Kirtland Warbler


Indiana Audubon Society led another excursion across the border into the beautiful north woods of northern Michigan to seek out the rare and endangered Kirtland’s Warbler, as well as the other northern specialties that can be found this time of year.  The entire population of this rare warbler could fill two bushel baskets!

On June 12-14, IAS past-president, Brad Bumgardner, led 15 birders to experience the Kirtland’s breeding area and many of the goregous sites that make this such a popular nature destination.  Sunny skies and dry weather dominated, making for great birding.  Though only a few hours’ drive north out of Indiana, the landscape and flora quickly blend with the northern hardwoods of maples and oaks to almost pure pine, hemlock, and balsam fir.  Here, many northern birds we seek out in migration were now singing on territory, with female’s sitting on eggs.  Nearly constant are sounds of Hermit Thrushes, Nashville Warblers, and  thrashers could be heard.

Our group gathered early Saturday for a private tour of the warbler breeding ground with a special Michigan Audubon Society guide. We were led to some special breeding areas where we were able to hear the first bird within seconds of pulling in.  It took a while, but the first bird was eventually found, and was proceeded by additional birds.    During the first few hours, a total of 9 warblers were seen.  After the tour, we drove to additional areas that hosted KIWAs and were able to log a few more, in addition to other birds, such as a high flying eagle carrying prey, and a flyover Upland’s Sandpiper… a highlight for a few on the trip!

The afternoon brought more specialty birds.  Hartwick Pines State Park, the largest in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula treated us to stellar looks at northern feeder birds, such as Red-breasted Nuthatches, Evening Grosbeaks, and Purple Finches.  The old growth trail produced many breeding warblers, such as Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Pine, and Ovenbird.  Other bonuses included Blue-headed Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

The group enjoyed a great weekend and if you couldn’t make it, you surely missed out!  Most target species were found, but the bonuses made up for the misses.  Over 70 species were seen in two quick days.  We hope you can join us on our next trip to the north woods!  The full trip list follows.

Photos courtesy Mark Welter and HĂĄkan Sivencrona.

On Sunday we had the opportunity to tour some great wetland bird sites in the Houghton Lake area.  The restored wetland flatsand boardwalk areas host many great breeding birds.  The area is known for one of the highest density breeding Osprey in the region, including 60+ pairs just around the lake.  Under these nesting platforms, Sandhill Cranes could be found.  Breeding plumaged Black Terns zipped by and baby coots could be seen.

2016 Kirtland's Warbler Trip List

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Ruffed Grouse
Wild Turkey
American Coot
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Upland Sandpiper
Wilson’s Snipe
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Black Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Warbling Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
House Wren
Winter Wren
Sedge Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
European Starling

Cedar Waxwing
Black-and-white Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Vesper Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow


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