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Fantastic fluddles and where to find them
Plus, could the Kirtland's Warbler become Michigan's state bird?
It’s the time of year when it’s worth doing a double-take when you see a big puddle or flooded field. That’s because it’s nearly the peak of shorebird migration, and plovers, sandpipers, snipe, and other birds are making the most of our standing water.
You might pass a puddle, or “fluddle,” that looks like this:
And you may realize that—upon closer inspection with binoculars—that the little wetland is teeming with life.
“Fluddle” is a term that describes incidental, largely temporary wetlands that appear in parks, yards, and farm fields. The term likely was coined in Illinois in the 1990s. It’s a term used by birders mostly, an off-hand way to describe these odd wet spots that frequently harbor unusual species.
Often, the challenge with fluddles is finding them. They won’t appear on most any map. Most aren’t part of any designated nature preserve or wildlife area. So a few folks have taken it upon themselves to keep track of them. Here are three fluddle maps I’m aware of:
Located a little more than an hour from Chicago’s Loop, McHenry County provides a range of interesting habitat types and is mostly rural in character. Jeff Aufmann has created a fluddle map with a range of sites, some that stay wet most every year, and some that appear only occasionally. The sites in green are the best fluddles, blue designates the next best, and those in yellow are the most occasional.
McLean County is centered around the twin cities of Bloomington and Normal. A systematic effort has been under way to map fluddles on agricultural land across the county. Geography professor RJ Rowley has researched the depressions in the land that are most likely to become fluddles.
Haley Gottardo has compiled a fluddle map with the best shorebird sites around Chicagoland, most less than an hour from her home base of DuPage County. Suburban fluddles are different. Some are on agricultural land, but others are in forest preserves, industrial parks, or stormwater drainages. Be sure to stay on public land or a road when observing these wetlands, many of which are on private property.
For more information on my FLUDDLES film project, click here.
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The Kirtland’s Warbler has a good day in Lansing
An effort is under way to make the Kirtland’s Warbler the state bird of Michigan, and it’s understandable why. The warbler’s breeding range is mostly restricted to the jack-pine barrens of a small section of northern Michigan. After years of conservation efforts, the Dendroica species recently came off the endangered species list. The current state bird, the American Robin, is also the state bird for Wisconsin. Robins are wonderful, but one has to say that there is nothing in particular that connects the birds to Michigan.
Representatives of the nonprofit Kirtland’s Warbler Alliance visited with legislators in Lansing last week, to urge their support for the new state bird. The alliance wrote the following on Facebook:
“Every legislator or aide that we visited with gave us a warm welcome, a fair hearing and an open mind. And they all seemed to come away impressed, including those whom we met in the elevator for only a matter of seconds.”
The next steps in the Michigan House include a poll of members on the topic and a hearing that will feature the warbler. This is good news for those of us who favor this designation for a special bird in a special state.
Last week brought the first Piping Plover sighting of the season to Illinois, at Illinois Beach State Park. The bird was reported to have been hatched at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and last year nested at Long Island in Wisconsin. Chicago Piping Plovers provided the handy guide above describing locations of Piping Plover leg bands. This can help when identifying a plover and reporting it to the Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort…..Watersheds Canada will have a virtual event on Thursday on Bank Swallow conservation. Bank Swallows have been declining faster than other swallows, though the exact reasons for this aren’t entirely known…..Illinois Ornithological Society has a number of trips coming up, including one dedicated to seeing the aforementioned Kirtland’s Warbler on its nesting grounds……The City Nature Challenge, a four-day “bio-blitz,” takes place this Friday through Monday. Learn how you can participate here.