Grounds of the lodge where I stayed at Harbor Springs.

Grounds of the lodge where I stayed at Harbor Springs.

The Cincinnati excursion described in my last post was sandwiched between two interesting trips also to Midwest destinations. Harbor Springs, Michigan is at the northern end of Michigan’s southern peninsula. It is an important place in the history of  the passenger pigeon because the town is located with the area of the last great pigeon nesting in 1878. Covering about 200 square miles, the nesting probably involved something like 50 or 60 million birds. This nesting was also unique in that it was the first time in history that an effort was made to minimize the killing. That effort probably had minimal impact on protecting birds but it did draw attention to the plight of the bird. Harbor Springs is also an important place in the history of Project Passenger Pigeon, for it was one of the places Lizzy Condon and I visited on the first P3 organizing trip back in April 2011. (See my blog http://www.birdzilla.com/blog/2011/05/30/p3-in-michigan-more-of-lizzies-and-joels-marvelous/) Mary Cummings, director of the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society and Museum, received us very warmly and we had been in touch ever since.

Mary Cummings and the exhibit.

Mary Cummings and the exhibit.

I drove up on October 22 and spent all day of Oct 23. Mary took me to a local school where we showed the movie and then in the afternoon a group of students visited the museum. In the evening I gave my talk. One jewel that the museum offered was a painting by Lorna Jean Schneider created in her high school art class in 1940. It is entitled “Arrival of  the Pigeons.” Know one seems to know what became of Ms. Schneider, but the hand written note on the back of the painting (likely by her teacher) says this about the artist: “Lorna Jean is very gifted and I think intends to go on with her art work. She lives on Howard Street.” The painting is in the possession of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Department of Archives and Records, the agency that generously lent the work to the history museum for its display.

Return of the Pigeons by Lorna Jean Schneider.

Return of the Pigeons by
Lorna Jean Schneider.

From the beginning of P3, Stan Temple, who taught for many years in the Department of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said he would organize anniversary activities within his state. He enlisted many organizations including the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters to help  publicize the importance of 2014. Perhaps the culmination of his efforts occurred over the weekend of November 1 and 2. The Wisconsin Academy sponsored a screening of From Billions to None, followed by a panel discussion involving Stan, Curt Meine, David Blockstein, and me. In the evening, there was a reading with actors of Brett Angelos’ wonderful play, Savage Passengers, based on the incident in 1834 when actor Junius Brutus Booth attempted to recruit the well-known theologian James Freeman Clark to preside over a funeral for a bushel of passenger pigeons. Booth abhorred killing and wanted Clark to join him in this protest against the slaughter of the pigeons. Part of Brett’s play had been performed in a Chicago theater but this is the first time the entire piece was read.

U of WI Symphony Orchestra playing Heinrich's masterpiece.

U of WI Symphony Orchestra playing Heinrich’s masterpiece.

The following day, on Sunday afternoon, the Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra performed Anthony Philip Heinrich’s “The Columbiad; Or the Migration of the American Passenger Pigeon.” Heinrich was America’s first symphony composer and his master piece was this nin movement symphony, each movement of which depicted a different aspect of the species’ life.. He lived for a while in the woods of Kentucky during the 1840s and knew the bird well. The work had  been performed once, in Prague in 1857. So it had been a goal of P3 to get this piece played and we worked closely with Neely Bruce, a musicologist, conducter, and composer at Wesleyan University, to make it happen. Stan reached out to his contacts in Madison and we were thrilled when the University of WIsconsin orchestra committed to a performance. (Neely was also able to get the Yale Symphony Orchestra to perform the music in mid-October.)

Lizzy, Cheryl, and Brett at buffet dinner sponsored by Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters.

Lizzy, Cheryl, and Brett at buffet dinner sponsored by Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters.

Another important aspect that made this weekend so enjoyable was that it drew a wide range of friends. Cindy joined me; Brett and his wife Cheryl attended, as did Susan Wegner from Maine, Lynne Hepler from Vernon Hills, Bob Russell from Minneapolis, and Lizzy Condon from Duluth. In varying combinations we hung out.

Whooping crane at ICF.

Whooping crane at ICF.

The first half of Sunday was open so Stan had organized a tour of the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo. It was a special experience because besides Cindy, Cheryl, Brett, and me, the tour leaders included people who had been closely  involved with ICF in a variety of capacities: Lizzie worked there for six months (and works there now); Curt and Stan have been consultants and/or on the board; and  Jeb Barzen is Director of Field Ecology. ICF has all 15 species of the world’s cranes, including whooping and the Siberian, which is now the rarest of all. One of my favorite birds in the collection is Slidell, a gray-crowned crane from Africa. In Jeb’s words: “Slidell is a female who was raised at the Miami Zoo to be a bird trained to fly in front of audiences.  She didn’t fit in well at ICF for being part of a flight show though because she was imprinted on people too strongly.  This caused her to be highly aggressive to female staff (imprinting goes both ways), of whom we have a preponderance, and this interfered with her flying on cue.  Now she is a great display bird and approaches people readily.  For women human guests, her approaches are to threaten them while her approaches to males are to court them!” I have been told by some female staffers that even if they do their best to dress and act like a male, Slidell is never fooled and acts as aggressively as ever.

Slidell the crowned crane,

Slidell the crowned crane,

 

The group at ICF.

The group at ICF.

 

Siberian crane.

Siberian crane.

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