Michigan, the Great Lakes State, hosts some premier Midwest birding hotspots and this tour was created to reap the benefits of spring migration. Our trip tallied an impressive 193 species and even 29 species of warblers!
We kicked things off in Berrien County which sits in the southwestern corner of the state. It's home to big dunes, beautiful sand beaches, lighthouses, and lots of birds! We targeted regional specialties that we weren't going to see elsewhere. Some of the special warblers here included Cerulean, Yellow-throated, Hooded, and Prairie. Meanwhile, we snagged several other prized trip birds like Black-billed Cuckoo, Dickcissel, Western Meadowlark, and Yellow-breasted Chat.
Moving to the northern half of the Lower Peninsula, the star of the show was surely the Kirtland's Warbler. Near Grayling, we encountered this rare regional specialty in flying colors. Getting scope views of this once-endangered warbler is bound to be a lasting memory! And never forget the territorial sapsucker just down the road. The Camp Baldy signs sure resonated pretty well!
The Upper Peninsula, which we accessed via the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge, has a very different feel from the rest of the state. We crossed over and found ourselves in mostly conifer forests interspersed with open fields. It was in one of those fields that we scored Sharp-tailed Grouse! We enjoyed Upland Sandpiper, Clay-colored Sparrow, and Bobolink at Munuscong Potholes, and then the walk along the Munuscong River yielded a number of marsh specialties like Marsh Wren, Black Tern, and rails like Sora and Virginia Rail. The birding during the next couple days was especially productive for boreal specialties. First, we were fortunate to know right where to go to enjoy the rare Black-backed Woodpecker! We all had great looks as it perched above us... until the bugs chased us out. And to top it off, our lake-view rooms in Paradise really were a great way to experience Whitefish Bay.
Tawas Point, our next destination, was busy with some birds and an impressive hatch of sand flies. Still, we caught up with some great things including an unexpected Little Gull! The trail was busy with grosbeaks, buntings, flycatchers, vireos, and warblers. We even found a Prothonotary Warbler there which was notable. That night we ventured out in hopes of some nightbirds and we were rewarded with an Eastern Whip-poor-will which we actually got to see!
I want to thank all of you for joining me on some exploration of Michigan! I hope you made fond memories of the special birds, the unique geography, the many plants and animals, and some of the grandeur of the Great Lakes. And of course, thanks to Karen for her work in prepping this tour.
Until another time, travel safe and be well,
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
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
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis) [N]
Common, seen every day.
MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)
This introduced species has been established in the Great Lakes for many years now. We saw them at Pointe LaBarbe and Nayanquing Point.
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator)
This impressive species of swan has been slowly recovering in Michigan and it now can be seen in much of the state, although still never abundant. We tallied them from Muskegon Wastewater and Houghton Lake.
WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)
This attractive duck wasn't particularly common, being spotted only at Tawas Point and Nayanquing Point.
BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)
This dabbler was tallied from Houghton Lake and Munuscong.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
Muskegon and Houghton Lake were the only two spots we tallied this distinctive dabbling duck.
GADWALL (Mareca strepera)
We encountered a few of these at Muskegon Wastewater and nowhere else.
AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)
The sewage ponds in Houghton Lake had a few as did Pointe LaBarbe.
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
This familiar duck was common in wet habitats throughout the trip.
AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (Anas rubripes)
A duo of these were seen near Pointe LaBarbe.
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (Anas crecca)
Our only sighting was of a pair at the sewage ponds in Houghton Lake.
REDHEAD (Aythya americana)
This attractive Aythya species was seen from all our main waterfowl spots like Muskegon and Houghton Lake.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
A pair was seen on the ponds at Houghton Lake.
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
This diver was fairly common at the waterbird spots we visited.
BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)
We found a trio of these tiny ducks at Muskegon.
COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)
Only a couple were seen, at Pointe LaBarbe.
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)
We saw a family-group distantly from a bluff near Tawas City.
COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)
Tallied from Whitefish Point, Pointe LaBarbe, and Tawas Point.
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator)
Like the previous species, these were seen at Whitefish Point and Pointe LaBarbe.
RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)
This handsome little duck was seen a couple of times including at Muskegon Wastewater and Houghton Lake.
WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)
Always distinctive and usually easy to spot! We tallied them a couple of days at various spots.
