By Terry Grabill
This is the fifth in a series chronicling the efforts by Terry Grabill to follow a dream kindled by a love for birding and the inspiration drawn from the book and movie The Big Year.
Links to his first four installments can be found at the end of the article.
By the tail-end of February, eBird had me flirting with top 10 in Michigan and I had nearly all of the expected birds. I found myself checking the rare bird reports several times a day, hoping for birds that seemed to be stationed and in striking distance after school or on the weekends. It had been a long time since I'd picked up a bird driving to or from work, but on Feb 25, I found one gliding over the road after filling the tank with gasoline.
104. Sharp-shinned hawk
Feb 27. Brennan and I drove to Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery. Helping him get driving time in toward his driver's license has been good for both of us! I'm a much safer highway birder when I'm not behind the wheel! The birds were great at the hatchery, lots of ducks and a few geese. Picked up two new birds.
105. American coot
We continued into the city of Kalamazoo to find the resident falcons. I wasn't prepared for the food festival (chili, I think) along with the requisite crowds. We got some strange looks as we glassed the 5/3 bank building with our bins, looking for the nest box. A few people made comments about our strange birding location, but were genuinely interested in our quest. Feeling frustrated and out of ideas, I was getting cranky. Brennan suggested we climb to the top of a parking structure next to the bank building to get a better view. Sure enough, we found a great view of the nesting structure! Now we waited...and scanned. We had the expected pigeons and house sparrows as well as some Canada geese flying over the city. We commented that we should have brought lunch with us and enjoyed a picnic while we waited. Scanning the horizon, we spotted a hawk and,
107. Turkey vulture
And we waited some more, constantly scouring ledges and the horizon. Neither of us cherished the idea of dipping on the falcon, especially since we'd waited over an hour and we were so near the nest. I focused my bins on the structure, just hoping against hope that we'd not go away empty when, from the side, one falcon came flying in to perch in front of the nest.
108. Peregrine falcon
We watched the bird as its mate came in and perched near it. They flew and soared circles around the skies above Kalamazoo. One even treated us to a dive (stoop). While it was an unsuccessful dive, watching Earth's fastest animal at top speed was amazing!
I suppose I've gotten a little conditioned to birding without finding many to add to the total. And, I suppose that's okay. Helping my young friend pick up a life bird is more important than racking up numbers. Although... the numbers are hard to ignore. I knew there was a teal waiting in Grand Rapids and Riverside Park was on the way home!
109. Blue-winged teal
Mar. 1. The teal in G.R. brought me to the top 10 and I was not anxious to sit out the school-week while I dropped into the teens again. Monday, quick trip to Muskegon Wastewater. I was determined to NOT CHASE birds that would be a gimme later, but... there were green-winged teal there and, perhaps, a cackling goose. I found almost no geese at all (very weird) but got a nice pair of long-tailed ducks and,
110. Green-winged teal.
Mar. 6. I'd never been to Kensington Metropark, one of Michigan's most popular birding destinations before. My first solo trip in a while, Kensington was 2 1/2 hours east. I had absolutely NO IDEA how to bird it, how hard could it be though? Well, at over 700 acres, there were a lot of trails to walk. I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't see it all in a day. Anyway, I had a general description of where a virginia rail had been seen earlier in the week and VIRA (birder code for the rail) is never easy for me to list. I was greeted by extremely tame and friendly sandhill cranes. The sign read "Do Not Feed The Cranes" so, of course, families with young children were anxiously feeding them as much as they would eat! On the way to the trail map, I picked up my first-of-the-year (FOY),
111. Common grackle
The birder that posted the VIRA sighting had told me to look on the aspen trail and not much more as far as detail went. I stopped and searched any likely habitat, even played a recording of the rail's "song". Along the way, families were stopped trail-side with birdseed in-hand, raising their outstretched palms skyward while chickadees, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers ate from their hands. I found one passerine in my search for the rail.
