...Pines, that is, and their relevance to Kirtland’s Warblers, if you didn’t attend Chuck Hagner’s keynote program at Wing Watch in Port Clinton on Saturday. It is another case of botanizing for birds.
Our story is all about Jack Pines, Pinus banksiana, and maybe a little about the Kirtland’s Warbler. This extremely rare warbler, named for Dr. Jared Kirtland from the Cleveland area, is once again expanding breeding territories and populations are now found in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario, thanks to “Jack”.
These beautiful warblers, with the most coveted eye-rings, winter in the Bahamas where their wintering-grounds are under pressure from development. And they were not having any picnic of it in Michigan either. Between the Brown-headed Cowbirds and the loss of suitable Jack Pine habitat, this was a bird in big trouble. Fortunately, US Wildlife Service and Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources started working together to reduce cowbirds and manage Jack Pine forests with fire. Yes, this is another case where fire can be a beneficial, as Jack Pines do not completely release their seed without the aid of fire.
Kirtland’s Warblers will only nest on the ground under young Jack Pines, and now that the relationship between bird and tree is better understood, their numbers are increasing steadily due to good forest management practices.
Thanks to all the knowledgeable speakers at Wing Watch, especially Chuck, Sharon Cummings, Jenny Brumfield, Jim McCormac and Larry Richardson (the programs I got to see.) These gatherings are always wonderful place to learn more about birds and catch up with friends. Hope to see you at the next event!