler nearly to go extinct by preventing forest fires! This gives you a little idea about how specialized the Kirtland’s Warbler is, and why you can hardly see it anywhere else in the country.
We were fortunate enough to have at least 3 males sit up and sing for us. I also managed to record one of them. There’s a little background noise, but the unique song repeats here several times.
There are many more photos from the weekend, several of which made it to my flickr page. I hope to update some of the information for those photographs soon.
The last photo for this post was taken at another protected area where new habitat has been created for the Kirtland’s Warbler. Build it, and they will come. And they have.