A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


May 9-17, 2023 with Cory Gregory guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
This spring itinerary nets us an impressive array of tanagers, grosbeaks, flycatchers, vireos, and of course warblers! This brilliant Scarlet Tanager posed briefly next to our picnic pavilion in southwest Michigan. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

The Great Lakes State, surrounded on almost all sides by water, is host to an incredible variety of habitats and, naturally, birds. We explored this Midwestern state from the southern hardwood swamps to the barren boreal forests, bogs, and everywhere in between. The result? A really fun and diverse trip!

It didn't take long for us to encounter an interesting species and one with an incredible display: American Woodcock. Right outside our very first hotel, these shorebirds were calling and displaying! We even managed to see one in the spotlight. The next day was busy, filled with birding the southwestern corner of the state. We added to our checklist with White-eyed Vireo, Henslow's Sparrow, and more than a dozen species of warblers including stunners like Prothonotary, Black-throated Green, a distant Yellow-throated, both waterthrushes, Northern Parulas, and of course the ubiquitous American Redstarts. We wrapped up the day in South Haven, where we had a quick look at the lighthouse and our first Great Lake, Lake Michigan.

Not far from Berrien County, just to the north, is the Allegan State Game Area, our first destination the next day. While the grassland portions yielded Henslow's, Grasshopper, and Field sparrows, the wooded units connected us with Blue-winged, Hooded, and Cerulean warblers! In the afternoon, we birded the expansive Muskegon Wastewater, the massive 11,000-acre collection of ponds, lagoons, and grasslands. We added ducks to our list such as Bufflehead, both Greater and Lesser Scaup, a variety of dabblers, and hundreds upon hundreds of Ruddy Ducks. We even connected with both Eared and Horned grebes in their breeding plumage. Shorebirds were well represented also, and we all saw Dunlin, White-rumped Sandpiper, and even some Wilson's Phalaropes. We closed out the day near Gaylord, where we saw the quirky Upland Sandpipers strolling through the roadside grass.

The Kirtland's Warbler, probably the most important target bird of the trip for us, danced through the Jack Pines the next morning near Grayling. We heard their low-pitched and loud songs echoing off the landscape while we watched multiple birds singing and defending their territory. What an excellent experience with one of our rarest warblers! Down near Houghton Lake, we added the sleek Black Tern to our list, watched nesting Osprey, some sneaky snipe, and added a new collection of ducks from the Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds. Nearby, Hartwick Pines had breeding Winter Wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Brown Creeper. Just be wary of the alarm system!

Finally, that next morning, we found ourselves at the northernmost tip of the Lower Peninsula. We scoped some Long-tailed Ducks loafing on the water, took some photos of the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, and even saw our first Cape May Warblers. After crossing the 5-mile bridge, we entered the grassland habitats of the eastern UP. It was here that we were enthralled by Sharp-tailed Grouse, Bobolink, Clay-colored Sparrow, and even a winnowing Wilson's Snipe overhead. Post-lunch in Sault St. Marie, we wound our way along Whitefish Bay, stopped at the Point Iroquois Lighthouse, and eventually found ourselves in Paradise. We capped off the day with a stunning male Black-backed Woodpecker and a nice dinner out at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Whitefish Point, where we spent the entire following day, is well-known for its waterbird migration, hawk migration, and songbirds. We sampled each of these, starting with a walk around Whitefish Point. We saw the nesting Piping Plovers point-blank, a few migrating scoters including some Surfs, and Common Loons. At the hawkwatch we watched Northern Harrier, Sharpies, Bald Eagle, and several hundred Broad-winged Hawks. Although the north winds kept the warbler diversity lower than normal, we still added some top-notch birds like a flock of 75 Evening Grosbeaks, Purple Finch, 100-200 Black-capped Chickadees, Pine Siskin, and even seven vagrant Eurasian Tree Sparrows! That afternoon we went to our secret Spruce Grouse spot and sure enough, we found some including a strutting male! Yes! That afternoon we took a stroll and watched the impressive Tahquamenon Falls, had dinner at the state park, and even found another Spruce Grouse on the drive back to town. Some of us, later that night, drove back up to Whitefish Point where we were lucky to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl that the researchers had captured, measured, and banded.

