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What is birding? 

It’s a common term for many, but one that requires explanation for many others. “Birding is getting out in nature and looking for birds and doing your best to identify them.” This simple, clear description came from Lamanda Hilty, Parks Naturalist with Love Creek Nature Center and County Park (Berrien Springs). 

I recently had the opportunity to join Lamanda and her colleague, Derek Pelc (Chief Naturalist at Love Creek), on a Zoom meeting to talk about the Berrien Birding Club (BBC). 

The BBC was formed in 1997 by Kip Miller, and is sponsored by the Berrien County Parks. Kip moved to Colorado last year and handed the club over to Lamanda and Derek. The club is headquartered at Love Creek and is comprised of members who gather periodically to identify as many different species of birds as possible. In Berrien County, around 330 species of birds have been documented. 

“Obviously we can’t go in groups too much right now. A lot of these birds are super small. They might be in thickets, they might be high in the trees. Just having multiple people around, you have an opportunity to see and identify more species than you would likely see by yourself,” said Derek. 

COVID-19 has thrown off some of the club’s plans, including their yearly Birdathon. This event typically takes place the 2nd weekend of May, where teams of birdwatchers have from midnight until 7:00 p.m. to find as many species as they can within Berrien County. The event concludes with dinner and awards. 

“For birding, this event is like Christmas. It’s something we all look forward to,” added Lamanda. 

Despite the inability to meet due to some of the stay at home orders, the BBC has seen an influx in activity and participation in their Facebook group. The private page is for members of the club and other interested birdwatchers to share photos and information of recent local bird sightings, and to post information about upcoming birding events in the area. 

When the club is able to meet, they will visit Lake Chapin and Love Creek in Berrien Springs. They also venture to various areas through Berrien County such as Grand Mere State Park, some of Chikaming open lands, Silver Beach, New Buffalo Public Beach, to name a few. They recently added the University of Notre Dame to provide the club with something different across the state line. 

“We welcome anybody to the club. It’s only $10 for a yearly membership. This gets you access to the Birding listserv and the BBC newsletter that has the list of our outings. The funds have been historically used for different conservation efforts and go to different stewardship initiatives that help support birding or the environment in some way shape or form,” added Derek. The Facebook group is free to join and can be accessed here.

For more information on the BBC: https://www.berriencounty.org/434/Birding

Following my conversation with Lamanda and Derek, I began noticing different types of birds, and different types of sounds from birds. That’s usually how it works when you take on something new. Like buying a new car. The minute you leave the lot you begin seeing your car all over the road. 

I decided to join the Berrien Birding Club Facebook group, where I proudly shared my first photographic encounter with one of Berrien’s birds. Hopefully there’s many more to come!