SHARP-TAILED GROUSE (Tympanuchus phasianellus)
This was a great species to pick up on this trip! Most people don't associate northern Michigan with Sharp-tailed Grouse but they are present! We found more than a dozen still hanging around a lek between the bridge and Munuscong.
SPRUCE GROUSE (Canachites canadensis)
What a tricky and hard-to-predict denizen of the far northern coniferous forests in Michigan. We looked and looked but it evaded us. That is, until a couple of us went out right at dawn and managed to find one! Whew. The gorgeous male gave us a great show, including scope views, near the Shelldrake area.
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]
A couple were seen along a roadside near the Allegan State Game Area.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
This small, common grebe was found a couple of times including at Tawas Point and Munuscong.
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)
A grebe in molt was seen at Muskegon Wastewater and it turned out to be this scarce species.
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
Common in urban areas.
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) [I]
Although this introduced species has now spread throughout much of the US, it's still surprisingly rare anywhere in Michigan. One of the only spots to hope to see some is in the town of Three Oaks which, as it happens, is where we had our first dinner.
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
Not uncommon, although never abundant.
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)
This is a late-arriving summer resident and our tour timed it perfectly. Our first one was along Ray Road along with the Black-billed. In fact, both were perched in the same view for a short time! We later saw another Yellow-billed along the Kalamazoo River at the Prothonotary spot.
BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)
What a way to start a tour! We found one of these along Ray Road on our first morning and what a show it gave. We saw another near Grayling and that one gave us good looks too.
COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)
About ten were seen at Whitefish Point during one of our evenings there.
EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus vociferus)
Success! It took a little work but we eventually found this nocturnal, forest bird during a night outing near Tuttle Marsh.
CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)
Fairly common throughout our trip.
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
A few were seen at various spots like Tawas Point. This is the only hummingbird species normally found in Michigan.
VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)
Not only did we get to hear several at Munuscong, we even got to see one! It's always a treat when we get eyeballs on rails.
SORA (Porzana carolina)
Like the previous species, one of these cute little rails popped out of the cattails at Munuscong and we eventually got good views of it.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
We had lovely looks at this relatively-scarce marsh bird at Nayanquing on our final morning.
AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)
Not very common for us; the only sightings came from Muskegon and Munuscong.
SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)
Such a fun species to be around! We saw bunches of these, starting in Allegan and then especially in the Upper Peninsula, where we'd see them along roadsides and in fields.
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)
We found one of these handsome plovers at Tawas Point but that was our only sighting.
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)
A few of these small, single-banded plovers were still migrating north and we saw a couple in Berrien County, Muskegon, and Tawas Point.
PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)
This recovering species was seen at Whitefish Point where they've been nesting in recent years. The population in the Great Lakes had plummeted dangerously close to extirpation before protection and management allowed their slow recovery.
KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)
Common, tallied most days.
UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)
This grassland specialist has become much more uncommon in Michigan in recent years due to habitat loss. Thankfully, we had a great experience with them multiple times. Along Goose Creek Road we found a pair right next to the van providing great photo ops. We saw multiples at Munuscong Potholes as well during our brief visit.
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
Both Muskegon Wastewater and Tawas Point hosted this attractive shorebird.
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
I was surprised to see so many of these at Muskegon Wastewater. We tallied about 30 of these shorebirds in a flock towards the end of our visit there.
DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)
This black-bellied shorebird was fairly common for us and we saw them at least 5-6 times.
LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)
It was getting late to have these still around and our only sighting was at Muskegon Wastewater where we saw a pair.
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)
It was fun seeing two of these long-winged sandpipers with the Sanderlings at Muskegon Wastewater. This species is a spring-only migrant in Michigan; they're very rare in fall.
PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)
A singleton was scoped at the sewage ponds in Houghton Lake.
SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla)
Seen at least three different times at the various sewage ponds and beaches.
AMERICAN WOODCOCK (Scolopax minor)
It was rather quirky but we actually managed to see this odd shorebird by our hotel in New Buffalo! A few were still doing their spring display flights which we got to hear.
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
This tail-bobbing species was tallied at Pointe LaBarbe and Tawas Point.
SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)
One solitary bird was seen in rural Berrien County as we were looking for the Western Meadowlark.