Then, sadly, it was time to say goodbye to the Upper Peninsula. We birded at Pointe LaBarbe right before crossing back over the Mackinac Bridge. A nearby road provided stunning looks at a territorial Golden-winged Warbler and also some Northern Waterthrushes. Lunch at the Hungry Hippie fueled our birding later that afternoon at Tuttle Marsh, where we added Trumpeter Swan, Pied-billed Grebe (finally!), and some snazzy Hooded Mergansers.

The entire next day was devoted to birding Tawas Point. Famous for its migration spectacle, the point really delivered for us (almost 80 species in 5 hrs)! The park was alive with buntings, grosbeaks, tanagers, sparrows, swallows, and of course warblers. Of the nearly 20 species of warblers we tallied that morning, highlights included a singing Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Wilson's, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Palm, Nashville, Tennessee, Black-and-white, and many others. After dinner that night, some of us returned to Tuttle Marsh, where a magical evening unfolded. With the fading light as a backdrop, we watched Common Nighthawks swooping overhead, heard Trumpeter Swans bugling off in the marsh, heard a Veery sounding off at dusk, and even listened to an American Bittern doing his other-worldly "thunder pumping" call. Nearby forests had singing Eastern Whip-poor-wills and even a curious porcupine scuttling about.

Our final morning together still had some great birding highlights! Sedge Wrens chattered point-blank in some wet fields, and Nayanquing Point yielded several new trip birds including Yellow-headed Blackbird, Common Gallinule, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and even some American White Pelicans.

This trip wouldn't have been possible without all of you -- thank you for joining me on this tour of Michigan! Thanks to Karen in the Field Guides office for her logistical help, thanks to the researchers we encountered like Chris and Nova at Whitefish Point, and also to Tim for showing us the Merlin.

I had a blast sharing a little bit of Michigan with you all, and I sincerely hope you made some good memories, took some neat photos, and feel that you've experienced some of what the Great Lakes State has to offer. Thanks again for coming and, until we bird together again, good birding!

—Cory (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, seen daily.

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]

Established and wild now in much of Michigan.

TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) [IN]

We encountered a pair of these large swans at Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area. At dusk, we even heard them trumpeting.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)

Fairly common throughout the trip.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

This dabbler was common and was seen most days.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

Fairly common on ponds and lakes throughout the tour, seen about half our days.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

This dabbler was seen at Muskegon Wastewater and Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

Seen at Muskegon Wastewater.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) [N]

Seen daily.


Seen at Houghton Lake Flats Flooding where it was considered rare this late into the season.


The smallest of the dabblers, this species was only seen at Houghton Lake Flats Flooding.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Luck always plays a role in birding, but so does perseverance. Although seeing a Spruce Grouse is a tall order, we put time into it and ended up having exceptional luck. We saw them three times including here when this male was sitting right along the highway! Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

Fairly common on ponds and lakes.

GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)

One of these round-headed divers was seen at Muskegon Wastewater.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

Fairly common on lakes and ponds, tallied on about half the days.

SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)

This uncommon migrant was seen flying by Whitefish Point. This is a species we rarely tally on this tour.

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (Melanitta deglandi)

Several small flocks flew by while we birded at Whitefish Point.

LONG-TAILED DUCK (Clangula hyemalis)

We saw small groups of this small but attractive migrant at the Mackinac Straights and at Whitefish Point.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

Seen almost daily on various ponds, lakes, and sewage lagoons.

COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)

Seen on two days; first along the Munuscong River and then some at Point LaBarbe.

HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Only one pair of these was seen and that was at Tuttle Marsh near Tawas.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

Tallied on about half our days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
On this tour, we get to cross the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, the one and only Mackinac Bridge. Here we are looking north at the Upper Peninsula in the distance. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.


Whitefish Point and Pointe LaBarbe provided most of our sightings.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Hundreds upon hundreds were gathered at Muskegon Wastewater where they were the most common duck.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

These big and distinctive guys were seen most days.

SHARP-TAILED GROUSE (Tympanuchus phasianellus)

It was a special treat to be able to see these gathered in a field in the UP on our first morning. We tallied about 20 or so. We also saw another at the Munuscong Potholes.

