Experience Birdwatching in Paradise
Whether a novice or just passionate about birds join in the fun identifying, photographing, and recording your bird experiences at Whitefish Point. It will be an experience in Paradise that you will want to repeat in the fall.
Barb Erickson, a local artist, gardener, and bird enthusiast, says many people get caught up in the thrill of bird watching because their curiosity gets the best of them. What are those colorful, winged beauties outside that window? She's right! Curiosity caught the best of my husband and I and we found ourselves buying a bird reference book. We had just moved to the Paradise area, enthralled by the wide range of birds migrating through the area. One Spring, my husband found our tree outside filled with Blue Jays. We were familiar with a number of song birds from Indiana but found ourselves using a reference book, filled with colorful images of birds, male and female used to identify the bird species. Tim Broucher, senior conservation geographer and blogger refers to this resource as a bird guide book. There are a number of bird guide aps but what if you there is no online signal? You might want to invest in bird guide book. One used for years by many people is Golden's A Guide to Field Identification Birds of North America.
Mary, a golf course owner and assistant principal says, “Go Ahead! Make a notation there right in the margin. Write the date and location where you saw that bird.” And so it begins and continues. I’ll never forget when one of our guests, Sandy poured over the guide book looking for this swooping bird that reminded my husband of the barn swallows in northern, Indiana. She scoured the dog eared guide for that particular bird as it and its friends periodically swooped by her. Low and behold it was Cedar Wax Wing. We learned more from that book then just its identify, we learned they liked berries, we had confirmed they had been eating nearby berries. They also liked spiders. Oh, man these Cedar Wax Wings are our friends.
Bird watching can be as simple as identifying these creatures, recording the place and date of identity, to drawing their likeness like Barb or capturing their image with a zoom lens camera. Then there is the desire to find more varieties, traveling to different locations, walking or hiking and taking in fresh air just to capture a look at one more species. Birdwatching.com describes the experience as “your lifetime ticket to the theater of nature”. Meeting with others that have an interest in birds can be a great experience as you share stories of search and identification. You can do as little hiking as you prefer or pack brown bag lunch to enjoy at the end of a trek through a North Country trail.
Share the experience with children or grand children. Encourage their curiosity and explore a variety of species together. Reinforce and apply the biology and science they learn in school. Perhaps they would like to try their hand at drawing images of the birds they’ve identified or capturing a clear image they can post on their social network. But don’t stop there. Encourage them to explore the scientific research of owl banding or following birds with online tracking as we learn more about these birds and their migration habits. Why? If we learn more about birds, perhaps we learn more about ourselves.
Paradise Area Community Experiences
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Article Provided by Jonathan Lutz, Michigan Audubon Society
The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory (WPBO) is currently undergoing some changes and will become a formal program of Michigan Audubon, effective January 2016.
In the meantime, we are working through a transition to move WPBO from existing as a stand-alone operation managed by volunteers to a professionally-run project of Michigan Audubon. We are currently making interior upgrades to the WPBO headquarters, and the building the old post office; will receive a new roof once the snow and ice have cleared. The building is used as an administrative office, program supply storage, and houses the Observatory’s seasonal staff.
The WPBO spring hawk migration count begins March 15, and the hawk counter will be arriving in the coming days from Montana. The spring owl study begins this week, led by veteran WPBO staff and Whitefish Point residents, Chris Neri and Nova MacKentley. Finally, the WPBO spring waterbird count begins April 15, welcoming back a Detroit-based birder to conduct the count.
The annual Spring Fling event takes place April 24-26 at the Point. Some activities will also take place at the school in Paradise. This year we are hosting world-reknowned bird research, Scott Weidensaul. Most recently Scott co-founded Project SNOWstorm–a nationwide effort to deploy satellite transmitters on the backs of Snowy Owls to monitor their movements. Two owls, “Whitefish Point” and “Chippewa,” have been tagged and released near Pickford. You can view their movements at the project website, www.projectsnowstorm.org (click on “Maps” and select either “Chippewa” or “Whitefish Point” to learn more). The project has received broad, national media coverage.
Online registration for the Spring Fling event can be found at www.wpbo.org. All are welcome to attend! Spring Fling attracts between 200 and 300 birders to Whitefish Point and the Paradise community during the last weekend in April. The attendees are a subset of the 2 million self-identifying wildlife watchers that reside in Michigan. The US Fish and Wildlife Service reports that in 2011 wildlife-watching contributed $1.2 billion dollars to Michigan’s economy. Chippewa County has terrific year-round birdwatching opportunities, and we will be looking to expand both our recreational birding programs and avian research programs in the coming years.
Whitefish Point Unit
Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Article Provided by Greg McClellan,
US Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the primary Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing the nation’s fish and wildlife populations and their habitats. The Service, among other things, is responsible for the management and protection of migratory bird populations.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island National Bird Reservation to protect colonial water birds which were being excessively harvested for their plume feathers to be used in making hats and clothing. Pelican Island is recognized as the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge.
