Trip Report — Michigan II 2024

May 16, 2024 to May 24, 2024
Guided by Cory Gregory

We tallied a whopping 34 species of warblers on this trip! The most popular was the Kirtland's Warbler and not only did we see them, we saw them do really cool things like feeding by creeping along the ground! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

Connecting the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula, the Mackinac Bridge is an impressive engineering feat! We enjoyed this look at the bridge before crossing over to the birding that awaited us in the north. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.

One of the highlights of this trip was getting to see, and then cross, the famed Mackinac Bridge.  First, we checked the beach for new things and found a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, and a few warblers bopped through the trees including Yellow, Nashville, Orange-crowned, and Tennessee.  Before we crossed the bridge though, we checked out the stale report of a Harlequin Duck.  To my surprise, it was still there!  We hopped out and enjoyed quick looks at this stunning species which is rare anywhere in Michigan!  After we crossed the Mighty Mac, we drove north until we entered open country where our target was hopefully at a grouse lek.  We drove up quietly and sure enough, about 20 Sharp-tailed Grouse were still using the lek.  They even got excited a few times and did some dancing!  Nearby, the Munuscong Potholes gave us more views of Sharp-tailed Grouse but also of a singing Clay-colored Sparrow.  An Alder Flycatcher sang, nearly half a dozen Upland Sandpipers kept an eye on us, and a Wilson's Snipe was displaying overhead.  Shortly after, the walk out along the river gave us a nice chance to stretch our legs and enjoy birding on foot.  We found several Virginia Rails which were seen completely in the open!  A number of Marsh Wrens were clinging and singing in the cattails, Swamp Sparrows trilled nearby, and even a few Sedge Wrens also joined in.
Our time in the Upper Peninsula was spent at a number of good birding spots including Whitefish Point, Point Iroquois, the Tahquamenon River Mouth, Shelldrake Lake, Farm Truck Trail, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park.  Lake Superior was kind to us, thankfully.  We encountered several diverse migrant flocks which really filled in our our warbler list; we saw Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Nashville, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Black-throated Green, Cape May, Bay-breasted, and Wilson's warblers, to name a few.  Migration was really interesting to watch at Whitefish Point where hundreds of Blue Jays swirled overhead, sparrows worked the feeders, Red Crossbills flew over, Broad-winged Hawks gathered and circled, and even the nesting Piping Plovers put on a good show.  One of my favorite aspects of birding in the UP is the chance to look for Spruce Grouse in the deep and dark spruce bogs.  And yes, we found one!  At night, the owl researchers at Whitefish Point were able to show us a Northern Saw-whet Owl that they had caught.  Adorable to us, but probably not to its tiny prey!  As we said goodbye to the UP, we stopped at Point LaBarbe for one final stop.  It's a good thing we did, because migration was hopping; we laid eyes on Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Canada, Yellow, Blackburnian, Nashville, Tennessee, and Black-and-white warblers.
Back in the Lower Peninsula, we continued to bird our way down along the shoreline of Lake Huron.  We added a singing Northern Waterthrush, a handsome Chestnut-sided Warbler, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, and a couple of singing Blue-headed Vireos.  As we approached Tawas City, we checked out Tuttle Marsh which was another very birdy spot.  We added 14+ Trumpeter Swans, Pied-billed Grebe, and a stoic Bald Eagle.  Returning at night was a blast; we saw Eastern Whip-poor-wills, Eastern Screech-Owls, and a Barred Owl!  The main attraction on that side of the state in the spring is the famous Tawas Point.  Known for its migration-condensing geography, it was a great place to be based for a couple of nights.  For example, one morning we spent about 4 hours birding up-and-down the many paths and we tallied a very impressive 74 species!  The highlights were many; we tallied 8 species of shorebirds including Piping Plover and Whimbrel, 3 vireo species, a scattering of flycatchers, a very uncommon Northern Mockingbird at the tip, a number of Orchard Orioles, and 14 species of warblers (including a singing Mourning Warbler!).  Whether it was the chance to see a flock of 80+ Whimbrel swirling over the beach, watching an impressive array of migrating raptors, or watching the dozens of tanagers, grosbeaks, and buntings, this place really was special.
In the end, with a triplist loaded with more than 200 species, our trip was a really successful one, perhaps my biggest tally for this route!  I hope everyone enjoyed themselves and I want to thank each of you for joining me on this Field Guides tour.  Michigan means a lot to me and I hope you can now say you too have experienced a good chunk of the Great Lakes State.  Of course, a big "thank you" to Karen for managing this trip and I speak for all of us in saying thank you again for choosing Field Guides for this adventure.  Until we see you on another of our trips somewhere else in the world, stay safe and good birding!

You can see my complete trip report on eBird at this link:

You can download a combined PDF of this page and the eBird report at this link:

--Cory Gregory (Curlew)