SPRUCE GROUSE (Canachites canadensis)

This stealthy denizen of the quiet, northern spruce bogs is usually a difficult, often impossible, target bird to see. For us, though, we were lucky with our searching and our efforts paid off. Some of us saw them on the first evening in Paradise (and even witnessed mating) but we also saw more the following day including one along the highway coming back from dinner.

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

Several were seen around Allegan State Game Area.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

We didn't see one of these small grebes until our 7th day at Tuttle Marsh.

HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus)

Only a couple were seen at Muskegon Wastewater but they were in their breeding colors.

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis)

This is a very uncommon species anywhere in Michigan but Muskegon Wastewater, where we saw ours, is the best place in the state.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common in urban areas, these were seen almost daily.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Now nesting at Whitefish Point on the shores of Lake Superior, the Piping Plover continues to thrive on the growing sand beaches. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Common, seen most days.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

A few of these were seen at dusk flycatching over Tuttle Marsh near Tawas.

EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus vociferus)

A couple of these nocturnal insect-eaters were heard singing deep in the forest near Tuttle Marsh. Eventually we saw one swoop over but it didn't linger for long.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

These fast-flying aerialists were seen occasionally, on about half our days.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

Only freshly back from the tropics, these tiny guys were seen most commonly at Tawas Point towards the end of our trip.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola) [*]

Heard calling from the cattails at Tuttle Marsh.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

A number of these were calling at a wetland in Allegan State Game Area. A couple of times, we even saw them flying weakly above the marsh.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

A singleton was spotted in the cattails at Nayanquing Point on our final day.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Surprisingly scarce, only a few were seen at Muskegon Wastewater.

Gruidae (Cranes)

SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)

These huge, almost pre-historic, birds were fun to have around so often. We tallied them nearly every day and it was a treat to hear their calls ricocheting off the marshes at dusk near Tuttle.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A highlight for many of us was watching AND hearing this Wilson's Snipe winnowing overhead. Guide Cory Gregory took this photo in the Upper Peninsula at Munuscong Potholes.
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Wow, this is a very rare bird anywhere in Michigan but we were at the right place at the right time to be able to see 5 of these in Berrien County.

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

This chunky shorebird was seen at Tawas Point.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

This migrant plover was seen a few times including at Tawas Point.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus) [N]

This rare and threatened plover never used to breed at Whitefish Point but because the sandy tip to the point has grown so much, there is now habitat for them to nest. We had fantastic views of several as we walked the beach at Whitefish Point.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus)

Common, seen almost every day.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)

This grassland species is quite uncommon through much of Michigan but we caught up to them west of Gaylord and then again in the UP. The looks we had couldn't have been better!

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

Seen occasionally on the beaches and pond edges. At this time of year they were sporting their beautiful breeding plumage.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Seen only a couple of times including at Muskegon Wastewater and Tawas Point.

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)

We picked out one of these sandpipers mixed with other shorebirds at Muskegon Wastewater. This is an uncommon spring migrant anywhere in Michigan.

PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidris melanotos)

Seen at Three Oaks Sewage Ponds.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Tahquamenon Falls is one of the many attractions in the Upper Peninsula. Our itinerary allows for us to visit these impressive falls, considered the third largest in the eastern US (by volume). The color of the water, a noticeable brown, stems from leaf tannins leached from the cedar swamps the river drains. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK (Scolopax minor)

What a cool way to start out the trip! Right behind our hotel in New Buffalo, these strange shorebirds were calling and displaying. We even got to watch one in the spotlight for a bit.

WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)

One of the highlights of the trip were the Wilson's Snipe that were flying over Munuscong Potholes and winnowing! Such a cool sound that, strangely, is made with the tail feathers.

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

These is a very uncommon shorebird anywhere in Michigan. We found a pair at the start of our birding at Muskegon Wastewater. Great looks!

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Common, almost seen every day.

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

Seen at Three Oaks and Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds.

GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)

Fairly common along the tour anywhere that there were shorebirds.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Even more common than the previous species, this slender shorebird was tallied more days.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

There were dozens and dozens of these still foraging at Muskegon Wastewater. They should be migrating out of the area by now.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis) [N]

Common, especially abundant at Muskegon Wastewater where they nest by the thousands.

HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus) [N]

Common, although usually less numerous than the previous species.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here is another look at one of the breeding Piping Plovers from Whitefish Point. Notice that the bird is wearing leg bands, which allow researchers to individually identify birds without having to handle them every time. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Fairly common, this huge tern sports a massive reddish orange bill. This is the largest species of tern in the world.

BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)

This is a gorgeous, sleek species of tern that we're lucky to have nesting in northern Michigan. We saw our first ones at Houghton Lake Flats Flooding.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

Seen at Pointe LaBarbe and especially Tawas Point where we saw 40+.

Gaviidae (Loons)

COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)

About a half a dozen of these charismatic waterbirds were seen from Whitefish Point in the UP.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum) [N]

Fairly common throughout, also nesting at Pointe LaBarbe.

Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

It wasn't until our final day, at Nayanquing Point, that we tallied this huge and distinctive species.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

AMERICAN BITTERN (Botaurus lentiginosus) [*]

A few of us went out to Tuttle Marsh one evening at dusk to see what we could find. The highlight from that outing was getting to hear the other-worldly call of the bittern echoing over the marshes.

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Common, seen most days.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) [N]

More than 20 of these large white herons were present at Nayanquing Point SWA. They were also nesting at Point LaBarbe.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

Not very common for us on this trip, the only sightings came from Floral Lane in Berrien County.

Field Guides Birding Tours
When this Merlin was captured near Whitefish Point, a biologist was sent up to gather the bird and to translocate it. Why? Piping Plovers. Fewer of these falcons around is probably a good thing for the plovers trying to raise chicks. Lucky for us, my friend Tim was nearby and allowed us to check it out. This photo of the Merlin being held by the biologist was taken by Mary Lou Barritt.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Seen only on our final day at Nayanquing Point.

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Seen every day.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [N]

This fish-eating raptor was nesting at Houghton Lake Flats Flooding.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

This grassland-loving raptor was seen several times in the UP, mostly around the Munuscong River and Potholes.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

Only one was seen at Whitefish Point, a clear sign of the strong northerly winds we had that kept migration at bay.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Fairly common, one was even seen sitting in the marsh at Tuttle one evening.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

Although uncommon, these small Buteos were seen a couple of times including at Stimpson Road in the northern Lower Peninsula.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

Although it wasn't a huge hawk day at Whitefish Point, we still managed to see 200-300 of these migrants swirling overhead.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Common and seen most days.

Strigidae (Owls)

BARRED OWL (Strix varia) [*]

Although we never laid eyes on one, several called at various times on our trip.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another one of the tough-to-find northern targets of ours, along with the Spruce Grouse, is the Black-backed Woodpecker. In recent years, these have been findable (if you know the spot!). Photo of this male Black-backed was taken by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL (Aegolius acadicus)

The avian researchers working at Whitefish Point Bird Observatory were actively trying to catch these little guys and we were very lucky when they caught one and were able to show it to us! It's a special treat, not many birders get to witness this tiny predator so close-up.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Seen on about half our days.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)


We couldn't have gotten a better view than the one we had at Hartwick Pines State Park.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

This attractive woodpecker was spotted but only a couple of times in Berrien County.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

Common through much of our tour and we even managed to see one at Whitefish Point where they're very uncommon.


This rare woodpecker is very difficult to find in Michigan. We were persistent though and were rewarded with awesome looks at a male west of Paradise!

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

Surprisingly quiet on this trip, seen only a couple of times.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

The bigger cousin, so to speak, of the previous species, this woodpecker was actually tallied more times than Downy.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

Heard way more times than seen, this huge woodpecker was eventually spotted at places like Whitefish Point and Tawas Point.

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

Common, seen most days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Although most of us see Cedar Waxwings in flocks, they do split up to breed, and it always feels a bit odd to just see one or two. This great shot was taken by participant Mary Lou Barritt.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

Seen several times but always in wide-open areas.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

Several of these small falcons were terrorizing the beach at Whitefish Point. The birds there patrol the beach waiting for tired songbirds that they can catch and eat. Perhaps one of the neatest experiences though was getting to talk to Tim who showed us a Merlin in-hand.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens) [*]

Not very common at this point in May, the only one we tallied was a heard bird at Warren Dunes.

ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)

These were just starting to show back up and we finally found a calling bird at Tawas Point.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

Fairly common throughout the tour.

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)



A very vocal and raucous species of flycatcher, these were heard more often than they were seen.

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Common, seen most days.

Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus)

A rare species anywhere in Michigan, this shy vireo was heard and then seen on our very first morning in Berrien County.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

Heard and seen many times in southwest Michigan. Mostly a southern species, these are not common in northern Michigan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This gifted songster, a Gray Catbird, serenaded us as we birded at Tawas Point towards the end of our tour. We couldn't have had better views! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

Seen at Whitefish Point.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

This fairly drab vireo was common, seen at places like Warren Dunes, Allegan SGA, and Tawas Point.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

Surprisingly few were seen at Warren Dunes and Allegan SGA. The northerly winds really kept them at bay.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

Who knew?! The swarms of hundreds of Blue Jays overhead at the Mackinac Straits and Whitefish Point were great reminders that this species is very-much a migratory one.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Common, seen daily.

COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Common and seen daily once we reached their range in northern Michigan.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

Although they were common and seen daily, the experience we witnessed at Whitefish Point will be a lasting memory. We stood still as one of these mega flocks of 200 chickadees swarmed by us, sometimes between our legs, right next to our heads, so close you could feel the air from their wings. This river of chickadees flowed by us for many minutes!

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

Seen a couple of times but all in the southern half of the state.

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

Only one of these was seen and it was at Muskegon Wastewater.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

This swallow, with muted colors, was seen on about half of our days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Of the several species of swallows we saw on tour, Barn Swallows were the most photogenic! This awesome shot was taken by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

Common. Along with Barn Swallow, perhaps the most common swallow of the trip.

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

Only a few were seen including some at the Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Common, seen almost every day.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) [N]

We saw a couple dozen of these nesting at Muskegon Wastewater.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Corthylio calendula)

Fairly common in wooded habitat, tallied on about half our days.

Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

At least a half a dozen of these were seen in the Jack Pines at Whitefish Point.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

This year-round resident was seen on about half of our days.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

Our only encounter came from Hartwick Pines State Park but we saw it really well not far down the trail.

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Fairly common throughout.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)

Very vocal throughout the tour but seldom seen.

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Male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks became commonplace for us at places like Tawas Point, but it was always a treat to watch these vibrant eastern grosbeaks. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

WINTER WREN (Troglodytes hiemalis)

A bold little male came out and sang for us at Hartwick Pines State Park. It's incredible such a loud song comes out of such a small bird!

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)

Our final morning, after we left Tawas, we made a stop and ended up having terrific looks at this species in a wet field.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris) [*]

Although they were singing loudly at Nayanquing Point, they stayed back in the cattails.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus) [*]

This is another sneaky wren and although we heard it several times in Berrien County, they remained hidden.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Seen daily.

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

These mostly-gray birds were still migrating into Michigan during our tour and we encountered the most as we birded in Warren Dunes State Park.

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

As we found out, when you REALLY want to see one, these can be tricky! But eventually everyone had very nice looks at Tawas Point. Whew!

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis) [N]

We saw a nesting pair attending a hole in a tree back in the dunes of Warren Dunes State Park.

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens) [*]

At dusk, the ethereal songs of this thrush came out of the forest edge at Tuttle Marsh.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)

It only takes one, I suppose. That's exactly how many we saw on this trip and it came from the shady forest at Floral Lane, Warren Dunes.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A main driver for birders coming to Michigan is often the fantastic warbler diversity. Of the many species we saw, the American Redstarts were a common and vibrant treat to have around. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

It was shocking that more of these weren't around for us. We did encounter one though at Warren Dunes.

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

Seen on lower Staley Lake Road near Grayling.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina)

The wooded trail at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes State Park is a great place to see this richly-colored songster.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Abundant, seen daily.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

It wasn't until Tawas Point that we encountered these, strangely enough.

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Seen most days in urban areas.

EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) [I]

This Passer sparrow, which was introduced in the US just like the previous species, is usually found in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa. However, a whole flock of these got lost and ended up at Whitefish Point!

