Species Spotlight: Kirtland’s Warbler

By Allie Brown, MNA Intern

In some instances, the occurrence of a wildfire can mean devastation for species with restricted ranges and population; however, for one of Michigan’s rarest warblers, fires are crucial for building its niche habitat and sustaining the population. The Kirtland’s warbler is a member of the Parulidae or New World warbler family which measures about six inches in length and is distinguishable by the striking yellow plumage on its throat and breast and split white eye rings. As is the case with many of Michigan’s bird species, the Kirtland’s warbler nests in parts of the Upper and Lower Peninsulas during the summer months and makes the long journey to the south for the winter months – in this case a 1400 mile trip to the Bahamas. While it may seem as though this long-distance flight would be the toughest part of life as a Kirtland’s warbler, the largest challenge this population faces comes from its time up north.

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Photo: Ron Austing

Although not immediately obvious by the forested landscapes known today, Michigan’s history is one of expansive barrens and frequent fires. Many grassland and barren species adapted to this cycle of burnings, one of which is the fire dependent jack pine tree. Heat is necessary to the lifecycle of the jack pine, as it promotes the tree’s cones to fully open and successfully germinate. With the suppression of fire, young stands of jack pine become less and less common and old stands grow dense and tall, losing their lower branches due to lack of sunlight. The degradation and succession of the jack pine ecosystem reasonably follows this lack of fire, but what was not suspected was the subsequent decline in the Kirtland warbler population.

According to the DNR, Kirtland’s warblers nest in young jack pines on branches that essentially touch the ground, where they can hide their nests among dense thickets of pine and grasses. In order for these conditions to occur, the pines must be young and small so that sunlight can reach the ground and keep the lower branches of the trees alive. This also requires the occurrence of frequent fires to remove older trees in exchange for the germination of their cones. Without these fires, the selective female warblers will refuse to nest and, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, only single male warblers will continue to live in the old, successional stands. Another major benefit of hiding nests in the lower branches of young jack pines is protection from the parasitic brown headed cowbird, which will remove warbler eggs from the nest and replace them with eggs of its own.

Today, with the importance of fire and the jack pine to Kirtland’s warbler populations known, effort is being placed to conserve this habitat and the warbler population. Several of MNA’s sanctuaries house populations of jack pine, including Redwyn’s Dunes Nature Sanctuary, and today birders can view this rare bird through tours given by the Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Team. According to the DNR, the best way to support this endangered species is to educate yourself and those around you through research or attending birding tours, as well as to donate to local organizations, like the Michigan Nature Association, dedicated to protecting and rebuilding the warbler population.

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2017 Year in Review

Celebrating 65 Years of Saving Our Natural Treasures

Cover photo - 2017 annual report

MNA’s accomplishments directly align with our founders’ vision of an organization that would connect people with nature and inspire the protection of rare, threatened and endangered species. Our conservation strategies have necessarily evolved with the times, but the spirit of MNA today continues to embrace the three pillars crucial to our success – people, land, and legacy.

First and foremost it is people who make the difference, our generous donors, volunteers, sanctuary stewards, interns and staff who are behind every single accomplishment described in this Year in Review. Our thanks go to all of you and this year’s standout volunteers who were honored at our Annual Recognition Dinner in October.

The land we care for is the backbone of our statewide impact – an incredible network of over 175 nature sanctuaries. This year, our volunteers logged thousands of hours on stewardship projects large and small to care for these special places. We worked to expand existing sanctuaries to provide more habitat for rare animals such as the Poweshiek skipperling and the eastern massasauga rattlesnake at Big Valley, and even a rare plant called the Virginia water horehound at Red Cedar River.

Finally, a profound sense of legacy that shapes MNA today and will do so long into the future. Our duty to the legacy to those who came before us is reflected in our commitment to being good stewards of the land. And our growing field trip program, School to Sanctuary Partnerships, and research and intern opportunities for college and university students link the importance of our work to the next generation of conservation caretakers, the people who will carry MNA’s work forward in the future.

Thank you to our members, donors, and volunteers for making 2017 a great success and a year to remember! If you would like to support MNA, you can become a member or make a tax-deductible contribution.

Ring in the New Year with a New MNA Sanctuary

Dear MNA Friends,

I can think of no better holiday gift to share than this news:  just this week MNA signed the paperwork For Proj Summ6and acquired a spectacular new nature sanctuary on the shores of Lake Huron in Presque Isle County. The 51-acre property on Albany Bay includes 1,500 feet of shoreline and was donated by a generous landowner wishing to protect this unique, lakefront habitat.

The new sanctuary is home to a significant population of the threatened dwarf lake iris. The property and surrounding shoreline earns the highest ranking for biological rarity.  Trails on the property will provide public access to the beautiful forest and shoreline, and we will get to work in 2018 to prepare the sanctuary for visitors.

Please watch for updates in the New Year!

For now, I invite you to pause in your holiday plans to take a sneak peek at this video and “fly” over this beautiful new sanctuary and the surrounding tropical-like blue waters of Lake Huron. (The Lake Huron bottom lands immediately offshore of the new sanctuary are part of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary—watch for the remains of the steamer Albany that sank in 1853.)

We extend our deep appreciation to the landowner for this incredible gift of nature.  And we also thank all of you—your generous support makes it possible for MNA to acquire and hold forever this new sanctuary and many other exceptional places throughout the state.  Together, we can—and do—protect Michigan’s rarest natural treasures.

Thank you and Happy New Year!

