Hey...does this website look different? Yep, we did a redesign. I hope it's easier for people to read. It's certainly going to be easier for me to maintain and enter content.
This small festival was so much fun, it reminded me a lot of being in South Padre Island when the migrants come across the Gulf and warblers and tanagers are just everywhere. The only exception being that place was a bit cooler in temperature. Migrants tend to follow the shores of Lake Huron and many are low and easy to see. It's similar to the amount of warblers you can see at Biggest Week, but not as crowded. I had so many chestnut-sided warbles all around me.
The birding community is tight-knit and excited to show off this lovely lake town. I loved the gull themed slide near my hotel. You can stick around the point and bird the crap out of the area, but some of the field trips take you to some breath-taking Michigan habitat. One of the trips takes to see Kirtland's warbler, which if you don't have that species, this is the place for you.
Since I've already seen Kirtland's I opted for the AuSable River Valley field trip which was quiet, and yielded us lots of warblers. We were surrounded by pine trees and a lovely view from atop a bluff. Our guides was very good. He lives in Illinois but spends part of the year in Tawas. He even made a point to hang out with the back of the large group to make sure they were seeing and hearing some of the same birds. I have trouble telling some of my trilling bird species apart and he took the time to explain the differences between pine warbler and chipping sparrow.
As some of you know, I like to forage for the occasional edible mushroom. I'm a big fan of the saying, "There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters." I pretty much stick to the "fool proof four" or the "safe six" like morels, chicken of the woods, hen of the woods--the things you cannot mistake for anything else. I know there are false morels and we found quite few on our trip. I can tell by the fatter, squatter appearance what a false morel is but I always double check when slicing morels because an edible morel will be hollow and a false more will be solid.
I overheard one of the participants talking about eating "the beefsteaks." "You eat that? I never eat false morels because they are supposed to be toxic."
She informed that she eats them all the time. I clearly had to do some googling. Apparently, some people can eat false morels without consequence, while others can experience diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, headaches and in rare cases even death. You never know, it's a crap shoot (ha ha). I don't see myself trying a false morel anytime soon but I did learn something new.
No matter what trips you sign up for, make sure to spend time walking the point. Even if you are doing it after all the afternoon workshops and you don't know your warblers well, lots of people will be there to help you id birds and even make sure that you are seeing the birds too.
Make sure to find the fruit feeding station and just zone out for a bit at all the crazy amounts of orioles chowing down on oranges. There are so many and the amount of orange and yellow is bananas.
It's a popular photography spot but if you are new to digiscoping this would be a great place to practice.
The birds do drip off the trees. Even right outside the main hotel where all the field trips met, we had quite the warbler and tanager wave...and a group of about 20 birders with scopes watching them forage for insects on the budding trees. But the town seemed to welcome birders with quite a few posting signs welcoming birders and business would ask if you were having a good time if you were wearing binoculars. They may not understand exactly why you animatedly talking about the killer northern parula you just saw in their parking lot, but they are just happy you are enjoying the town.
Shelly was kind enough to host a Birds and Brews and that was a lot of fun. There were even kids (who had root beer). I love having these in other areas, it's an informal way to meet other people and get a pulse on the local birding community. I'm really excited because a lot of the people involved in organizing this small fun event are going to be involved with hosting the 2015 Midwest Birding Symposium. It's been fun in Ohio, but will be cool to try it in a new state.
One final note, I was surprised through some weird occurrence that I was able to get a direct flight from Minneapolis to Alpena which is less than an hour from Tawas Point. Who knew? But the airport was SO tiny. How tiny? Check this out:
That's their baggage claim sign. You literally got off the plane and walked inside to this sign. To rent a car, you had to call for an attendant because he works the grounds of the airport. Which was fun and much more relaxed than the usual airport experience.