Saturday, June 13, 2015

Goldilocks Bird

This past Memorial Day weekend we took a quick trip to find a bird.

It is a rare bird, although not the rarest I've seen (a topic for another day).

The Kirkland's Warbler.

Today, thanks to an active recovery program, there are 2000 breeding pairs.

One of the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act, in 1987 there were but 187 breeding pairs.

This species is very particular about it's breeding habit. It needs pine forest. The trees need to be tall but not too tall. The area needs to be large, 160 or more acres. The spacing between the trees just right, dense. Almost the entire breeding area is in north - central Michigan. We saw these in Grayling, MI.

They were not hard to find. We met at Hartwick Pines State Park, where our guide Kara, after a short video about the bird and its habitat needs, led us on a car pool to an area in the Grayling State Forest, where habitat is maintained for the birds. Before I could get my camera on my tripod we had the bird. We heard it singing as soon as we got out of the car.

When we got to the visitors center at the state park we found two fellow members of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Society, Phil and Bonnie Witmer, already there. This happens to Patty all the time. We went to Hawaii and meet a friend of Patty's. We go to Honduras and meet someone who lives down the street from Patty. We go to Utah and meet someone who works with Patty's sister. We go to Vermont and meet someone we met in Trinidad ... the list goes on ...

Like the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, our neck of the woods, the Jack Pine forests of Michigan were shaped by fire. And the habitat needed by these warblers was created anew every 20 years or so. But humans don't like large wildfires. And that fire suppression had the unintended consequence of limiting breeding habitat.

Despite the success so far of bringing this bird back from the brink of extinction, there are no guarantees of continued success. The corporate shills in the US Congress continue to introduce legislation that would gut the Endangered Species Act. Selling out our future for short term gains. If you can please help support local, national, and international conservation organizations.

A good start would be Michigan Audubon, which is leading the fight to save this bird.

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