112. Swamp sparrow
In the distance I heard the tremolo call (at noon?) of
113. Eastern screech owl.
I wonder if it was responding to my rail call? I made my way back to the parking lot, ate some fruit and then made another sweep of aspen trail. I was very nearly back to the car again when I stopped at some likely habitat and scoured the dead cattails for the red bill of VIRA. The pictures on facebook showed the tan bird against snow. Today, there was no snow...and the cattails were a perfect match for VIRA colors. Okay, one more try with the "song". I no sooner got to the ka-dik part of the recording when not 3 meters into the marsh came .... wok, wok wok. The unmistakable call of
114. Virginia rail
My route home was side-tracked north of Lansing to Motz Park, where a cackling goose had been seen the previous day. Hundreds of CAGO flew over and were roosting in an old corn field. If only I could find access to somewhere close enough to scope the masses. No such luck. I managed to find my FOY
115. Brown-headed cowbird.
March 7. Sunday. I heard (from the front porch) FOY
116. Eastern meadowlark
March 8. I knew this week would not be a big birding week. My youngest son would be visiting from VA and we'd be meeting his girlfriend for the first time. He wouldn't be arriving until late Monday, though! Several years ago, I'd found a nice flock of migrating blackbirds in a wet field near home. Maybe, since the snow was melting fast, I'd get lucky again!? I'm never one to find luck though...except today! A large flock of mostly red-winged blackbirds was on the meadow. Along with starlings, grackles and cowbirds were mixed in
117. Brewer's blackbird
118. Rusty blackbird
After a quick stop home to see Andrea, I wondered if maybe a walk on Camp Newaygo's Wetland Trail would turn up some migrants. I'm not positive whether red-headed woodpeckers are migratory, but I'd had NO luck finding them in locations where they are abundant in summer. Slogging back to the truck through slushy roads, calling up the hill at the main camp came the call of...
119. Red-headed woodpecker
Movie Binge Boxes, Afternoon Movie, & Book Group at Fremont Library
The Fremont Area District Library is planning to host several fun, free, and educational programs in November for the whole family.
Movie Binge Boxes will be back! When you check out at least 3 DVDs on Fridays in November (not including Nov. 26th because we’ll be closed), we’ll give you a popcorn box with popcorn and candy to go with it! Any DVDs can be included—children’s, adult, TV shows, etc. It’s a great time to treat yo’ self and snuggle under a blanket with some snacks while you watch movies.
Children can look forward to some fun events. Toddler Storytime, for babies and toddlers up to age 3, will be held on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m., and Family Storytime for children up to age 5 will be held on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. We’ll be showing the movie Raya and the Last Dragon on Thursday, November 18th at 3:30 p.m. Snacks will be served, and all are welcome.
Grab-n-Go Crafts are still available each week for all ages! Follow the library’s Facebook or Instagram pages @Fremont Area District Library to see the crafts.
The Wednesday Readers Book Group will meet on Monday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m. to discuss The Witches by Stacy Schiff. The Daytime Book Group will not be meeting in late November, but will instead meet in early December. Anyone is welcome to join these book groups. Books for these groups are available at the library’s front desk ahead of the meeting if you’d like to check out a copy and join the group.
For more information about any of these events, please contact the library at 231-924-3480 or visit www.fremontlibrary.net.
There are many in our county who have joined in the experience of the Wheatland Music Festival as well as their other programming. Now thoise whoi have embraced the traditional arts v=can apply for support to ci=on tinue their journey into our musical past.
At ten years old Mariah of Montcalm County has been playing the piano for nearly half of her life. She applied for and received funding in 2020 from Wheatland Music Organization’s Jenine Stickler Memorial Fund – an endowment fund within the Mecosta County Community Foundation – to purchase her own piano. In 2021 she received funding through Wheatland’s Elyce Fishman Scholarship Fund to help pay for private lessons. Mariah said, “Thank you for the scholarship money. I got three awards for playing at my recital. I would have got four rewards but we couldn't do a recital due to COVID last year.”
Children ages 3-18 living or attending school in Mecosta, Osceola, Lake, Newaygo or Montcalm Counties may apply for Jenine Stickler Memorial Fund funding toward art tools - dance shoes, acoustical musical instruments (such as violin, bass, piano, flute, etc.), variety of art supplies or equipment (such as weaving, carving, painting, pottery) used in the traditional arts.
