A Field Guides Birding Tours Report

Michigan 2022

May 14-22, 2022 with Cory Gregory guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Piping Plovers that breed in the Great Lakes have been some of the most endangered shorebirds in the US. At one point, their population crashed to only 17 pairs. Since then, recovery efforts and management have helped bring back the numbers of this soft-spoken shorebird. Our group encountered several at Whitefish Point, now considered an important breeding location. Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

Michigan has a lot to offer in spring migration and our tour really highlighted that. Whether it was the 35 (!) species of warblers we tallied, or the boreal forests hosting Spruce Grouse and Black-backed Woodpecker, or the Kirtland's Warblers teed up point blank, or any of the migration hotspots we visited, there was always something to look for. I'm so pleased that we had a proper Michigan experience; lighthouses dotted the lakeshores of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and Lake Huron, the Mackinac Bridge towered over the straits, and the always-quirky diners served plate-sized pancakes! It was a great combination of good people, Midwest scenery, interesting plants, and of course a great variety of birds numbering more than 200 species. That's what birding Michigan is all about!

After years of COVID-related delays in getting this tour up-and-running, we finally had a clear path in 2022! We gathered up in Grand Rapids and then headed to Berrien County tallying southern specialties like Summer Tanager, Kentucky and Yellow-throated warblers, Dickcissel, and of course Black-billed Cuckoo. The dunes that towered over the Lake Michigan shoreline were still host to nesting Prairie Warblers. The Allegan area gave us the local Henslow's Sparrow, the beautiful Cerulean and Blue-winged warblers, and Muskegon provided lots of ducks, grebes, and some good shorebirds like Upland Sandpiper.

Northern Michigan is a special place. Black Spruce bogs host hard-to-find grouse and woodpeckers, the beaches of Lake Superior in constant combat with the rocks and the wind, and there is mile after mile of unspoiled forests. With our beachside hotel rooms in the town of Paradise, we could fall asleep to the sound of waves. Whitefish Point and the neighboring Shipwreck Museum are at the terminus of the road, nearby forests had Red Crossbills, and we can't forget about a once-in-a-lifetime view of Spruce Grouse!

One of the premier migration hotspots in all of the Midwest is Tawas Point State Park. We spent two nights in Tawas City, right at the peak migration which gave us chances to visit this well-known area. The stars aligned, the winds were right, and we were there to witness some truly phenomenal migration. Along the path were dozens and dozens of grosbeaks, buntings, orioles, flycatchers, and warblers. Species like the uncommon Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, and Indigo Buntings lined the trail. Icing on the cake was a young Little Gull! Last but not least, ending a tour with a Connecticut Warbler singing and walking in-and-out of view was top notch!

I'm so glad that timing worked out in our favor on this trip and I hope you made some fond memories along the way! Many thanks to Karen who worked on logistics, it wouldn't be possible without her hard work. And of course, I really want to thank all of you for coming along to experience some of the quiet grandeur that the Great Lakes has to offer.

Until another time, enjoy those Blackburnian Warblers, be well, and good birding.

—Cory (aka The Curlew)

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [N]

Common and seen daily.

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]

This introduced species has been established in Michigan for decades now. We encountered them various times including offshore at Pointe LaBarbe.

TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator)

This large swan species was once common in Michigan before hunting pushed them out of the state. By the mid-1980s, they were extirpated. But since then, management has brought them back to Michigan where they're now becoming more widespread. We encountered them at Muskegon, Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds, and Tuttle Marsh.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

This attractive duck was spotted a couple of times on tour including along the Galien River and the Houghton Lake area.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Fairly common at spots with a lot of dabblers like Muskegon, Munuscong, and Tuttle Marsh.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

A few were tallied from Muskegon and Houghton Lake.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

A dozen or so were tallied at Muskegon Wastewater.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

This is another dabbler that we saw at Muskegon and Houghton Lake.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

Common, seen most tour days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another very interesting shorebird we encounter on this itinerary is the quirky American Woodcock. We had a stunning encounter at Whitefish Point when we found this individual in the rain. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.


One of these flushed out from the creek near Shelldrake Campground and we watched it fly out and over the lake.


Our only sighting of this small dabbling duck came at the end of the tour at Tawas Point.

CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)

A duo of these were lingering at Munuscong WMA at the end of the levee. It's quite uncommon to have them this late into the season.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

This diving duck was never common but we did tally them from Muskegon, Houghton Lake, and Munuscong.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

Only one gave us a quick look as we approached the Houghton Lake Flooding gazebo.

GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)

One of these was lingering at the Houghton Lake sewage ponds where it's considered rare this time of year.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

Fairly common on large bodies of water. Dozens were seen at Muskegon and Houghton Lake.

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (Melanitta deglandi)

A singleton flew by Whitefish Point during our visit to the beach.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Certainly one of the highlightss of the trip was when we encountered this stunning male Spruce Grouse during our time in the Upper Peninsula. To see this tricky species so well was such a treat that we all enjoyed! Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis)

It was a beautiful morning at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and scoping this flashy duck on the dead-calm water was a treat.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

One was seen and photographed at Muskegon Wastewater but that was the only one we encountered.

HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)

A female-type was present at the ponds at Houghton Lake.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

Seen a couple of times from Whitefish Point.


Present at Whitefish Point as well as the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

More than 200 of these "bluebills" were seen at the Muskegon Wastewater ponds where they were looking pretty sharp.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Half a dozen of these big guys were seen in the woods shortly after seeing Kirtland's Warblers.

RUFFED GROUSE (Bonasa umbellus)

Good spotting! We backed up and managed to find one of these that had flushed up into a tree as we drove towards Paradise at dusk. We later saw another crossing the road near Whitefish Point.

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We didn't just get a quick look at the Spruce Grouse, we had a point-blank scope view and we all watched it for as long as we wanted! What a shocking and thrilling lifer! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

SHARP-TAILED GROUSE (Tympanuchus phasianellus)

It was a special treat to see this species! They were still hanging out near a couple of the leks in the UP between the bridge and Munuscong.

SPRUCE GROUSE (Canachites canadensis)

None of the other species we saw is so synonymous with ancient, moss-ladened spruce forest quite like this one! In remote woods, where nothing seems to be moving, these lurk, quietly keeping watch. We were incredibly lucky to cross paths with this beautiful grouse near Shelldrake Lake. But we didn't just get a quick look. No, we had an amazing, long look, and all at close range. Breathtaking, and a wonderful memory.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Common but sneaky, this little grebe showed up up Houghton Lake, Tuttle Marsh, and Tawas Point SP.

HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus)

One of these, sporting some nice plumage, was at the Houghton Lake sewage ponds.

RED-NECKED GREBE (Podiceps grisegena)

Only one of these was tallied; most of them had already passed through northern Michigan. Our one and only was at the Whitefish Point harbor.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common in urban areas.

EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]

Although this introduced species now spans coast-to-coast, it's still quite rare in Michigan and other areas farther north. We encountered one of the continuing birds after our first dinner in the town of Three Oaks.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Common, seen daily.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

This was a phenomenal experience with this tricky, uncommon species. Our first full morning, on Ray Road near Three Oaks, one of these spontaneously started singing! We eventually got stunning views and, later, Doug picked this as one of his Top 3 from the trip.

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Our tour got off to a great start when on our first morning, we encountered this surprise visit by a Black-billed Cuckoo! This species, although probably widespread throughout Michigan, is always a species that sneaks under the radar. Not this one though! Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

Although never common, this species was tallied at Whitefish Point where a few flew overhead at dusk.

EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus vociferus)

It wasn't until late in the trip that we finally caught up to this hard-to-see nocturnal species. Along a rural, forested road near Tuttle Marsh, these started singing after dusk and we eventually got to see one briefly in the spotlight.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

Fairly common, usually around towns.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

Our only expected hummingbird in the Midwest, these were seen several times including at Tawas Point and Warren Dunes.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola) [*]

Heard from Munuscong Marsh WMA but it stayed hidden in the cattails.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

One was heard in the Allegan SGA but we later spied one surreptitiously weaving through the cattails at Munuscong Marsh.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

The group heard this marsh-bird calling at the end of the levee at Munuscong Marsh. We later had a quick glimpse as it swam into view in the back of the marsh.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Just a pair were seen at Munuscong Marsh WMA.

Gruidae (Cranes)

SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)

A fun, distinctive, but primitive species, these were tallied nearly every day of tour but they were especially common in the UP where we saw them along random roadsides and fields.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The "Mighty Mac" connects the lower peninsula to the northern peninsula of Michigan and at almost 5 miles long, it's one of the world's longests suspension birdges. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

Our only sighting came from Pointe LaBarbe on our way back south.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

One of these was present on the beach at Whitefish Point but that was our only sighting of this migrant.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

This is a rare but recovering species that nests along the sandy shores in the Great Lakes. Long ago, there were 800+ pairs in the Great Lakes but that number dropped to 13 by 1990. Since then, they've slowly been on the rebound. Now, there are 70+ pairs. We were fortunate to see some of the breeding plovers that have set up camp at Whitefish Point.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Common and widespread.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)

On the day that we drove from South Haven up to Gaylord, we had this grassland specialist a couple of times. First, we had a nice encounter in the grassy cells below Muskegon Wastewater, then we had another farther north not far from Gaylord.

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

The flock of four we had out at the tip of Tawas Point was notable. This curlew is never common in Michigan.

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

We saw a duo working the shoreline at Tawas Point. They were looking pretty sharp on their way north to breed.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

Although abundant on the ocean coasts, this species is far less abundant in the middle of the country. Still, Michigan is a good place to see them and we ended up with several encounters at places like Whitefish Point, Tawas Point, and even at the Houghton Lake sewage ponds.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

Fairly common, these black-bellied shorebirds were spotted at Tawas Point, Whitefish Point, and Houghton Lake.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Our trip amassed an incredible triplist when it came to warblers. One of the 35 species of warblers we encountered was the scarce Prairie Warbler that nests in the dunes along Lake Michigana. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Most of these tiny shorebirds had already left Michigan but we still caught up to them at the Houghton Lake Flooding and Tawas Point.

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

Only one of these was spotted this trip, one feeding alongside the gulls at Pointe LaBarbe.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK (Scolopax minor)

A fascinating, crepuscular shorebird that was high on our target list. Although the vast majority of them had finished displaying by the time of our visit, we put in the time and were finally rewarded by an amazing encounter at Whitefish Point. It stood frozen as the rain beaded up and rolled off its back. Andrew picked this as one of his favorites, and for good reason.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata) [*]

Our only encounter with this shorebird was a winnowing bird we heard at the Shelldrake Campground.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Fairly common, seen on at least four of our days including tons at Muskegon Wastewater.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

At least three of these lanky shorebirds were seen at the Houghton Lake sewage ponds.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

About 20 or so were tallied on our trip including 12+ from the Houghton Lake sewage ponds.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

Rather common at Houghton Lake and again at Tawas Point. Some of them were looking pretty snazzy with their full black hoods.

LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)

Wow, this was an unexpected and rare treat for us! A young Little Gull was mixed in with the large gull and tern flock on the island at the tip of Tawas Point. We eventually were able to scope it and go over all the fieldmarks together as a group.

Field Guides Birding Tours
What better place to grab a quick group photo than next to a sign specifically about birders! Guide Cory Gregory took this photo in Houghton Lake.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)

Common, tallied most days.

HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus)

Common and widespread.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Our best looks at this large tern species came from Munuscong WMA and Tawas Point.

BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)

Our first looks at this beautiful and sleek tern came from the Houghton Lake Flooding. We would later see four more at Tuttle Marsh near Tawas.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

Common at Tawas Point.

Gaviidae (Loons)

COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)

Only one was spotted at Whitefish Point. Most had already migrated north by that point in the season.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum)

Common and widespread.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Seeing the pair of pelicans soaring over Whitefish Point was notable; they're not a common or expected species there.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)

Bitterns are such fascinating herons. We got lucky and spotted this cryptic species in a ditch en route to Munuscong, and then we had another flyover there.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the many perks of visiting Michigan during spring migration is the many species of thrushes we encounter. We saw Veery, Wood, Hermit, and Gray-cheeked. Of course, we saw lots of Swainson's Thrushes as well including this one at Warren Dunes State Park. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Surprisingly sparse, only a couple were seen at Munuscong Marsh WMA.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

A singleton was spotted at Pointe LaBarbe near the Mackinac Straits.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

We chanced into a number of these small herons, about four, all at once at Tawas Point.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Common and widespread.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [N]

This fish-eating raptor was fairly common at the Houghton Lake Flooding. In fact, all the nesting platforms there looked to be occupied.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A vocal pair were seen swooping over the open wetlands at Tuttle Marsh near Tawas.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

