Red winged blackbird



Berrien County Birdathon
Here come the hummingbirds, warblers, and vireos, right along with area students for Fernwood’s Environmental Studies Programs (ESP)! The two combine when Fernwood teams participate in the 29th Annual Berrien Count Birdathon on Saturday, May 13 to raise funds in support of the ESP, which served 4800 students in the 2015/2016 school year. Last year we raised more than $2200 just by identifying as many bird species as we could in 15 hours! Please visit our website or call Fernwood today to sponsor our teams and help us continue to share the magic of nature with local school children.

Niles Area Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, December 17, the day of the 2016 Niles Area Christmas Bird Count wasn’t too promising (grey, mist, fog) and the birds were quiet, but the final tally of submitted data came out about on target with Count averages. 64 species were identified, four more than the Count average of 60, with 7190 full species individuals counted, only 475 above Count average. Including the partial species recorded, the total number of birds found was 7224 individuals.
Two species set new high count totals:  trumpeter swan at 11 (this bird has only been recorded on the Niles Count since 2009 and represents an amazing comeback of a once rare species) and hermit thrush at 7 (3 more than the previous high count).  Red-shouldered hawk came in just one shy of its high count, and white-throated sparrow tied its high count.
It is always exciting to find species that aren’t regulars on the Niles CBC. This year that distinction included the first blue-winged teal since 1989; the first lesser scaup since 2002; the first killdeer since 2012 and only the 13th record in the 54 years of the Niles Count; Brewer’s blackbird for only the second time in Count history and the first sighting since 1990; Lapland longspur for the first time since 2008; and swamp sparrow for the first time since 2010. Great black-backed gull is becoming a regular on the Niles Count, with the third sighting since 2013.
All this data is invaluable at many levels – beyond documenting unusual species or the range expansion of species, it can also show population trends: at least for the Niles Count, red-bellied woodpeckers are holding steady with 74 in 2014 and again in 2015, and 73 in 2016, but European starling had the lowest tally since 2004. I am always grateful for the feeder counters, for they inevitably find birds that are not encountered in the field. This year they turned up common grackle and purple finch (some generously walk their properties in addition to watching their feeders).

Click here to see the Niles Area Chirstmas bird count results.
The complete results of the Niles Count are attached below, and the results of all Christmas Bird Counts held in 2016/2017 are available at The 2017 Niles Count will be held on Saturday 16 December. Our tom turkeys have been gobbling, a good sign that the
​seasons are moving along and soon we'll have hummingbirds once again!​​

 Bluebird Trail 2016 Summary

Thanks to the amazing dedication of our Bluebird Trail volunteers, we had another great year for our nesting bluebirds! 13 boxes are scattered throughout the Arboretum and Prairie, with a few more located down in the gardens. 70 chicks survived to fledging out of 90 eggs laid, for a 78% success rate (down 9% from 2015). Interestingly, tree swallows had no surviving chicks this year and had fewer nesting attempts; the reasons for this are unclear. The highlight of the season was a near-full albino chick (the sole chick in its nest), which had lovely white feathers across the body but with a dark eye, legs, and beak. 

Monitoring for the 201
7 season will start in March. If you are interested in joining our volunteer team, please contact naturalist Wendy Jones. Want to learn how to invite bluebirds to your backyard? Attend the program on Sunday, March 5, presented by John Harville of the Michigan Bluebird Society. 

Berrien County Birding

Berrien County's diverse habitats offer up excellent birding, with 353 different species having been recorded in the County. Fernwood is pleased to have partnered with other local organizations on the Berrien County Birding Destinations map. The map is available at Fernwood, all three Berrien County Parks, Sarett, Warren Dunes State Park, the Harbor County Chamber of Commerce, the I-94 Pure Michigan Visitor Center in New Buffalo, and in Benton Harbor at the MSU Extension office, the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council, and the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission office. To receive a copy in the mail free of charge, send a note with your mailing address to
Love Creek Nature Center. So go explore and good luck birding in Berrien County! 

Our friends at the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission have created an Interactive Berrien Birding Destinations Map based on the information in the Berrien County Birding Destinations Map.

You can view this interactive map on the Berrien Birding Club webpage or on the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission site. Click Here to read a post on birding in Southwest Michigan by Joanne Davidhizar of Michigan State University Extension.

For more information on birding in Berrien County, please visit Berrien County Parks
 and click on the ‘birding’ link.

Fun and Educational: Bird Cams

Eavesdrop on some nesting birds across the U.S. on the following Bird Cams:

Bald Eagle's Nest
in St. Patrick's County Park

Great Horned Owl Nest
 has two chicks, hatched on February 25 and 28.

Eagle Nest
 has three eggs, laid on February 18, 21, and 25.

Give the Gift of Birds and Help Support Fernwood!

Know someone who enjoys birds at their backyard feeders? Or perhaps someone who is a serious birder, hitting local hotspots every weekend? Give them the gift of birds all year long and support Fernwood at the same time. 

When you place a new one-year subscription to Bird Watcher's Digest magazine or their other publications, Fernwood receives 50% of the subscription price. Mention Fernwood when placing an order at 800.879.2473 or subscribe at This great publication covers bird identification, feeding, behavior, gardening, and much more. It makes a great gift for the bird-lover on your list!