Today, there are over 560 National Wildlife Refuges in all fifty states and numerous territories, including the Whitefish Point Unit of Seney National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). National Wildlife Refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds. Each year, millions of migrating birds use National Wildlife Refuges as stepping stones while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes during spring and fall migrations. Most refuges are also utilized as summer and/or winter homes. Arctic terns have the farthest migration of any bird in the world annually migrating from their wintering grounds off of Antarctica to their breeding grounds in the Arctic and back each year a round trip of over 20,000 miles.The arctic tern is listed on the Whitefish Point Unit bird checklist as an accidental visitor.
The Whitefish Point Unit of Seney NWR was established in 1998 with the transfer of 33 acres from the U.S. Coast Guard to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An additional 19 acres of adjacent property was purchased since then and now the Refuge encompasses over 52 acres. The Refuge encompasses over 3000 feet of Lake Superior Shoreline containing sandy gravel beaches moving into sandy beach dunes with the interior portion of the Refuge composed of a stunted jack-pine dominated forest. The Whitefish Point Unit is a stop-over (feeding and resting) point for birds migrating to and from Canada. The Whitefish Point region is renowned for its concentrations of birds during migration. Each year thousands of raptors, passerines and water birds funnel through the point to cross Lake Superior. The Whitefish Point Unit bird checklist contains 338 different species that have been observed in the area (including the Refuge, Michigan Audubon, Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and Michigan Department of Natural Resources property) primarily migrating through. The stunted forests of the unit provide nesting habitat for various passerine species and raptors and the beaches provide nesting habitat for shorebird species.
The threatened Great Lakes population of piping plovers have nested at the Whitefish Point Unit annually since 2009 after a 24 year absence since the last nesting occurrence in 1985. The Great Lakes population of the piping plover was at a perilously low level with just 12 breeding pairs in 1983.
The population is slowly improving with seventy breeding pairs documented in 2014. Since 2009, as few as one pair and as many as three pairs have successfully fledged chicks at the Whitefish Point Unit. The entire stretch of Lake Superior shoreline contained within the Whitefish Point Unit is designated as critical habitat for piping plovers. From late April/early May through early August a large portion of the beach area at the Whitefish Point Unit is closed to public access due to the nesting plovers. Piping plover are ground nesting birds that lay their speckled eggs in small depressions in the sand lined with rocks or shells.The beach closure is to protect the well camouflaged birds and their young. The tiny chicks are born ready to walk, but they cannot fly until they are about a month old. During this time the chicks are very vulnerable. Please help us protect the plovers by respecting the closures on the beaches and keeping all dogs on a leash.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act was passed in 1997 and for the first time formally established fish, wildlife and plant conservation as the primary mission or purpose of the National Wildlife Refuge System. This act also gave priority to certain wildlife dependent recreational, public uses on National Wildlife Refuges. Among these priority public uses are wildlife observation and nature photography. Except for the seasonally closed areas of the beaches for nesting piping plover, the rest of the Whitefish Point Unit is open to the public for wildlife observation and photography. We encourage and invite the public to explore the Refuge and surrounding area to listen and look for actual birds or other wildlife or their signs such as tracks in the sand, cavities in the trunks of trees, little passerine or larger raptor nests in trees, or a molted feather. Besides wildlife, note the variety of habitats with the diversity of plants and wildflowers. A prime reason for the diversity and abundant bird life at the point is because of the quality of habitat. While exploring the point, please be cognizant of where you are going, stay on posted or identified trails, do not trample on vegetation or a nest. Please enjoy the wildlife, but do not get too close or repetitively follow them and disturb the wildlife, especially the young of the year. Please enjoy all that your National Wildlife Refuge has to offer.
Spotlighting a PATC Member
This issue’s member spotlight falls on Paradise Area Tourism Council’s Associate Member, Freighter's View on the Bay. A small motel with a cabin feel, Freighter’s View on the Bay has been welcoming families and area visitors to the shores of Lake Superior since 1960. Long time guest and avid bird watcher, Skip proclaims that Duanne and Nikki Craig are his third managers.An avid visitor to the Eastern Upper Peninsula since the early 1970’s, Duanne encouraged his wife to join him in the adventure at Freighter’s View on the Bay. Having lived in Arizona and Indiana for years, Duanne always felt called to his birth state of Michigan. Given the beauty of the area, how could Nikki turn down the opportunity? The opportunity to welcome others to the shores of Whitefish Bay, encourage them to relax, have a change of pace, get unplugged, and reconnect with family and nature.
The two buildings were built in the 1950’s by Hank’s brother. Hank, a retired lineman, from the Detroit area has been coming to the shores of Whitefish Bay ever since he and his brother built their family cabin. Each building is solidly built within 50 feet of the shoreline bluff. Each building hosts two units, one basic room which looks like a conventional motel room and one kitchenette. They stay remarkably warm in the winter time, and offer guests a car port, picnic table, and gas grill in the summer. The rooms are simply decorated accented with images taken in the area.
Not sure which site to take in next? Just ask the Craigs, having explored the area and listing their own favorites, they’ll be glad to share their ideas and offer suggestions.Quite often on a summer evening you’ll find one, two or maybe all of the families relaxing around the campfire and sharing in the day’s adventures. But whether you would prefer to borrow one of the books from their library or reconnect with your social network, add depth to your Upper Peninsula experience by staying at Freighter’s View on the Bay.