Birding is currently the second fastest growing hobby in the United States after gardening, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who also reports that over 2 million Michigan residents are birdwatchers. There are countless opportunities for viewing these winged wonders in and around the Mackinaw City area during the coming warm weather season.
While no longer protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the bald eagle remains protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Here in Michigan, the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch takes place every day in Mackinaw City. The group conducts scientific studies of hawks and owls migrating through this region of northern Michigan and educates the public about the birds and their migration. They count northward-bound hawks in the spring and survey owls both spring and fall, recording and reporting the data for free professional and public access. The annual Raptor Fest is coming up April 3-5.
The Michigan Audubon Society represents nearly 40 local chapters throughout the state, with individuals participating in local, state and national bird counts, as well as sanctuary stewardship initiatives and community events. Among the northern chapters are the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society, Petoskey; Straits Area Audubon Society, Cheboygan; Thunder Bay Audubon Society, Alpena; AuSable Valley Audubon, Oscoda; Kirtland’s Warbler Audubon Society, Marquette; Sault Naturalists Club, Sault Ste. Marie; and Laughing Whitefish Audubon Society, Marquette.
The Sunrise Coast Birding Trail takes flight at the mouth of the famed AuSable River in Oscoda and wings its way north all along the Lake Huron coast to Mackinaw City, encompassing more than 145 miles along US-23. Birders will delight in observing the common, threatened or endangered birds of these freshwater coastal and inland locations.
Founded in 1966, the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society offers monthly indoor programs and over 30 year-round field trips for its 200 members and guests throughout Emmet, Charlevoix and other nearby counties. Efforts are currently underway by this group to develop a “Tip of the Mitt” birding trail.
Up over the famed five-mile Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula, additional birding sites can be found within a few hours of Mackinaw City.
The North Huron Birding Trail includes five unique zones associated with nearby communities in the Les Cheneaux Islands area, east of the Mackinac Bridge on the northern shore of Lake Huron. Once a summer vacationing spot for conservationist, forester, philosopher, professor, ecologist and author of the A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold. This region celebrates the life and legacy of this noted naturalist, June 2-7, during the Aldo Leopold Festival.
The Superior Birding Trail in this area covers 150 miles, from the Seney National Wildlife Refuge to Whitefish Point, with more than 300 bird species can be found.
Located on Lake Superior (next to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum), the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory conducts two of the longest-running point counts in North America. The site is a globally-significant migration funnel for raptors, waterbirds, shorebirds and passerines.
To book lodging reservations during your summer birding vacation, visit MackinawCity.com/stay/.
PHOTO SOURCE: Mackinac Straits Raptor Fest / Cheboygan News.