Archived Story

A bird watcher’s guide to Berrien County

Published 8:00am Saturday, September 22, 2012

Residents and visitors to Berrien County have a new tool to help them enjoy its natural beauty — a map of prime bird watching locations.

Berrien County Birding Destinations provides directions to 17 excellent places to find and observe birds. The map describes each of the various habitats and the birds drawn to them.

The map — a product of the collaboration between the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Berrien County Parks, the Berrien Birding Club, Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve, the Michigan State University Extension, the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council and Sarett Nature Center — was unveiled at the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council office in Benton Harbor Sept. 12.

“We’re excited about this project,” said Southwestern Michigan Planning Commission Executive Director John Egelhaaf at the unveiling ceremony. “It’s been a labor of love for us for a good while now.”

Berrien County has long been a birding mecca. Its habitats attract a variety of birds — from water-loving shorebirds to the songbirds and warblers of the woods. In addition, Berrien County is along ancient migratory routes that bring unusual birds through the area during spring and fall.

“Berrien County has been included in many previous regional and statewide birding resources, but we decided it was time for a publication focused solely on the best birding destinations in Berrien County,” said Love Creek County Park naturalist and Berrien Birding Club President Kip Miller,” and this birding destinations map is the result of our collaborative efforts.”

Wendy Jones, Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve’s head naturalist, spoke of the educational opportunities the new resource will provide.

“All three institutions in the county — Fernwood, Love Creek and Sarett — educate thousands of school kids every year,” she said. “Over 32,000 school kids are touched by our programs. So this will be a great resource for students to use.”

The project was funded through grants from the Berrien Community Foundation, the Pokagon Fund, the Frederick S. Upton Foundation and the David and Joyce Stewart Fund of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation in honor of James and Jenette Mullins.

Joanne Davidhizar of the Michigan State University Extension cited the findings of a 2006 U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey, saying that people spend $2.6 million on “wildlife viewing” in the state of Michigan.

“Our hope is that this map will help to boost eco-tourism in Berrien County,” said Davidhizar, “that people will come and visit these sites, as well as our county parks, our wonderful community parks, state parks and nature centers.”

Berrien County Birding Destinations is available at all Berrien County Parks, Warren Dunes State Park, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, the Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce, the New Buffalo Welcome Center, The Michigan State University Extension, Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve and Sarett Nature Center.

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