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Birding Benzie County: Hotspots near Frankfort

 

(A) Grass Lake State Forest Campground ★

Grass Lake State Forest Campground is a small camping area next to the Betsie River. The woods near the campground are an excellent place to search for songbirds, including Least Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-throated Vireos, and Nashville Warblers. The GPS points lead travelers to a dam near the campground.

Website: goo.gl/3SLTFy
Directions: Click here

Yellow-throated VireoYellow-throated Vireo

 

(B) Platte River State Fish Hatchery ★

Positioned next to the Platte River, riparian woodlands surround the Platte River State Fish Hatchery, creating an excellent birding hotspot for songbirds. Other areas to check include the nearby ponds, which often hold ducks and geese.

Directions: Click here

 

(C) Deadstream Road Platte Lake Access ★

Deadstream Road Platte Lake Access gives birders a good place to search for waterfowl on Platte Lake. The Platte River flows a short distance southeast of the lake access point, next to the road.

Directions: Click here

 

(D) Platte Plains & Otter Creek Area ★★

Known for hosting many species of songbirds during migration, the Platte Plains & Otter Creek Area of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are an important stop for any birders trying to add species to their bird list. Some of the different types of habitat available to explore are wetlands, dunes, and mixed forests.

The Otter Creek area is an especially good place to find warbler species. Bald Eagles and Scarlet Tanagers are also regularly seen. Be sure to pick up maps at the visitor center in Empire before hiking one of the area’s trails.

Website: nps.gov/slbe
Directions: Click here

Scarlet TanagerScarlet Tanager

 

(E) Peterson Road ★★

Leading to one of Lake Michigan’s most beautiful beaches, a trip down Peterson Road is one of the natural highlights of the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. The woods surrounding the road serve as a home to nesting Blackburnian Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Pine Warblers. Hermit Thrushes, Common Nighthawks, and other woodland birds can be heard calling in the forest nearby.

After exploring the forest, drive to Platte Bay and search for loons and ducks. There is a small parking area and a restroom available.

Website: nps.gov/slbe
Directions: Click here

 

(F) Platte River Point ★★

Platte River Point is one of the best places in Michigan to see the endangered Piping Plover. The bird’s nesting area becomes roped off from April to August, but an early morning visit outside of these lines may yield a plover sighting. Some of the area’s best birding is on the other side of the Platte River. During warm weather, visitors can roll up their pant legs and wade across, eventually accessing a trail leading over a sand dune to the lakeshore.

Other birds frequently seen at Platte River Point include gulls, terns, and sandpipers. The river flows directly into Lake Michigan, creating an ice-free zone for much of the winter. The shallow water provides dabbling ducks and other birds easy access to food. In August, sandpipers can frequently be seen searching for food in the mud flats. Species seen every year include Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstones, Semipalmated Plovers, and Sanderlings.

Website: nps.gov/slbe
Phone: (231) 326-5134
Directions: Click here

Ruddy TurnstoneRuddy Turnstone

 

(G) Point Betsie ★★

Stunningly beautiful, the rare mosaic of dune habitat at Point Betsie should be visited by birders while it still exists. The area is home to another natural rarity—the Piping Plover. The birds nest in the dunes, so visitors should stick to the trails to avoid scaring female plovers off of their nests.

When migration takes place, huge flocks of ducks and loons can frequently be seen flying overhead. Birders once counted over 300 Common Loons migrating northward in one hour! During the wintertime, Bald Eagles and Snowy Owls can regularly be seen hunting alongside the shoreline.

Birders should bring their camera to Point Betsie, which is home to the Great Lakes' most photographed lighthouse. Tours of the building are available for a small fee.

Website: pointbetsie.org
Directions: Click here

(H) Frankfort Harbor ★

There are two piers sheltering Frankfort Harbor, providing ducks with a place of refuge when rough storms strike Lake Michigan. During migration, the harbor is a productive spot to search for sandpipers, plovers, and other shorebirds.

Directions: Click here

Piping PloverPiping Plover

 

(I) Elberta Beach ★

Elberta Beach features a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan and a large beach. The beach is a good place to look for wading birds. Species sighted include Baird's Sandpipers, Purple Sandpipers, and American Golden-Plovers. The shorebirds usually arrive in late August and early September.

Directions: Click here

 

(J) Betsie Bay Marina ★

Betsie Bay Marina provides birders with a good place to park and scan Betsie Lake for birds. The south side of the lake is suitably shallow for sandpipers, dowitchers, and other wading birds. Birders have recorded seeing nearly 150 species of birds at the lake.

Directions: Click here

Buff-bellied SandpiperBuff-bellied Sandpiper

 

(K) Elberta Marsh & Betsie Bay & Trail ★★

Famous for hosting large numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds, Benzie Audubon David Harrison Memorial Lookout and Betsie Valley Trail offer birders exceptional views of the Betsie River marsh. In addition to migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, many herons and other migrants can often be spotted. Sandhill Cranes, Sedge Wrens, Willow Flycatchers, and American Bitterns have all visited in the past.

Website: betsievalleytrail.org | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(L) Green Point Dunes Nature Preserve ★★

Green Point Dunes Nature Preserve is a 242-acre sanctuary that protects vulnerable habitat near Lake Michigan’s shores. The park’s highlight is a 3-mile trail that winds through meadows and forests, ending with a scenic view of Lake Michigan. The preserve is a good place to look for warblers and sparrows in April and May, when a colorful display of wildflowers brightens the landscape.

Website: goo.gl/eHhx51
Directions: Click here

 

(M) Upper Herring Lake Preserve ★★

Upper Herring Lake Nature Preserve lies next to one mile of pristine, undeveloped lakeshore. The park consists of 180 acres of meadows, swamp, and marl pit ponds. Visiting birders will be interested in walking on a long boardwalk, which leads through a marsh.

The preserve is a popular nesting ground for many birds. Sandhill Cranes, American Bitterns, and other species raise many chicks every year. The best way to access Upper Herring Lake is from the boat launch on Herron Road.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(N) C.S. Mott Nature Preserve ★★

C.S. Mott Nature Preserve, which protects 3,800 acres of the Arcadia Dunes area, features a diverse array of habitat, such as sandy beaches, forests, dunes, meadows, and bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. The preserve is an important area for nesting and migrating birds. Over 150 species visit C.S. Mott every year.

Birders will enjoy hiking on 15 miles of trails containing maps and information kiosks to help visitors learn more about the area's natural ecology. One of the highlights is the Baldy Trailhead (located on M-22), which leads to the peak of a dune called “Old Baldy”. The fields surrounding the dunes can be searched for Brown Thrashers, Eastern Bluebirds, and Song Sparrows.

Website: gtrlc.org/preserve/arcadia-dunes | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Brown ThrasherBrown Thrasher

 

(O) Inspiration Point ★

Providing access to the Lower Peninsula’s most scenic view, Inspiration Point will leave visitors speechless. From a set of stairs which lead to the platform, birders can scope out the lake beneath them. Long-tailed Ducks and White-winged Scoters sometimes swim by the viewpoint. The platform can become crowded during the summertime.

Directions: Click here

Long-tailed DuckLong-tailed Duck