Mary Sweet of Bainbridge Township sent in a photo of a flock of wild turkeys displaying in her backyard on June 12.
Most wild turkey hens in Michigan are currently tending to nests. However, as we can see from Sweet’s photo, the male turkeys continue displaying for the females long after the initial part of the breeding season.
Last week, David Lawrence of Berrien Springs ventured to Weesaw Township where he photographed a dickcissel, which was defending its nesting territory among large hayfields. These birds are rather hard to find, much less photograph.
The dickcissel is a bird of extensive grasslands. Local numbers vary year to year. Dickcissels are more common to our west, and during years of drought on the Great Plains, we usually see an influx of dickcissels on our local open grasslands. The summers of 1989, 2006 and 2007 yielded higher than average dickcissels in the Great Lakes area. In 2006 over 400 pairs of were found in Michigan alone.
This year the species is restricted in Berrien County to extensive grasslands along Mill Road in Weesaw Township, between Kruegar Road to the south and Elm Valley Road to the north.
The dickcissel appears roughly the size of a common house sparrow, and the male looks like a miniature meadowlark with its black bib and yellow chest. The female appears similar but lacks the black bib.
Dickcissels arrive in southern Michigan from South America around May 20, one of the last spring migrants to appear each year. Nesting begins immediately upon arrival. Many nests are destroyed in hayfields when hay is harvested in June or early July. Areas with tallgrass prairies such as Sarett and Fernwood nature centers are best for nesting success.
The species stops singing in mid-July and can be difficult to detect afterwards. Local departure dates are hard to determine, but it is thought that most are gone by late August.
Peter Plikaitus of St. Joseph found a gray tree frog last week that had climbed onto a black walnut tree. Eventually the frog made its way to the ground where it was photographed.
Gray tree frogs are common in our region and are known for their ability to climb trees and buildings, as they have suction cups located on their toes. The tree frog also has the ability to change its color, usually from gray to green, depending on the surface on which they are sitting.
Jonathan Wuepper is an area naturalist. Report your sightings to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.