Ed Meyer and passenger pigeon memorial at the Michigan State Fish Hatchery at Oden, MI.

We spent the night in Traverse City for our appointment the next morning with Mary Cummings. Mary hosted us in their recently renovated museum and we learned that a board member had approached a gentleman in town asking if he would like to contribute to the museum. He replied only if they had a passenger pigeon exhibit. It was nice knowing there were more pp enthusiasts out there.

Mary introduced us to another board member, Ed Meyer, who is a retired boat builder and authority on local history. Ed had agreed to be our guide. He took us to the bluff that overlooked the still ice-choked harbor. Back in the 1870s and before, the pigeons would migrate in vast flocks along the shore line and the hunters would cluster on the lip of the bluff to shoot as many as they could. Women and children retreated to the houses below so the shot would not rain upon them. I have been immersed in the pigeon story for almost two years and to stand at a place where they were slaughtered made the written images even more vivid.

From there we headed to Crooked Lake which was one of the sites where the vast hordes of 1878 nested. According to one witness, a billion birds were killed that summer at the tip of the mitt, and even if he was wildly off, the birds surely numbered in the many millions. But that was it- no huge nestings would be recorded again and in just about twenty years the species ceased to exist as a flying organism. A few still survived in zoos. But the locals remembered, and nearby  is a fish hatchery that boasts one of only three passenger pigeon memorials in the country (the others being in WI and PA).

We made East Lansing in plenty of time for dinner where we joined Pam, Monirul Khan, and Gene Dillenburg. Monirul is a professor from Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh. He promised to give a lecture on passenger pigeons sometime during 2014, so our international effort continues to grow. Gene is a scholar of Museum Studies and the list he gave me of institutions in MI enabled Pam and me to organize this effort.

At nine the next morning everyone gathered and we had a fruitful discussion for three hours. Gene talked of his plans to create an online passenger pigeon exhibit that can be down loaded by museums to create their own displays. The MSU Museum wants to create a traveling exhibit. Two representatives from Grand Valley State University, the third largest of MI’s public universities, came because they were interested in Etta Wilson, an amazing woman who grew up in a family that hunted passenger pigeons. Wilson wrote two memoirs of her experience that were published in the Auk and she eventually went to work for the National Audubon Society. Kyle Bagnall of the Chippewa Nature Center agreed to be the MI coordinator. 

Text side of passenger pigeon memorial at Oden, MI.

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