Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kirtland's Warbler and a Whippoorwill

Bird fact of the day: Cowbirds are nest parasites. They lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, such as the Kirtland's Warbler, and rely on other species to feed their hatchlings. Cowbirds are invasive to Michigan and used to follow the bison out west. Following these large bovine, the birds could not stop to raise their own.

Instead of banding, we drove up to Grayling for a Kirtland's Warbler tour thanks to the Hartwick Pines State Park and the Audubon Society.

The ride there was full of early morning bog fog. 

A little chapel in Hartwick Pines. 

Michigan is home to one of only a few Kirtland's Warbler nesting grounds. These warblers were numbered at around 4,000 in the last census and are very particular about their habitat. They will only nest in short but vast jack pine forests.

We stumbled upon a Kirtland's warbler almost immediately. 

Thanks to scientists, volunteers and all other bird lovers, the warbler has been making a come back from the threat of extinction.

Natural forest fires no longer regulate the height of jack pines to suite warblers. Instead controlled logging, burning and planting ensures that young jack pines- which have low lying branches that provide shelter- are not replaced by tall, old, scraggly and unsuitable pines.

Cowbirds also threaten warbler populations. Cowbird chicks are larger and more aggressive than warbler chicks, winning more food in the nest from the adult warblers. Ornithologists have been able to successfully regulate the invasive cowbird's breeding using traps and humane killing methods.

Cowbird trap that includes water, perches and a tree for shade.

We pulled over to listen for birds and this fawn came out to play. I got out to take a picture and it waltzed right up to lick me, the car, everything in sight and to be pet. I nicknamed it Whippoorwill and ran him over to the woods before we left.

Whippoorwill the fawn.

Krista and Bishop looking at a uncertain whippoorwill.

Krista getting licked.

Whippoorwill returning home.

I will miss Whippoorwill, I hope he doesn't go wandering in the street too often. 

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