Garret Johnson

Garret Johnson
Executive Director

 

MNA’s Guide to Gifts for Nature – Part III

IRA Charitable Rollover

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You can give to nature and take advantage of a special tax treat for the year-end giving season with the IRA Charitable Rollover. But it must be done soon to count for 2017.
 
Here’s how it works:
  • People age 70 1/2 or older can make IRA transfer gifts tax-free to the Michigan Nature Association, a qualified charity;
  • Gifts of up to $100,000 qualify when IRA assets are transferred directly to the Charity;
  • Directly transferred gifts count towards the required minimum distributions you must take annually from your traditional IRAs, but aren’t included in your adjusted gross income and therefore are not counted as taxable income;
  • For married couples, each spouse can transfer up to $100,000 from their IRA.
A recent article in U.S. News & World Report, “How to Donate Your Required Minimum Distribution to Charity,” provides an excellent overview. But time for a qualifying gift for the 2017 tax year is running out. Transfers must be complete by December 31, 2017 for this tax year. To make a qualifying gift to MNA for the 2017 tax year we encourage you to contact your IRA administrator while there is still time.
 
Thanks for considering MNA in your year-end giving.
 
Happy Holidays!
 
Garret Johnson
Garret Johnson
Executive Director 
 
P.S. Don’t forget, transfers must be made by December 31, 2017 to qualify for this tax year.
 
Watch for more giving ideas throughout the month!

Donate today at michigannature.org!

MNA’s Guide to Gifts for Nature – Part II

Give the Gift of Nature

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Give to nature and know you are making a real and lasting impact for Michigan’s rare, threatened and endangered species and imperiled natural communities.
 
Your contribution will be put to work immediately to safeguard important natural areas, restore critical habitat, and connect young people to nature.
 
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An easy and convenient way to help protect our natural heritage and spread your gift out over a period of time.
 
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Check with your tax advisor about potential tax savings with a gift of appreciated stocks, bond or other securities to MNA.
 
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If your New Year’s resolution includes estate planning and a desire to leave a lasting legacy for nature, contact Garret Johnson, (866) 223-2231 or gjohnson@michigannature.org, for a confidential conversation about becoming an MNA Guardian of the Future.
 
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Watch for more giving ideas throughout the month!
Donate today at michigannature.org!

MNA’s Guide to Gifts for Nature – Part I

Give the Gift of Nature to Friends & Family

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For meaningful gifts that make a real difference for Michigan’s rare plants and animals, look no further!
 
Lucky recipients will receive a full year of Michigan Nature magazine, opportunities for free email updates with the latest nature news, and invitations to hikes, tours and exciting events in 2018.
 
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Donate a gift of any amount to honor someone on your list or to remember a loved one.
 
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A great stocking stuffer for animal lovers of all ages – a beautiful certificate features one of six important Michigan species and identifies the holder as a proud sponsor of Michigan nature.
 
Give to Michigan Species Image
 
Your gift will support our environmental education programs. You can help inspire a lifelong love of nature in children – our next generation of caretakers of the natural world.
 
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Watch for more giving ideas throughout the month!
Donate today at michigannature.org!

 

Field Experience at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary

Two enthusiastic interns and a grant from the Franklin D. Adams Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint made a big difference this summer for one of MNA’s most popular nature sanctuaries, the Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary in Fenton.

Andrew Borin recounts his summer internship experience:

Our time with MNA has proved to be a positive experience for both Ashlie and I. Neither of us could have imagined the positive reactions that we received from the volunteers, MNA staff and community members who recognized the work we accomplished in our time at Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary. Ashlie and I came from different academic backgrounds but shared one common goal during the internship: to work hard and make the largest impact we could. Every day we gave our all and pushed through the never-ending wall of invasive shrubs that plagues the sanctuary. The most common of which was autumn olive. Dauner Martin was our home for the summer and offered many challenges.

Dauner Martin - Andrew BaconWhat Dauner Martin Nature Sanctuary lacks in rare species, it makes up for in the role it plays within the community. The sanctuary sits within a business district in Fenton, Michigan. This urban setting makes it a unique sanctuary for Michigan Nature Association and offers benefits and problems not found within their other properties. With two entrances into the sanctuary located close to a busy road, the roughly 4.5 miles of trails are frequented by Fenton’s local citizens. Having a 155-acre green space in a city offers many positives ecologically and for the community. Not only do visitors get to hike and enjoy the pine plantations, prairies, wetlands and hardwood forests offered by the sanctuary, it is also used by local organizations to help promote outdoor activities and an appreciation for nature. On the ecological side of things, the sanctuary also acts as a haven for an assortment of wildlife and promotes ground water recharge.

native plant garden - Andrew BorinOur common workday included a variety of activities. Trash clean up and trail maintenance was usually reserved for our down-time. We also installed a 1,700 square foot native garden which we hope will grow and flourish. But the majority of our time was spent cutting down invasive shrubs using power tools and treating the stumps with herbicide. After the shrubs were cut, we would haul the branches through the understory and stack them into piles. Overall we cleared over 10 acres performing these day-to-day activities.

Ashlie and Andrew at DMWith the internship completed, Ashlie and I are headed back to school to finish our final two semesters before entering the workforce. I will be finishing my degree in Plant Biology at Michigan State University with the intention of working in habitat conservation and restoration. Ashlie intends to work with fisheries in the Upper Peninsula after completing her degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at the University of Michigan. As we look towards our futures, I speak for both of us when I say that we will always look back at our time at Dauner Martin fondly and I’m sure we’ll be back to see what improvements have been made to the sanctuary. We can’t thank MNA enough for giving us this experience and will use what we have learned as a platform, upon which we will build our future careers.

Thank you Andrew and Ashlie for all of your hard work!