Dancing in the Air: Birding Trails & Bird Sanctuaries in Michigan

Egrets Dancing in the Air

Dancing in the Air, photo by Jiafan(John) Xu

I’m pretty sure that these are Great Egrets (Ardea alba) but would appreciate confirmation from any birders in the audience.

On the Pure Michigan blog, Mallory King of the Michigan Audubon Society writes that birding is currently the second fastest growing hobby in the United States after gardening with over 47 million people identifying as birdwatchers. She shares some great Michigan birding trails and sanctuaries to help you get going with birding:

The Superior Birding Trail: This trail covers 150 miles in the Upper Peninsula from the Seney National Wildlife Refuge to Whitefish Point; you can observe over 300 bird species here.

The Sleeping Bear Birding Trail: The SBBT West which the trial is commonly referred too, includes 123 miles from Manistee to Traverse City along the scenic M-22 highway and Lake Michigan shoreline; here over 250 bird species can be observed.

The Beaver Island Birding Trail: Located entirely on Lake Michigan’s largest island, encompasses over 100 miles of road and 12,000 acres of natural habitat; over 250 bird species can be spotted on this adventurous trail.

The Saginaw Bay Birding Trail: Also known as SBBT East, takes travelers 142 miles along the Lake Huron shoreline from Port Crescent State Park to Tawas Point State Park, the trail is home to over 200 bird species and an abundance of quaint Michigan towns.

Read on for a list of the sanctuaries and more at Pure Michigan.

John took this last month, presumably in the Keweenaw area. View his photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

Lots more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures!

Michigan’s Bird of Fire: Saving the Kirtland’s Warbler

Michigan Bird of Fire Kirtlands Warbler

Kirtland’s Warbler, photo by James Fox

On June 3-4, northeast Michigan will celebrate a Michigan conservation success story with the annual Kirtland’s Warbler Weekend that includes an Au Sable River Kayak Tour. You can also lend a hand this Saturday with the annual jack pine planting day through the Kirtland’s Warbler Initiative!

The Detroit News has a nice editorial by Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior about how determination saved Michigan’s “Bird of Fire”, the Kirtland’s Warbler:

More than 60 years ago, scientists realized that the Kirtland’s warbler was in trouble. A 1951 census found fewer than 500 breeding pairs. The bird was among the first species ever listed as endangered and was the first species to ever have a “recovery team.”

Kirtland’s warblers will only nest in young jack pine forest. Jack pine requires fire to open its cones and spread its seeds — hence the nickname, “bird of fire.” Fire suppression policies last century led to the decline of the Kirtland’s warbler, as did parasitism from brown-headed cowbirds. The recovery team had to figure out a way to overcome these challenges to save the species.

Since 1974, the Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Team has worked to save the species, even when the outlook for recovery was bleak. The recovery team brought together federal, state, academic, nonprofit, and even international partners.

Today, scientists estimate there are more than 4,000 Kirtland’s warblers in Michigan. The population has more than doubled its recovery goal, so the recovery team is no longer needed. Through years of hard work the partners figured out how to provide the conditions necessary for the warblers to survive, and the birds have flourished.

View James’ photo background big and see more in his Grayling 2009 slideshow.

Platte River Bald Eagle Nest Cam

Platte River Eagle Cam

Michigan Eagle Cam, photo via Carbon TV

Carbon and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are collaborating on a cool webcam of a nesting pair of bald eagles in Benzie County. mLive explains:

Cameras are pointed at a pair of nesting bald eagles in residence at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery. The large nest is 100 feet above the ground, along the Platte River in Benzie County.

Carbon Media Group alerted viewers earlier this week that incubation time is almost up, and that small holes called “pips” that parents make in the shells can be seen on two of the eggs.

“This pair of eagles have been regular visitors to this nest for the past three years,” Ed Eisch, DNR fish production manager, has said.

Click to view the live camera – which makes a really soothing background soundtrack – and also to check out video clips including an eagle adjusting the eggs from the photo above and visits by owls and pine martens!

Must be a Monday: Be Yourself Blue Heron Edition

Great Blue Heron Leaving Roost

Great Blue Heron Leaving its Roost, photo by Rodney Campbell

Hope you have a wonderful week, even if you look a little goofy at times. ;)

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory entry for Great Blue Heron Rookeries explains:

The great blue herons in Michigan are largely migratory, with almost all leaving the state during the winter months. Most leave by end of October and return in early to mid-March.

The great blue heron is mostly a colonial nester, occasionally they nest in single pairs. Colonies are typically found in lowland swamps, islands, upland hardwoods and forests adjacent to lakes, ponds and rivers. Nests are usually in trees and may be as high as 98 ft. (30 m) or more from the ground. The platform like nests are constructed out of medium-sized sticks and materials may be added throughout the nesting cycle. Nests are usually lined with finer twigs, leaves, grass, pine needles, moss, reeds, or dry gras. The same nests are refurbished and used year after year.

Most great blue herons return to southern Michigan heronries in mid-March although a few may remain through the winter if there are areas of open water. Courtship and nest building commences from early April in southern Michigan to early May in the extreme northern portions of the state. Both sexes are involved in the nest building process with males primarily gathering sticks from the ground, nearby trees, or ungarded nearby nests.

More about Great Blue Herons on Michigan in Pictures.

View Rodney’s photo background bigtacular and see more in his Birds slideshow.

 

Groundhog Warning!

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl, photo by Kevin Povenz

Any Michigan groundhogs out there probably better just stay inside and check to see what Woody the Woodchuck from the Howell Nature Center predicts. Word is already in from Punxsutawney Phil that we’re in for an early Spring!

You can learn all about Michigan groundhogs/woodchucks and Woody, Michigan’s official groundhog and snowy owls on Michigan in Pictures. One thing about snowy owls that you may not know is that due to their remote existence, they typically don’t have the same fear of humans that other owls exhibit.

Kevin took this gorgeous photo on Saturday near Sault Ste Marie and writes:

Yes I was laying down on my belly in the snow to get this shot. Not the sharpest of shots as there were weeds between me and this snowy and was hard to focus. Should of used manual focus, but I loved the moment. He just kept looking at me probably thinking “what the…?”

View his photo bigger and see more in his Birds of Prey slideshow.

Put it all on red

RED cardinal in fence

RED, photo by Sandy Hansen Photography

What an awesome capture. View Sandy’s photo bigger and see more in her Traverse City Area slideshow.

Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

Bonapartes Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull, photo by James Salinas

All About Birds has this to say about Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia):

A small, graceful gull with bright white patches in its wings, the Bonaparte’s Gull winters near people, but breeds in the isolated taiga and boreal forest.

  • The Bonaparte’s Gull is the only gull that regularly nests in trees.
  • The English name of the Bonaparte’s Gull honors Charles Lucien Bonaparte, who made important contributions to American ornithology while an active member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia during the 1820s. The scientific name philadelphia was given in 1815 by the describer of the species, George Ord of Philadelphia, presumably because he collected his specimen there.
  • During the breeding season, the Bonaparte’s Gull feeds mainly on insects, often catching them on the wing.
  • Breeds around lakes and marshes in boreal forest. Winters along lakes, rivers, marshes, bays, and beaches along coasts.
  • Eats small fish and large invertebrates, including insects. Does not eat garbage or carrion.

Read on for more and some photos and the gull’s distinctive call.

James took this photo in Port Huron. View it bigger and see more in his slideshow.

Lots more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures!