Grand Traverse Audubon Club

January 2013

January 11,  2012



From the pen of the President


Hello fellow birders! This is an important anniversary for me, my first Bird Notes entry, as your President. It is a position that I am truly humbled to have been asked to serve in. In the past four years, as a member of the Grand Traverse Audubon Club, I have served as a member at large and as First Vice President – Programs. I am excited to lead our Club to another successful year in 2013.


For those of you that do not know me, I would like to tell you about myself. I have been a resident of Traverse City most of my life. I left to further my education in Sault Sainte Marie at Lake Superior State University. I received my secondary education degree in Social Science and Biology. I am currently completing my Master’s Degree in Curriculum in Special Education for learning disabled and autism spectrum disorders, at Ferris State University. I currently work for Traverse City Area t Public Schools. I have a husband named Joe and a two year old son named Parker. Due to my husband and I’s schedule, you may see him at Audubon meetings from time to time. I am very lucky to have both of them in my life and am thankful every day.


We have an exciting year planned for 2013. Our new brochure will be out soon, in time for our regular meeting on January 24th, with our bird identification trivia program. This is becoming a traditional program for our January meetings. Some of our other highlights for programs this year are: Beginning a bat house, by club member Kathy Flegel, Blackburnian Warblers, Owl banding in the Straits area and live birds of prey, at our October Annual Meeting.


I thought I would end my first Bird Notes on a lesson I learned from a nun and friend. Many members may not know that I play the viola and have been doing this for 15+ years. I was playing with the Sault Symphony in Ontario, Canada during my college days and my stand partner was a marvelous woman named “Sister”. She taught at a local Catholic School in the area. One day we were talking about teaching about All Saints Day. She said something that day that I have always carried with me. “Everyone has the ability to be a Saint; you just need to discover your talents.” Sister explained that Saints were normal people that found that one thing they excelled at. For me, I look at my birding endeavors. I may not be the best birder right now, but with continual practice and learning from the fellowship of our members I can be great one day. Our club allows birders of all ability levels to come together and support one another. By us all identifying our “talents” we are able to preserve birding for our area and future generations.


Thank you to every one of you for what you do! I hope to see you at our next club meeting.


Missy Rassel, President





Meet Your 2013 Grand Traverse Audubon Club Board

The following slate of officers was presented to the membership at the October 20, 2012 Annual meeting. On a motion by  and Second by the vote was a unanimous decision.


President – Missy Rassel – 946-4715

First Vice President and Program Director – Leonard Graf – 946-5120

Second Vice President and Environmental – Julie Winkler – 275-0454

Secretary – Karen Crane – (231) 421-1001

Treasurer – John Kreag – 264-8969 or Cell phone 360-0943

Newsletter – Shirley Mesch – (231) 946-3624

Members at large – Stephanie Podolan – (231) 276-6880

Heather Peyton – 392-5699

Michigan Audubon Representative (MAS) John Mesch – 946-3624

Past President – Holly Vaughn – 342-3999.


Highlights from Autumn of 2012


October 20th Annual Dinner and Meeting

Great fun was had by all with 85 people attending our Annual Event. Guest Speaker Greg Miller provided an entertaining evening on the adventures of his “Big Year”. And the movie that was based on his and two others’ Big Year. A big thank you to Sherri and Jerry Freels for taking Greg out on Old Mission Peninsula and to Leonard Graf, Krista Greenwood and John Mesch for taking Greg  to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Greg is looking forward to returning to the area soon.

In addition, a great big THANK YOU to our local businesses who provided door prizes for us. Four Season Nursery, Breeze Hill Greenhouse, McGough’s Inc. (they have been in business since the late 1800”s) Square Deal Country Store, Wildbirds Unlimited, Points North Inn, Breeze Hill Greenhouse, Fountain Point in Lake Leelanau, Brain Storm and Enerdyne in Suttons Bay, Betty Green (honey).

