In February of 1993, Jim and Kay Charter gave up their lakefront “forever” home in exchange for a 47-acre tract west of the village of Omena. Along the way, they experienced a total loss fire and Jim suffered a broken back. The couple was able to hold onto their land despite the calamities that might have led others to give up their dream. Instead, they worked hard to create the healthy, native plants-based ecosystems that would provide for both migratory and resident birds The entire sanctuary is forever protected for the birds by conservation easements. The land includes a quarter mile of creek running through a wetland filled with cattails, willows and dogwoods. A mixed hardwood/conifer forest grows up the hill on the east side of the wetland, and a narrow belt of aspen woods lines the southern edge of the property. Stands of white pine and a rolling, upland meadow long ago converted to native prairie complete this special place.
Eight years after they purchased their property, they founded Saving Birds Thru Habitat. (www.savingbirds.org)
“My life is wrapped up in birds,” Kay has said. “I firmly believe that if we save our birds, we save everything else in the process,” because good birding habitat is good habitat for just about every other species on the planet.
“Kay and Jim are those rare people that live their beliefs and changed their lives to come into conformity with the things that most matter to them,” said Brian Price, Conservancy Executive Director.
Jim Charter passed on Easter Sunday in 2017, but Kay continues to care for the land, as she also continues to serve as Executive Director of Saving Birds.
Saving Birds Thru Habitat was established in 2001 to help stem the decline of our migratory songbird population by teaching people of all ages how to protect, enhance and restore habitat for North American birds. Our Habitat Discovery Center grounds offer lessons on how to do just that.
Two years after our founding, the Charters deeded four and a half acres of their land to Saving Birds for a home. Then Jim Charter headed up a group of volunteers in building our Habitat Discovery Center. Following that, the organization has added native trees, shrubs and native flower gardens around the property. The goal is to ultimately have it covered entirely with native plants (except for an area outside the Discovery Center for large gatherings).
Our Habitat Discovery Center is adjacent to a 45-acre private conservation effort, Charter Sanctuary, which has hosted more than sixty nesting species. A hundred additional species use the property for foraging during migration. Saving Birds Thru Habitat has the exclusive use of this sanctuary for field trips. Private tours of Charter Sanctuary are available by appointment for a fee.