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  • Writer's pictureTerry Grabill

Michigan Big Year Part 18: June 19

So far I had been successful at NOT leaving the Mitten State. We have family and friends living in other states but, given the goals I'd set for the year, I didn't want to be on foreign ground when a rarity popped up! I love Andrea and the family she comes from, besides, Mike and Shiela live just a little south of the Michigan-Indiana border in Ligonier and...I figured I could pick up some southern county birds that were missing. So, I conceded that I visit for the family gathering would be great!

"It's right on our way!" has really taken a new meaning this year. Berrien County's coastline was only a little over an hour out-of-the-way. Andrea is a dear and my biggest cheerleader in my crazy quest for birds so, we stopped in New Buffalo at Michigan's extreme SW corner "on the way". We arrived at the beach close to noon along with a crowd that was looking for a play-day at the beach on a fine summer Saturday. As we prowled the parking lot, looking for a spot to put the truck, I once again wondered if any of them knew of the rare bird on the beach. What do they do if they're not looking for birds?

I had Ann along so I knew if the target was there, we'd find it. We walked among the throng of sun-worshipers and doubted that any bird in its right mind would be sticking around. The rare bird report described a "private beach" so hopes were high. I'd missed this target several times in Muskegon and Monroe Counties already and I was kind of sick of the dip. We found the ubiquitous Canada geese hanging out just at the edge of the crowd. Across the river mouth, however was a large, obvious Private Beach sign. Well, well, there they were! foraging near a flock of gulls.

#292 Willlet

We made our showing at the family picnic, caught up with Ann's cousins, and made our way back north. Constantine, MI was on our way home (really!) and some grassland sparrows had been showing there, just off US131 for several weeks. I'd almost added this species earlier, but had run into the Indiana border while chasing along the GPS navigation route. Once again, we found ourselves stopped on a dirt road, right in front of someone's house. I often try to imagine what the residents must think when a couple of strangers stop outside, pull out the cameras, binoculars, and spotting scopes as they study their backyard. I often wonder, but never let it stop me. It didn't take long before I could hear a male singing. This one sounds like no other sparrow and its range barely makes it into southern Michigan. I climbed a bank to get a clear look into the backyard. I found the birds perched in an oak tree between the yard and a hay field. Andrea handed me the camera and I snapped off a few shots of what looks just like an oak tree in the distance. My photography skills really need to improve!

#293 Lark sparrow

We made our way home after the sparrow. I was pleased to add a couple birds, especially the willet, which I had missed on several attempts. I wondered what my list would look like if I'd had Andrea along on all my trips. Late that evening, while having a cold drink on the patio, we heard, at some distance to the west, a strange little repetitive whistle-hoot. Several evenings had been spent on Beaver Island looking specifically for this one! And, in our back yard,

#294 Northern saw-whet owl

294 with over a week left in June! Could I get to 300 before the first half of the year elapsed?

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