A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


May 19-27, 2023 with Cory Gregory guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Pine Warbler was one of 31 species of warblers we tallied on this tour! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

The Great Lakes State, with its unique geography, can be an excellent place to enjoy spring migration as well as search for local Midwestern breeders. Michigan has such a wide array of habitats, and we birded in many of them, that we ended up with an impressive total of more than 200 species. On our trip we sampled what the southern hardwoods, coastal dunes, grasslands, beaches, spruce bogs, and boreal forests had to offer. The answer is... a lot!

Our adventure got underway in southwestern Michigan, where it didn't take long to see some special birds. Even right outside the hotel we had American Woodcocks displaying! We explored Berrien County the following day, which took us to riparian hardwood swamps where we saw White-eyed Vireo and then coastal dune forests where we saw Mourning Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, and Acadian Flycatcher. We even dipped into Indiana briefly and added Yellow-billed Cuckoo to our growing state list. Back at Warren Dunes State Park, we continued to add new migrants to our list with additions such as Blue-headed Vireo, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Scarlet Tanager. By the time we headed north to South Haven, we had already seen close to 100 species!

Just north of Berrien County is the Allegan State Game Area, and that was our destination the following morning. The grasslands at the Farm Unit gave us several quality sparrows including the local Henslow's Sparrow, singing Field Sparrows, and then a Grasshopper Sparrow experience we'll not soon forget. Inland a bit more, the state game area transitioned more into forest, and it was there that we added Blue-winged Warbler, Veery, Cerulean Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, and we even heard a rare Connecticut Warbler! That afternoon we visited the impressive Muskegon Wastewater Facility, where we tallied hundreds of Ruddy Ducks, a rare Canvasback, and Greater Scaup, Horned Grebe, and even a Wilson's Phalarope. We closed out the day near Gaylord, where we added the uncommon but quirky Upland Sandpiper alongside an adorable Killdeer family with chicks huddled under the female.

The following day we had a very important target in mind, Kirtland's Warbler! We visited the short Jack Pine forests near Grayling and had a wonderful experience getting to watch and listen to these loud habitat specialists. I'm always humbled, standing there and looking out over the pines, listening to the many Kirtland's defending their territories, realizing how close this species was to extinction. With their population dipping as low as 167 males, Kirtland's have been doing better since and now there are more than 2000 pairs. Leaving the pines behind, we also visited Houghton Lake and took a look at Black Terns, nesting Osprey, and even saw some uncommon Common Terns. That afternoon we visited Hartwick Pines State Park, which provided a scenic backdrop for seeing a Winter Wren singing, some Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and even some Brown Creepers.

We had a lot of ground to cover the following day, starting by visiting the Mackinac Straits before crossing over the famed Mackinac Bridge. Straight to the open country, we connected with a whole field of Sharp-tailed Grouse! We even saw some displaying, which was fantastic and a major highlight. We stopped for breeding Clay-colored Sparrows, some Bobolinks, and heard some Upland Sandpipers again. Out along the Munuscong River, we took a stroll alongside some premium cattail marsh habitat and added Swamp Sparrow and point-blank looks at Marsh Wren. After lunch in Sault Ste. Marie, we continued around Whitefish Bay, making a stop at the Iroquois Light Station, and ended up in Paradise, which was our home for two nights. We didn't waste any time getting out and exploring, and the bogs treated us well that afternoon; we found Black-backed Woodpecker, Ruffed Grouse, and even the hard-to-see Spruce Grouse! It's not very often birders get the Grouse Trifecta in a single day in Michigan.

Spending most of the day at Whitefish Point put us in the right place to add a variety of new trip birds. We walked "The Point," where we had stunning views of the nesting Piping Plovers, migrant White-winged Scoters, a close flyover loon, and a fun shorebird flock including two bold Whimbrel. Inland, with some luck, we came face-to-face with a couple Boreal Chickadees that had been mingling with the massive flock of 200 other chickadees. We got to hear them a bunch and stand right underneath them as they foraged! That afternoon we took a lovely stroll through Tahquamenon Falls State Park and even got to witness the Upper Falls, which were flowing with an impressive amount of water given the spring melt-off.

It was time to head back south the following day and we did so, stopping at Pointe LaBarbe to see what migrants were around. In addition to seeing a quick seven species of warblers, we looked offshore and added more Common Terns, a flock of migrating Common Goldeneyes, and saw thousands of nesting gulls, cormorants, and herons on the nearby island. Just south of the bridge we spent time along Stimpson Road, which gave us one of our highlights; a stunning male Golden-winged Warbler! Turns out, the road provided a bunch of other goodies too, such as Northern Waterthrush, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Alder Flycatcher, and a nice pair of Purple Finches. We ended the day at Tuttle Marsh, where there was a pair of Trumpeter Swans, and Tawas Point, where we got our first look at this famed birding hotspot.