A couple were tallied from Whitefish Point.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

At least a couple of this distinctive species were seen at spots like Houghton Lake Flooding and Whitefish Point.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

Not a common species in most of Michigan, this attractive Buteo was tallied only on our first day in Berrien County.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Seen only a couple of times including at the Allegan State Game Area and again near Munuscong.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We knew right where to go to snag this boreal specialist, the hard-to-find Black-backed Woodpecker! Although they're very difficult to find in the U.P., the forests near Paradise can occasionally have a couple. Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus)

This beautiful hawk is a wintering species in Michigan but is rarely abundant. We bumped into a couple of these on our first day in the UP which was notable because most of them should have migrated north already.

Strigidae (Owls)

NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL (Aegolius acadicus)

What an amazing treat! During our time at Whitefish Point, we were able to meet the official owl banders working for Michigan Audubon and they managed to catch one of these tiny owls and then showed it to us. This is certainly not an experience many birders get to experience!

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Seen here and there, mostly as we would be driving by bodies of water. We spent a little bit more time with one at Tawas Point towards the end of the tour.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

This attractive woodpecker was tallied right off the bat in Berrien County. We encountered a couple at Warren Dunes SP.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

Fairly common throughout the tour, at least in the Lower Peninsula.


This boreal specialist was a highlight of the trip and not a species I expected to get! We encountered one on Farm Truck Trail near Paradise on our first evening in the UP. Although the bugs eventually chased us out, we all ended up having great looks as it posed on an exposed snag.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

This tiny species was fairly common during the first half of our tour.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

The larger cousin to the previous species, this medium-sized woodpecker was seen a few times including at Stimpson Road and Aspen Park near Gaylord.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

It's always a treat to see this huge species. Our only encounter was one that flew by us on our very first morning in Berrien County.

NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus auratus)

Fairly common throughout.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Birding at Tawas Point was magical at moments, especially when we hit a peak morning migration event. Among the hundreds of songbirds around us, some Cedar Waxwings posed very nicely. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Not uncommon on the trip, seen several times.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

We had a calling adult at Point Iroquois Light Station and another couple at Tawas Point.

PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)

One of these big guys shot overhead while we were birding at Whitefish Point.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

A common flycatcher and we heard many. We had quite a number at Tawas Point where they were migrating through.

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris) [*]

Only a couple of folks got to hear it at Warren Dunes but there was one of these Empids giving its "lazy pewee" call.

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)

Seen and heard nicely at Warren Dunes near the Summer Tanager spot.

ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)

Our best encounter came from Stimpson Road near the straits where we were finally able to see one really well.

WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax traillii)

Although we encountered a couple, this flycatcher was seen best at Tawas Point near the lighthouse.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

Fairly common around Whitefish Point and Tawas Point.

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

A pair looked to be nesting under the Lakeside Road bridge in Berrien County on our first morning.

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Warblers nearly stole the show but who could blame them when we had so many to choose from! Participant Andrew Kenny got this brilliant shot of a Black-throated Green Warbler.


A common and noisy species throughout the trip.

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Quite a number of these migrants were present at Tawas Point one morning, easily 10+.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

This is a southern species, relatively, and we only encountered them a few times in the southern half of the lower peninsula.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

Tallied a few times including at Tawas Point.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

Our best look at this yellow-throated vireo came from Warren Dunes where a couple of these were mixed in with the big warbler flock.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Common at Tawas Point.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

An abundant songbird throughout much of Michigan.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

Common and nearly seen daily.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Common, tallied every day.

FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus)

We had a silent, flyby crow at Three Oaks Sewage Ponds and thankfully we were able to use Andrew's photos to confirm the primary feather configuration! This is a mega rarity anywhere in Michigan although they have started colonizing near Three Oaks.

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We had a productive walk out along the Munuscong River Mouth where we saw a variety of waterfowl and a slew of marsh birds. Included in that mix was this Marsh Wren that came to inspect us. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Common once we left southern Michigan.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

Common, seen daily.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Relatively a southern species in Michigan, the only encounters occurred in Berrien County.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

Our only sighting was one perched on the beach at Whitefish Point.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Seen only a few times at Muskegon and Tawas Point.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

Several dozen of these big swallows swirled around their nestboxes at Three Oaks on our first morning.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

Common and nearly tallied daily.

