The M-22 Challenge took place Saturday at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The race is a combination of a 2.5 mile dune race on foot, a 14 mile bike around the Glen Lakes, and a 2.5 mile kayak trip. The author of this post was a willing participant in this lunacy and knew that the course unfortunately ran directly through an area where a pair of Clay-colored Sparrows have called home for the past three weeks. Amidst 900 people gasping for air as they raced through the sparrows’ home turf, the buzzing sparrows kept calling and seemed undeterred. I am fairly certain that I was the only one who knew what I was hearing and who experienced any guilt for being there.
It certainly was an odd experience, embarrassed to be part of the ambivalent herd and proud of the Park at the same time for cooperating with organizers in an unbelievable experience in the largest freshwater dune system in the world. The Clay-colored Sparrow is a very uncommon bird in this area and it was unfortunate for them that they picked this field at the base of the infamous Dune Climb. Despite the growing number of tourists attempting to conquer the dune this summer and the 900 grumpy race participants, I heard the sparrows calling today, 24 hours after the chaos. They had not abandoned the nest and seemed to be extra vociferous today calling in defiance of the intruders. I apologize for the hazy, fog shrouded picture from a week ago, but this is the only real glimpse these tough little sparrows have given me. Happy ending.