The geography of Tawas Point is a major factor in why it's such a notable migrant trap. This thin peninsula stretches south into the lake, which makes it a first landing point for thousands of migrants flying out over Lake Huron. We spent the entire day birding Tawas Point and getting a good sense of what migrants were around, which included a number of warblers we had yet to see. Of the 16 species of warblers we saw that day, Blackpoll, Magnolia, Orange-crowned, Cape May, and Bay-breasted were all new. Besides the warblers, there were other highlights too, such as a late Tundra Swan, a rare Red Knot, a monster flock of 63 Whimbrel, a singing Black-billed Cuckoo, our first Orchard Oriole, and even a couple of lost Eurasian Tree Sparrows at the feeders! We closed out our final evening by taking a nightbirding trip out to Tuttle Marsh. The Trumpeter Swans were calling, 100+ Common Nighthawks were cruising the skies, the Eastern Whip-poor-wills were singing from deep within the forest, and we even had an up-close-and-personal experience with a territorial Eastern Screech-Owl.

Our final day was mostly a travel day, but we still made several birding stops. First up was a grassy field that was home to several Sedge Wrens and, wow, what a spectacular show it was with the sun at our backs. We also stopped at Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area for a quick hour of birding. We added some distant Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a smashing view of a singing Willow Flycatcher, and we even added Common Gallinule to our list at the last minute.

It was a pleasure showing Michigan to all of you. I hope you enjoyed seeing the many faces of The Great Lakes State and came away with good memories of all the birds, habitats, and geography we saw. A sincere thank you to all of you for choosing to join me on this trip, and I hope to see you again on another adventure! Until next time...

—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]

A common species, these were seen every day and often with chicks in tow.

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor) [I]

This introduced species took hold over much of the Great Lakes region. For us, thankfully, it wasn't seen very often.

TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) [IN]

This large species of swan has been reintroduced back into Michigan and it's become fairly common in some areas. We saw nesting ones at Tuttle Marsh near Tawas.

TUNDRA SWAN (Cygnus columbianus)

This was a rare sighting for this time of year! One had been present near Tawas Point for a couple of days and we had luck tracking it down.

WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa) [N]

Seen occasionally on ponds and backwaters. There was a brood at Three Oaks as well.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Fairly common.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

A couple of the sewage ponds had this large-billed dabbler such as Muskegon and Houghton Lake.

GADWALL (Mareca strepera)

A dozen or so were present at Muskegon Wastewater.

AMERICAN WIGEON (Mareca americana)

Not very common by this point of the year, our only sighting was from the Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) [N]



Most had moved out by the time we arrived, this small dabbler was tallied at Three Oaks Sewage Ponds.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We visited Whitefish Point, where we saw an assortment of migrating birds including this Common Loon doing a low flyover. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

CANVASBACK (Aythya valisineria)

Like some of the other ducks, it was rare that one was still this far south. For us, we encountered it at Muskegon Wastewater.

REDHEAD (Aythya americana)

We only found these at Muskegon Wastewater.

RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)

Not abundant for us, these sharply-plumaged divers were seen at Houghton Lake and again at Shelldrake Lake.

GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)

We saw one of these round-headed scaup at Muskegon Wastewater alongside Redhead and Canvasback.

LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)

The sewage ponds would often have this species; we saw them at Three Oaks, Muskegon, and Houghton Lake.

WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (Melanitta deglandi)

It was neat getting to see this chunky, distinctive species migrating past Whitefish Point.

BUFFLEHEAD (Bucephala albeola)

A female was scoped at the Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds.

COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)

Although these are abundant in the winter, they were pretty hard to find by this point of the year. We encountered a flock migrating past Pointe LaBarbe.

COMMON MERGANSER (Mergus merganser)

Fairly common along the shorelines of Lake Superior and down around Tawas.


Our best looks were at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse and again at Whitefish Point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world, the Mackinac Bridge is quite a spectacle. The "Mighty Mac," which opened in 1957, connects the Upper and Lower peninsulas. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

RUDDY DUCK (Oxyura jamaicensis)

Hundreds present at Muskegon.

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo)

Seen occasionally, especially along Staley Lake Road where we tallied 30+.