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

This small swallow was seen only at the Houghton Lake sewage ponds.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Fairly common throughout.

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The Cape May Warbler was a favorite of ours, especially these nicely-plumaged males. Participant Andrew Kenny got this photo from the very northern-most tip of the lower peninsula, just shy of the bridge.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota)

Our best looks came from Muskegon where they were nesting under a cement overhang. We also saw some nesting under bridges over the Kalamazoo River.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

Surprisingly quiet on tour, the only two encounters came from the forest near Whitefish Point.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

This cute little nuthatch was seen at both the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Shelldrake Campground.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

Seen occasionally during the first half of the tour including several at Aspen Park in Gaylord.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

This cryptic species is another we tallied at Aspen Park near Gaylord.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Seen just a couple times at Warren Dunes and again at Tawas Point.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Fairly common around Tawas Point and along the Kalamazoo River.

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)

We were able to get quick looks at this skulky species as we walked out the levee by the Munuscong River.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

At least a dozen of these were singing away in the cattail marsh along the Munuscong River levee.

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Without a doubt, one of the main draws of birding in Michigan is to get a glimpse of the once-endangered "Jack Pine Warbler". Not only did we get to see Kirtland's Warblers, our encounter was jaw-dropping. The successful recovery of this species has even allowed it to be removed from the Endangered Species List. Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus) [*]

Our only encounter was one we heard singing along Forest Lawn Road in Berrien County.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Abundant throughout.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

A common migrant, tallied most days. We especially saw a lot of them at Tawas Point where it seemed every bush had one.

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

A couple were seen at Tawas Point on both of our trips there.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

Warren Dunes and Tawas Point were the two spots we enjoyed this colorful species.

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)

A few were seen at Shelldrake Campground, Stimpson Road, and Tawas Point.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)

We had killer looks at a fairly-tame one from the boardwalk at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes State Park.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

Floral Lane in Warren Dunes was loaded with these; we tallied 15+ from that walk alone.

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Although it wasn't common for us, Black-throated Blue Warblers did make a couple of apperances including this bird that was singing at the tip of Tawas Point. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

Shelldrake Campground in the UP yielded one of these reddish-tailed thrushes.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

We only saw these on our first full day of birding including at spots like the Lakeside Road bridge and again at Floral Lane.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Abundant, tallied daily.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

More than a dozen of these gaudy fruit-eaters were seen at point-blank at Tawas Point during our visits there.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Common in urban areas.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

More than thirty were tallied at Whitefish Point where a flock roamed the rocky beaches there.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Half a dozen or so were spotted at Muskegon Wastewater.

PURPLE FINCH (Haemorhous purpureus)

Our only encounter was of a bird or two behind the gift shop at Whitefish Point.

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)

This species is very hard to predict in northern Michigan and so we were lucky to have a couple of encounters with them near Shelldrake in the UP.

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of the 35 species of warblers we racked up was the declining but beautiful Cerulean Warbler. Participant Andrew Kenny photographed this lovely male at the Allegan State Game Area.


Fairly common, seen on about half of our days.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)

This interesting little sparrow, although not a particularly gifted songster, was eventually spotted in the grasslands near Muskegon Wastewater.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

Fairly common.

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

After we finished getting our fill with the Kirtland's Warblers, we turned our attention to a couple of these sharp, little sparrows. They posed quite nicely for us!

FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)

A close relative of the two previous species, this pink-billed little guy was seen best at Warren Dunes out when we were looking for Prairie Warblers.

DARK-EYED JUNCO (SLATE-COLORED) (Junco hyemalis carolinensis)

Surprisingly sparse on this trip. We did put bins on one at Point Iroquois though.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

A duo of these sharply-plumaged sparrows put on a quick appearance at Whitefish Point as we birded the woods.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Our only sightings of this Zonotrichia came from northern parts of the state like Pointe LaBarbe and the Shelldrake area.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

We put a scope on one of these songsters near the Spruce Grouse spot. They like open areas, like fields, dunes, or, in this case, cleared forest barrens.

Field Guides Birding Tours
American Redstarts were abundant for us on our trip through Michigan. Still, common or not, the males are stunning birds! Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Common, tallied daily.

