After the Blizzard: Traverse City Glows with New Snow
By MIKE NORTON
See what I mean about March? Treacherous month.
One day everybody’s complaining (again) about the lack of snow. Then, in one single night, Mother Nature gives us enough snow to choke on. Trees down all over the place, power outages, cancelled events.
The Nortons of Old Mission still don’t have any electricity – but we’re hardly the only ones. More than 25,000 local homes and businesses were without power over the weekend, and some of them still don’t have it. When Karen and I drove into work this morning, we saw hundred of cars parked at Traverse City motels and hotels – most of them local folks from the outlying districts who were searching for a warm room and some functioning plumbing. It’s an ill wind (and an ill snowstorm) that doesn’t bring somebody a little extra business.
Once the blizzard was past, though, the sun came out and shone over all that beautiful white snow that covered the trees, and Sunday’s sunset – with a crescent moon rising out of the Bay – was like something from a fairy tale. As I shoveled out the driveway, I could look back at the house and see the windows aglow with lamplight and candlelight. Yeah, it was cold, and my pipes are probably frozen, but it was lovely!
Equally lovely was to watch the way people in this community stepped up to the challenge of a little inconvenience, from the utility crews who’ve been working around the clock to get people back on the grid, to the folks who got into their pickups to drive around and make sure none of their neighbors were in trouble. We attended Sunday Mass at St. Francis parish in town; the church was cold, and lit only by candles and natural light, but music was provided by a piano and an accordion. It was a wonderful experience.
I’m looking out the window watching great veils of lake-effect snow still sweeping over the Bay, chased by patches of blinding sunlight. It’s the best weather winter gives us in these parts, and we know that it’ll be in the 50s by the end of the week. Funny month, March – but spring is coming.
One sign of it (if you needed one) is the Beginning Birders Workshop that’ll be held on Saturday morning at the Boardman River Nature Center. The Grand Traverse Audubon Club is holding this free program to help beginning birders learn how to get started, and share some of the joys of birding. The Nature Center, on Cass Road, is home to lots of winter birds, and a great place to get an early introduction to the birding world.
A Pair of Dependable Winter Birds — Wild Turkeys!
For those of you who want to get even deeper into this fascinating pastime, I’ve heard that last year’s inaugural Leelanau Birdfest was so successful that organizers expect to double their 2011 attendance this year. The festival, which will be held from May 30 to June 3, will feature 11 different field trips, including a trip on a tall ship to see nesting Caspian terns. You can hear Jerry Weinrich, the “Godfather of the Kirtland’s Warbler,” review more than two decades of work on efforts to bring back populations of that rare Michigan bird, while Greg Butcher, Director of Conservation for the National Audubon Society, will talk about that organization’s most recent State of the Birds reports.
The Leelanau Peninsula has more than 75,000 acres of accessible birding habitat open to the public and is home to the endangered Great Lakes Piping Plover – which the festival has wisely made its mascot. Included in the $35 registration fee are eight different field trips; among them the bird-rich Otter Creek area at the Sleeping Bear Dunes and a fascinating “Birding by Ear” program (about identifying hidden birds by their calls) at Fulton Park, just north of Traverse City along the Leelanau Trail.
The Leelanau Birdfest has gotten itself a permanent website at http://mibirdfest.com/ and is instituting an online reservation system that should make it lots easier for participants to design an itinerary of lectures and field trips that best suits their individual interests.
Birding is now the country’s number-one outdoor sport. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are currently 51.3 million birders, and the number is still growing. Several local resorts and lodges list nearby birding areas in their promotional literature, and a few even arrange guided outings on request.