Two of a Feather: Great Birding, Sights in Traverse City

Many things signal the start of warm weather in Michigan, but maybe none more iconic than the chirping of birds during a gentle spring morning. From chickadees to eagles, and many species in between, Michigan offers birding enthusiasts a view of stunning feathered-fowl unlike anywhere else. Read more on birding in the Traverse City area, as told by guest blogger Mike Norton.

Spring must be here. I heard my first loon of the season this morning, that funny little hiccup of laughter echoing back from the harbor. And when the birds return, can the borders be far behind?

Each year, hundreds of people make their way to Traverse City with binoculars and notebooks to enjoy its many birding opportunities.

Some come for the annual spring migration (between mid-April and mid-May) when all kinds of migratory birds congregate along the nearby islands and peninsulas on their way north. Others wait until the end of May for nesting season.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The Traverse City area hasn’t been numbered among the world’s traditional birding hotspots; it’s not on any of the main migratory flyways, and until recently it hasn’t really known what to make of visiting birders. But it has an amazing amount of bird-friendly habitats within a short distance — almost all on public land to which birders have easy access. And birders are paying attention, thanks to the new Sleeping Bear Birding Trail, a 123-mile online guide to over 27 birding sites.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

At the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, for instance, birders will not only find a large variety of warblers and other songbirds, but a chance to spot the Great Lakes piping plover – a tiny shorebird whose habitat has been wiped out in much of its range. An hour’s drive to the east, in the jackpine plains near Grayling and Mio, is the home of the Kirtland’s warbler, a reclusive songbird that requires frequent wildfires to germinate the gnarled pines on which its survival depends.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

But Traverse City itself is a year-round birding area, thanks to its location on Grand Traverse Bay and a significant number of parklands, preserves and greenways.

The city’s bayshore, for example, is rich with waterfowl. In winter and spring there are White-Winged Scoters, Horned Grebes, Red-Breasted Mergansers, and Goldeneyes. Terns can be found on the nearby beaches, and loons are often seen out beyond the breakwater, and in winter large rafts of redheads and scaup can be seen, sometimes numbering in the thousands.

About 20 minutes away, Lighthouse Park at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula is a fantastic place to find shorebirds during spring migration, when exposed mudflats attract a spectacular variety of sandpipers and plovers. The trails in the park’s interior are home to large numbers of forest birds, including pewees, phoebes, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Black-Throated Green Warblers, and both Warbling and Red-Eyed Vireos.

Photo Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The Boardman River, which empties into the Bay near the city’s downtown, is a particularly rich area for birds. Upstream, it broadens into Boardman Lake, whose southern end is probably the city’s best birding area. Over 160 species of birds have been logged here, and there’s good birding in every season. (During the spring migration, the number of different of warbler species found here can be fantastic.)

On the city’s west side, the most productive birding is on the 500-acre campus of the Grand Traverse Commons. Its miles of trails offer redpolls, grosbeaks and waxwings in winter, a huge selection of migrating warblers in spring, and summer nesters like flycatchers, warblers, vireos, cuckoos, hummers, and several species of woodpeckers. The campus is also home to herons, hawks and the occasional owl, and is one of the area’s best spots for viewing orioles and Indigo Buntings.

Even casual birdwatchers will enjoy a chance to see some of the many lovely birds that make their own “spring break” stops in Traverse City!

Blogger Bio:

Mike Norton spent 25 years as a newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations manager at Traverse City Tourism. An avid cyclist, kayaker and hiker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.

Six Self-Guided Tours You’ll Want to Take in Manistee County

Spring is well under way in Pure Michigan, offering endless opportunities to explore the great outdoors. If you’re looking to go off the grid, or maybe just want to have an enriching afternoon, look no further than Manistee County. To celebrate warm weather and longer days, here are six self-guided tours you won’t want to miss in Manistee County.

Downtown

Photo courtesy of Marty Dunham

Shop Manistee’s historic downtowns: Looking for a great made-in-Michigan item? Come check out the farmer’s markets for locally grown or made foods, or browse the numerous specialty and boutique shops in downtown Manistee. Manistee also has spectacular dining experiences, from fine dining for a special occasion or just grabbing a beer with friends at a local pub.

Experience M-22: A famous stretch of highway in the United States, M-22 starts in Manistee. Take an afternoon drive or make it a weekend road trip and enjoy the beautiful scenery and Lake Michigan shoreline. The historic trunkline’s designation has also become a cultural symbol for the region.

Marty Dunham

Photo courtesy of Manistee County Visitors Bureau

See the Bridges of Manistee County: How can you not love the beauty and engineering that goes into these amazing structures? Manistee County is home to three vehicular, three railroad and one massive pedestrian bridge along with two hydroelectric dams and one egg-take/salmon harvest weir. If you are a fan of these beautiful structures and appreciate the engineering, you are sure to enjoy this self-guided tour.

Learn the History of Manistee: Manistee County has one of the finest collections of historic buildings in the Nation according to the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office. You can experience the historic Kaleva Train Depot for railroad artifacts and nostalgia, or visit the Manistee County Historical Museum, which contains one of the most extensive collections of Victorian antiques in the United States.