WILLET (WESTERN) (Tringa semipalmata inornata)
We spotted this large shorebird after it had flushed from the marshes at Munuscong. It had the distinctive and bold black-and-white underwing patterning and we even got to hear it. This is a notable bird anytime in Michigan and so this was an unexpected treat.
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)
Only one was seen at Pointe LaBarbe.
BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)
We saw this small gull several times and many of them were starting to look very spiffy with their black hoods.
LITTLE GULL (Hydrocoloeus minutus)
Wow, this is a rare bird anywhere, anytime in Michigan! We got lucky and saw a youngster at Tawas Point both of the days we birded there. We got to study the fieldmarks as a group which was a good way to go over plumages of similar gulls.
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis) [N]
HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus) [N]
Common, seen most days.
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
This large and sturdy tern was downright common at Tiscornia in Berrien County. We counted more than 30 still, which was a great tally for this time of the year.
BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)
This sleek and beautiful tern was always a pleasure to watch. We encountered more than 20 at the Munuscong River mouth.
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
Despite the name, these were never actually common! We saw them at Pointe LaBarbe and Tawas Point and that was it.
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)
This classic bird of the north was surprisingly hard to find this trip. We saw them distantly from Point Iroquois Lighthouse and again at Whitefish Point.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum) [N]
Fairly common around most bodies of water. We saw hundreds nesting at Pointe LaBarbe as well.
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
It was a treat seeing six of these black-and-white behemoths in flight from the levee along the Munuscong River.
AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus)
This secretive heron was seen just in the nick of time, at Nayanquing on our final morning.
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
Fairly common in wet habitats.
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
Seen at both Tawas Point and Nayanquing.
GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)
Relatively hard to find on this trip. Our only one was flying at Floral Lane at Warren Dunes on our first morning.
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Common throughout the trip.
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [N]
The Houghton Lake Flooding was a great place for these raptors and we saw multiple pairs nesting on the platforms made for them.
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)
One of these open-country raptors was seen in the UP near where we were watching the Sharp-tailed Grouse.
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Not particularly uncommon, tallied on about half our days.
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)
Although they're a breeder in Michigan, they become hard to find once they settle into their territories. We did have great looks at one on a power line near the Upland Sandpiper spot.
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
Not particularly common for us, we just had scattered sightings of singletons.
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (Buteo lagopus)
It's unusual for this wintering species to linger so long into the late-spring. Still, we had nice looks along 23-Mile Road in the UP.
NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL (Aegolius acadicus)
Wow, this was a special treat to be able to witness! The owl banders with Michigan Audubon had caught one of these and brought it back to show all of us. This species breeds locally but is also a fairly common migrant and the long-term study there has shown the importance of this banding site. More juvenile saw-whets are banded there than anywhere else. A big thanks to Chris & Nova.
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
This fish-eater was seen only twice. Once at Tawas Point and again at Nayanquing.
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)
I wouldn't have predicted this species would become so popular on this trip! It all started when along Staley Lake Road, near Grayling, we found a male. To defend its territory, though, it found various metal signs and started drumming away. It was LOUD! I'm sure this bird is very good at defending it from other males!
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
We found one at Tawas Point during our full morning there.
RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)
Tallied on about half our days, this familiar woodpecker was seen only in the Lower Peninsula.
BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER (Picoides arcticus)
Wow, this is a rare specialty of the Upper Peninsula and one I didn't expect to have a real chance at. However, there was a male that became pretty reliable on Farm Truck Trail west of Paradise. Before the bugs pushed us out, we all had great looks as it perched right above us.
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)
This small woodpecker was surprisingly spotted only twice.
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)
One of these medium-sized woodpeckers was at Tawas Point during our afternoon visit.
PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)
We encountered this impressive species at least 4-5 times, mostly in SW Michigan but then again at Munuscong.
NORTHERN FLICKER (YELLOW-SHAFTED) (Colaptes auratus auratus)
Found along Stimpson Road and Staley Lake Road.
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
One of these small falcons was hunting along the power lines near the Sharp-tailed Grouse spot.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
This uncommon falcon was seen in Berrien County and then again at Tawas Point.
OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER (Contopus cooperi)
This is a late-arriving migrant and local breeder. The timing of our tour was perfect for these and we chanced into them in Warren Dunes and again at Tawas Point. Note that these are in the same genus as wood-pewees.
EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)
Fairly common in most forested habitats.
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris)
This Empid nests fairly far north and so we encountered them near Whitefish Point including some along the Spruce Grouse road.
ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)
Heard and then seen along Floral Lane at Warren Dunes State Park.
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)
This is a breeding species through much of Michigan, and especially up north, and so we encountered quite a few along our route.
WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax traillii)
This sister species to the Alder is also a breeding species in Michigan but mostly in the southern parts of the state. We found them near New Buffalo and again at Tawas Point.
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)
We found a little pocket of these at Whitefish Point one afternoon which allowed us to get nice looks and photos which confirmed the ID.
EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)
These friendly flycatchers looked to be nesting under the bridge along Lakeside Road on our first morning.
GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus crinitus)
Although heard more often than seen, this big flycatcher wasn't particularly uncommon and we tallied several.
EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)
The white tip to the tail is an easy way to ID these flycatchers from afar. They were very common throughout our trip, especially in open habitats.
YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)
Within Michigan, this is a southern species and one we encountered only a couple of times in the Lower Peninsula.
WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)
Rather common throughout our trip. The up-and-down warbling song was a familiar sound by the end of the trip.
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)
Common in forested habitats throughout.
BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)
This loud and raucous species is a familiar sight to many in the Eastern US. For us, it was a common migrant and there were some impressive numbers swirling overhead near Vermilion Road and Whitefish Point.
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Common throughout Michigan.
FISH CROW (Corvus ossifragus) [*]
This is a very rare species anywhere in Michigan but they have started to nest at a couple of spots near New Buffalo. We were birding near Lakeside Road when we heard a couple calling down the road.
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
Common, especially once we got north of Allegan.
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)
Quite a group of these familiar feeder birds had amassed at Whitefish Point, we easily had a dozen moving through the Jack Pines.
TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)
Mostly seen in southern Michigan. For us, we had them twice at Warren Dunes State Park but none after that.
NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)
Our only encounter with this dull-colored swallow was a trio at Muskegon Wastewater.
PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)
This is a big and glossy swallow, and one we found just a few times mostly at Tawas Point.
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor) [N]
Fairly common on our route.
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
This is another familiar swallow that we saw a number of times.
CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) [N]
These were attending their mud nests under the M-89 bridge over the Kalamazoo River.
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
Funnily enough, we added this cute nuthatch to our triplist while we were eating dinner at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.
WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)
Fairly common during our time in the Lower Peninsula.
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)
This small, cryptic species was along Staley Lake Road near the sapsucker spot.
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)
Tallied on a majority of our days at spots like Whitefish Point, Tawas Point, and Pointe LaBarbe.
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
A common breeding species through much of Michigan. We heard and saw several including at Tawas Point.
SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)
We still needed this skulker on our last day and so we stopped en route back to Grand Rapids. We found a great one that gave us all superb looks. A great final bird of the trip!
MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)
Common in the cattails along the Munuscong River levee.
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Common in urban areas.
GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)
It seemed as if most of the catbird migration had stopped and our only ones were local breeders.
BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)
This is another fairly common breeding species in Michigan. We saw them at Tawas Point and at the Kirtland's spot.
EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)
Seen at Warren Dunes and Sarett Nature Center.
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)
We had only one encounter with this breeding species near the Spruce Grouse road.
WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)
This thrush is a beautiful songster and we got to enjoy the entire experience in the lush forests of Warren Dunes State Park. It's surprising how difficult they can be to spot sometimes!
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
We encountered these sleek, crested birds quite a few times throughout our trip. At Tawas Point, the waxwing flock numbered close to 100.
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Found in urban areas.
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus)
We got this species right off the bat on our first evening together in Three Oaks.
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)
It's hard to predict what this species will do from year-to-year. Lucky for us, they were around Whitefish Point this year and we had some briefly along the Spruce Grouse Road.
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis)
Not a ton of sightings of this common finch but we certainly had them at the Allegan SGA.
GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)
This tiny, often-secretive sparrow was one of our targets at the Allegan State Game Area and sure enough, we ended up having tremendous views of one singing out in the open.
CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)
Fairly common and a familiar songster through much of Michigan.
CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)
A relative of the Chipping Sparrow, it shares the same size and shape of other Spizellas. For us, we had our best luck at the Munuscong Potholes where one was singing along the roadside.
FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)
This pink-billed sparrow was fairly common in places like Warren Dunes, Allegan, and around Tawas Point.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (SLATE-COLORED) (Junco hyemalis carolinensis)
Surprisingly sparse, the only encounter was along the Spruce Grouse road.
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
We were birding our way down the Spruce Grouse trail when we spotted one of these feeding along the edge. It didn't appear afraid of us at all!
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Only one was tallied and that was at the Munuscong River campground as we approached.
VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)
We had nice looks at this open-country sparrow along Staley Lake Road near Grayling. It's the white eyering and white outer tail feathers that give it away.
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
Pretty common in open country like Munuscong Potholes and near the Sharp-tailed Grouse lek.
HENSLOW'S SPARROW (Centronyx henslowii)
This is an uncommon and declining species through much of the Midwest. For us, it was a main target when we visited the Allegan SGA. We found a good, weedy field and found that there were indeed Henslow's there! Although it was visible and singing, it stayed pretty low.
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
Common throughout our trip.
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii) [*]
Our only encounter was a singing bird along Staley Lake Road near Grayling. Unfortunately it stayed out of view though.
SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)
Our first one was at the Windmill Park in Holland but we found more at Munuscong Potholes and along the nearby river.
EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Our best encounters of this striking ground-dweller were from Floral Lane at Warren Dunes State Park.
YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (Icteria virens)
This is an excellent bird to get on this trip! We were tracking them down below Sarett Nature Center but were eventually pushed out by an impending thunderstorm.
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)
Our final morning we had time to swing into Nayanquing Point SWA where we had distant scope views of this species. Nayanquing is one of just a couple spots that they breed at in Michigan.
BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)
What a fascinating and distinctive member of the Blackbird family! This is a grassland species and we found them at Allegan SGA, Munuscong Potholes, and our Sedge Wren spot.
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta) [*]
This is a rare bird anywhere in Michigan and so we followed up a lead and found it in Berrien County. Trouble was, despite some serious effort, we never could actually *see* the thing! A neat record, albeit a head-scratcher.
EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)
Found in grasslands like at Allegan and Muskegon. Their sweet, loud song is a distinctive giveaway.
ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)
We tallied at least four of these small orioles at Tawas Point State Park. The orange of the males is more of a burnt orange compared to the bright orange of the Baltimore Oriole.
BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)
This gorgeous black-and-orange summer resident was pretty common throughout the tour, especially in the Lower Peninsula.
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Common throughout the trip.
BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD (Molothrus ater)
Both Warren Dunes and Tawas Point hosted this common species.
BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
Although these are common out west, in Michigan they're quite local and rarely common. We stopped at a special spot near Gaylord and added this glossy black species to our triplist.
COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)
Common through much of the trip.
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
This warbler gives its loud, classic "teacher teacher teacher!" song through most of the forests in Michigan. Our first one was at the Swan Creek crossing in the Allegan SGA.
GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)
This is such an attractive warbler and, lucky for us, we had a reliable spot along Stimpson Road where we got to enjoy looks for many minutes.
BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)
This warbler, which sometimes hybridizes with the previous species, was seen a couple of times at the Allegan State Game Area. The song sounds like a buzzy inhale and exhale. "Beee buzzzz"
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
This unique warbler creeps around on branches like a nuthatch! We saw several including at Warren Dunes and Whitefish Point.
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)
This beautiful warbler was our target at the M-89 bridge over the Kalamazoo River. Although we saw that one, we went on to find another singing bird at Tawas Point! It was a notable find there and it's always nice to have repeated encounters.
TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)
Our first one was at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)
Our best look came from the same spot as the Kirtland's Warbler.
MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia)
The main migration hotspots hosted one or two of these sneaky warblers. First at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes and then again at Tawas Point.
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
Common in a variety of grassy and wet habitats.
HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)
What a beautiful bird, and a rather local one in Michigan. We caught up to one at the Swan Creek crossing in the Allegan SGA. It's a good thing because they're usually found only in SW Michigan on this trip.
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
This sharp black-and-orange warbler is a common migrant and breeder.
