Brad Anderson of Bridgman has been hiking in Warren Dunes State Park in recent weeks and has photographed the prairie warbler, a small songbird currently on the state endangered species list.
The prairie warbler is a misnamed species. It does not inhabit prairies, but rather overgrown fields containing scattered shrubs and small trees. In Southwest Michigan, the prairie warbler can be found nesting in the remote areas of Warren Dunes and Grand Mere State Parks, where the soil is poor, sandy and well-drained. The dune areas that harbor prairie warblers are generally open with an abundance of shrubby vegetation. Orchards are also attractive to the prairie warbler.
The species was more widespread and reported nearly every nesting season in Berrien and Cass Counties up until the early 1960s. The population decline was likely due to several factors that led to habitat reduction, mainly the loss of orchards to row crops.
Prairie warblers depart their breeding territories in Southwest Michigan during August. Few migrants are seen locally, as our region is on the northern edge of the summer range. However, a handful of southbound migrants have been reported over the years, usually during August and early September. There is one winter record of prairie warbler in Michigan, from December 1971.
Bob Conrad of St. Joseph checked on our resident osprey family in Buchanan Twp. on July 1, and sent photos of an adult still feeding three young at the nest site.
For several years osprey have nested along Madron Lake Road atop utility poles. The three young osprey will leave the nest site during July and stay near their parents until late August or September. Late summer is the time ospreys depart Michigan for their wintering grounds in the southern U.S.
Some species of shorebirds begin fall migration just after the summer solstice. Southbound willets, dunlin, least sandpipers, and other shorebirds were reported during the first few days in July along Berrien County’s beaches.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.