Any child or adult living in Michigan may apply for an Elyce Fishman Scholarship to gain skills and education in traditional music, dance, arts and crafts. The scholarships help to support those with the greatest financial need, potential for growth and likelihood to carry on the traditional art.
See www.wheatlandmusic.org or call 989 967 8879 for an application
By Terry Grabill
This is the fourth in a series chronicling the efforts by Terry Grabill to follow a dream kindled by a love for birding and the inspiration drawn from the book and movie The Big Year.
Links to his first three installments can be found at the end of the article.
The second month of my big year has been a time where it has become obvious that new birds are going to be hard-fought. Weekends have become targeted on rarities and weekdays frustrating as I watch eBird report findings that I have no chance at unless I quit my job...or hope they'll stick around until the weekends.
Feb. 1: Brennan and I took a trip to White Lake Channel to scope ducks and Gulls. The duck show was pretty spectacular, gulls less so. No new birds.
Feb. 6: After another work week of no new birds, I set out for Muskegon and birded the wastewater and Channel. again... no new birds.
Feb. 7: Afternoon I drove to Croton to see if I could make one of the redpolls into a hoary. I'd seen a nice flock there in January and, with all the hoary redpoll reports in Michigan, I figured at least ONE of them had to be a frosty fellow! No such luck, but I did add a bird at a feeder by the Consumer's Energy drive by the dam!
93. Pine Siskin
Andrea and I drove to Fremont in an attempt to catch a hoary redpoll at the feeder of a friend who'd shown me a picture of a whitish redpoll they'd been seeing. My friend, Lynn, had moved her car for us and we sat glassing her porch and finally...
94. Hoary Redpoll
After, we went home and watched Tampa Bay beat up on Kansas City in the Super Bowl.
This week was parent-teacher conferences at FMS. I watched my ranking in the Michigan Big Year stats drop daily...I had once been #16...now close to the 30s...
Feb. 13. Brennan and I hit the road early to head north. Barrow's Goldeneye had been seen in Manistee and Cackling Goose just NW of Traverse City. Our route took us past Dublin so we swung by the bunkhouse to see if we could catch a red-headed woodpecker. No luck! but we stopped in to the Dublin General Store to get some jerky for the road.
Manistee: The location described on eBird for the BAGO sighting didn't look promising to me. The marina was mostly frozen with a few pockets of open water maintained by bubblers. We saw a tight cluster of Common goldeneye with a few Mute swans. As we were glassing them, looking for the crescent white patch of a Barrow's, the flock took to the wing...argh....but, they flew only a few hundred meters and touched down in another opening in the ice. My partner and I hoofed it to the new site where we found hundreds of mallards, redheads, scaup, and goldeneyes. A passer-by asked if we'd seen the Barrow's and assured us that he was still there, just be patient! Bren called out "I've got him!" and the birds took off back to the original opening. We rushed back to where we could scope the open water and, after only a few moments of staring down every goldeneye, THERE! He floated slowly into and across the field of view of my spotting scope!
95. Barrow's Goldeneye (last seen by me in 2014)
We continued north to Traverse City and stopped at several hotspots in town. Picked up a couple new birds that would have been easy in summer. In Grand Traverse Bay we saw rafts of hundreds of redheads.
96. Double Crested Cormorant
97. Lesser Scaup
Feb. 16. Snow Day. Took Andrea to the Dr. in the morning, got a call from our daughter, Caitlin, on the way home asking for help as she was stuck in her driveway. We drove to Hesperia to help, she was rescued before we got there, we turned toward home for Ann to rest. On our way, she noticed birds in the intersection of 24th and Baldwin Ave.
98. Lapland Longspur
Feb. 17. Andrea had been suspicious that many of the birds we'd had at our feeders were not just house finches, that many of the males had much less streaking and a more raspberry color. Indeed!
