Living on a fragmented portion of wetland has it’s benefits and drawbacks. First, my house is on what was a wet meadow at one time (before it was converted to pasture, and eventually a housing development), I would much prefer that the wet meadow was preserved. Species can be endangered but often the ecosystems for which they are apart are filled, plowed or cut down without a second thought. Minnesota as lost nearly 95% of its original wetlands to filling, draining or other means. These seemingly ‘worthless’ ponds and puddles are essential habitat for a myriad of year-round residents and countless millions of migratory species. This is one benefit of living where I do; I still get to see these migratory visitors as they pass through, I have 5 species of frogs (including one toad) that use my pond for breeding purposes.
Like my last post about the White Throated Sparrow, some of the migratory visitors are young and inexperienced with human development and all the obstacles it presents. One day while sitting in my kitchen I heard the solid thump of a bird hitting my front picture window. Whenever I hear this disturbing thump I run outside to perform triage the victim. I have gotten pretty good at assessing the damage by the sound alone.
I walked outside and started investigating the ornamental foliage. As I passed by a Hosta a bird jumped and fluttered into the lower branches of the large Ash in my front yard.
The bird awkwardly landed with a bit of a wobble. I investigated and found the bird to be a Yellow Warbler.
The bird, dazed and confused, had enough strength and awareness to jump and then perch into the tree, so I was not worried about this one’s survival. It did take about 45 minutes to regain its composure before flitting to the higher branches.
As the little Wobbley Warbler recovered it fluffed itself into a little ball of feathers and took a little nap (I would be doing the same if I had just flown into a window!).
Warblers are insect specialists. Bird beaks tell you what they do. As I would tell my students ‘structure equals function’. Warbler’s beaks are like little tweezers used to pick small caterpillars and other insects from the tree tops.
Now go back and take a look a the beak of the White Throated Sparrow from the previous post. What do you think they might eat, based on the beak shape?
Warblers are amazing little birds. There are literally hundreds of species that invade the northern forests each spring. They exploit the booming caterpillar crop attacking the trees and plants of the northern lands. They ensure that no single species of insects booms to destructive proportions.
Each fall these cool little birds fly south, following the frost line and a fresh supply of juicy caterpillars and insects. Some may fly as far south as northern South America and Central America before reaching their wintering grounds.
This is why conservation of these stop-over places like wetlands and forests are crucial to the survival of these amazing little birds. If we loose them we risk a destructive population explosion of insects that could harm the trees and alter the ecosystem. The Earth is a system, like any system each component affects the other. The removal or adjustment of a single cog can have repercussions across the entire spectrum.