Cerulean Warbler Weekend

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Organized by Michigan Audubon the Cerulean Warbler Weekend is held in the state’s best area for spotting these delightful little birds, Barry County. This weekend is devoted to learning about North America’s fastest declining songbird and its conservation. Several birding tours will be held, focussing on Cerulean Warblers, Henslow’s Sparrow, Flycatchers and so forth. The Cerulean Warbler Weekend schedule also includes workshops on butterfly and dragonfly identification and opportunities to paddle on Glass Creek. Keynote speaker at the evnet is Dr. Jeff Hoover, an Avian Ecologist from the Illinois Natural HIstory Survey.

Dates: 1 to 3 June 2012
Time: 05:30 am
Location: Barry County
State: Michigan
Country: United States of America

Kirtland’s Warbler Population Stabilizes

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Kirtland’s Warblers have very specific habitat requirements and are found only in the jack pine forests of Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin. Due primarily to habitat changes, the numbers of these elusive little birds were declining drastically, but thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, recent research by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has revealed that the population not only appears to have stabilized, it may even have grown. More than twenty years ago the Kirtland’s Warbler population in northern Michigan had declined to a count of 167 pairs.

The Kirtland’s Warbler count takes place in the second and third weeks of June each year, as this is the time when they defend their nesting territories and become quite vocal about it. The birds are very elusive and would be difficult to detect if it were not for their distinctive song. Only the males sing, and total population is based on the assumption that each male has a mate. The count carried out in June 2010 recorded 1,747 males, with this year’s count indicating that 1,805 males are resident across their habitat range. Two pairs were located in Ontario and another 21 in northern Wisconsin.

Kirtland’s Warblers select nesting sites in jack pine forests where the trees are between four and twenty years old. In the past, nature would create these new forests as wildfires swept through the area burning down the older trees and making way for seedlings to sprout and grow. This natural cycle has been interrupted by humans who have implemented fire suppression programs in the interests of safety. Even so-called ‘controlled’ fires can get out of hand and are considered too risky an option for reestablishing the natural order of things. So, in order to recreate the effects of wildfire and allow the growth of new jack pine trees and other rare plants in the ecosystem, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, along with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service carry out a continuous cycle of cutting, burning, seeding and replanting, over an area of around 3,000 acres.

The program has proven to be successful in a number of ways. The Kirtland’s Warbler population has increased, and snowshoe hares, deer and turkeys are among the creatures that are thriving in the area. Moreover, the program is providing valuable timber without damaging the environment. Although the Kirtland’s Warbler population has grown, it remains on the endangered species list where it has been since 1973. It appears likely that the population has reached its peak determined by the habitat available to it, but with ongoing conservation measures, the Kirtland’s Warbler will still be around in the years to come.

W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary

Cared for by the Michigan State University, the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary was established by, and named after, a man who is more likely to be associated with breakfast by millions of people in the western world. It was in June 1927 that cereal manufacturer W.K. Kellogg bought the land around the spectacular Wintergreen Lake in Augusta, Michigan, with the intention of creating a sanctuary to preserve indigenous wildlife and breed game birds. The following year the sanctuary was handed over to the Michigan State College of Agriculture for use as a training facility for students studying animal care and land management as a career. The sanctuary was later opened to the public, and today is a popular venue for an enjoyable and educational family outing surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of nature.

Group tours are available all year round, with the different seasons offering insight into different aspects of nature. In spring the focus is on nesting, while in summer visitors are likely to see plenty of nestlings and their tireless, vigilant parents. Autumn brings the spectacle of migration, with winter highlighting the hardiness of birds that are adapted to deal with cold weather conditions. Tours are led by well-trained volunteer workers and should be booked at least four weeks in advance to ensure that a guide will be available to greet you. Should you prefer to make your own way around the sanctuary, this can be done between the hours of 09h00 and 17h00 from November to April, and 09h00 to 19h00 from May to October (subject to change). Trail guides are obtainable from the Resource Center at the sanctuary, or can be downloaded from the W.K. Kellogg Sanctuary website so you can plan your route when you plan your outing.

Special events hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Sanctuary, also referred to as KBS – Kellogg Biological Station – include fascinating topics such as the Owl Prowl; Birds and Beans; and Decoy Carving Workshops. There are also volunteer training sessions and group instruction on how to participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count.

The Wintergreen Lake covers an area of 40 acres and forms part of the sanctuary that covers an additional area of 180 acres, with close to a mile long trail winding through various habitats where waterfowl, birds of prey and upland game birds can be spotted. The large picnic area ensures that there is always place for visitors to relax and enjoy the surroundings at leisure and the Resource Center includes a gift shop with fascinating bird-related items and books for sale. There is no doubt that a visit to the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary will be time well spent.

Spruce Grouse (Falcipennis canadensis)

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The Spruce Grouse, Falcipennis canadensis, can be found throughout Canada excepting for the extreme north. Then in the United States you can find the Grouse in Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Northern New England and Michigan. The Spruce Grouse lives in forests that contain coniferous trees, especially if they are pine and spruce trees.

The Spruce Grouse is 13 inches long and is a medium-sized, stocky, chicken-looking bird with rounded wings and a long squarish tail. The male grouse looks similar to the Blue Grouse, the only difference being the white barring and spotting on his under parts, as the Blue Grouse is totally brown. Another small difference is the tip of the tail, which is grey/black in comparison to the Spruce Grouse who has a brown tip. The “Franklin” variety of the Spruce Grouse doesn’t have the brown tip but has a white speckled upper tail.

The adult male bird wears a red comb that just covers his eyes. His neck is black, excepting for the white border around it, and his belly is grey with white spots and has black barring on the upper parts. His breast is black and has white bars going across it and his upper tail is black speckled with white spots and a pale brown band at the top.

The adult female bird has a reddish-brown or grey-brown plumage that is covered with white and dark-brown barring on the under parts and a black tail with the same brown band. She does not have the red comb like her male counterpart. The female Spruce Grouse looks very alike the female Blue Grouse but has white and black barring on her belly and the band on the tail is brown not grey. The female will make a nest on the ground, which is camouflaged well by the ground cover. The Spruce Grouse is a permanent resident but will move a small distance by foot if they need another location for winter.

During winter these birds will look for food either on the ground or in trees. The grouse is well adapted and their digestive sacs in their intestines can enlarge in size to quite an extent to accommodate the grouse’s winter diet of conifer needles. In summer they will include in their diet berries, insects and a variety of green plants. If you happen to come upon a Spruce grouse they tend to stand still even if you are only a few feet away from them. However, in the winter months they become more skittish due to lack of camouflaging and will take flight if you come within 20 to 150 feet of them.

The Fascinating Kirtland’s Warbler

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One of the rarest members of the Parulidae family, the endangered Kirtland’s warbler captures the attention of avid birders for a number of reasons. The breeding range of this small neotropical migratory bird is limited to an area in the north of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, in the province of Ontario and in Wisconsin.

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