99. Purple Finch
Feb 20. Mid-winter break came that weekend. Huge opportunity to play some catch-up birding! I'd met a birder from Florida a couple of years ago who happened to be the brother-in-law of an old friend of my Dad's. He was going to be up visiting on Saturday and wondered if I'd take time to bird with him along the lakeshore. We started early and I hoped we could at least pick up a cackling goose at the Muskegon Wastewater. We saw some birds that Bill (Kaempfer) was excited about. Apparently, snowy owl and rough-legged hawk aren't that common in FL! At Muskegon channel we got some good ducks and swans, but nothing new for my year list
Sunday. off early in the morning to Michigan's UP! Just me, Andrea and our dog, Izzy. After stopping to take our pictures with the blue ice of the Straights of Mackinac, we scoured the Eastern UP for Sharp-tailed grouse. We went to at least a dozen sites on eBird where the grouse had been seen in the last week. We stopped, glassed, waited and drove hundreds of miles back-and-forth and we arrived in Sault Ste. Marie close to dark. No grouse, no new ducks, no additions. Got take-out, found out that grouse had been seen where we had been, went to bed early. In the morning, after a run-in with hotel management and police involvement, we went west to Hulbert Bog. What a beautiful place. Anticipation was high for boreal birds like Spruce Grouse, Canada Jay, and, dare I hope?, Northern Hawk Owl. Chickadees and Ravens. The silence there was deafening! The most peaceful place I can remember being. Maybe if we drove north, toward Whitefish Point, we'd catch some crossbills! We returned home Monday evening after some great alone time with Izzy with my list stuck at 99.
Feb 23. Now 2 months after the solstice, days are getting longer! There's at least 3 hours of daylight after school lets out. I grabbed Brennan and set out after a Red-throated Loon and King Eider in St. Joseph, just above the Indiana border. We made it there in two hours, found the site, and scoured the channel for bird # 100. What a great variety of ducks! Scaup, goldeneye, redheads, canvasbacks, all three scoters, mallards, gulls...but where was the Eider? What about the Loon? Thanks to the studying Bren had done on the drive down, we were able to quickly get herring and ring-billed gulls, a great black-backed gull and
100. Lesser Black-backed Gull (I had hoped the century mark would have not been a gull) (life bird)
We continued to glass the channel and got buffleheads and Shovelers along with some Mute Swans. We helped a nice lady to identify several ducks. Bren was talking her through an ID when I GOT IT!
101. King Eider (another bird last seen by me in 2014)
Feb. 24. As I mentioned, I had recently noticed that there was enough daylight after school to get to most places in the LP before dark. Just so happens that White-fronted geese were found only 30 miles west of Fremont! Andrea and I left right after school and found a flock of Canada geese in a corn field near the reported site. We scoped and scoped and I saw a flash of white that had to be a snow goose wing. Sure enough, about 28 snow geese, 8 of which were the dark phase Blue Goose! and, just to the right...
102. Greater White-fronted Goose.
On our way back to Fremont, we stopped by a campground and watched the tops of spruce trees, hoping against hope...wait, is that? really?
103. Red Crossbill
Want a little history about our county seat?
Last year Dale Twing delivered a presentation on the history of White Cloud to the Newaygo Museum and it proved to be so popular they have asked him back for another visit to our county’s past.
This Thursday October 21, at 1pm and 7pm he’ll be bringing his stories and powerpoint to the museum’s temporary uptown location at 153 River Valley Rd. in the uptown shopping center
This is the latest in the highly regarded speaker series put on by the folks at NCM&HC.
While you’re there ask them about the progress of the new museum building and maybe even ask what you can do to help. The impressive initiative has begun to take shape for the day the Museum will rejoin what has become a vibrant downtown business landscape.
By Megan Wirts
Spooky Season is upon us and what better way to get into the mood than with a haunted trail!! The Trail of Terror is open for business once again! For the past 17 years screams have been filling the woods in the small town of Holton thanks to community support and dedication from Buffy Murphy and her loyal staff.
This is the fifth time I have been terrorized by the trail's fantastic cast of horrifying characters. I brought along my two teens and four of our bravest neighbors. This was going to be the first haunted experience for one of our group members. Being just 12 years old, she was finally old enough to get the crap scared out of her. There were a few younger kids there, but parent’s beware, it may not be suitable for some. Also, if you have a heart condition or are sensitive to strobe lights, you might want to sit this out.
