Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 4, 2013

Birds Flock to Bellaire

Grass River Natural Area kicks off series on Saturdays

TRAVERSE CITY — Birds in all their feathered glory are the focus of a new Grass River Natural Area educational series.

Kicking off the monthly program will be a Saturday presentation on owls by Rebecca Lessard of Wings of Wonder in Empire. The Birding Series will then present a different class monthly through June.

All programs will be held at the Grass River Natural Area's Education Center and 250-acre preserve in Bellaire.

The Birding Series is scheduled for the second Saturday of each month and is intended to teach attendees about bird habitats and how to identify birds by their looks and songs. The final class on June 8 will be a Bird Blitz, when attendees will walk some of the preserve's seven miles of trails and identify birds along the way using skills learned from previous classes.

Naturalists with the Grass River Natural Area or other guest instructors will lead classes.

"Nature teaches us like nowhere else can," said Anne Drake, a naturalist with the Grass River Natural Area. "It's full of sights and sounds, it just really makes an impression."

The ongoing Birding Series dovetails with the Natural Area's land protection, conservation and educational missions. The nonprofit based in the heart of the Chain of Lakes area offers a variety of classes, hikes, events and programs throughout the year.

People of all ages are welcome to attend any or all of the Birding Series classes, which have a $5 fee per person.

"Birds are a really great way to learn about nature," Drake said. "You can learn about how the natural world is really important to them so it makes you more sensitive to what's going on in nature."

Children are especially encouraged to come to the Birding Series classes or any Grass River Natural Area program.

"We know that they're eventually going to be stewards of this beautiful area," said Melynda Bagley, the organization's education director.

A special evening event is scheduled for March 2: a Moonlight Owl Calling Hike. Following the full moon, this popular annual hike begins with a 30-minute program at the Education Center before participants head into the woods. For 90 minutes they will explore and search for owls, with the guiding naturalist offering different owl calls.

"Owls are very territorial and they might answer or they can fly over to check it out," said Bagley.

For more information on the Grass River Natural Area and Birding Series classes, call 533-8314 or see www.grassriver.org.

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