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)

Five of these were seen working the sandy beaches at Whitefish Point.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

EVENING GROSBEAK (Coccothraustes vespertinus)

It was a treat to see a whole flock of 75+ swirling overhead at Whitefish Point!

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [*]

It was strange but this common bird remained heard-only for us.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We devoted an entire morning to find and thoroughly enjoy the "Jack Pine Warbler". The experience we had with Kirtland's Warblers would be hard to beat. Not only did we see and hear numerous males singing, but we also saw a female as well. Here is an inquisitive male checking us out! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

PURPLE FINCH (Haemorhous purpureus)

Hartwick Pines State Park, Whitefish Point, and Tawas Point all provided us with encounters of this northern finch.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

The feeders at Whitefish Point were the only place we saw this small, striped finch.


Common, encountered most days.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)

Although usually sneaky, this tiny sparrow popped up and gave us all a great view at the Allegan State Game Area.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

A tiny, common species of sparrow that we encountered most of our days.

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

This target species breeds at Munuscong Potholes where we had great looks. Not only did we see it, but we got to watch it as it sang its weird, monotone song.

FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)

This pink-billed sparrow was common at Allegan State Game Area and Warren Dunes.

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

Only seen once, at Hartwick Pines State Park.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

A common migrant species in Michigan. Although they don't breed here, they are common in the month of May. We saw them almost every day.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

This familiar songster breeds in northern Michigan and we saw or heard them most days.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Eurasian Tree Sparrows are NOT supposed to be in Michigan, but the seven we saw at Whitefish Point didn't get the memo. This Passer species was introduced to St. Louis in 1870, and they've been established in that area ever since. In recent years, these have been showing up farther and farther away from their core range. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

We encountered one of these at the Kirtland's Warbler spot east of Grayling.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Common in grassy habitats.

HENSLOW'S SPARROW (Centronyx henslowii)

This fairly range-restricted sparrow, a denizen of thick and wet fields, was seen by all of us at Allegan State Game Area. We even got scope views!

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Commonly heard and sometimes seen throughout the tour.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

This finely-striped sparrow usually isn't common but our walk at Floral Lane made it look otherwise. We encountered a bunch!

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

Common throughout the trip in wet habitat like cattails marshes or grassy wetlands.

EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Fairly common, this handsome species was seen on about half our days in a variety of habitat.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

Only seen distantly at Tawas Point, way off in the cattails.

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

This is a beautiful and fascinating species in the blackbird family. We found them several times but always in big, grassy fields.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

This grass-loving species was fairly common in the first half of our trip. Grasslands at Three Oaks, Allegan State Game Area, and Muskegon Wastewater all had them.

Field Guides Birding Tours
A real contender for the most popular warbler on the trip was this flashy Golden-winged Warbler that was defending a territory in the northern Lower Peninsula. Photo by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

A couple of these were tallied at Tawas Point.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

Common throughout the trip.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)



Fairly common. There has been active cowbird control around the Kirtland's Warbler habitat for years now which has really helped the conservation efforts.

BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

We saw these uncommon breeders in the same area as the Upland Sandpipers west of Gaylord.

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)

Abundant, seen daily.

Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

A common warbler species that was found in many mature forest habitats throughout the trip.

LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia motacilla)

It's incredible how loud the song of this warbler is. But if your chosen habitat was along loud, rushing streams, you'd have to be loud too. We saw one singing at Warren Dunes.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Common in the right habitat. Although we saw migrants down south, we saw some breeders farther north too.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

Our encounter with this flashy warbler was perhaps one of the most remembered moments. It's truly a stunning bird and we had crippling looks at it.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Any closer and this Pine Warbler would be hard for us to focus our cameras on! Pine Warblers, which breed through much of Michigan, are very well named because they're almost always in pines. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)

Heard and seen several times in southern Michigan. In fact, Michigan is where the range of this species and the previous species meet.


This distinctive warbler was fairly common throughout, seen on about half our days.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

We did very well with this gorgeous warbler! We saw and photographed them multiple places such as the Galien River, Paw Paw River, and the Allegan Dam.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

This migrant was heard and seen several days but our best looks were at Tawas Point.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

One of the most common warblers on our trip.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

This songster was common in a variety of wet and grassy habitats.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

What a distinctive warbler! We finally connected with one in the forested portions of the Allegan SGA.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Common, seen most days.

