And LOTS of birds, that don’t care whether we see them or not!
That’s right y’all, it’s that time again . . . time for the annual Southwest Michigan Team Birdathon to play out on May 13. This year Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy’s (SWMLC) team, the “Land Larks”, are freshly molted and ready to chase birds: Dave Brown (SWMLC Stewardship Specialist), Ashley Cole-Wick (Michigan Natural Features Inventory – Conservation Associate), Mitch Lettow (SWMLC Stewardship Director), and Kaleigh Winkler (SWMLC Land Protection Specialist).
The rules are simple: teams have all day (12:01 a.m. to 7 p.m.) to see as many bird species as they can in Berrien County. On the honor system. Teams collect pledges and raise money for conservation.
More birds = more money = more conservation! Plus glory and the general joy of being alive.
What this looks like in practice are dozens of teams representing conservation from around the state, driving around in vans, hitting the trails, beating the bushes (not literally, that would be unethical), trying to cover the widest range of habitats that might hold the widest range of birds. Owls hooting through the darkness, rails chuckling in the cattails, terns skimming Lake Michigan, and dozens of neotropical warblers flitting around in the treetops testing your cervical vertebrae as you “crane” your neck to try to spot a rump patch on a 5″ bird, 65′ up in the air.
This year, the Land Larks will be raising money for a special little nature preserve we callSpirit Springs Sanctuary, in Cass County. Spirit Springs may be off the beaten path, but it provides a peaceful and wildlife-rich refuge filled with a diversity of birds (including hooded and cerulean warblers), reptiles, and amphibians for those who make the trip.
Speaking of making the “trip,” those trails around Spirit Springs need some TLC so people don’t trip, and we can address some erosion and design issues! Along with support from theUS Fish and Wildlife Serviceand a generous gift made by Cass County One-Hundred Plus Women Who Care, your Birdathon donation will go toward improving habitat and public access at Spirit Springs.
The project will address three areas to make the preserve more user and eco-friendly: 1) Erosion and drainage updates for the parking lot. 2) A new pond overflow device (aka “Beaver Deceiver”) to replace an aging rusty culvert which beavers love to plug (which floods the trails). 3) New handmade trail layouts from the preserve entrance, around the pond, and beyond.
When all is said and done, you will have helped create a more sustainable and enjoyable trail system for the community to continue to visit this birding hotspot.
If you would be so kind as todonateto this fun and worthwhile cause, you can either make aflat donation(e.g. “I’ll give the Larks $50”) orpledge at a per bird species rate of your choice(e.g. “I’ll give $1 for every bird species spotted”). To give a feel for how much a per bird donation might result in, the Larks have seen 115-135 species in past Birdathons. Of course, all donations are tax-deductible, and SWMLC will follow up after Birdathon to report on how many species we saw. You can make donations and pledges right up until the day of the competition, Saturday, May 13th.
Speaking of reporting . . .
If you’re a Birdathon Superfan, make sure to keep up with the SWMLC Land Larks on Instagram @swmlcon May 13, where we’ll be live reporting our play-by-play birding adventures so you can see the excitement unfold! These “stories” will also be archived so you can read them later.
We hope you’ll chip in to this 34 year-old fundraiser and support birds and birders in southwest Michigan!
As always, thank you for your support and your love of nature (and birds) in southwest Michigan!