Sunday, March 8, 2009
All About The Birds
We spent the weekend at the Michigan Audubon Conference. The guest speaker was John J. Audubon himself, or someone excellently portraying him. It included a bird walk around campus (in the rain, of course), and a lot of information. Here are some highlights:
The piping plover is on the endangered list, it is down to 63 pairs in Michigan, mostly on the Lake Michigan shoreline, especially around the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The threats are a decrease in amount of habitat, human disturbances, especially off road vehicles, pets, especially dogs, and predators.
Bald Eagles-left & Ospreys-right
The eagles have bounced back from a U.P. low of 26 breeding pairs to a current 330, and seem out of danger. We viewed aerial photos of eagle's nests, some of which were extremely large, and very high up in the tops of trees. There are 20 pair of osprey, mostly living on platforms, especially on microwave towers. The osprey eats only fish, while the eagle will scavenge most anything.
Kirtland's Warblers are no longer found only in Michigan, as some have been found in Wisconsin, and Ontario, but they are still 99% here. Their numbers are
increasing since the Fed's took over habitat
management, and controlled cowbird predation. One of our goals for the summer is to get up to Grayling and take one of the free tours to see this unique bird.
It was great to learn more about what may be my favorite bird, the loon. They seem to be doing pretty good, as their numbers have not changed much in the last 20 years. The only way to tell a male from a female is by the males unique call, a yodel, which can be heard three miles away. Loons are unable to walk on land, so must get a running start on the water in order to become airborne. The threats are loss of habitat, atmospheric mercury poisoning, and botulism, caused by the invasive arrival of zebra and quagga mussels to the Great Lakes.
The pileated woodpeckers are increasing in numbers in Mid-Michigan. There is a definite recolonization going on. As they move south, the chance to see this large and impressive bird increases. So keep your eyes and ears open.