We haven't yet confirmed next year's dates, but they'll be at the latter end of May. The beauty of late May, for those of us from down south, is that we can relive spring migration again. Even in late May big scrums of migrant warblers and other songbirds can be encountered along Lake Huron, and on one magical day this year, we observed nearly 500 raptors moving northward along the shore of that Great Lake, nearly all of them Broad-winged Hawks. We keep the group size small - about ten people - so that everyone can pretty well see everything. The general arrangement is to arrive in the afternoon the first day, dinner followed by local birding, then three days of major action. The fifth and final day ends at noon, after spending the morning chasing down some more interesting birds that were perhaps missed, followed by a brunch before departure.
Mark and Jackie Schuler are proprietors of Nettie Bay Lodge and nicer people you'll not meet. As an exceptional bonus, Jackie is a topnotch gourmet chef, and you'll never eat better on an outing like this. Just ask anyone who has been. The lodge and its attendant cabins are hard on the shore of a large glacial lake that sports several pairs of nesting Common Loons, which are prone to delivering loud yodels on occasion throughout the night. No one complains.
If you're interested in coming next year, we'd love to have you. Just contact Jackie or Mark, RIGHT HERE.
It's funny, sometimes, how one finally vanquishes a nemesis animal. Maybe, if it is some bird that you've always lusted for, it shows up at your backyard feeder. Or a desired butterfly alights on your arm, after years of failing to see one. In this case, the Glory Hallelujah moment took place in a 15-passenger van as it plodded down a backwoods sandy track. It was near day's end, and our group was tired, having met at 5:30 am and spent much of the day finding Kirtland's Warblers and other great stuff. We were headed back for one of Jackie's delicious dinners, when suddenly a SHOUT WENT UP!
Photo: Jenny Bowman
BADGER!!! Shouted Jenny Bowman and Sandy Brown in tandem, along with perhaps others. STOP! Was the next cry, from me. Mark notched the van into reverse, and eased backwards. There, big as life and peering curiously at our conveyance and the strange bipeds within was this big, beautiful badger!
We quickly settled down, and took full advantage of this rare opportunity to ogle a seldom-seen mammal. The den was only ten or so feet off the road, which is how they commonly are found up here.
But wait! It gets better...
Photo: Sandy Brown
A BABY BADGER!!! It wasn't but a few seconds or so and a smaller paler version of the big one pushed its way from the lair and stared at us. The youngster seemed curious indeed about us, but momma badger was having none of it. She seemed to attempt to prod it back down the hole, but the inquisitive youngster resisted for a bit, giving us brief but fantastic looks.
After perhaps a minute or two, the mother succeeded in herding junior down the hole, and then went subterranean herself.
Video: Jenny Bowman
Immediately after the adult Badger disappeared, large clouds of sand came flying out from the hole. At first, not knowing much of the ways of these beasts, I wondered why she would pick such a time to do further excavations to the den. Well, that's not what she was doing at all. Jenny's video above shows her sand-pitching activities.
Badgers, as we've seen, are efficient diggers and their primary prey are lesser animals such as ground squirrels, moles, mice, chipmunks etc. which they rapidly unearth from their burrows. Badgers are primarily western in distribution, with Michigan being near their eastern limits. For more about these fascinating mammals, GO HERE.
Thanks very much to Jenny Bowman and Sandy Brown for allowing me the use of their photos, and video. This was the one day in probably years that I DID NOT bring a camera along. I had been carting along the Canon 7D Mark II with the stellar new 100-400 lens bolted on, just in case anything major happened. But one can not - or at least should not - focus on photography when leading groups. And that morning dawned rainy, and only a week or so before I had been in the rain with my other camera and the moisture gummed it up a bit. So foolishly I was sans camera, figuring hey, what could happen if I didn't cart one along for one day. I'll long kick myself over the Badger shots that I would have had. But Jenny's and Sandy's are quite nice, and besides, the memory of this major mammalian moment will always be with me, and everyone else who was there.