Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hairy Woodpecker - Picoides villosus - subspecies discussion

Hairy Woodpecker - Picoides villosus -  Discussion of subspecies 

Sometimes in Michigan, someone will suggest, on a birding email list, they've observed a Hairy Woodpecker with plumage matching that of the pacific northwest subspecies. Often the distinguishing characteristic used for the ID is the overall dusky tint to the white plumage compared to bright white plumage of the eastern subspecies. However, the amount of white spots on the wings is often ignored. Discussion usually turns to the prominent white spotting on the observed subject and, if it was observed during nesting season, it is suggested the white plumage is dusky as a result of the bird moving in and out of the nesting cavity; resulting in "dirty" plumage.

I've been a bit confused by the Hairy Woodpeckers at Bandon State Natural Area, and in southern Oregon generally, because I've observed more white spots on the wings of some birds than I expected. A transplant from Michigan, I anticipated seeing very little white spotting on the wings. Also, the white plumage of some birds did not strike me as all the dusky. Further experience over the past three years suggests my initial experiences were not representative.

This morning I observed and photographed a fledged male juvenile working a dead himalayan cherry tree in Bandon. This bird was had dusky white plumage and little white spotting on the wings. Also, notice the red cap covering the crown determinative of a juvenile as oppose to the adult male red plumage on the back of the head.

Compare the white spots on the wings with those of Hairy Woodpeckers in Michigan. 

Hairy Woodpecker Nest Sight at Point Aux Chenes wetland in Michigan's Upper Peninsula -  June 13th, 2010

The juvenile, observed this morning, has the least amount of white spotting that I've observed on Hairy Woodpeckers on the south coast. That may be because it is young, however, the juveniles back east have much more spotting than this individual captured in the first two photos above:

Chipper Woods Bird Observatory - Carmel, Indiana
Compare Photos:

I wonder whether there are multiple subspecies on the south coast of Oregon?

Hairy Woodpecker nest sight on Swamp Lakes in Michigan's Upper Peninsula - May 31st, 2009

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reflection on my first experience observing nesting northern waterthrush.

Northern Waterthrush Experience
A moment toward transcendence

Video shows female gathering nesting material and the nest sight with two egg.

Wet habitat is a beloved haunt; preferably dark and dank wooded wetlands dotted with tree-less fen or bog pockets. Because of this, northern waterthrush and I regularly interacted in the wooded dune/swale complexes along Lake Huron in the northeastern lower peninsula of Michigan.


Nesting season is a favored time of year; not so much the spring and fall migration seasons. I love searching for wild bird nests and observing and experiencing their nest cycle from nest building to young leaving the nest. The northern waterthrush nest eluded me for years.

One day in May 2005,  I sat quietly in a cedar swamp between Squaw Bay and Devils Lake south of Alpena, Mi. I was here before dawn of a mind to watch a ruffed grouse drumming on his drumming log nearby. Dawn approached and I could see him moving around log. Two hours later he was still walking around but had not climbed atop the log to commence drumming. Obviously, he was aware of my presence. This prompted me to move further away. No sooner had I sat down in my new location than a male northern waterthrush began singing. Then, only moments later, a female landed near a moss covered log and began gathering the moss in her beak. Then, she flew away about 30 yards. I lost her in the darkness of the cedar swamp floor.

My heart was pounding. "Just be patient ... wait ... wait ... wait." I told myself. Suddenly she was back gathering more moss. I shifted a bit and brought my binoculars up to try and follow her. Thirty minutes later, after a few more trips to the moss, I had my scope trained on the location she seemed taking the moss. Two hours later I was sure of the spot. Daily, for another 5 days, I watched her from various other locations, with my spotting scope, as she worked to build her nest. Then, she stopped the building activity and I rarely saw her. Although the male was bringing food to her at the nest sight. Two days later I approached the nest and confirmed a nest with two eggs. I observed the nest sight for another month until just before the young left the nest.