The trail has been through many changes over the past 17 years, but one thing remains the same, it’s scary!! Filled with all of the most terrifying characters from horror movies from the past 40 years, like Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason, IT and so much more. I definitely screamed, jumped and peed a little as I trekked through the horror filled forest. There are circus freaks, pigs with cleavers, masked chainsaw murderers, creepy clowns and chilling children. From the seasoned trail veteran to the newly terrorized tween, the trail did not disappoint!
Buffy Murphy is owner and operator of the Trail of Terror. More than once over the years she has thought it was going to be the last. When her son Dakota Dean Murphy passed away 7 years ago, she thought that was it, but her friends and family surrounded her in support saying, “the show must go on for Dakota!”. Then they decided that 2019, was going to be the grand finale. Murphy’s youngest son was graduating from high school and she was ready for things to slow down. Then 2020 happened. Since most indoor haunts were closed due to COVID precautions, the Trail of Terror was one of the only haunted attractions available in the area. She was inundated with messages hoping for just one more year of frights. She couldn't say no! The show went on and was a success.
Now it’s 2021 and the show continues to go on. She now looks at each year as an annual tribute to her late son Dakota, who she says was passionate about helping others. Murphy said that the love and support of the community and her trail family “carried us when we did not want to anymore”. This isn’t just a chance to scare people senseless for Murphy, this is a labor of love. She says that the entire staff, newbies and returning members, are deeply committed to excellence. The trail is a small family owned operation that competes against million dollar organizations in the haunted house industry and year after year they have won the title of “Scariest Place in West Michigan” for 14 of the 17 years that the Trail of Terror has been in operation.
Don’t miss your chance to get your scare on! The Tail of Terror opens to the public on October 22, 23, 29 & 30th, beginning at dusk until 11pm weather permitting. Tickets are $15 for regular admission or you can upgrade to VIP for $20. The Trail of Terror is located at 7582 Crocker Rd. in Holton MI.
Near and far fun awaits
Tis the Season.
No, not The Big One. We have plenty of time for that, though it was announced at N3 World Headquarters & Upcoming Noel Nook that Hallmark would begin their new season of Christmas movies this coming Friday so…
We’re talking Halloween, the fan favorite of those who revel in spinning their creativity into pumpkins, costumes, decor, and creepy porch and yard scenes.
With a couple of weekends left in October we thought we’d compile a few spooktacular events coming to this part of our bipeninsular paradise.
Saturday (23rd) at the site of Smuggler’s Cove there will be a Trunk or Treat beginning at 3pm.
In Grand Rapids, John Ball Zoo is hosting a ‘Zoo Goes Boo’ Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10-5 both weekends. Treats and such with costumes encouraged.
For adults who like Halloween or Classic Rock or both, 7 mile Inn is having their annual Halloween Party on Saturday starting at 8pm with a costume contest and music provided by the popular cover band Innuendo.
Grim Acres in Sparta provides a winding trail through the woods highlighted by “Spooky clowns, witches, spiders and much more!”
Friday and Saturday nights 6:30-11 pm. Sunday, 6:30-10.
11530 Stebbins Ave NW,
The Howard Christensen Nature Center is a very cool place and they will be hosting a Spooky Walk on Saturday, October 30th from 7pm – 8:30 pm. It is open to kids of all ages (even grown up ones!) Donuts cider and coffee provided. Last walk leaves at 8:30 pm
Please check out the website for additional information
Trail of Terror
The best around returns!
If you’ve been, you know. If you haven’t been? Well you will know if you go.
Friday, Saturday Oct.22, 23 29, 30 8pm
7582 Crocker Rd, Holton, MI
If you have a Halloween type gig coming up you want folks to know about? Send us an email with details and we’ll let our readers know
Tips on how to safely and confidently view birds and other wildlife at or near a hunting area
Michigan’s public lands offer a great chance to see birds and other wildlife while spending quality time in the great outdoors. But maybe you’re concerned it’s not safe to hike or go birding in the woods during hunting season – the good news is hunting is a very safe sport, and, with a little knowledge and preparation, you can confidently enjoy birding during any hunting season.
