June 26, 2015
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources completed their annual June survey of Kirtland’s warbler, one of the rarest members of the wood warbler family that nests almost exclusively in Michigan’s northern Lower and Upper peninsulas, with a few locations in Wisconsin and the province of Ontario. They explain:
“We have a great group of DNR, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members, as well as volunteers, who are trudging through young, thick jack pine in the early morning hours,” said Department of Natural Resources wildlife supervisor Keith Kintigh. “The reward is getting to hear that singing male Kirtland’s warbler, which is the way we actually census the population.”
The Kirtland’s warbler census is a tool managers use to compare population numbers relative to recovery goals by listening for the male’s song. Kirtland’s warbler numbers had been very low, under 200 nesting pairs, in the mid-1980s. Michigan became the focus for habitat management, since it has been a primary location for the birds’ reproduction.
Kirtland’s warblers spend eight months wintering in the Bahamas. The males arrive back in Michigan between May 3 and May 20, a few days ahead of the females. The males establish and defend territories and then court the females when they arrive. The males’ song is loud, yet low-pitched, ending with an upward inflection – easily recognized to identify the presence of a Kirtland’s warbler.
Additionally, the presence or absence of Kirtland’s warblers determines if protection of that area is needed and allows evaluation of different habitat management techniques. The habitat requirements for Kirtland’s warbler are very specific; they prefer large blocks of young jack pine, usually hundreds of acres in size. The Kirtland’s warbler is a ground-nester, often using the living branches of 5- to 20-foot-tall jack pine trees to conceal their nests, so jack pine trees must be actively managed. Large areas of sandy soils are planted with jack pine and then cut decades later, on specific intervals, to achieve the perfect-aged stands.
Lots more about this rare songbird, including census results that show a steadily increasing population on the DNR’s Kirtland’s Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) page.
June 16, 2015
The Owl Pages says (in part) that the Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio):
…is a small, nocturnal woodland Owl with short ear-tufts and yellow eyes. There is a greyish-brown, red and grey morph, with intermediates also occurring. The word “asio” is Latin for ‘Horned Owl’. Eastern Screech Owls have also been called the Common Screech Owl, Ghost Owl, Dusk Owl, Little-eared Owl, Spirit Owl, Little Dukelet, Texas Screech-Owl, Whickering Owl, Little Gray Owl, Mottled Owl, Red Owl, Mouse Owl, Cat Owl, Shivering Owl, and the Little Horned Owl.
…A nocturnal bird, with activity beginning after sunset. The Eastern Screech-Owl flies fairly rapidly with a steady wingbeat (about 5 strokes/second). They rarely glide or hover, but may fly with erratic movements, when manoeuvring through wooded areas. Their wings are broad and the head is held tucked in giving the bird a stubby appearance when flying.When threatened, an Eastern Screech Owl will stretch its body and tighten its feathers in order to look like a branch stub to avoid detection, but will take flight when it knows it has been detected. In open roosts, gray-phase birds tend to roost next to a tree trunk, whereas red-phase birds tend to roost in outer foliage, possibly because of thermal requirements.
…Eastern Screech Owls hunt from dusk to dawn, with most hunting being done during the first four hours of darkness. They hunt mainly from perches, occasionally hovering to catch prey. This Owl mainly hunts in open woodlands, along the edges of open fields or wetlands, or makes short forays into open fields. When prey is spotted, the Owl dives quickly and seizes it in its talons. They will also capture flying insects on the wing.
…Breeding season for Eastern Screech Owls is generally around mid April, but may range from mid March to mid May. They have an elaborate courtship ritual. Males approach females, calling from different branches until they are close. The male then bobs and swivels his head, bobs his entire body, and even slowly winks one eye at the female. If she ignores him, bobbing and swivelling motions intensify. If she accepts him, she moves close and they touch bills and preen each other.
… Eastern Screech Owls inhabit open mixed woodlands, deciduous forests, parklands, wooded suburban areas, riparian woods along streams and wetlands (especially in drier areas), mature orchards, and woodlands near marshes, meadows, and fields. They will avoid dense forests because Great Horned Owls use that habitat. They will also avoid high elevation forests. Eastern Screech Owls roost mainly in natural cavities in large trees, including cavities open to the sky during dry weather. In suburban and rural areas they may roost behind loose boards on buildings, boxcars, or water tanks. They will also roost in dense foliage of trees, usually on a branch next to the trunk, or in dense scrubby brush.