RUFFED GROUSE (Bonasa umbellus)

Although not really rare, it's often tricky to track these down due to the random nature of their encounters. Lucky for us, we found one along Farm Truck Trail near Paradise.

SHARP-TAILED GROUSE (Tympanuchus phasianellus)

What a phenomenal show! Not only did we find 15-20 of these in the eastern UP, we even saw some full-on displaying males near Munuscong.

SPRUCE GROUSE (Canachites canadensis)

A devilishly tricky grouse to find, these ghosts of the spruce bogs are often atop people's most-wanted list. We struck gold when we found a female near Shelldrake in the UP! She froze in place allowing us all to see her well.

Podicipedidae (Grebes)

PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)

Not very common for us despite them being a common species most of the time.

HORNED GREBE (Podiceps auritus)

A sharp-looking one, in breeding plumage, was seen at Muskegon Wastewater.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

Common in urban areas.

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)

Common, tallied almost every day.

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus americanus)

I think many people added this cuckoo to their growing Indiana list!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Most people don't think of northern Michigan as a hotbed for grouse, but we saw three species in a single day! One of those, Sharp-tailed Grouse, was even still gathered in the lekking fields south of Sault Ste. Marie. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)

A terrific species that breeds in Michigan. Our first encounter was at Floral Lake at Warren Dunes and then we heard another at Tawas Point.

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

COMMON NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles minor)

For those who came on the Tuttle Marsh nighttime trip, we saw more than 100 of these spanning the horizon! Seeing that many is very rare here.

EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL (Antrostomus vociferus) [*]

This nocturnal, forest-dwelling species was heard singing from deep within the thick woods near Tuttle Marsh.

Apodidae (Swifts)

CHIMNEY SWIFT (Chaetura pelagica)

Fairly common, seen on about half our days.

Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)

RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)

Fairly common throughout the trip though most of our sightings were at Tawas Point.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus limicola)

Although these marsh-birds are common, it's never easy actually getting to SEE them. We had glimpses here and there at the Munuscong Rivermouth, Tuttle Marsh, and Nayanquing Point.

SORA (Porzana carolina)

Like the previous species, these typically hang back to the thick cattail marshes. We heard them at Allegan SGA and then had a quick glimpse of one at Munuscong.

COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)

Seen at Nayanquing Point on our final day.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana)

Our only encounter was with two at Muskegon Wastewater.

Gruidae (Cranes)

SANDHILL CRANE (Antigone canadensis)

Common, seen almost every day. It was a treat getting to see so many in fields, along roadsides, and adjacent to marshes.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Often difficult to find and to see well, Black-billed Cuckoo is one of many migrant species we expect to see on this tour. We found this particular one in coastal forest along the dunes of Berrien County. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (Pluvialis squatarola)

This chunky shorebird was tallied a couple of times but the ones at Whitefish Point were by far the best-looking of the bunch.

SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Although these migrants were spotted many times, the largest congregation was at the Three Oaks Sewage Ponds where nearly 20 were seen feeding.

PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)

At least 4 of these uncommon plovers were seen at Whitefish Point and we had good looks as we walked the tip. Several pairs now nest there where the expansive sandy beach allows it.

KILLDEER (Charadrius vociferus) [N]

Abundant, seen daily. We even saw some adorable chicks huddling under an adult when we were looking for Upland Sandpipers west of Gaylord.

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

UPLAND SANDPIPER (Bartramia longicauda)

This is an uncommon grassland species that is now quite local within Michigan. We encountered a couple of these long-legged, long-necked shorebirds in roadside grasslands west of Gaylord.

WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus)

Typically a rare species anywhere on this trip. We struck gold when we not only encountered these curlews multiple times, but had crushing views at Whitefish Point and then saw a whopping 63 together at Tawas Point!

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

What beauts! We found several of these including a trio at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse beach.

RED KNOT (Calidris canutus)

Wow, this is a pretty rare bird anywhere in Michigan but we found a good-looking bird at Tawas Point and ended up getting fantastic, close looks at it.

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

Seen at Whitefish Point and Tawas Point.

DUNLIN (Calidris alpina)

Quite common at various points on our trip. We encountered flock of these, usually in breeding plumage, at Three Oaks, Whitefish Point, and Tawas Point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Whimbrel is a very uncommon migrant anywhere in Michigan, but our group had tremendous luck with them. We found a pair at Whitefish Point, including this bird, as well as a flock of 60+ at Tawas Point! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

Fairly common around sewage lagoons.


Seen at Three Oaks and Tawas Point.

SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)

One of these medium-sized shorebirds was mixed in with a flock of Dunlin, Sanderling, and peeps at Whitefish Point.

AMERICAN WOODCOCK (Scolopax minor)

This was a splendid trip to see this fascinating shorebird species and our first encounter was right behind our first hotel in New Buffalo! We later saw an adult and three chicks crossing the road. The super tiny chicks were downright adorable!

WILSON'S PHALAROPE (Phalaropus tricolor)

It was a treat getting to see this species at Muskegon Wastewater on our third day. This is not a species we see every time.

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

Common, especially along the rocky shorelines of wastewater ponds.

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Three Oaks Sewage Ponds and the Houghton Lake Flats Flooding both had this slender shorebird.

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)

At this time of year, this slender species of gull was transitioning into breeding plumage and we got to enjoy them at Houghton Lake and Tawas Point.

RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis) [N]


HERRING GULL (Larus argentatus) [N]


Field Guides Birding Tours
Of the three different populations of Piping Plovers, the Great Lake breeders are by far the rarest. With their population dipping to 13 pairs in 1986, it has been a species of great concern. Through management, the population has rebounded and now there are approximately 75 pairs gracing the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Whitefish Point, where we photographed this one, now has four nesting pairs. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)

Although we had a couple of encounters with this large tern, the largest tern species in the world, I think our best looks came from Nayanquing Point on our final day.

BLACK TERN (Chlidonias niger)

The Houghton Lake area was great for seeing these unique and sleek, marsh-loving terns.

COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)

First seen at the Houghton Lake docks, where they're rare, but we went on to see many more at Pointe LaBarbe and Tawas Point.

Gaviidae (Loons)

RED-THROATED LOON (Gavia stellata)

A pair of these migrants shot right overhead while we were at Whitefish Point.

COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)

Not very common on this trip. We found a few at Whitefish Point where they migrate past, but also one at Tawas Point.

Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)

DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Nannopterum auritum) [N]

Common. Although we saw tons nesting at Pointe LaBarbe, the more notable sighting was a flock of 50 at Muskegon Wastewater where they're not common.

Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)

Common, seen most days.

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba) [N]

Although this large white heron was never abundant, a few were seen nesting at Pointe LaBarbe.

GREEN HERON (Butorides virescens)

A few were around the marshes at Tawas Point during our walks there.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Tallied only from Nayanquing Point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
While on the Upper Peninsula, we got to visit the famed Tahquamenon Falls! The unique brown color of the water is due to tannins that seep into it from spruce bogs. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Common, tallied almost every day.

Pandionidae (Osprey)

OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [N]

A few were seen attending nests at the Houghton Lake Flats Flooding.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus hudsonius)

A good spot for this raptor was at the Munuscong River where one was cruising over the marsh.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (Accipiter striatus)

A few were seen during our time at Whitefish Point but the winds weren't favorable for any big movements.

BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Fairly common in the UP and again around Tawas Point.

RED-SHOULDERED HAWK (Buteo lineatus)

Stimpson Road, just south of the Mackinac Straits, yielded one of these calling overhead.

BROAD-WINGED HAWK (Buteo platypterus)

Only a couple were seen on this trip which is a far cry from the huge numbers possible. By this point in the season, most of them had already moved through and many of the ones we saw were probably local breeders.

RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)

Fairly common throughout.

Strigidae (Owls)

EASTERN SCREECH-OWL (Megascops asio)

Wow! We found a rather... defensive... screech-owl at Tuttle Marsh near Tawas Point. It's surely a memory I'll never forget!

BARRED OWL (Strix varia) [*]

Heard a couple of times in Berrien County.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Eastern Screech-Owl is a small species that breeds in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. We had a nightbirding adventure near Tawas Point during which we saw this one up close and personal. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)

Pretty quiet for most of our trip. We did see a couple late in the trip though like at Shelldrake Lake and others.

Picidae (Woodpeckers)


This fancy woodpecker was spotted a couple of times on the same day; first at Staley Lake Road and then later at Hartwick Pines State Park.

RED-HEADED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)

Seen only on our day in Berrien County.

RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes carolinus)

Fairly common in the Lower Peninsula.


One of the trip highlights was connecting with this rare woodpecker in the spruce bogs west of Paradise. We had crushing views of a male, with the yellow cap, and even got to watch it drum a little.

DOWNY WOODPECKER (Dryobates pubescens)

This small species of woodpecker was pretty quiet by this point in the year and so it was tallied just a couple of times.

HAIRY WOODPECKER (Dryobates villosus)

Never common, but at least more numerous than the previous species.

PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)

This huge woodpecker was heard and then seen a couple of times including at Whitefish Point.

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

Fairly common throughout the trip.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

A small, slender species of falcon, this species was seen in the grasslands in the eastern UP.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Eastern Phoebe is a flycatcher even though it doesn't have it in its name. This particular phoebe posed very nicely for us at Hartwick Pines State Park in the northern Lower Peninsula. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

MERLIN (Falco columbarius)

A falcon specializing in catching other birds, this predator was seen well at Whitefish Point.

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)

This species of flycatcher was heard more often than seen, often from mature deciduous forests.

YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris)

This Empid was seen briefly at Tawas Point but it didn't stick around for long.

ACADIAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax virescens)

This is another Empid that prefers mature deciduous forests and it was seen at Warren Dunes State Park on our day in Berrien County.

ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)

These northern flycatchers had just recently returned to their breeding grounds and we connected with them at Munuscong Potholes, Stimpson Road, and Tawas Point State Park.

WILLOW FLYCATCHER (Empidonax traillii)

Rather uncommon in brushy habitat in the southern peninsula. Our best look was of a singing bird at Nayanquing Point.

LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)

Fairly common but heard more often than seen.

EASTERN PHOEBE (Sayornis phoebe)

There were a couple of these flycatchers at the I-75 rest area south of Grayling.


This is another flycatcher that was heard more often than seen. Probably our best look came along Staley Lake Road near Grayling.

EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)

Common, especially around Tawas Point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another species of flycatcher we saw was this Acadian Flycatcher. Within Michigan, these only breed in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. They prefer shady ravines in deciduous forests, which is exactly where we found this one at Warren Dunes State Park. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)

WHITE-EYED VIREO (Vireo griseus) [*]

This skulky vireo is a rare bird anywhere in Michigan. Lucky for us, one was singing at the Lakeside Road bridge our first morning.

YELLOW-THROATED VIREO (Vireo flavifrons)

Seen and heard along Floral Lane at Warren Dunes State Park. Generally speaking, this vireo is a southeastern species.

BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)

Heard singing and then seen at Warren Dunes State Park. Surprisingly, that was our only encounter.

PHILADELPHIA VIREO (Vireo philadelphicus)

All we had was a very brief look at this species at Tawas Point.

WARBLING VIREO (Vireo gilvus)

Fairly common throughout the trip.

RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)

This was our most-common vireo on the trip and they were tallied almost every day.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)

Both Whitefish Point and Tawas Point had huge flocks of these passing overhead. Although it's not the first example people think of for a migrating species, these jays do in fact migrate.

AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)


COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)

Common once we reached northern Michigan.

Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)

BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)

Wow, the huge flock of chickadees at Whitefish Point was bigger than most of us had ever seen. Easily totaling 200, the woods were alive with rivers of chickadees moving around the point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We had never seen the rare Boreal Chickadee on our Michigan tours until this one! We were birding in the Jack Pines at Whitefish Point when we found two of these feeding quietly. Picking them out from the flock of 200 Black-cappeds was a challenge at times! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

BOREAL CHICKADEE (Poecile hudsonicus)

This northern specialty is a species I had never seen before on this Michigan itinerary. Although they're considered to be more plausible in the western UP, Whitefish Point was host to at least 2 of these in the woods behind the feeders. We came away with an amazing experience; great photos, got to hear them well, and they were at times just an arms length away.

TUFTED TITMOUSE (Baeolophus bicolor)

All of our encounters of this familiar species occurred in Berrien County

Alaudidae (Larks)

HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)

A pair of these was seen at Muskegon Wastewater on our third day.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW (Stelgidopteryx serripennis)

Our best views came from Three Oaks Sewage Ponds where these were sitting on the fence.

PURPLE MARTIN (Progne subis)

We only had a quick glance at one sitting on some martin boxes in Tawas City.

TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)

Common throughout.

BANK SWALLOW (Riparia riparia)

Although not common, these small swallows were seen at the Houghton Lake Sewage Ponds.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Common throughout the trip, perhaps our most-common swallow.

CLIFF SWALLOW (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) [N]

A whole swarm of these was present at Muskegon Wastewater where they were also nesting.

Regulidae (Kinglets)

GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa) [*]

Although they remained hidden, a couple of these were heard calling along Farm Truck Trail.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Marsh Wren, seen along the Munuscong River in the Upper Peninsula, showed very nicely for our group. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Sittidae (Nuthatches)

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)

A couple of these cute little guys were seen at various spots around the state.