November meeting with Peg Comfort on Loons

Peg Comfort gave us some very useful information on what we can do to assist our Loons, with 10 points. 1) Make a commitment to help, 2) form a team, such as property owners, 3)support loon research, 4) monitor Loons on your lake such as write down when they show up for spring, etc. 5) encourage installation of signs at DNR boat launches saying “Look out for Loons”, 6) possible installation of buoys, as permitted by DNR, in areas where it has been documented that Loons have been threatened, 7) nest islands constructed and placed, 8) protect nesting habitat of Loons, 9) identify critical habitat, nesting sites and where the chicks are taught to fish, 10) get together with other people interested in helping out our loons. You can reach Peg at 213-377-7512 with your questions.


As a side note, as Peg pointed out, the Township of Bellaire, with citizen support, was able to obtain funding from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, to assist with the purchase of the water front property on Lake Bellaire that now provides protected Loon habitat and nesting areas.






To be noted that the Non-game wildlife and habitat Auto Licenses plates that many of us have purchased for our vehicles is for the support of the conservation of Non-game Wildlife habitat. The art of the plate could just as readily be a Bald Eagle, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, etc..


Christmas Bird Counts


Grand Traverse, Antrim and Leelanau Bird counts can be found on the Club web page.


Regular Meetings and Scheduled Field Trips.


Our 2013 year continues with great programs and activities for the coming year. We hope you’ll join us to enjoy fellowship and to learn more about our local bird life. ALL REGULAR meetings are held at the Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road in Traverse City. (where the railroad track crosses the road 1.5 miles south of S. Airport Rd). A brief business meeting begins at 7:00, followed by an informative and entertaining program at 7:30. [Field trips are held in June and July but there are no Regular Meetings held]








15 -17 Field Trip: Sault St. Marie. Make your own motel reservations. Meet at Plaza Motor Inn at 7:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Contact leaders: Leonard and Barb Graf, (231) 946-5120).for further information.


15-18 – Great Backyard Bird Count. , or contact Club member Cindee DuBey at (231) 839-2758 for further information.


28 – Regular meeting: Introduction to Bat Houses by Kathy Flegal. 7:00 p.m. at the Boardman Nature Center. Contact Kathy at (231) 263-0369, for further information.




 9 – Beginning Birders Workshop. Saturday

From 10:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.(noon) Melissa Rassel and Leonard Graf. Meet at the Boardman River Nature Center. For

additional information contact Melissa at 946-4715 or Leonard at 946-5120.



28 – Regular meeting: Blackburnian Warblers, as presented by Robert Doepker. 7:00 p.m. at the Boardman River Nature Center. Contact Melissa Rassel at 946-4715 for further information.




12 – Field Trip: Dance of the Woodcocks. Friday at the Boardman River Nature Center at 8:00 p.m.. Suggested to wear dark colors and bring a flashlight. Contact leaders Matt and Julie Winkler at (248) 631-8660 for further information.


20 – Field Trip: Arcadia Marsh. On Saturday, meet at Tom’s Market at 14th Street and Division at 7:00 a.m.. Contact leader Holly Vaughn at (231) 342-3999.


25 – Regular meeting: Birding by Ear by Bob Pettit. 7:00 p.m. at the Boardman River Nature Center. Contact Melissa Rassel at 946-4715 with further questions.




10-12 – Field trip: Magee Marsh/Ottawa NWR, Lake Erie, Ohio. Meet at Magee Marsh, West Boardwalk at 6:00 p.m. on Friday. Bring your own food for a picnic supper. Contact John Mesch (231) 499-1439 for more details.


11 – Grand Traverse Migratory Bird Count. Contact Melissa Rassel at (231) 946-4715 for additional information.


17-19 – Field Trip. Tawas Point State Park and Tuttle Marsh. Meet at the Lighthouse Friday and Saturday 7:30 a.m Leaders Leonard and Barb Graf


22 – Field trip – Birding  at Otter Creek. 7:00 a.m. Meet at the Northwest section of Meijer’s parking lot. Contact Heather Peyton at 231 392-5699 in case of weather cancelations, delays or further information.


23 – Regular meeting: Potluck Dinner and Birding at the Boardman River Nature Center. NOTE 5:30 p.m. meeting Time.  Bring your own table service and a dish to share. Leaders: All Board Members. Contact Missy Rassel at 946-4715 for further information.




