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.


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