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta carolinensis)

Our only sighting came from Hartwick Pines State Park.

Certhiidae (Treecreepers)

BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana)

I'm not sure if there was some kind of dispute going on but we found ourselves surrounded by these at Hartwick Pines SP!

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)

BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (Polioptila caerulea)

Tallied just a few times.

Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) [*]

Although easy to hear, and we did hear them a bunch, they can be tricky to see when you want to.

WINTER WREN (Troglodytes hiemalis)

One of these tiny songsters sang within view at Hartwick Pines State Park.

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus stellaris)

We couldn't have gotten a better view than the one we had on our final morning at the grassy field near Omer. The light was behind us, the bird was close, it was singing, it was just an incredible encounter.

MARSH WREN (Cistothorus palustris)

Our best encounter was from the Munuscong River where these were common in the cattails along the levee. Typical of wrens, this one held its tail way up, almost touching its head even.

CAROLINA WREN (Thryothorus ludovicianus) [*]

This is a loud songster but one we only heard in Berrien County.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]

Common in urban areas, tallied daily.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another secretive wren that we saw point-blank was Sedge Wren. Although it wasn't until our final day that we connected with one, and we saw it really well when we did! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

GRAY CATBIRD (Dumetella carolinensis)

Tawas Point must be one of the best places to hang out with these songsters, they were everywhere!

BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum)

This is another common mimic that we saw multiple times at Tawas Point.

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

EASTERN BLUEBIRD (Sialia sialis)

These were perched on the fence at Three Oaks Sewage Ponds.

VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)

There were two encounters that stand out. First, a singing bird that we saw in the Allegan SGA, deep in the woods. Second was one that we heard singing after dusk at Tuttle Marsh.

GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)

Seen at Warren Dunes State Park but also the I-75 rest area near Grayling where one was singing and hopping around in the open.

SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)

Surprisingly very scarce this trip! We encountered them only one day and that was at Tawas Point

HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)

This breeding species was also rather scarce. Our only sighting came on the day we were in the UP around Whitefish Point.

WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina) [*]

One downside to the leaves being fully out is that it becomes really hard to see this songster! Still, we enjoyed hearing it in Warren Dunes on our hike.

AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)

Common, seen daily.

Bombycillidae (Waxwings)

CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)

Singletons were seen here and there, like at Tawas Point, but we also saw some flocks including 40 from the Tahquamenon Falls Rivermouth.

Field Guides Birding Tours
This Michigan tour is a great one for tracking down some special Midwestern sparrows. At the Allegan State Game Area, we found both Henslow's and Grasshopper sparrows. The latter, seen singing here, gave us crippling views and great chances for photos! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

Seen most days in urban areas.

EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus) [I]

This species was introduced into the St. Louis area decades ago and it has remained established there, in Illinois, and Iowa. Still, many springs this species shows up way out-of-range including this year when they showed up at Tawas Point. Lucky for us, we saw them during our visit.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

PURPLE FINCH (Haemorhous purpureus)

We had a stunning pair along Stimpson Road.

RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)

Finding 10 of these in the open pine forests around Shelldrake was a great sighting considering we see these finches fewer than half the tours.

PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)

A couple of these small finches were seen at Whitefish Point.


Common, seen most days.

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

GRASSHOPPER SPARROW (Ammodramus savannarum)

Never before had I seen one of these that wanted to be seen and photographed so badly! The Farm Unit of the Allegan State Game Area was our only encounter.

CHIPPING SPARROW (Spizella passerina)

This common songster was seen well at the Point Iroquois Light Station.

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida)

A close relative of the Chipping and Field Sparrow, this is another small, fairly long-tailed sparrow that we encountered. We watched it singing at Munuscong Potholes where it perched up and gave us great looks.

FIELD SPARROW (Spizella pusilla)

This was another sparrow we enjoyed at the Allegan SGA. The bill was shockingly pink relative to the other small sparrows.

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This lovely male Purple Finch posed for us in the northern Lower Peninsula just south of the Mackinac Bridge. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

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

Hartwick Pines State Park was the only spot we encountered this wintering species.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

This is a handsome sparrow species that was on its way farther north and west to breed. We found them at Whitefish Point, Tawas Point SP, and then again at Jerry's Marina.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Surprisingly scarce this time around. Farm Truck Trail had some of these songsters though.

VESPER SPARROW (Pooecetes gramineus)

We watched as one of these sang from the ground near the Kirtland's Warblers.

SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)

Common in any grassy habitat.

