There’s a whole lot of tweeting going on, and it has nothing to do with online social networking. Michigan is a prime location for seasonal migratory bird watching and year round bird spotting site for over 400 species in addition to the state’s official bird, the American Robin.
Birders flock to Michigan for special events in the coming weeks and throughout the year at many great bird watching sites across both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
Upper Peninsula Birding
Over 300 species like the mix of forests, inland lakes and waterways, and Lake Superior shoreline of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is an important stop for migrating birds. Hiking trails through the Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary, a protected old growth pine forest, are great for observing some 85 species.
The annual Keweenaw Migratory Bird Festival coincides with the migration of raptors as they cross Lake Superior to Canada. Events on May weekends include a May 7 raptor viewing from the top of Brockway Mountain and guided walks. On June 4 there’s a trip to look for the Indigo Bunting.
Just north of Paradise on Lake Superior, Whitefish Point Bird Observatory is located on a natural migration corridor for spring and fall flyovers by Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, owls and hawks. From spring through fall there are birding activities including waterbird and hawk counts, songbird census, and owl banding.
Inland, the 95,000-acre Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established for protection of wildlife including migratory and other birds---over 200 species have discovered its mix of marshes, swamps and forests. Areas are accessible on foot, canoe or kayak (rental livery nearby) and a seven-mile driving route.
Lower Peninsula Birding
The Blackburnian Warbler is the Grand Marshal of this year’s Tawas Point Birding Festival May 12-15 in the Tawas and Oscoda areas along the Lake Huron shore. Events include bus trips to Oscoda and Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area, the AuSable River, and a birding cruise to Charity Island, which is a sanctuary for songbirds, Bald Eagles and other wildlife. A two-part session on beginning birding includes an excursion to Tawas Point State Park, a hot spot on Saginaw Bay.
The Saginaw Bay area on Lake Huron at the Thumb offers great birding opportunities at several protected sites, including Nayanquing Point and Fish Point Wildlife Areas, Port Crescent State Park, Bay City State Recreation Area and notably, the 9,500-acre Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Located on the Mississippi Flyway, it was established as a waterfowl refuge and is designated as a US Important Bird Area that is visited by over 270 species each year, including the threatened Least Bittern, the Snowy Egret, Purple Finch, Scarlet Tanager and occasional American White Pelican.
The Cerulean Warbler, the fastest declining songbird species in North America, finds refuge in the hardwood forest of the Yankee Spring and Barry State Game Areas in southwestern Lower Peninsula. While that is the focus of the annual Cerulean Warbler Weekend, June 3-5 in Barry County, you can expect to see Henslow’s Sparrow, woodpeckers, Louisiana Waterthrush and 70 other species on the weekend’s guided tours, walks and even a paddle outing on Glass Creek.
Each spring the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler returns to the jack pine areas of Michigan from its winter home in the Bahamas. The cheery, yellow-breasted songbird is the reason for the annual Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Festival in Roscommon. This year’s “Celebration of Nature” is set for Saturday, May 21 and includes guided bus trips to view the featured bird as well as many other species in the area. The program includes wildlife presentations, a nature-themed arts & crafts show, music and activities for the kids.
“A Unique Birding Festival with a Conservation Theme” debuts June 1-5 in the Little Finger region. The Leelanau Peninsula BirdFest offers presentations, field trips and a F.U.N. (Families United in Nature) excursion to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore to introduce the activity to new birders. Highlights include “Birding by Tallship” aboard a two-masted schooner and a pontoon boat trip on the Cedar River.