KIRTLAND'S WARBLER (Setophaga kirtlandii)
Success! This was arguably the most important target and we had smashing views near Grayling. Although they're not federally listed anymore, they're still highly managed and monitored. A lot of habitat management, as well as cowbird control, has allowed this species to rebound from the days when only 167 males were found in the 70s.
CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)
A nice male was with the small warbler flock at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse on our way north. However, they were pretty sparse overall.
CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)
This is an uncommon and local resident in southern Michigan. We wanted to make sure we got it right away in Berrien County and so we visited Wilson Road near New Buffalo and managed great looks at a singing male.
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
This tiny warbler was not very numerous for us, the best encounter was at Tawas Point.
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
One of these was seen briefly at Whitefish Point but it flitted away before everyone got on it.
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)
It was good to snag this uncommon warbler at Whitefish Point during our visit. It was a female-plumaged bird along the trails behind the bird observatory building.
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Setophaga fusca)
What a looker! We encountered numerous singletons at spots like the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, along the Munuscong River, and Pointe LaBarbe.
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
This abundant species was back on territories all over Michigan and we saw them most days.
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)
Surprisingly sparse on this trip, just a handful were spotted at various spots.
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
A lot of the warbler migration had started to slow and so the number of these was less that I expected. Only a small handful were tallied.
PALM WARBLER (WESTERN) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)
Whitefish Point was the only spot that we caught up to this tail-pumper.
PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)
We were rewarded some outstanding views of this species along Staley Lake Road, at the sapsucker spot. True to their name, they really do prefer pines.
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)
Fairly quiet on this trip, only a handful in northern Michigan.
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)
This warbler is a tough bird through much of Michigan. However, we started in Berrien County where this species is findable if you go to the right spots. We did just that on our first morning.
PRAIRIE WARBLER (Setophaga discolor)
One of the most local breeding warblers in Michigan, this species actually prefers the sandy, open habitats of the dunes in Berrien County. We strolled in at Warren Dunes and ended up finding one of the most cooperative Prairie Warblers I've ever seen.
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens)
A handsome species and a great songster. We found a number of these at breeding spots in the UP like Vermillion Road, Shelldrake, and Whitefish Point.
CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)
This "necklace"-wearing species can be tough to find when you want to! However, we had good luck and found one at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes and then again at Whitefish Point.
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)
This black-capped warbler turned out to be more common than I expected and we tallied them from at least 4 locations.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra)
This all-red Piranga is a rare bird anywhere in Michigan. By far, the best spot to hope for one is at Warren Dunes and that's exactly where we were when one of these showed up overhead! This is not a bird to ever expect in Michigan and so I felt like we were pretty fortunate.
SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)
This tanager is far more common and expected than the previous species. Still, they're a gorgeous combination of deep red and black. We had an especially nice one at Allegan SGA and again at the Lumberman's Monument.
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Fairly common throughout Michigan although especially in the Lower Peninsula. Sometimes we take this species for granted; it really is an interesting-looking member of the grosbeak family.
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
It's always a treat to see these grosbeaks and we lucked into several including at Warren Dunes, Grayling, and Tawas Point.
INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)
By this point of the migration, most of the buntings were back on territory which meant we had them a bunch of times!
DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)
This is a pretty rare bird anywhere in Michigan. Berrien County is a good place to look and we found them in some grassy fields along Ray Road right at the beginning of the trip.
VIRGINIA OPOSSUM (Didelphis virginianus)
Seen the first two days of the trip.
EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Common, seen most days.
PLAIN EASTERN CHIPMUNK (Tamias striatus)
Common in woods and forests.
EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)
This gray-tailed tree squirrel was fairly common and tallied several times at various stops throughout the trip.
FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)
Seen several times but generally less often than the previous species.
RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Common during our time in the UP around Whitefish Point.
MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica)
We had a cool encounter with this species as we walked out the Munuscong River levee.
NORTH AMERICAN PORCUPINE (Erethizon dorsatum)
The ones in the trees at Tawas Point were just... hanging around. Literally.
AMERICAN MINK (Neovison vison)
We had an amazing encounter with this hard-to-find predator. We were hiking at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes State Park when we caught sight of one of these running on the ground near the water. And then it came back. We watched as it took this path repeatedly, it was relocating its young to a new den! We could see it carrying small mink-colored young in its mouth.
WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)
Common, tallied daily.
Totals for the tour: 193 bird taxa and 10 mammal taxa