KIRTLAND'S WARBLER (Setophaga kirtlandii)

A major target for everyone involved, we spent a morning near Grayling focusing on this rare and local warbler. We ended up seeing and studying more than half a dozen in the Jack Pine forest. It was such an amazing experience to stand there quietly, hearing territorial males in every direction! There is an estimated 5000 or so remaining and the trend has been positive thanks to management techniques.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)

A couple of fancy males were in the conifers at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another one of the warblers that almost seemed like it wanted to be found was this Chestnut-sided Warbler, nicely photographed by participant Mary Lou Barritt.

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

Although we first heard this species in Berrien County, singing high in the forest along the Galien River, we got our best looks in Allegan County at the dam. We saw and heard many!

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

Fairly common throughout the trip, tallied about half the days.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

Tawas Point had a couple, so did Pointe LaBarbe and Hartwick Pines.


This is another one of the flashy warblers that we all enjoyed. A couple of nice males showed well at the Munuscong overlook and we saw more at Tawas Point.

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)

Common, perhaps the most common warbler for us.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

This distinctive warbler was seen at spots like Stimpson Road, Munuscong River, and Tawas Point.

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens cairnsi)

Towards the end of our trip, one of these beautiful warblers showed up at Tawas Point! We heard it singing quietly as it moved furtively through some young forest.

PALM WARBLER (WESTERN) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)

Quite common for us, this tail-pumping warbler was seen nearly every day.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

Although these were heard many times, they mostly stayed out of view.

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

Fairly common still through much of Michigan which speaks to the late spring and the continuation of cold temps.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Although perhaps not as flashy as the warblers, some of the sparrows we saw hold their own. For example, this Grasshopper Sparrow worked up the nerve and perched up for us at the Allegan State Game Area. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Setophaga dominica)

It took a bit of effort but we eventually caught up with this southern specialty along the Paw Paw River after we birded Berrien County.


A fairly common warbler in Michigan during migration. We tallied them almost every day and getting to hear their distinctive songs is always a treat.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

Only one of these showed up for us, one at Tawas Point.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) [*]

This rare tanager was heard as we hiked at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes State Park.

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)

A beautiful migrant, and a breeder in some parts of Michigan as well, this red-and-black tanager was seen in a variety of habitats throughout our trip.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Very common, this familiar but stunning species was tallied most days.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

This is another common but striking migrant and breeder. We were lucky to tally them nearly every day of the trip.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

Although never super abundant, it was always a treat to see this vibrant species. Most of our encounters came from Tawas Point.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Only seen the final day as we were exiting Nayanquing Point.

SNOWSHOE HARE (Lepus americanus)

We paused to check out this critter and it soon after bounced off the road showing the telltale white legs and feet.

Field Guides Birding Tours
If you need to see a Clay-colored Sparrow, we know the spot to go! This sparrow, which breeds in the Upper Peninsula, popped out and gave us his strange, buzzy song. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.


Common but only tallied on half of our days.

THIRTEEN-LINED GROUND SQUIRREL (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus)

One of these distinctive little guys was seen surveying the surroundings when we were driving around Muskegon.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

Seen at the start of the tour.

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

This was the more common tree squirrel; we saw them most days.

RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Lively and always eager for a meal at the bird feeders, some of these were seen in the UP.


Getting to see these loafing up in the trees at Tawas Point was a fun, non-bird highlight.

RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes)

We were driving back to Paradise from dinner one evening when we spotted one of these sniffing around a yard.

COYOTE (Canis latrans) [*]

Those who chose to take the nighttime trip to Tuttle Marsh got to hear these yipping and howling in the distance.

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

I'm not sure if it had a name but it seemed to be a regular customer at the feeders at Tahquamenon Falls.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Common, seen nearly every day.


COMMON SNAPPING TURTLE (Chelydra serpentina)

We were quite enthralled with the drama of the snapping turtle in the middle of the road near Tawas Point. Onlookers stopped and a few took action in trying to "persuade" the turtle to cross the road. They got there eventually.

Totals for the tour: 199 bird taxa and 12 mammal taxa