Go on a Pure Michigan Tasting Tour: Manistee County and Northern Michigan are fortunate enough to have some of the most diverse and bountiful growing seasons in the entire United States. Taste test your way through Manistee County by visiting some the U-Pick farms and markets or dining at one of the many local restaurants that embrace farm to table by incorporating seasonal specials.

22North Photography Brian Edwards

Photo courtesy of 22 North Photography’s Brian Edwards

Explore the Natural Wonders: Manistee is a wonderful place to explore the great outdoors. Traverse the shores of Lake Michigan and explore the Natural Wonders. From the artesian wells in Onekama, the picturesque views atop Old Baldy, or a scenic drive through the Tunnel of Trees, these nine sites were selected as part of the Natural Wonders Tour because of their amazing stories and sights. Make sure to bring your camera!

Are you ready to plan your trip to Manistee County? Learn more about travel ideas and attractions in Manistee here.

Top Golfers Try Their Hand at Harbor Shores this Spring

The 75th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid makes its second appearance in Michigan May 20 -25, 2014 at The Golf Club at Harbor Shores. Jeff Hintz, PGA Championship Director, answers our questions on the tournament and gives an overview of what attendees can expect from the course.

Tickets for the Senior PGA Championship are on sale now – including holiday packages for the golf enthusiast on your shopping list! 

Q: This year is the 75th Senior PGA Championship. Will there be any special events or celebrations to commemorate this?

A: The Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid has a long and rich history since it began in 1937. We are currently exploring opportunities to host a variety of community events to celebrate the 75th anniversary from a concert series to a 5K run/walk race. Details about these events will be posted on the Championship website as we get closer to the event.

We also unveiled a new logo for the 2014 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid to commemorate the 75th anniversary and honor the history and tradition of the Championship.

Q: What can attendees expect to experience at the Senior PGA Championship this year?

A: Every fan experience is unique from Championship to Championship. In 2014, we’re committed to enhancing our customer service throughout the course and creating a great entertainment value for our fans. Daily grounds tickets range from $15 to $35 and all juniors, 17 years of age and younger, will be admitted into the Championship for free with an accompanying ticketed adult. We are looking into incorporating a new Kids Zone at the Championship this year which will include activities for juniors and families. And, we’ve introduced a new ticket category for the 75th Championship – the 19th Hole – which gives fans access to an upgraded viewing structure on the course. Single-day tickets to the 19th Hole tickets will be sold for Championship rounds (Thurs. – Sun.) for $50. Practice round tickets to the 19th Hole are $35.

Q: Who can attendees expect to see playing this year?

A: The Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, the most historic and prestigious senior major, features the strongest field in senior golf. Golf fans will have a chance to see the world’s greatest senior golfers and walk with history.

We expect a strong field in 2014 filled with past Champions and fan favorites including Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, Jay Haas, Fred Couples, Kenny Perry, Mark O’Meara, Bernhard Langer and 2012 Senior PGA Champion Roger Chapman.

Q: What makes Harbor Shores such a unique golf course? Why was Harbor Shores chosen to host this premier event?

A: Harbor Shores is a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course, the only one on the shores of Lake Michigan. What makes this course so unique is the extensive environmental transformation that took place to develop the course. The Nicklaus team transformed abandoned land, dilapidated vacant factories, and a city dump into one of the top courses in the state of Michigan. The course and surrounding development serves as a catalyst for ongoing community transformation in Benton Harbor.

Thanks to our partnership with KitchenAid, Harbor Shores was selected as the site of the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 Senior PGA Championships presented by KitchenAid.

Q: Are there any “must-play” holes for golf enthusiasts at Harbor Shores? What’s your favorite hole at Harbor Shores?

A: All 18 holes at Harbor Shores are must-play holes for golf enthusiasts! The course features three distinct styles of terrain including lakefront dunes along Lake Michigan, Northern Michigan hardwoods and native wetlands along the Paw Paw River. Holes 7, 8 and 9, overlook the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan and give golfers a stunning look at the beach. Hole 10 is one of my favorite holes. The 10thgreen is a three-tier green and the largest in Nicklaus’ portfolio of more than 300 golf course designs around the world.

Q: Outside of the course, what are some “must-sees” in the Benton Harbor area for visitors to check out while in town?

A: While you’re visiting Benton Harbor for the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, you must take some time to visit Jean Klock Park Beach along the shores of Lake Michigan. The center of Jean Klock Park is made up of holes 7, 8 and 9 at Harbor Shores on the lakefront dunes.

There are a number of great restaurants and shops within walking distance of the course in the Benton Harbor Arts District. Some of our favorite dining options in the Arts District include Larks Bar-B-Que, Charlie’s Piggin’ N’ Grinnin’, The Ideal Place and The Livery. The North Shore Inn is also a must for some of the best burgers in town. And, the St. Joseph Pier Lighthouse is a popular stop for visitors in nearby St. Joseph, Mich.

Q: Where can people go to learn more about the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid?

A: Fans can visit the Championship website to buy tickets and get more information about the 75th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. We also encourage fans to visit our Facebook page and Twitter account.

Will you attend the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores this spring?

Jeff Hintz is the Championship Director of the 73rd and 75th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. As Championship Director, Hintz oversees all aspects of the Championships on behalf of The PGA of America. He also manages the day-to-day business relationship between The PGA and KitchenAid, the presenting sponsor of the Senior PGA Championship since 2011.