Here are some tips:
Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.
Pumpkin Painting, Spooky Movies, and Junk Journaling at Fremont Library
The Fremont Area District Library is planning to host several fun, free, and educational programs in October for the whole family.
Junk Journaling, for anyone ages 10 and up, will be available in the Community Room on Thursday, October 14th from 3:30-5:00 (show up anytime between). The beginning kit is provided for free. Use up what you have and supplement with found, recycled, repurposed, and thrifted items.
Spooky Movie Mondays will get you ready for Halloween! On Monday, October 18th, we’ll be showing The Sixth Sense (PG-13; 107 min.) and on October 25th we’ll be showing A Quiet Place (PG-13; 90 min.) Both of these movies will start at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room, and snacks will be provided.
Children can look forward to some fun events. Toddler Storytime, for babies and toddlers up to age 3, will be held on Wednesdays at 10:00 a.m., and Family Storytime for children up to age 5 will be held on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. We’ll be showing the movie Halloweentown on Thursday, October 21st at 3:30 p.m. Snacks will be served, and all are welcome. Saturday Storytime, for children up to age 5 will be on October 23rd at 11:00 a.m. We’re bringing back Pumpkin Painting for Kids on October 28th at 3:30 p.m. Registration is required for this event. Please call 231-928-0249 or see the Children’s Department to register.
The Wednesday Readers Book Group will not be meeting in October, but the Daytime Book Group will meet on Thursday, October 28th at 11:30 a.m. to discuss Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins. Anyone is welcome to join these book groups. Books for these groups are available at the library’s front desk ahead of the meeting if you’d like to check out a copy and join the group.
For more information about any of these events, please contact the library at 231-924-3480 or visit www.fremontlibrary.net.
By Terry (BirdGoober) Grabill
This is the third in a series chronicling the efforts by Terry Grabill to follow a dream kindled by a love for birding and the inspiration drawn from the book and movie The Big Year.
Here is a link to his first two installments:
As January 2021 comes to a close, I've gotten MOST of the winter residents. Pine siskin and purple finch are a couple that still elude me for some reason. I'm still studying every flock of redpolls I see to find the frosty hoary redpoll. I've seen pictures of one from a friend in Fremont. Checking the ebird rankings has proven to be a big mistake. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not out to break any records or beat any other birders. But, I'm still male and the competitive spirit does still have an effect on me. The hardest part is checking the board during lunch break, knowing there is relatively little I can do until the weekend.
Had an appointment in Grand Rapids in the late morning so I had to arrange for a full-day substitute teacher. I was free from the Dr. by 11:00 so I made a stop at Riverside Park where there had been reports of a pintail and American wigeon hanging with some mallards. Not knowing how to bird the park, I started almost a mile downstream from the duck hang-out. It was a good walk producing hooded merganser, goldeneye, and mallards. On the hike back to the truck, I picked up an American robin and, finally, a Carolina wren!
84. American robin
85. Carolina wren
86. American wigeon
87. Wood duck
Any birding I did on the 26th, 27th and 28th was done on the way home from teaching. 3 frustrating days of nothing to add to the year list.
Annual physical exam with my general practitioner early in the day in North Muskegon. This left me just enough time for a quick trip to the Muskegon Lake channel before I was on-duty again at school in the afternoon. The trip was more than worth the stop!
88. Great black-backed gull
89. Horned grebe
90. Black scoter
91. Surf Scoter (life bird)
ebird has me at #16 today
Brennan wanted to bird some in the morning so we took a brief trip north of Hesperia where we found lots of bald eagles. I kind-of figured we'd not find anything to add to the list, but I put great value on Brennan and helping keep young birders like him engaged. He's becoming a good birder and will be one of the greats one day. I dropped him at his girlfriend's house late morning and set off for White Lake channel. I'd never been there and was pleasantly surprised to see a raft of ducks where White Lake enters the channel. Swarms of goldeneye, redhead, and scaup paraded in a loop together. I had hoped to make one of the goldeneyes a Barrow's...but no luck!
Follow Terry and Andrea Grabill on their website www.birdgoober.com.
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“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
- Eric Qualman