• Terry Grabill

Warblers (and Birders) on the Water

Thirty-two miles into Lake Michigan off the northwest coast of Michigan's Lower Peninsula lies a magical island. Thirteen miles from north-to-south and six miles east-to-west, it's not a huge piece of land, but it's big enough to be home to every terrestrial and aquatic biome one can find on the mainland. This natural phenomenon makes it a birder's dream-come-true!

BirdGoober is honored and excited to have been invited back for a second year to help guide field trips at the Beaver Island Birding Trail's Memorial Day event, "Warblers on the Water". As excited as we were to be invited last year, we're maybe more excited (and surprised) to be asked for a return engagement!

Our "signature" event has become the Windshield Birding Adventure, which is designed to offer a whirlwind morning tour of several island habitats and is especially popular with birders that are not up to or interested in a hiking-intensive field trip. Andrea and I offer an enthusiastic, folksy tour that we've found is to the liking of beginning birders.

I wouldn't describe myself as an intense birder. I love birds and birding as much as my more competitive and intense friends, but I've found that chasing and listing take a backseat for me to the birders I meet and can help along the way. Perhaps it's my career spent in a middle school classroom that has nurtured my love of teaching and patiently leading folks that are new to our hobby to identify and observe birds in a new way.

The images above show the welcome offered our group as we approached aboard the Emerald Isle ferry. Pamela Grassmick and her staff really have put a lot of care and effort into making the event important to the participants and to the island!

Below is the sunrise that greeted us on Saturday after a great night with our hosts, Jim and Judy Jones. Their home is on south shore of Beaver, just 11 miles from the town of St. James, where the festival is headquartered. On Beaver Island roads, that's a 25 minute trip.

Andrea and I LOVE birding and birds. I keep several lists, including a life list and several Michigan county lists...but the image below is what it's REALLY all about for us. This is the Windshield Birding Adventure gang Saturday morning. These folks were excited about everything we saw. They were funny, friendly and beautiful people.

Did I mention that we also found some birds? Oh, yeah...we got these guys onto a 80-bird list on Saturday. No one was all that impressed with the total number (well, I kinda was) but each was excited to have a copy of the checklist to take home to remember and share. The highlights were not any rare or exotic species. Watching and listening as Wilson's Snipes were winnowing high overhead, oooo's and ahhhh's as the mother Common Merganser led her babies to water for the first time (below), and marveling as a parent Osprey carried a fish to it's nest were quite enough, thank you!

This is a Caspian Tern resting just off shore by Beaver Head Light on the island's south shore.

We were especially fortunate to be able to bond with our fellow guides, Darrel Lawson, Chase Scholten, and Brian Allen. Their knowledge is inspiring and I value their insight into rarities, birding humor and their love of birds and birding. We rounded off the weekend with an exciting game of Birding Trivia...ahhhh...bird nerds being bird nerds.

And, as always, I continue to enjoy the blessing that is Andrea...for being all that she is...for loving me for me...for loving birds and birders with me.

Peace, and...bird on,



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I’ve noticed that every particular profession or interest carries along its own language. Being a educator, I can speak teacher jargon pretty fluently. Being married to an educator, Andrea does a pr