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Birding Bay County: Hotspots near Bay City


(A) Pinconning Park ★★

Advertised as the “Gateway to the North”, Pinconning Park provides visitors with an excellent opportunity to find species that usually nest in colder climates. Birders who visit during the spring and late summer should expect to see migrating Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, and Spotted Sandpipers.

Located on a narrow, C-shaped peninsula, the land barrier sticks out into Saginaw Bay, creating an excellent refuge for sandpipers and other water birds. During the winter, birds fly hundreds of miles from the arctic tundra to seek food on the grassy plains. Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs are all possible sightings. One of the best places to look for birds at Pinconning Park is Marsh Trail, a two-thirds mile long handicap accessible boardwalk which leads through a low-lying swamp.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone: (989) 879-5050
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Directions: Click here

Lapland LongspurLapland Longspur


(B) Nayanquing Point SWA ★★

Famous for being ground zero to many rare bird sightings, Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area’s 1,400 acres of Lake Huron wetland and flooded cropland attract thousands of migrants every spring. In August, the area becomes an excellent shorebirding spot when the water levels are high enough.

Another reason to visit is to look for Yellow-headed Blackbirds, which live in the cattail swamp. There are several trails and an observation tower available to assist birders in searching for Caspian Terns, Common Terns, American Bitterns, and other swamp-nesting birds.

Map: Click here
Phone: (989) 697-5101
Directions: Click here


(C) Parish Road Marsh ★

Parish Road Marsh is a large wetland area next to Saginaw Bay. The marsh is a good place to look for American Bitterns, Black-crowned Night-Herons, and other wading birds. Yellow-headed Blackbirds can occasionally be found. Because there are no parking areas available, leave the car as far off the road as possible.

Directions: Click here

Black-crowned Night-heronBlack-crowned Night-heron

(D) Tobico Marsh Nature Area ★★

A large freshwater wetland, Tobico Marsh Nature Area features 1,652 acres of protected habitat. The state game area also offers a mixed hardwood forest and an area of open water. The ecological diversity provides an opportunity to see a wide range of birds—over 100 species were recorded in the last few years. Visitors to the preserve may have to park on the edge of Killarney Beach Road.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Tobico MarshTobico Marsh


(E) Bay City State Recreation Area ★★★

Protecting one of the largest remaining freshwater wetlands in the Great Lakes, Bay City Recreation Area’s 2,800 acres of natural habitat create a literal birding mecca during migration. More than 230 bird species have been sighted in the park’s combination of grassy fields, cattail marshes, wetland woods, and oak savannah prairies.

The first place birders should visit are the lagoons behind the visitor center. A floating platform offers birders a close up view of sandpipers, herons, and ducks feeding in the shallow ponds. The mature oak trees near the lagoon provide nesting habitat for Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Across the road from the visitor center is a large campground, which is a good place to look for warblers during migration.

Website: | Map: Click here
Phone: (989) 684-3020
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Yellow-bellied SapsuckerYellow-bellied Sapsucker


(F) Consumers Energy Hot Ponds ★★

Located near Saginaw Bay, the ice-free water created by the Consumers Energy Hot Ponds frequently attract ducks during the wintertime. The terrain surrounding the ponds consists of large fields, creating an excellent place to look for sparrows and migrating raptors. Consumers Energy officials recently constructed a 60-foot high nesting platform in hopes of attracting Bald Eagles to the area.

Directions: Click here


(G) Quanicassee State Wildlife Area ★★

Located on the southern shores of Saginaw Bay, Quanicassee SWA’s open grassy meadows and low floodplains create optimal habitat for thousands of birds. Bald Eagles, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Bobolinks regularly nest in the area. There are limited amenities available at the park.

To explore Quanicassee, park at the red gate and walk down the small dirt two-track to Finn Road. Bald Eagles, Black-crowned Night-herons, and Great Egrets can be seen in the grassy fields surrounding the pathway.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(H) Middleground Island ★

Middleground Island is positioned in the midst of the Saginaw River, in Bay City. The northern side of the island has only a few trees, making it easier to search both sides of the river for ducks.

Directions: Click here