Saturday, June 28, 2008

“Kirtland’s Nesting in WI This Year? 2007? Ontario, Too?” Answer: Yes (!)

That’s correct, Jay in Jasper. You’re on. It's Larry King Live… with Mr. Wood-Warbler tonight as we explore a fascinating explanation to your above question.

Let’s unravel the tale of the First Ever WI Nesting Record of Kirtland’s Warbler in 2007 {with the species AGAIN documented to be nesting this year in at least one WI county (Adams) and, perhaps another (Marinette) where they have also been seen in 2008; see below}:

The discovery of the first-ever Kirtland’s nest in WI begins on May 19, 2007. You’re a birder who is not only passionate, but have devoted your life to the environment as a career. Indeed, you are environmental consultant/wildlife biologist/birder Dean DiTommaso. On this fine spring day in central-southcentral WI, you discover three male Kirtland Warbler’s in a young red pine plantation in Adams County.

Did the intrigued DiTommaso call 911. No, but all banter aside, he did alert the WI DNR of his amazing gem of a discovery — and the Gold Rush was on, so to speak. During the ensuing days, under the guidance of the DNR, DiTomasso found three additional males at another site nearby. On June 2, 2007, the talented DiTommaso made his first observation of a female – thereby documenting the likely 2007 nesting occurrence (given that migrating or wayward Kirtland’s individuals, including females, would more likely be correctly judged as transients possibly moving through WI during May, but not necessarily staying to nest; by June, a sighting of a male and/or female Kirtland’s, or both, increases the chances that nesting is probable to confirmed, pending further monitoring).

Additional female Kirtland’s were seen on June 6 and 9 -- observations that eventually led to the discovery of a second and third nest in mid-June.

In total, during 2007, the DNR (with DiTomasso’s help), documented a total of at least eight singing male Kirtland’s, including three separate active nest sites in Wisconsin.

This year, 2008, the statewide total in WI is 10 males documented (Tom Schultz, personal correspondence, June 28, 2008). At least three female nests have been found. Two of these males were seen in Marinette County (the second County removed north of Green Bay, WI) and at least seven males have been color marked with leg bands (Noel Cutright, personal correspondence, June 29, 2008).

In turn, the perceptive reader may now ask: “Red pine is where the Kirtland’s was found in 2007? That’s interesting, given the Jack Pine is the historically preferred and obligate tree upon which this Federally Endangered wood-warbler usually depends.”

So what gives? Can we expect to conclude the two consecutive years (2007 and 2008) qualify Kirtland’s as an annual breeding species in WI (and, perhaps in Ontario where at least one pair was documented breeding in 2007)? (Sorry, I don’t yet have the status of whether Kirtland’s was again found nesting this year in Ontario.)

In addition, perhaps you’re wondering (like me)?:

Are Kirtland’s likely to spread the breeding ranges (in area) if they become annual breeders in WI and Ontario (beyond the six counties where they regularly nest in Michigan counties near Roscommon in the south-central south area of the state)?

The answer may potentially be “yes,” if the current coordinated Jack Pine planting plan meets its goals as executed by the DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Both of these agencies are combining their wildlife know-how and expertise with forest management efforts by the US Forest Service, Plum Creek Timber Company, and multiple WI County Forest Administrators (Trick, Grveles, DiTommaso, Robaidek, The Passenger Pigeon, Summer 2008).

Other potentially good news is that the above management efforts may help preserve and increase other bird species populations beyond the Kirtland’s. Such rare and declining species in the vicinity -- Vesper Sparrow, Brown Thrasher, and Black-Billed Cuckoo, to name just three species – are the most likely additional avian beneficiaries of prospective management schemes that could be executed to host the Kirtland’s in greater numbers.

So, the moral of the Great Kirtland’s Discovery of 2007? Get out there and bird.

Have fun doing so and Happy Bird Songing By Ear for those birding in the forest like I often do…..Daniel


Anonymous said...

What about Kirtland's in Minnesota? Have they been seen there? A record exists?

Dean L.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there's any more field trips by the US Fish & Wildlife Service to see the Kirtland's this year?

How do I find out?

Bobby D.

Anonymous said...

Kirtland's fans are pleased!

Anonymous said...

I hope the DNR in Wisc has bucks to manage the forest for Kirtland's. Think of the tourist dollars. It's like the Ivory-Billed in our backyard here in the upper Midwest. Am I right?

Anonymous said...

To answer the first question above, there are two records of Kirtland's Warbler in Minnesota. The first in 1892 and the second in 1944, both in the month of May. Here's hoping the bird keeps making its way west!

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