Kirtland’s Warblers and Friends

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Kirtland’s Warbler

Sorry I haven’t been back to the page sooner but I’ve been down with a nasty cold that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  Yet I could speak above a squeak this morning, so I will have to take that as a sign of improvement. Here is a quick post from part of a visit to Michigan with friends over the Memorial Day Weekend. Specifically, these photographs were taken at the Kirtland’s Warbler Restoration Project in Iosco County. We visited this site on the morning of the 27th. The Kirtland’s breeding population is established well enough now at this location to warrant offering tours by the AuSable Valley Audubon Society. Thanks so much to Sam Burckhardt and the Chicago Ornithological Society for another memorable trip.

To go along with the pictures of a singing Kirtland’s above, here is a brief sample of his song:

Kirtland’s Warblers are a fire-dependent species, breeding only in young Jack Pine forests. They winter in the Bahamas. Their fascinating story was chronicled a few years ago by William Rapai, the author of The Kirtland’s Warbler: The Story of a Bird’s Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It

The Kirtland's Warbler: The Story of a Bird's Fight Against Extinction and the People Who Saved It by [Rapai, William]

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Nashville Warbler

There were also several Nashville Warblers on territory and although they were a bit elusive I did manage to obtain a few distant photos of this one and a clip of him singing as well. To confuse the issue his song is overlapping the Vesper Sparrow’s, which is also below.

Perhaps the unexpected treat for me was a singing Vesper Sparrow. I have not seen these guys too often. A clip of the Vesper Sparrow’s song is below the pictures which were taken at an unfortunate distance. It can be distinguished from the Nashville’s bubbly song by the three introductory notes all at the same pitch.

Perhaps the birds most seen over the weekend were the huge flocks of non-breeding Canada Geese. This is only a small sampling of one flock passing overhead.

Below, a female Orchard Oriole on the left (you have to click on the picture and still look hard to find her, she is so well-camouflaged) and a male Orchard Oriole on the right.

Brown Thrashers were singing quite a bit too, now I’m sorry  didn’t bother to record one. Below is one very cooperative bird.

Now the challenge is to get through another busy weekend and a lot more photographs (and, I hope, a lot less facial tissue). I am trying to stay optimistic! Please have faith, I shall return, lots to share with you.

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Brown Thrasher

Jewels Hidden in the Trees

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Chestnut-Sided Warbler

I think I have finally been through all the pictures from the Memorial Day Kirtland’s Warbler weekend with the Chicago Ornithological Society. While I want to put a more representative selection up on my flickr page, for the moment I am sharing some warbler pictures here. Most of the birds were far enough away that I had to use manual focus to follow them around as they flitted through pine needles.

What bird, where?

What bird, where?

With some photographs it was like reliving getting on the bird in the first place – where is it?

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

After our visit to the Kirtland’s Warbler on Saturday morning, we drove to Tawas Point State Park and spent the afternoon hours wandering the trails for migrants. These pictures are from that outing as well as other locations in Iosco County, Michigan, visited on the weekend. Some species were the first I saw this year. Indeed by Memorial Day it was almost “Now or Never.”

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

Black-Throated Blue Warbler

A Black-Throated Blue male was definitely on my list of must-sees and although he proved a bit difficult to photograph in the bright light against the sky, he stuck around for more photographs than I care to admit.

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

The female Cape May Warbler above caused a little confusion until we could be sure all her markings were in the right place. Here is a picture to prove it.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers abounded, even windblown ones.

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

Golden-Winged Warbler

It seems increasingly difficult to find Golden-Winged Warblers, and the sunlight proved to be a challenge, but if you click on the second picture above you might be able to see the golden wing field mark a little better.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolias and Redstarts are common enough but each individual has something different to offer. I like the way there is a hint of black coming in on the first-year American Redstart below. Next year he will be all black except for the orange on his breast, like the male below him.

American Redstart - First Year Male

American Redstart – First Year Male

American Redstart

American Redstart

I have never seen a Pine Warbler well enough before, which makes me think until this trip I never really saw one. Now I can add it to my list!

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warblers are always welcome.

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Throated Green Warbler

As are Blackburnian Warblers.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

And another species that had eluded me this spring finally came to light: the male Canada Warbler. I did not break into the “Oh, Canada” refrain from “A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell as is my wont whenever I see one of these birds, but he might have heard me anyway.

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

 

Return to Kirtland’s Warbler Country

Female Kirtland's Warbler

Female Kirtland’s Warbler

I got back in town Monday night from a Memorial Day weekend excursion with the Chicago Ornithological Society to East Tawas, Michigan and environs for the Kirtland’s Warbler and many, many other birds. I have had hardly any time to review even the first day’s shots but here are a few from the very beginning. We started with our search for the Kirtland’s on Saturday morning and we were successful.

Kirtland's Warbler Female-2869

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is managing significant Jack Pine habitat for Kirtland’s Warblers. Indeed, this is the only way the species can survive on its breeding grounds. While habitat management is working and the numbers of breeding pairs have increased, there is now an effort to delist the Kirtland’s Warbler which will mean significant lack of funding for maintaining habitat, and without management the species will likely be endangered again.

Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

Another species that seems to like this habitat is the Brewer’s Blackbird. We saw several, if not necessarily at close range. They were busy following a tractor that was tilling soil for managed planting of Jack Pine saplings.

Brewer's Blackbird-2855

Not shown are the Brown-Headed Cowbirds which are also “managed” for their predation on Kirtland’s Warbler nests. I will not elaborate here, but you can read all about it at the link to the Michigan DNR webpage.

The male Kirtland’s Warblers could be heard singing but they were a bit cagey about photographs. When I manage to get through my recordings I will add a song to this post.

Male Kirtland's Warbler

Male Kirtland’s Warbler

After visiting the Kirtland’s Warblers we moved on to Tawas Point where the most frequently seen bird of the trip, the Baltimore Oriole, was first to greet us. I hope to continue soon with more pictures from the Point.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

Sorry this is a short post. Alas, I must get back to work. See you soon.

Kirtland’s Warbler Tour

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0518_1 - Copy

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.

DNR Sign IMG_0691_1

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.

Brown-Headed Cowbird, selected

Brown-Headed Cowbird, selected

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.

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Kirtland's Management Sign IMG_1948_1

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.

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0524_1 - Copy

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.

Kirtland's Warbler IMG_0502_1

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.

Kirtland's Endangered Sign IMG_1949_1