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.