HENSLOW'S SPARROW (Centronyx henslowii)

One of our targets on this trip was to see this uncommon and local breeder. We connected with one at the Allegan State Game Area where we watched it sing from the top of a low bush. However, "song" is a bit too high of praise for its hiccup.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Fairly common, this classic sparrow was tallied most days.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

Only spotted a few times at places like Tawas Point. Although sneaky, this small sparrow is actually quite nicely patterned.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

Our best look came from Floral Lane at Warren Dunes when one was sighted from the flooded areas alongside the path.

EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Although heard more often than seen, we did manage to see a couple and it was tallied on more than half our days.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

This fascinating member of the blackbird family was seen a couple of times and their bully songs also heard. We tallied them from the Allegan SGA and also Tawas Point.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

We had some nice scope views of this denizen of open, grassy areas at the Allegan SGA.

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

Surprisingly sparse this trip, only one of this small oriole species was seen at Tawas Point.

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Another of the warblers, the Golden-winged Warbler, was voted by some to be in the Top 3 birds of the trip. This particular male in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula showed really well! Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

A beautiful, classic eastern species. We saw a couple of these orange and black orioles at Pointe LaBarbe and then gobs of them at Tawas Point.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Abundant, seen daily.


Seen at Three Oaks Sewage Ponds and then multiple times at Tawas Point.

BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

Although this is an abundant species farther west, in Michigan it's quite local and usually found around clearings in pines in the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. We found some at a reliable spot near the town of Elmira near Gaylord.

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

Abundant, tallied daily.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

This classic songster was heard often, giving the well-known and loud "teacher teacher teacher" phrases. Our best looks came from Floral Lane at Warren Dunes.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

Surprisingly quiet and hard-to-find. Our only encounter was a calling bird that zoomed by a couple of times at Swan Creek in the Allegan SGA.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Seen briefly from the boardwalk at Floral Lane, and then heard several times singing at Tuttle Marsh near Tawas.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

What a stunner! We had an amazing experience with one of these singing along Stimpson Road just after we crossed the bridge coming back south. Several folks including Doug and Marianne chose this as one of their top three.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Kirtland's Warbler deserves another photo! We had quick success with this species east of Grayling. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)

A singing bird was present at Swan Creek in the Allegan SGA and we had very nice looks as it did several circuits around us.


Shockingly hard to find! We encountered one at Pointe LaBarbe; I would have expected dozens and dozens.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

It took some work but we eventually had very nice looks at this beautiful warbler at the M-89 bridge over the Kalamazoo River.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

This is a common migrant that was seen a handful of times including at Shelldrake, Pointe LaBarbe, and Tawas Point.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

We picked up on only one this trip, a singleton at the Shelldrake Campground area.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

This is a sharp-looking warbler sporting a very nice and bold, white eyering. We encountered them a number of times at Aspen Park, Shelldrake, Stimpson Road, and Tawas Point.

CONNECTICUT WARBLER (Oporornis agilis)

Whew! What a saga. This is a rare and very hard-to-find migrant though Michigan, never one to actually expect. At first, only a few of us had fleeting looks at one at Tawas Point towards the end of the trip. But then on our final morning, the day we were to leave Tawas and drive to the airport, word from my friend Jason came in of a singing Connecticut from the Tawas Campground! We went there first thing and with patience, we ALL got looks at it and heard it singing too! This was a spectacular treat.

MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia)

At least five of these sneaky warblers were spotted at Floral Lane at Warren Dunes on our first full day which is a great count for any one place.

KENTUCKY WARBLER (Geothlypis formosa)

Our trip got off to a fantastic start when we chanced into the singing Kentucky along the boardwalk at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes! In fact, we even managed to see it a little. This is a rare species in Michigan and most years it doesn't breed anywhere in the state.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

Fairly common in wet and grassy areas. Tallied nearly every day.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

A southern warbler that comes up into Michigan at a few spots. For us, we encountered a couple along the trail at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes SP. This trail is a reliable place for this nesting species.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Common and widespread, this attractive warbler was seen most days.

KIRTLAND'S WARBLER (Setophaga kirtlandii)

Without a doubt, the single most-important target for us! We ventured to the Jack Pine flats east of Grayling and eventually struck gold. Not only did we get to hear and see a number of this rare and local warbler, we REALLY saw it. Point blank looks right along the road! What a treat, an experience we'll never forget. Several folks picked this as one of their Top 3 and for good reason.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Among the many splashes of colors at Tawas Point were the brilliant Indigo Buntings. Seeing many of these jewels at once, alongside grosbeaks, orioles, tanagers, and warblers is not a memory we'll soon forget. Photo by participant Andrew Kenny.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)

Although not abundant, this fancy warbler was indeed tallied a few times including at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Pointe LaBarbe.

