Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Highlights from the Land of the Kirtland's Warbler

[Kalkaska Co. June 2016]

To pay homage to one of the outstanding conservation success stories of the 20th century, it is necessary to undertake an ecological pilgrimage to Northern Michigan. Here, it is possible to witness America's rarest warbler -- the Kirtland's -- a striking songbird which had a terrifying flirtation with extinction 
in the 1970's when the global population plummeted to the low hundreds.


For a country with a bloody and ignominious history of shooting species to ruthless extinction (eg., Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, etc.), recovering our extant at-risk species from the precipice of extinction is a much needed act of ecological redemption. 


And, the success of the Kirtland's Warbler conservation program shows not only what determined conservationists can accomplish, but also what "could have been" had we acted with equal urgency in saving, say, the Bachman's Warbler for instance.


For this reason, it is recommended, nay, required, that every American birder undertake this pilgrimage to Northern Michigan -- and, appreciate not only the warbler, but also what it took to save it. 


Thus, in this humble spirit, we present the Kirtland's Warbler and other species that were observed in the Kalkaska County area:


  • Kirtland's Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Cedar Waxwing
We start with Kirtland's Warbler (observed at Fletcher Rd):



A male seen in his prime -- Kirtland's Warblers are extremely picky about where they breed and the key requirement is for young Jack Pine habitat..



The female is a paler version of the male (see above):







Next, Northern Waterthrush (observed, like all the following species, on Sunset Trail). This distinctive warbler is unique in its habits and, while drab, has a beautiful song:






Black-and-white Warbler is one of the few warblers whose winter range also encompasses the US (i.e., S. Florida). Here, in breeding plumage, the black cheeks and chin are striking:






A second individual was also observed at this venue:



Nashville Warbler is a warbler found in both the West and East:





There are subtle differences between the Western and Eastern populations in both song and plumage brightness. 


Other birds included:

Red-breasted Nuthatch:





Breeding Brown Thrasher:



And, Cedar Waxwing:




The conservation success of the Kirtland's Warbler is much heralded -- and, rightly so. With a rebounded population, the Kirtland's Warbler is re-establishing itself in its historical range in Wisconsin and Ontario -- providing the birders there the ability to enjoy what had previously been an exclusive Michigan privilege -- to observe the rarest of American warblers in its natural breeding habitat.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful documentation of the Kirtland's Warbler and other species from Kalkaska County, Hemant. What a convenient drive it would be straight up Interstate 75 to get there from Fort Myers. I recently read in one of my birding magazines of the steadfast efforts of volunteers (working in rain or shine, and in heat or cold) that plant Jack Pine saplings to benefit the recovery of Kirtland's Warbler.

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