By Terry Grabill
N3 Note: A "life bird" is a species that a birder has seen and identified in the wild for the very first time in their life.
2018 was a disappointing birding year. My health hit a significant speed bump and kept me grounded to my front window. Nearly everything was put on hold while this old body tried to mend. I submitted exactly zero checklists to eBird and added zero birds to my life list. 2019 promised better opportunities as the body grew stronger. Sure, there were some lingering things…and I had this neat handicapped tag that hung from my rear-view mirror, but the atrophied cardiovascular system was ready to rebuild.
Early May found Andrea and me in North-west Ohio: our migration happy place. More detail on this location once I finish Kenn Kaufman’s new book discussing what he calls “The warbler capital of the world”. We were unable to do our usual volunteer work and birding at The Biggest Week in American Birding last year (the first year we’ve missed). This year we birded for three days on Lake Erie’s coast and volunteered at the registration desk. We met some great people and I even got my life black-necked stilts!
The following weekend brought the Tawas Point Birding Festival on Lake Huron. Andrea had never been able to be there with me, so I’d taken a boy from school that was interested in birds. Three years ago, Brennen and I went for the day and had a great time. This year, Ann was able to go and so was Brennen, who was then in the ninth grade. A special day was made more special because our oldest daughter, Caitie, was with us on her birthday! It was the first time she’d been birding with us. I picked up my life Kentucky warbler too!
As I looked forward at the weekend that followed, I realized that we would be on Lake Michigan. Three weekends on three different Great Lakes. A plan started to form.
“Warblers on the Water” is an event on Beaver Island in Northern Lake Michigan (lots more about Beaver in a later message!). Andrea and I have been field guides for this event for the past four years. It’s a really special privilege for us to lead here. The island has a special place in our hearts and the opportunity to give back is huge. We’ve been relegated to leading the “windshield birding adventure” trips. These field trips are perfect for our “folksy” personalities. Our groups are often birders not looking for a rigorous hike. The trips offer a great way to see a lot of the island in a morning of birding. I’m also offered the opportunity to speak about birding. This year’s topic was “Sharpening Your Birding Skills”. I’m very happy that it was well-received. And, I got my life black scoter!
Well, I’d birded on three of Michigan’s Great Lakes in three weeks. So, on week four, to complete a mission, off to Michigan’s UP I went! Whitefish Point juts out into Eastern Lake Superior. It’s known for several things, including the site of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. But, I was there for Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. The Michigan rare bird report told of a lazuli bunting there (seriously?!). My oldest son, Trevor, had never birded with me but offered to take the day trip with me. He helped me with my photography and I saw a piping plover, my life lazuli bunting, and my life Eurasian tree sparrow!
Here’s to 2019. Better health, more birds, more travels.
Story and photos by Donna Iverson
As a community gardener, I am all about growing food, community ties, sustainable practices, and getting my hands in the dirt ..err soil.
Quiet and reserved by nature, I nevertheless thrill when one of my plants makes a spectacular appearance in the garden bed.
Last summer, my giant sunflowers towered over the vegetable beds and could be seen from a block away. Swaying in the breeze, their yellow disk flowers caught the eye of anyone who was tending garden beds or even just walking by.
Look at us, they seem to shout silently..aren't we beautiful? And we are useful too..our seeds and petals provide food for butterflies and bees who love us. ...as do birds and people, who harvest the seeds in the fall for a healthy treat.
However, visiting the garden toward the end of the summer, I was shocked to see the sunflowers had disappeared. Something had cut them down mid-stalk. I'm guessing either the little rabbit I spied hopping out from behind a neighbors bushes one day or a woodchuck, who had dug a tunnel under one of the beds.
Figuring that sunflowers were probably doomed and not a reliable showpiece in the face of these predatory hungry mammals, I decided this summer to plant something almost equally showy and eye-catching. I chose Scarlet Runner Bean. By August it had overgrown its bamboo stakes and was flashing showy red pea-like flowers. Other gardeners were commenting and admiring its beauty.
So far, mammals have left it alone and it has attracted pollinators and is a favorite of hummingbirds. A native of Central America, Scarlet Runner Bean was introduced in the 1600s to the colonists by Native Americans. In colonial America it was grown as a food plant, with beans appearing late in the growing season. President Thomas Jefferson was reportedly fond of this heirloom plant and grew it at Monticello.
Scarlet Runner Bean is easy to grow, making it a favorite with children, beginning gardeners as well as home owners wanting to make a floral statement. It can reach 10 feet in height and therefore needs some kind of support. The perennial plant cannot tolerate frost and its flower die when temperatures reach the 90s.
This ancient bean is edible but must be well cooked to kill off toxins. But even if you don't eat the beans, this native-born plant will make a showy display that will impress your neighbors and friends. It is a plant that likes to show off. ...for gardeners with the same urge.
Or in the local pre-contact language Anishinaabemowin: Gash Kozin, Niibawin, Giigidoon
By Marsha Reeves
On the first Wednesday of the month at 7 PM locals and not-so-locals make their way to Flying Bear Books to exercise their courage and satisfy their curiosities. If you are one of the crowd there on any given Poetry Night you might hear poems read by those who wrote them and those who appreciate them. Not all of the poetry is original, but you can bet it’s all good if someone wants to share it enough to get up and read it.
The idea of a poetry night at the bookstore is the brainchild of Gabe Schillman (Studio 37) and John Reeves (Flying bear Books). It started in October of 2018, and since then people from all kinds of surprising directions have revealed themselves to be poets and/or lovers of poetry. All people, writers and listeners alike, are invited to check this event out. Customary attire is Newaygo County Classic (AKA whatever you feel like wearing) and the event is MC’d by Gabe.
We’ve seen the award winning Robert Fanning join us as well as Alan Basting from Bitely. In the near future Alan will be our Featured Poet, but this month, August, the mic will be open to everyone from the get go.
Oh, and Gabe has been known to grace us with some of his original songs.