8 – Field Trip: Boardman River Clean-Sweep. Canoeing and cleaning of Boardman River. We will be canoeing or kayaking and cleaning the Boardman River from Shumsky’s Landing to Beitner Bridge. If you need to borrow a canoe or have further questions, contact John Mesch at 231 946-3624


29 – Field Trip: Introduction to Butterfly Gardens. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Boardman River Nature Center. Leaders Julie and Matt Winkler.



Field Trips, Workshops and Service Project Information


The Soo in Winter – February 15, 16 and 17th!


Most people from northern Michigan head south for the winter.  They dream of places like Florida, Texas, and Arizona.  These people have earned the nickname of “snowbirds.”  But there is another group of northern Michigan people who head north in the winter; they go to the “Soo!”


Located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the “Soo” is formally known as Sault Ste Marie. It is the oldest city in Michigan, having been founded in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette, and the third oldest in the U.S.  The 2000 census lists a population of 14,400 people for the city.  It is believed that the word “sault” or “jump” refers to the 21 foot elevation difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.


This elevation difference is responsible for the need for the construction of the famous Soo Locks – a series of locks which allows ships to travel between Lake Huron and Lake Superior – which began construction in the 1700s only to be destroyed in the War of 1812.  Construction again began in the 1850s, was picked up by the federal government in the 1870s and completed in 1968.


Near the St. Mary’s river and the Soo Locks you’ll find Lake Superior State University, which was founded in 1946 on a U.S. Army site, Fort Brady. LSSU has a current student population of 3,500 and 14 buildings registered on the U.S. historic registry.


Since the early 1990s, groups of birders have “discovered” the Soo as an area to visit in the winter.  My first visit to the Soo was cold, blowing and beautiful.  At the historic power plant, I saw my first ever Gyrfalcon.  The next year, a Northern Hawk Owl was sitting about 8 feet up in an aspen tree by the side of the road near the high school.  The third year, while watching a Northern Shrike, a lady came out to the car and told us about this owl that was in a tree near her barn.  The owl had been there quite a while and didn’t seem to be afraid of her or her horses.  It was a small owl, with little dots on its forehead.  As she welcomed us onto her property and through her barn, I was treated to another “lifer,” a Boreal Owl.  On it went, each year I was adding another new species to my list.  I was hooked on going to the Soo in winter.  In 1992 or 1993, there was an invasion of Great Gray Owls, on Sugar Island and on the mainland.  My first Great Gray was about 10:00 in the morning; it was sitting in the top of a spruce tree in a small backyard.  Another year, a Great Gray almost flew through the window of the van!  Another year, I saw this bird in the distance.  As we were setting up the scopes, the bird flew towards us and landed on a power pole just in front of the car.


We bird by caravan, spending a fair amount of time in the warm cars.  We’ve seen other wildlife, such as, wolf or fox.  Other birds that might be seen include Evening Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Red Crossbill, Snow Bunting, Gray Jay, Ruffed Grouse, Cedar and/or Bohemian Waxwings, Ravens (or Cravens!- a cross between a Crow and Raven – when we aren’t certain.), White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Common and Hoary Redpolls.  This list goes on


But birding is not the only activity we do at the Soo.  We also like to eat!  Lunch is usually a quick affair.  However, dinner is a time to get together and visit and share the day’s sightings.  A few, after dinner, may decide to visit the local casino; but they still need to remember that we will be leaving early the next morning to locate the birds we didn’t find on Saturday!  Bring plenty of warm clothes and be ready for life birds, fun, and food.  We meet on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. at the Plaza Motor Motel, across from the State Police Post and start our weekend.  Come and join us on February 16 & 17, 2013 for a weekend at the Soo in Winter for a little history, birding, food, and fun.


P.S. We will be scouting on Friday the 15th, if anyone wants to join us, let us know, especially if you’re going up early. We abide at the Plaza Motor Motel but there are many other motels in the area.   Barb & Leonard Graf, (231) 946-5120 (home) or (231) 620-3024 (Barb’s cell).


Beginning Birders Workshop

Saturday March 9th-10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.