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

This is a local and declining breeding warbler in southern Michigan and one I was keen to show everyone. We got to hear them first, from the Lakeside Road Bridge, and then we eventually saw them there and the following day at the Allegan Dam. What a beautiful shade of blue to see on a warbler!

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

Common, tallied most days. Good spots included Point Iroquois and Tawas Point.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

Our first encounter with this handsome little warbler came from Floral Lane at Warren Dunes SP. We went on to see several more at Tawas Point.

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)

This handsome warbler made us work for it more than most of the others. We eventually struck gold at Tawas Point when we found a couple feeding in the conifers.


Ahh, we tried and tried to get good looks at one... and then we arrived at Tawas Point where they were seemingly everywhere! By the end, it was "Oh, just another Blackburnian"!

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

One of the most common breeding warblers in Michigan.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

Fairly common.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Golden-winged Warbler at Stimpson Road, which was mentioned before, warrants another look and participant Doug Clarke got this amazing shot of it.

BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)

Tawas Point gave us half a dozen or so sightings of this attractive black-and-white warbler.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens cairnsi)

Not very common for us, the only sightings came from Pointe LaBarbe in the rain and then another singing bird at the tip of Tawas Point.

PALM WARBLER (WESTERN) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)

We had killer looks at this species from the Kirtland's Warbler spot. We even had scope views where we could see the tongue as it sang!

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

Aspen Park and Shelldrake were the only two spots with this pine-loving species.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)

Somewhat common throughout the trip but not abundant like they are early in the spring.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

This was a prized warbler for us. This species only breeds at a few spots in southern Michigan and so it was a target on our Berrien County day. We ended up seeing them pretty high up during our time at the Lakeside Bridge and then again along Forest Lawn Road.

PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)

A very local breeding warbler anywhere in Michigan. We walked out into the dunes at Warren Dunes and eventually found one of these sharp little dudes just in the nick of time. What a looker!


Not uncommon, but only seen a few times. Sometimes we heard these more often than we saw them.

CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)

This necklace-wearing warbler was first spotted at Floral Lane in Berrien County and then again at Tawas Point.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

Our best looks came from Tawas Point.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)

This is a rare bird anywhere in the state of Michigan. There hadn't been any sightings of these yet this spring but we fixed that when we found a singing male at Warren Dunes.

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)

Fairly common, this stunner was downright abundant at Tawas Point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here's another look at the male Spruce Grouse we found near Whitefish Point. He really didn't seem to mind us! In fact, at one point it hopped down off the branch and strutted for us. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Fairly common but only in the Lower Peninsula (they're rare in the UP!).

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

This attractive, mostly eastern species was fairly common for us throughout the trip. Our first sighting was of a beautiful male in the forest along Floral Lane.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

Common throughout the trip, and especially at Tawas Point where there were dozens of migrants lining the trail.

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

We had a good spot for these in mind for our first morning and they didn't disappoint. Ray Road in Berrien County had a number of these singing.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Seen a few times on the first half of the tour.


Not uncommon in forested areas.

WOODCHUCK (Marmota monax)

We saw one briefly as we drove by on our third tour day.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

Not quite as common as the following species but we did encounter this one a few times.

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

Fairly common, seen most days.

RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Fairly common, also tallied most days

BEAVER (Castor canadensis)

Tallied on our third day.

MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica)

We encountered one of these at Munuscong where we saw it swimming in the ditch along the levee.


Just hanging out in the trees along the trail at Tawas Point!

COYOTE (Canis latrans)

Seen on the day we crossed over into the UP.

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

We saw one of these alongside a road after dark near Whitefish Point.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Common, seen most days.


BLUE RACER (Coluber constrictor foxii)

This beautiful snake was seen in the dunes at Warren Dunes State Park. It was both impressive in size (it looked pretty long!) and speed once it decided it wanted to depart. Such an awesome snake, and a real treat to actually get to see.

Totals for the tour: 209 bird taxa and 12 mammal taxa