HENSLOW'S SPARROW (Centronyx henslowii)

This was one of the specialty sparrows we wanted to track down and we did so at the Allegan State Game Area. Quite shy, these rarely perch completely out in the open but we had decent luck. Of all the sparrows in the Midwest, this one has the most restricted range.

SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)

Common in a variety of habitats, tallied almost every day.

LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)

This finely-striped sparrow popped into view a couple of times including at Jerry's Marina.

SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)

The rich, rolling trill was a common sound from cattail habitats throughout the trip. We saw them quite well along the levee at the Munuscong River.

EASTERN TOWHEE (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Seen a few times in the first half of the trip. At this time of year, these are heard more frequently than seen.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The warblers really stole the show a lot of the time, but for good reason! We enjoyed a wealth of flashy warblers that kept us on our toes. Here is a Hooded Warbler sitting back in the shadows at Warren Dunes State Park. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Icteriidae (Yellow-breasted Chat)


This rare denizen of thick tangles showed up near the parking area at Floral Lane, Warren Dunes State Park.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

They were very distant but this distinctive blackbird was indeed perched on the cattails at Nayanquing Point.

BOBOLINK (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

A favorite of many people, these distinctive songsters are actually in the blackbird family. Tied very closely to grassy habitats, these were seen in places like the Allegan State Game Area and Munuscong Potholes.

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

This is a grassland-loving species, also in the blackbird family, that we encountered at the Allegan SGA.

ORCHARD ORIOLE (Icterus spurius)

Quite scarce, the only encounter of this small oriole was of a young male at Tawas Point.

BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula)

Common, seen most days, but especially at Tawas Point where we surely tallied 20+ one day.

RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Abundant throughout.


Common, these brood parasites were seen most days.

BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

A rare breeder in northern Michigan, this blackbird was tallied near the Upland Sandpiper spot west of Gaylord.

COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)


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One benefit of spring migration in Michigan is that all the warblers are sporting their finest plumages. Here is a handsome Chestnut-sided Warbler photographed by guide Cory Gregory.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)

OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)

This distinctive, thrush-like warbler, was heard more often than it was seen. Still, we managed looks a couple of times in dark, deciduous undergrowth.

NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)

Usually a secretive warbler of wet and swampy habitat, this tail-bobbing warbler came out into view for us along Stimpson Road.

GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora chrysoptera)

One of the favorites from this trip, this gorgeous warbler gave us looks from all angles along Stimpson Road.

BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (Vermivora cyanoptera)

It took us a little work to finally lay eyes on this spiffy warbler but we eventually did in the Allegan State Game Area. Hearing them, on the other hand, was fairly easy.


Where were all these? It was shocking but for some reason we dipped on this warbler until Stimpson Road where we eventually got great looks at some breeders.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea)

This warbler, with its glowing yellow head, breast, and belly, showed up a couple of times including along the Paw Paw River and again at the Allegan Dam.

TENNESSEE WARBLER (Leiothlypis peregrina)

This somewhat drab migrant warbler was seen a number of times including at Whitefish Point, Pointe LaBarbe, and Tawas Point.

ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (Leiothlypis celata)

Another of the somewhat-bland warblers, this species was just seen once at Tawas Point.

NASHVILLE WARBLER (Leiothlypis ruficapilla)

Common, especially in the latter half of the trip when we were up north.

CONNECTICUT WARBLER (Oporornis agilis) [*]

Wow wow wow, I can't believe we managed to bump into this one at the Allegan SGA. Easily the hardest-to-see of the warblers in Michigan, it wasn't a surprise when it decided to stay out of view. Still, hearing the low, loud, and chanty song is such an integral part of the experience.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The most coveted warbler on the trip was the rare and local Kirtland's Warbler. We devoted a morning to seeing these near the town of Grayling. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia)

Although we heard one singing repeatedly at Tawas Point, this secretive warbler was actually seen decently-well at Floral Lane in Warren Dunes State Park.

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)

A very common breeding warbler, this wetland-loving songster was heard more often than seen.

HOODED WARBLER (Setophaga citrina)

A favorite of some folks, this distinctive warbler was seen very well along the trail at Floral Lane.

AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)

Abundant, seen almost everywhere we saw warblers.

KIRTLAND'S WARBLER (Setophaga kirtlandii)

Without a doubt, this range-restricted warbler was one of our most wanted species! Near Grayling, we spent a morning amidst the Jack Pines watching and listening. When we did find them, we had good looks and even managed some pictures. Their numbers have been trending up thanks to habitat management and cowbird control. It's estimated that about 5000 pairs remain.