Read on for lots more about screech owls and definitely make owlpages.com your go-to for all things owlish (including screech owl gear).
June 6, 2015
June 1, 2015
The State of Michigan’s page on Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) says in part:
When bald eagles reach maturity (at four to five years of age), they select a mate, with whom they probably mate for life. In captivity, they have been known to live to 50 years, but in the wild, they probably don’t reach much more than 20 years of age.
The beginning of the breeding season, from mid-February to mid-March, consists of the establishment of a territory, nest building and mating displays. The mating “cartwheel” display begins high in the air with the two birds darting and diving at each other, until they lock talons and drop in a spinning free fall, until the last possible moment when they separate. The nest is usually located in the tallest tree in the area, often a white pine or dead snag. They are usually made of sticks with a lining of grass and moss. Nests may be added to each year until they reach enormous sizes, up to ten feet in depth and 20 feet across.
From late March to early April, one to four (average two) pure white eggs, approximately twice the size of a chicken egg, are laid. Both males and female bald eagles participate in the incubation, and the feeding of the chicks that hatch around seven weeks later. In about three months, by late summer, the fledglings are ready for flight. When it is time to move for the winter, the young birds are abandoned by their parents.
Kevin is certainly the Official Bald Eagle Photographer of Michigan in Pictures! View his photo bigger and see more (including more of these little ones) in his Birds of Prey slideshow.
More Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures.
The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) entry from All About Birds says (in part):
The rich, whistling song of the Baltimore Oriole, echoing from treetops near homes and parks, is a sweet herald of spring in eastern North America. Look way up to find these singers: the male’s brilliant orange plumage blazes from high branches like a torch. Nearby, you might spot the female weaving her remarkable hanging nest from slender fibers. Fond of fruit and nectar as well as insects, Baltimore Orioles are easily lured to backyard feeders.
…Baltimore Orioles are more often heard than seen as they feed high in trees, searching leaves and small branches for insects, flowers, and fruit. You may also spot them lower down, plucking fruit from vines and bushes or sipping from hummingbird feeders. Watch for the male’s slow, fluttering flights between tree tops and listen for their characteristic wink or chatter calls. Look for Baltimore Orioles high in leafy deciduous trees, but not in deep forests: they’re found in open woodland, forest edge, orchards, and stands of trees along rivers, in parks, and in backyards.
Baltimore Orioles seek out ripe fruit. Cut oranges in half and hang them from trees to invite orioles into your yard. Special oriole feeders filled with sugar water supplement the flower nectar that Baltimore Orioles gather. You can even put out small amounts of jelly to attract these nectar-eaters (just don’t put out so much that it risks soiling their feathers). Planting bright fruits and nectar-bearing flowers, such as raspberries, crab apples, and trumpet vines, can attract Baltimore Orioles year after year.
Read on for more and to see pictures and hear the distinctive song of the oriole.
Many (many) more Michigan birds on Michigan in Pictures.
May 12, 2015
May 11, 2015
Here’s a cool photo from May of 20111 that I never featured for some reason. That reason might have been so I could link to this article from the Birdwatchers General Store in Cape Cod about the symbiotic relationship between beavers & blue herons. It says in part:
It is thought that the Bay State’s famed naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, never saw a Great Blue Heron nest in Massachusetts. Why? It’s partly because there were no beavers living in MA during Hank’s lifetime. Way back in the 1700s, unregulated cutting eliminated the trees beavers needed for survival.
…Today, beavers are once again thriving in MA. That’s not only great news for anyone who enjoys seeing beavers, but it’s great news for Great Blue Herons as well.
I think we all know how beavers operate. They find a secluded stream, cut down a few trees and dam it up. The area behind the dam becomes flooded and turns into a beaver pond. Why do beavers need to go through all the work to build their very own pond? The beavers create a pond so they can have underwater access to their lodge, even when everything is frozen in the winter. However, the newly built pond often entraps large trees, which eventually drown and die. Dead trees growing out of the center of a pond may look eerie to us, but they are magnets to herons. The dead trees provide excellent platforms for the birds to build their nests on. In addition, the water prevents terrestrial predators from munching on the eggs and babies. Between the swampy setting, the dead trees, the bulky stick nests and the gangly herons, the whole scene looks a Gothic nursery, but the birds love it.
More spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.