The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Birders of a feather flock together 2012.04.18

Written by David Green.



birders.1By DAVID GREEN

Birds are coming and going Sunday morning at the Morenci sewage lagoons on Sims Highway. Constant activity is already underway when a new flock arrives from the west.

It’s a caravan of bird watchers, members of the Lenawee Birders, who have come to check out one of the county’s hot spots for migratory birds. Out come the binoculars, cameras and spotting scopes.

“We’re going to start on the front lagoon for about 20 minutes, then check out the back one,” said Gregg Perez, who leads the group with Johanna Lentz.

The two met during the recent Christmas bird count and both were disappointed that Lenawee County had no Audubon group. They organized the bird-watchers club as a start to their goal—to reëstablish the old Sauk Trail Audubon Society.

Morenci has three lagoons, but there’s never much activity in the newer one to the west. The back lagoon, however, is generally a treat.

“It’s always a surprise,” Gregg said. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

Gregg said he made the transition from bird enthusiast to “birder” about eight years ago. He grew up in the country north of Adrian and was always close to nature.

“My brothers and I played in the woods,” he said. “We only came home to eat and sleep.”

For some people, there’s a point in their lives when they move from appreciating nature to really learning about it. It happened for Gregg when he was invited to help with the Audubon Christmas count. An acquaintance discovered Gregg’s woodblock prints that generally depict birds, trees and fly fishing, and invited Gregg to join in. Gregg quickly realized he didn’t know much about identifying birds and went on a crash course in order to participate in the count.

Gregg says he’s getting good at identifying frogs by their sounds and he’s working on tree and wildflower identification. He also studies insects to help with his fly fishing, but it’s birds that come out on top.


The group’s goal Sunday was to check out three areas in the southwest part of the county. The first stop was Morenci, the second would be the Schoonover Waterfowl Production Area east of Canandaigua, and the final visit would be Lake Hudson, for birding and lunch. A dozen birders showed up for the trip.

“Did you see the belted kingfisher?” Johanna asks. “Maybe we’ll see it again in the back.”

Johanna’s story is similar to Gregg’s—growing up in the country, an interest in nature, watching birds at feeders—but her tale goes back much farther.

“I can say I’ve been in ‘birding’ for about 18 years since I was nine or ten,” she said. 

But why birds—why not insects or wildflowers?birders.2

“My parents owned greenhouses, so for me, plants meant work, and birds were different because they could fly,” she said.

She remembers learning birds when her grandmother took her for walks and she honed her skills at camps and conferences through the Young Birder program of the American Birding Association.

“I still really love plants—I’m a teaching assistant at the LISD TECH Center in the ornamental horticulture class—but birds are my passion.”

Like Gregg, she’s always on bird alert no matter what time of year.

Identifications are coming from several members standing along Sims Highway and Gregg knows it’s time to get the pad of paper from his car and start the list.

“There’s a flock of dunlins,” says Charles Owens as he follows them across the sky with binoculars. Then he changes his mind. “No, they’re pectorals.”

Dunlins and pectoral sandpipers are both visitors passing through on their way to marshes, mudflats and beaches of the tundra near Hudson Bay. This, Charles decides, is a flock of 11 pectorals.

There are also plenty of ducks on the lagoons, including northern shovelers, hooded mergansers, blue-winged teal, mallards and ring-necked.

There’s lots to see, although Gregg says it’s not as active as the day before when he stopped by.

Charles spots some buffleheads on his way to perusing the shorebirds.

“There’s a coot walking around like a little chicken,” Gregg says.

By now the group has moved to the back lagoon and members are spread out along a pile of composting leaves. Gregg says Morenci should erect a viewing stand here and turn the sewage lagoons into a destination point for birders.

Johanna asks anyone listening if they saw the three ducks that just came in. “What were they?” she asks.

“Good question,” answers Charles.

There are sharp birders in the group, but not everything gets a positive ID, especially from this distance. Spotting scopes help, but still, it’s a long way down the length of a lagoon.

Although the species vary, birding is a year-around activity for many people.

Birding is definitely easier in the winter,” Gregg said. “There are no leaves on the trees so you can see them better.  It’s hard to bird in the summer.”

Many birders will be in search of warblers when they pass through this area, but Gregg says the fast-moving little birds are incredibly hard to see. It’s best to visit  open areas along Lake Erie.

“They drip from trees like Christmas ornaments at Magee Marsh,” he says.

“That’s an osprey!” Johanna suddenly proclaims, but the sighting becomes a matter of discussion. 

Charles is favoring osprey, too, and holds out his arms to mimic the bird.

“The way it has its arms bent, it looks like an osprey,” he said.

He suggests putting it down as unidentified until Mike Dickie opens his camera image in Photoshop and improves the lighting.


The group moves north to Schoonover, a well-known area among birders in the region.

“Schoonover is a hot spot to get rare birds all year around,” Gregg says, noting that it draws many watchers from the Detroit area.

The property is owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is called a “production area” for bird breeding. The air is filled with never-ending bird calls and movement never ceases.

Everything goes on the list that Gregg is keeping, even the robin and red-winged blackbird, the song sparrow and the cardinal.

Suddenly an exotic-sounding bird calls from property to the south.

“That always throws me,” says Nancy McConn, laughing at the sound of a peacock at a nearby farm.

“It’s like it’s saying, ‘Hello! Look at me! I’m a bird, too,” says Kayleen Perez.

Gregg says maybe he’ll add it to the list, along with a rooster crowing down the road. He’ll give that the scientific name of Foghorn Leghorn.

By now Mike has had the opportunity to take a closer look at the alleged osprey and many people are giving it a positive ID based on his photograph. It’s the first osprey sighting for at least two members of the group.

Someone hears yellowlegs calling, but they’re out of sight, hidden by vegetation along the edge of the water.

“Has anyone seen any roughed-wings?” Gregg asks.

“I got you a chimney swift. What do you want?” asks Charles.

Wood ducks, lesser scaup, gadwall and grebe. A brown thrasher in a tree up the hill. A pair of goldfinch.

Gregg says there’s a lot of discussion about migratory habits of birds. What brings them back—weather? Seasonal changes in light?

“My feeling is that they move with the insects,” says Russell Columbus, as he looks through his spotting scope.

Charles has news for Gregg.

“Gregg, on the wire. Rough-winged swallow.” That takes care of that shortfall, but there are still no bluebirds.

Gregg and Johanna are comparing notes and filling in the gaps in their lists for the day when Charles finally spots a pair of bluebirds. He knew they had to be around somewhere.

That wraps up a successful 90 minutes behind the spotting scope.

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