On the Ground: Annual Jack Pine Planting Day at the Grayling Forest Management Unit

On Saturday, May 4, 2024, MUCC’s On the Ground program partnered with the Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance, Huron Pines, the Michigan DNR, and the Saginaw Children’s Zoo to host the annual Jack Pine Planting Day at the Grayling Forest Management Unit. We had a great volunteer turnout this year for 2024! This is a fun and exciting event because volunteers are helping to provide critical habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler, a rare species here in Michigan.

A Kirtland’s Warbler. Courtesy of Cornell University.

About the Kirtland’s Warbler

The Kirtland’s Warbler is a small songbird and is one of the rarest in North America. It breeds only in young jack pine forests in Michigan and adjacent areas of Ontario and Wisconsin. During the past hundred years, fire suppression and timber rotations have proved detrimental to the bird’s population, and they were one of the first species listed on the Endangered Species List in 1973. Regardless of their declining population, intensive conservation efforts have increased the population tenfold and they were finally delisted in 2019.

Volunteers work to plant jack pine seedlings

Kirtland’s Warblers are gray with black streaks on their wings, and a yellow throat and belly. They also have white crescents around their eyes. Additionally, males have a black mark in front of their eyes whereas females do not. Females can also look brownish-gray. Kirtland’s Warblers nest on the ground near jack pine thickets, concealing themselves with grass and other vegetation. They eat mostly insects and some fruit, including blueberries.

Volunteers Plant Jack Pines to Help the Kirtland’s Warbler

A few Huron Pines AmeriCorps members pitched in to help

33 volunteers participated in this event to help improve habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler. Volunteers paired off into teams to plant each jack pine seedling. First, one person would create a hole in the ground using a dibble bar. Then, the other person would place a jack pine into the hole and cover it with dirt. Volunteers planted the seedlings in rows throughout a clear-cut area. The hope is that they will grow until they are big enough to become effective nesting habitat for the Kirtland’s Warbler.

All of our volunteers worked hard and demonstrated excellent teamwork and communication. In total, volunteers improved 6 acres of habitat for these birds! They planted more seedlings than any of the previous years. Great job to all of our volunteers and partners for their dedication to this important species. Our success helps ensure the survival of the Kirtland’s Warbler for many years to come.

More Upcoming Events

Would you like to get involved in improving wildlife habitat throughout Michigan? Check out our upcoming events and see where On the Ground is going next! All registered volunteers receive lunch and a free appreciation gift for their efforts.

Saturday, May 18, 2024, from 9 AM to 1 PM – Woody Invasive Species Removal for Hunter and Angler Access at Ionia State Recreation Area (register HERE)

Saturday, June 1, 2024, from 10 AM to 2 PM – Oak Tree Planting at an Elk Viewing Area in the Atlanta Forest Management Unit (register HERE)

Saturday, June 8, 2024, from 10 AM to 2 PM – Mast Producing Tree Planting in the Newberry Forest Management Unit (register HERE)

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