Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Birding Life - Travels throughout the land - Part 6

For me the east-central part of the Upper Peninsula, the area around Seney NWR in particular has been almost just as much as a home as Iron Mountain. In fact I probably know the area a little better, as I have explored close to every road, trail and deer path in the area. So no trip "home" is really complete for me until I visit Seney and the surrounding state forest lands. Plus I still have good friends who work at the refuge, which makes it even better.

Seney NWR is part of what was once known as "The Great Manistique Swamp", this immense area of marshes, bogs and pools was gradually logged out and drained away during the logging boom of the 1880s to 1920s. Afterword people tried to farm in the newly drained areas but poor soil conditions led to farm collapses during the great depression and the lands eventually reverted back to the United States government. They decided to create Seney NWR basically as a refuge for Canada Geese really. The civilian conservation corps was put to work in the 30s and 40s restoring the refuge, they dug pools and dikes and created the refuge that we know today.

The eastern two portions of the refuge (referred to as units 1 and 2) consist of a system of pools, dikes and roads within a general forested matrix. The wastern third (unit 3) is a designated wilderness area with very little access. This part of the refuge primarily consists of immense sedge meadows and striated bogs. The refuge features many of the different habitats that can be found in the U.P. including Black Spruce bogs, sedge meadows, open water, upland forests, jack pine/red pine savannahs, aspen regen, red oak openings, in other words its a veritable haven for U.P. biodiversity!

If you want to know why I am cheerleading so much its because I spent a considerable amount of my young adult life at Seney, working on various bird field projects and internships. So it is truly a place near and dear to my heart. Anyway here are some photos from in and around Seney.

This female Ruffed Grouse was actually a little north of Seney, she had chicks hiding just off the road and allowed us to approach quite closely in the car without flying away.

One of the highlights of any trip to Seney are the many Trumpeter Swans inhabiting the pools. The Trumpeter Swan (once extirpated across most of the United States) was reintroduced to Seney in the 90s and has been so successful there that they have occupied all of the available habitat and have started to colonize other nearby areas. (My first peer-reviewed journal article was actually on the Trumpeter Swan population at Seney in the journal Waterbirds)

Another great long-term study at Seney is on the Common Loon population here(and in fact I believe it is the longest running and most complete study of Loons anywhere!). The person currently doing the field work for the Loon project as Seney is my friend Damon (who let me tag along to assist in some loon banding many years ago) who has discovered many new and interesting things about loon ecology.

Loons are typically shy and difficult to approach, even by car, but this one was quite content to remain closeby as we drove along the Seney wildlife drive.

One interesting tidbit, the current Whooping Crane recovery project is largely based on techniques pioneered on Sandhill Cranes at Seney NWR.

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