This is a great time to get involved at the ground level. Leonard Graf and Missy Rassel are heading up this program, but any additional assistance from our club members would be much appreciated.  This has become a great time to find interested kids and their parents who want to find out more about what birding is all about. And what better way for them to do that then to meet and enjoy the enthusiasm of our members. We could use a little of your time, along with your favorite field guild(s) and binoculars, Contact Leonard and/or Missy to find out what resources are needed. Contact Leonard at 9465150 and/or Missy at 946-4715. Looking forward to seeing you there!



Grand Traverse Migratory Bird Count – May 11th

This bird count is actually a part of the “International Migratory Bird Day, which started in 1992, establishing the second Saturday in May as the traditional count weekend. This event is celebrated in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central America. Bob Carstens, began our Club’s participation in 2006. Please contact Missy Rassel at 9464715 if you are able to help with this important process.


Lake Erie Adventure  –  May 10,11,12, 2013

With the ever increasing world-wide popularity of International Migratory Bird Day at Magee Marsh, Ohio, it is not too early to think about making campsite and lodging reservations.  Motel rooms have always been scarce that week-end, but last year even the Maumee Bay State Park campground filled up for Friday and Saturday.  The Mesches have reserved campsite #199 at Maumee Bay for May 9,10,11. This is in the northwest corner of the park and is a birdy spot.  Actually, the entire park is birdy, but it covers hundreds of acres.  A bicycle is necessary to bird the entire park in a reasonable period of time.  A bicycle would also be handy to explore the Ottawa NWR, because autos will only be allowed there on May 11.  We are planning to have our usual picnic supper at Magee on May 10.  Stay tuned for more details as spring approaches.   Ohio state park reservations are at 866-644-6727 and my number is 946-3624. John Mesch



2012 a “Big Year”

Wasn’t 2012 an outstanding time for our favorite pastime and passion, “Birding”. 2012 brought us some pleasant surprises with visitors and sightings of birds such as the Hudsonian Godwit, Evening Grosbeaks (a first for our backyard in over 30 years), large flocks of Bohemian Waxwings, Common Redpolls, Trumpeter Swans nesting in our area, Ross’s Goose, more than ever Snowy Owls, and many Pine Grosbeaks, plus many many more.


A huge THANK YOU to our many talented photographers, who have captured moments in time, of these lovely winged wonders and then sharing them with us on our web page at


That leads us into the “thank you” that goes out to Kay Beerthuis for her countless hours of developing, maintaining and keeping our club’s webpage current.


To Missy Rassel, for keeping the Bird-Alert e-mail list current. The Bird-Alert is exclusive to our club members who use the internet. This “Alert” is how we often get to hear firsthand about our members birding experiences throughout the area.(Hudsonian Godwit anyone)?



To Jerry and Robbie Kolak for being our meeting hosts for the last 12 plus years. It won’t be easy filling that spot.


Looking forward to seeing each and every one of you at our meetings and field trips. Enjoy the winter, spring is just a few weeks away.  You know “spring”, “May” migration……..


Your newsletter editor.















Your 2013 Treasurer is John Kreag. Please mail all dues to him at :

7565 N. West Torch Lake Dr., Kewadin, MI 49648

Checks should be made out to: Grand Traverse Audubon Club.





In order to continue receiving the Bird-alert and Club e-mails, memberships dues must be up to date. All memberships run the Calendar Year


[   ] Family – $20                                  [   ] Individual – $15                              [   ] Student – $8



Name: __________________________________________ Phone: ____________________

Please include Area Code

Name: __________________________________________ Cell Phone: _________________

Address: _________________________________________


City: _________________________________ State: ______          Zip Code: _____________.


E-mail address: __________________________________



[   ] I would like to receive GT Audubon (club news) and Birdalert (news of area bird sightings) VIA e-mail address.


[   ] Newsletter Mailed VIA U.S. Post office. I do not use the Internet.


Enclosed is a check made out to Grand Traverse Audubon Club, Mail to:

John Kreag

7564 N. West Torch Lake Dr.

Kewadin, MI  49648

Hit Counter by