A Bountiful Weekend

Birding, mushroom hunting offer memorable experiences. // Illustration by Glenn Wolff

That Friday, we played hooky to go birding at Sleeping Bear Point. We had heard a few days earlier that hundreds of migrating warblers had dropped into the aspen thickets on the dunes to rest and were trapped there by a north wind and circling merlins and accipiters that picked them off the moment they tried to leave the aspens. We wanted to see this for ourselves, so we got up early enough to be there before dawn.

In two hours of searching, we saw only a few birds and no warblers, though we might have heard a yellow-rumped warbler. We would later learn that a warbler drop occurred that same morning 150 miles north at Whitefish Point. So, I guess we missed it.

We left the dunes and drove to a park on Little Glen Lake where we saw a Wilson’s warbler, a redstart and a yellow warbler. Then we continued south, stopping now and then to pick ditch asparagus and scope the thickets for warblers.

At Otter Creek, birds were everywhere: alder flycatcher, common yellowthroat, chestnut-sided warbler, a green heron. We walked into the woods to a cluster of ash trees we saw from the road and found 20 white morels at their base. I wondered aloud if this would be a good place for ovenbirds. They’re one of my favorite songbirds but are relatively scarce; we see only one or two most years. We walked over a small rise, and there was one below us, kicking the leaves for bugs.

Maybe it’s my age, but lately, I’ve been appreciating temporary things. Time with the ones we love. Children’s laughter. Thunderstorms. Mayflies.

Saturday, Aaron and Chelsea arrived with their popup camper and set it up in the backyard. Nick joined us, and we hiked to a favorite spot to look for mushrooms. We found many. It was a bumper year. Spring had arrived late, and the morels were two weeks behind schedule. It had been cold most of April and half of May, then came three days of warm rain, and the mushrooms all popped at once.

Sunday, we visited another secret spot and found more morels. While searching, we came across a tiny spotted fawn, one or two days old, curled on the ground and watching us without fear. Chelsea gathered an armload of wild leeks with bulbs the size of my thumbs. The leaves were starting to yellow, a stage I always assumed meant the bulbs were inedible. But they were delicious skewered with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp and cooked over the grill.

That evening Andy, Andrea and Alison joined us for dinner. I put chicken on the grill alongside Chelsea’s kabobs, Aaron made mushroom miso soup and Nick served appetizers of morels tossed in flour and fried in butter. After dinner, we built a fire in the backyard and sat around it roasting s’mores and telling stories.

Maybe it’s my age, but lately, I’ve been appreciating temporary things. Time with the ones we love. Children’s laughter. Thunderstorms. Mayflies. The glimpses we’re granted now and then of something like radiance. The weekend came and was gone in a flash, but we were fine with that. It’s the way all the best things go.

Jerry Dennis and his wife Gail live and work in a 140-year-old farmhouse overlooking Grand Traverse Bay. Visit them at jerrydennis.net.

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