Saturday, December 27, 2014

Jack PInes and Kirtland's Warblers

Kathy never fails to life my spirits. We had a great day yesterday.

I'm one of those folks that is affected by SAD because of less sunlight, longer nights, cloudy skies, lack of activity, etc. It happens every year about this time. What keeps me going is the fact that from now on every day is actually two minutes longer, even though the worst weather is yet to come.

We always take a long walk; yesterday the weather was almost short-sleeve weather. We walked along my beach south and found, around the bend where there's a sheltered cove, a Jack Pine sapling about ten feet tall. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

Kata with "Jack".

Kata, named after my cousin Kathy, and I went back to the cove today in order to take a photo of the Jack Pine tree. They are not large trees even when mature. This tree, even though it was probably not very old, had several pines cones on it. I cannot imagine how the tree, or the mother tree, got there. This is not its normal range. I would guess that it, or its parent plant, was planted there. It looks like the Christmas Tree in the Charley Brown cartoon, doesn't it?

Even though I had never see a Jack PIne in person, I have always loved Jack Pines, Pinus banksiana, in theory because they provide shelter and nesting sites for the Kirtland's Warbler, Setophaga kirtlandii, ( a rare small warbler with an extremely small population that nests only in a small area of Jack Pine trees in Michigan. The trees must be between 4 and 20 years old and 2 - 4 meters [2 - 4 yards] high. (Go to the above site to see photos of Kirtland's warblers.)

We didn't notice yesterday, but today Kata and I found at least three more Jack Pines in the same area. Kata's size can give you an indication of the size of the trees. The oldest one was tall - at least for a Jack Pine. I picked a few more cones.

Jack Pines ( ) have very tough and hard pine cones that crack open and release their seeds when extreme heat or fire destroy the adult trees.  They need heat or fire in order to regenerate.

Kathy and I picked several pine cones off the small-ish tree (the four small cones above) and brought them back home. The larger cones I picked of the mature tree today. Notice how tight the scales are. Seeds from a few other small cones picked yesterday are above on the left. (Click on photo to enlarge it.)

We couldn't pry the cones open so tried heating them in a frying pan. The pine cone scales eventually opened up and then we could then pick the seeds out. We didn't want to heat them too much because that could have destroyed the seeds!

After I "heat treat" the new cones, you know I will be planting the seeds and hoping! I may even go back and see if I can find a two year old volunteer - not likely because of the heat necessary to open the cone.

Here's a photo of the Jack Pine seeds after heat treating the cones. (Click to enlarge.) Note the seeds themselves are the color of burnt wood to increase camouflage and decrease the likelihood of birds eating them after a fire. Note the "helicopter wings" to facilitate dispersal by the wind after fire; the wings are similar to the wings of maple tree seeds even though, obviously, pines and maples are not related. Isn't nature amazing.

Jon & Tracy - Kirtland's Warblers winter in the Turks and Caicos!!!! Isn't that a coincidence?

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