TRAVERSE CITY — Robert Parsons has traveled to Texas, Arizona, Florida and even Costa Rica to seek out unusual birds.
Now Parsons is adding Michigan to that list. The Washington, D.C., birder plans to wing it to Fountain Point Resort on Lake Leelanau next week for the third annual Leelanau Peninsula Birding Festival.
“There’s a rare bird in Michigan called the Kirtland’s Warbler,” said Parsons, who birded with his father as a teenager and rekindled that passion about eight years ago. “That’s why I’m coming. I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to see it.”
The festival, May 29-June 2, features birding programs and field trips with some of the area’s top birders, including Brian Allen of Manistee. Allen will lead a trip to Otter Creek in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of a dozen festival field trips to area woodlands, wetlands, uplands and grasslands known for their avian bounty.
“In my mind, he’s the best birder in Michigan,” said festival co-chairman Kay Charter, referring to Allen, a former member of the Michigan Bird Records Committee and an editor of the American Birding Association publication, “A Birder’s Guide to Michigan.”
“Last year he tagged 73 species at Otter Creek. I don’t think anyone’s going to top that.”
Other favorite festival field trips making a return this year are a schooner trip to Gull Island Preserve to see terns, gulls and other waterbirds; a pontoon excursion on Lake Leelanau and the Cedar River Preserve to look for loons, bald eagles and green herons; and taking a bus to Arcadia Prairie to seek the Grasshopper sparrow, Western meadowlark, Upland sandpiper and the Northern harrier.
Marlin Bussey will lead the pontoon trip, as well as a field trip to the Charter Sanctuary in Omena. The Northport native and longtime birder and conservationist believes the Leelanau Peninsula has the potential to become a major birding festival area, which in turn could lead to saving area birds and their habitat.