Northern Waterthrush

Monday, June 3, 2013

Evernia prunastri in Michigan - Documentation

Collector Name: Keith F. Saylor
Species Name: Evernia prunastri
Date Collected: May 26, 2013
State: Michigan
County: Mackinac
Township: Moran Township
Location: Gros Cap Cemetery
Habitat: Human Altered, Cemetery, Ridge along Lake Michigan
Substrate: Bark - Trunk
Host Species: Black Spruce - 80% dead
Height above ground: 3 feet and below from ground
Aspect: North

Evernia Prunastri

Evernia prunastri is commonly found throughout Europe and western United States. It has been documented in the United States midwest, however, it is rare in the midwest.

Lichens of North America on pages 312-313, discussing the abundance of E. prunastri in the Great Lakes region, reads:

"Some very old herbarium species exist from scattered localites in Ontario close to the Great Lakes but the species is almost certainly extinct in that area."

Records from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility show one documented occurrence in Michigan by H.A. Imshaug on August 28, 1961 on the southern end of Beaver Island. 

Dr. Alan Fryday (Michigan State University Herbarium Curator) shared in an email about the status of E. prunastri in Michigan:
In MSC we have 26 Michigan collections of E. prunastri  from 11 counties (Charlevoix, Chippewa, Crawford, Emmet, Keweenaw, Lake, Leelanau, Mackinac, Otsego, Presque Isle & Roscommon). Although the most recent of these collections was made in 1976.

View Evernia Prunastri in Michigan in a larger map

Dr. Fryday also suggested in the same email that, while this lichen is rare in the midwest, the records may under-represent actual abundance.

On May 19th, 2013, I observed Evernia prunastri thallus on spruce trees in the Gros Cap Cemetery west of St. Ignace, Michigan.

These individuals were on dead or dying spruce trees in the cemetery. One specimen was collected and sent to Michigan State University. The collections were made because the dead or dying host trees were within the boundaries of the cemetery representing a hazard to visitors and would soon be cut down.

This image is particularly compelling; it shows Evernia mesomorpha (on the lower left) next to Evernia prunastri just above and to the right. It is not common to see these forms together in most parts of the world.


Location: Gros Cap Cemetery

Specimen Locations:


Photo Point One

The highlighted tree on the right hosted specimens 1 -3. The highlighted tree on the left hosted specimens 4 and 5.

Host Tree Specimens 1 -3
Host Tree: Specimens 4 and 5

Specimen Images:

Specimen One: Michigan State University Herbarium
Specimen One: Michigan State University Herbarium
Specimen One: Michigan State University Herbarium

 Specimen Two: Private Collection

 Specimen Two: Private Collection

 Specimen Three: Left on Location

Specimen Three: Left on Location

Specimen Four - Private Collection

Specimen Four - Private Collection

Specimen Five - Private Collection
Some Associate Lichens

Physcia adscends


Evernia mesomorpha

Anaptychia setifera

Physconia detersa

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Red-bellied Woodpeckers struggling against Starling invasion of their nest site.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker pair has excavated their nest cavity for a couple weeks. Recently Starlings wished to take control. The battle over occupancy is intense. I had concern for the woodpecker pair and their resolve to hold firm against the Starlings. As of yesterday evening the woodpeckers were still at and in their nest cavity. This pair is in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. While the Red-bellied Woodpecker breeding range is expanding north, it is not regularly observed nesting throughout the Upper Peninsula ... yet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Red-bellied Woodpecker nesting pair in St. Ignace, Michigan

I've observed Red-bellied Woodpeckers nesting in Alpena since 2006. This is the first pair I've observed nesting in the Upper Peninsula. The species nesting territory is expanding north. Here is a link to a write-up from MBBAII.

MBBAII Species Account

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Evernia Mesomorpha with Apothecia

Evernia mesomorpha rarely produces apotheica. On April 29th, 2013 I observed this thallus in Michigan's Upper Peninsula at Point Aux Chenes dune/swale complex just west of St. Ignace.

Substrate: The bark of a fallen black spruce tree.

Evernia prunastri grows in the western US and in Europe. Apothecia on e. prunastri is as uncommon as e. mesomopha. Here is a link to images of e. prunastri with apothecia:
See the second and third images.