CAPE MAY WARBLER (Setophaga tigrina)

We had several of these at Tawas Point but a lot of them were drab females.

CERULEAN WARBLER (Setophaga cerulea)

It took a bit of effort but we finally tracked down this range-restricted warbler at the Allegan Dam where the males danced in the trees above us.

NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)

Fairly common throughout the trip but often high up in the trees. It was fun seeing them at Tawas Point though where most of the trees weren't that tall.

MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)

It took some effort but we finally connected with this species at Tawas Point.

BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (Setophaga castanea)

This was another of the warblers that we didn't see until Tawas Point. But once we got there and started birding, these started coming out of the woodwork.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another favorite of the 31 different warbler species we tallied was this Golden-winged Warbler that gave us a tremendous show as it sang from a roadside. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.


We saw a neck-breaker at Hartwick Pines State Park and so it was a relief to see more at Tawas Point. What fantastic coloration!

YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia) [N]

Abundant, these were common many places and especially at Tawas Point where we also found a nest.

CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)

Seen occasionally, this is actually a very handsome warbler species. The one along Stimpson Road was especially obliging.

BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)

We finally connected with multiple Blackpolls at Tawas Point late in the tour. Their song has to be one of the highest pitched!

BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER (Setophaga caerulescens cairnsi)

What a handsome warbler! We found our first one at the Point Iroquois Light Station and then saw another at Tawas Point.

PALM WARBLER (WESTERN) (Setophaga palmarum palmarum)

Only one was seen, which is strange, but it was at Whitefish Point which isn't a surprise at all.

PINE WARBLER (Setophaga pinus)

Common in piney habitats. Pines really are the common denominator when looking at the spots we saw these: Staley Lake Road, Hartwick Pines, Farm Truck Trail, and Shelldrake.

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

It was a surprise we didn't encounter more of these. Both sightings came from northern Michigan.


Fairly common in wooded habitats throughout the trip. A distinctive songster, these were at least heard most days.

CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)

This is a distinctive and attractive warbler that we encountered several times along the trail at Floral Lane in Berrien County. We saw them later in the trip as well at Tawas Point.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Northern Parula, another type of warbler, was one we saw multiple times and got to hear singing from their breeding grounds in northern Michigan. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)

This black-capped warbler was seen at two spots: Whitefish Point and Tawas Point.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

SCARLET TANAGER (Piranga olivacea)

A stunning red bird with black wings, these were back in full force and on territory throughout Michigan. We saw them a number of times including at Warren Dunes, near Grayling, Hartwick Pines, and Tawas Point.

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Although typically a very common species, these bright red guys were only tallied a handful of days.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Fairly common throughout the trip in wooded habitat like Warren Dunes, Hartwick Pines, Tahquamenon Falls, and Tawas Point.

INDIGO BUNTING (Passerina cyanea)

This was a colorful bookend to our trip; we first saw them in Berrien and then not again until Tawas.


EASTERN COTTONTAIL (Sylvilagus floridanus)

Seen near Nayanquing Point.


Quite common throughout the trip.

EASTERN GRAY SQUIRREL (Sciurus carolinensis)

A big, gray-tailed tree squirrel, these were seen a handful of days.

FOX SQUIRREL (Sciurus niger)

Seen early in the trip. Until the previous species, these have a ruddy or brown tail.

RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Seen a couple of times in northern Michigan.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Of course, we saw more than birds on our trip! Of the many species of mammals we saw, this North American Porcupine seemed least worried about us photographing it. What a cool critter! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

BEAVER (Castor canadensis)

We saw what looked like a young beaver at the Munuscong River.

MUSKRAT (Ondatra zibethica)

Seen a variety of spots such as the Houghton Lake Flats Flooding and the Munuscong River.


We spotted a very content porcupine taking a leisurely nap high up in a tree at Tawas Point.

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor)

A well-fed raccoon was attending the feeders at Tahquamenon Falls. It ate while we ate!

STRIPED SKUNK (Mephitis mephitis)

I'm not entirely sure why it was out during the day but either way, we did see it in the eastern UP scrambling down a driveway.

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Common, seen most days.


GREEN FROG (Lithobates clamitans)

We got some photos of a pretty cold-looking guy at Floral Lane.

NORTHERN MAP TURTLE (Graptemys geographica)

Our photos confirmed that there were several of these sunning themselves along the Paw Paw River where we stopped for Prothonotary Warbler along a roadside bridge.

Totals for the tour: 206 bird taxa and 11 mammal taxa