Armed Forces

On this Memorial Day Weekend, this veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces is wondering when the endless war will end. Probably on the same day the war profiteers have decided they have enough billions in their banks.

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Having a Ball

Have a ball this summer, particularly a baseball. Go to a game, play a game, or, best of all, catch up with friends with a game of catch.

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Double Birdie

No, I am decidedly not a golfer, but I am a birder, and so I present this Double Birdie of an adult male Rose-breasted Grosbeak that appeared some springs back at my mother’s feeder in Bridgman, Michigan.  The feeder was just outside her window, and I had my camera at hand, and so I was able to get a close up of him in his breeding plumage.  Later, I painted my mother’s colorful visitor.  Thus, my Double Birdie:

First the photograph.

Then the water-color painting.

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A Birdathon in Berrien

Travels with Charley:

Teaming up for the 30th Annual SW Michigan Team Birdathon

by Charles McKelvy

Kip Miller proving once again that he is one with the birds.

While the future of the 31st Annual SW Michigan Team Birdathon is uncertain, there is no doubt that the 30th Annual on May 19, 2018 was a successful tribute to teamwork and to the hard work for 30 years of Event Coordinator Kip Miller.

The indefatigable naturalist, birder, bicyclist and all-around outdoorsman announced at Love Creek Nature Center after the all-day event that no date had been set for the 2019 birdathon because he was stepping down after 30 years. “It’s been a good run,” he said, clearly verklempt.

Then the 70+ birders on 17 teams leapt to their feet and gave Kip the standing ovation he so richly deserved for sustaining a beloved day of birding in Berrien County, Mich. that sees some teams hitting the back-roads, overlooks, and beaches right after midnight and others, such as the team I travel with, the Sapsuckers, starting at a more leisurely 5 a.m.

But whatever time one has started over the years, one has had an incredible day largely thanks to the hard work of Kip Miller.

So if I didn’t say it already, let me say it now: “Thank you, Kip. You the man!”

And as the exhausted birders departed Love Creek on May 19, there was a buzz about who might replace Kip in 2019 and keep birdathon going. No news as of this writing, but stay tuned.

Anyway, back to the 30th Annual SW Michigan Team Birdathon, and the full day of fun I had with my fellow Sapsuckers: team leader and naturalist Pat Underwood, executive officer Brad Anderson, and able-bodied birders Elizabeth Gravitt and Rita Wetmore. Alas, Natalie was not able to join us because the ground we planned to cover was too rough for her slowly recovering hip muscle, so we had to bird on without my dear wife.

But she did send me forth at 4 a.m. EDT on May 19 with a bag full of her famous hummus sandwiches, and she promised to be ready for birding adventures in the near future.

I collected Brad at his Bridgman home at 4:15 a.m., and we motored east to Love Creek Nature Center at 9292 Huckleberry Road in Berrien Center, Mich.

Pat was waiting for us in the parking lot with our team vehicle, a Berrien County Parks van with sliding side-doors and the full-marine package (more on that in a bit).

Rita, who had lobbied the Sapsuckers for a more relaxed birdathon pace, joined us in good order with a goodly supply of her classic ginger snaps, and then Elizabeth appeared shortly before 5 a.m., and off we went into darkest Berrien County to listen for such night birds as whip-poor-wills and nighthawks. We heard plenty from the former but nothing from the latter, so we motored westward on Lemon Creek Road and got some good birds in a flooded farm field, including a green heron. Who knew?

Pat Underwood was hard at it deep in the wet wilds of Berrien County.

But we certainly knew we were in for a wet day of birding when we got to the Floral-Lane side of Warren Dunes State Park and started slogging through the mud, muck, and ankle-deep puddles. All but Brad had donned waterproof footgear, so we took a detour to Brad’s nearby house so he could change into more appropriate shoes and we could get out of the rain on his back deck and spot a whole slew of birds, including two tom turkeys who were guarding the front yard.

Brad’s wife Hannah even graciously invited us to use the indoor facilities, always a big hit on birdathon.

We returned to Warren Dunes, knocked off all manner of elusive birds, including the worm-eating warbler, and then, in keeping with Rita’s directive to take it easy, we easily settled in at the beach just as the sun was burning through the fog and mist. We took our lunch and some short naps at the beach while occasionally checking the spotting scope for the usual suspects—common loons, Caspian terns, and, of course, the ubiquitous ring-billed and herring gulls.

Tough work, but somebody had to do it, and then we blasted off for a tour of select south-county spots and got a Brewer’s blackbird or two on Avery Road south of U.S. 12.

We were aiming for a team best of 140+ species for the day, but the birds just weren’t there for us, no matter how hard we tried.

And we went all out and all over a flooded road to get to an access point along the Saint Joseph River south of St. Joseph to hear and possibly see a prothonotary warbler or two. To ensure our success, Pat and I played catch by a flooded field with a real baseball, and then said warbler appeared long enough for us to check it off. Then back to civilization on the flooded road, with the trusty county van proving once again that it had marine capabilities. Rita, who was sitting all the way back, was none too thrilled, but we assured her we’d rescue her at once if we were swept out to sea.

We converged on Love Creek at 7 p.m. with the other six teams and thus heard Kip Miller not only announce his retirement as event coordinator but report that we 70+ birders raised more than $25,000 for a variety of local and regional conservation organizations, while recording a total of 188 species of birds in Berrien County in the single day of May 19, 2018.

Again, next year’s SW Michigan Team Birdathon awaits a worthy successor to Kip Miller, but we Berrien birders are confident the right person will take Kip’s perch.

Until then, please know that there will be plenty of local birding outings later this year with Kip Miller and the Berrien Birding Club. Visit:

Good birding!


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Water Color

I don’t think I could do this justice with water colors and brush. This is how the beach at Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan has been looking of late.

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Floral Tribute

Morning becomes what birders call “Floral” at Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Michigan. You just know a Mourning Warbler was calling out there somewhere. Alas, we neither saw nor heard it Saturday, and we’re still in mourning.

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Deep-water Birding

Wellies worked quite well on May 19 for the 30th Annual SW Michigan Team Birdathon. The Sapsuckers and Fledglings are shown here fording what once was a little stream at Warren Dunes State Park.

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