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Monday, June 17, 2013

Kirtland's Warbler Tour in Grayling Michigan

Mural on building in Grayling

           After returning from a four day birding trip in Vermont with Dave Eberly and Gary Becker, Sharon and I headed out to Michigan to take the Kirtland's Warbler tour and then drove up to Mackinaw Island on Lake Huron. We made the 11.5 hour drive in one day and spent the evening in Grayling. At 7AM the next day we met the Forest Service officer who gave us a 15 minute presentation about the warbler and it's habitat requirements. 

          We then made the 15 minute drive to a young Jack Pine stand.  As soon as we got out of the car we could hear the warbler singing away. We walked into the stand about 100 yards and started searching. The bird was singing about 50 fifty feet from our group but we just could not find the bird because he was singing from a low perch. Fortunately, Kirtland's Warbler are known to sing constantly during breeding season. After more searching we finally were able to spot the warbler.
Kirtland's Warbler in its preferred habitat
          While searching for the warbler we also found many other species. An Alder Flycatcher was calling, and there were many species of sparrows including Vesper and Lincoln's. The coolest thing that I saw was a Common Nighthawk doing his display flight. The nighthawk would fly around over the female, all the while calling, then suddenly goes into a stoop and at the bottom of the stoop I could hear the loud noise that it makes when the breeze whips through its wings. 

          We also looked for Upland Sandpipers but dipped on them. Another pretty cool thing was finding a Vesper Sparrow nest located 10" off the trail where we were standing.
Young Vesper Sparrows in nest
            One of the main reasons that the Kirtland's Warbler is endangered is the fact that Cowbirds parasatize the nest. So the forest service actually capture the cowbirds and remove them from the area. By "remove" from the area, they mean euthanize the birds. They catch the birds in a trap, as seen below.

          Once the eggs are laid the females never leave the nest. The males do all the hunting and bring the food to the nest site to feed the female and the young.
Male with food in it's bill.
           It was a very interesting tour and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I have done this trip in the past out of the town of Mio but I enjoyed this one even more because the trees were much shorter and the birds, once found, were easy to follow and study.

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