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Birding Emmet County: Hotspots near Mackinaw City & Petoskey


(A) McGulpin Point ★

Built in 1869, the lighthouse on McGulpin Point is one of the oldest watchtowers in the Great Lakes area. Unlike most other historic buildings, the lighthouse does not require a fee to enter. Another tourist attraction near the point is a large stone known as the "Big Rock".

McGulpin Point provides birders with a good place to scan Lake Michigan for migrating waterfowl and warblers.

Website: emmetcounty.org/mcgulpin/
Directions: Click here

Black ScoterBlack Scoter


(B) Headlands Park ★★

Headlands Park covers 600 acres pristine hardwood forest just a few miles west of Mackinaw City. The park has 4 miles of trails, providing birders with a chance to see many of the warbler species that nest in the park, including Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Blue, and Magnolia.

After birding Headland’s Park, take Wilderness Park Drive south for a half-mile, then follow French Lake Road south to French Farm Lake, which is an excellent place to see ducks, loons, and terns.

Directions: Click here

Black-throated Blue WarblerBlack-throated Blue Warbler


(C) Mackinaw City Sewage (Rest. Access) ★

The Mackinaw City Sewage Ponds consist of five separate lagoons and one additional pond east of the management station. The ponds are an excellent spot to check for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Be sure to request permission before birding the area.

Directions: Click here


(D) Wilderness State Park ★★

The best spot in Michigan to see the endangered Piping Plover, Wilderness State Park’s 26 miles of pristine Lake Michigan shoreline provides habitat for many kinds of birds. Within view of Mackinac Bridge, the beach is also a good place to watch Caspian Terns and Bald Eagles as they soar overhead. During the migration, ducks and loons can easily be spotted offshore. Keep an eye open for Semipalmated Sandpipers scurrying along the shorelines. Dunlins and Least Sandpipers are also commonly seen. Birders visiting during the winter should search the trees for Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, and Purple Finches.

Wilderness State Park’s 10,000+ acres contain a mature hardwood forest and a dense coniferous forest. There are many pockets of open meadows as well as dozens of small ponds located throughout the park. The area is easy to become lost in, so bring a map and compass. Birders visiting during the months of June and July should bring bug repellant to help protect against black flies and mosquitoes.

Website: michigan.gov/wilderness
Phone: (231) 436-5381
Directions: Click here

Evening GrosbeakEvening Grosbeak


(E) Pleasant View Swamp ★

The recipient of central Emmet County’s groundwater, Pleasant View Swamp is a good place to search for migrating warblers and other songbirds. Visitors have reported seeing over 50 species in the last couple years. Because there are no parking areas, birders will have to park on the side of the road.

Directions: Click here


(F) Thorne Swift Nature Preserve ★★

Managed by Little Traverse Conservancy, Thorne Swift Nature Preserve is a pleasant little park highlighted by Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Visitors will enjoy exploring the interpretive center and learning more about the cedar swamp habitat. Woodpeckers, wrens, and herons can often be spotted when walking on one of the boardwalk trails. On the south side of the park, an observation platform offers birders a good place to set up spotting scopes and scan for waterfowl.

Website: goo.gl/UJXTck
Phone: (231) 526-6401
Fees: There is a parking fee of $3 for non-township residents
Directions: Click here

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron


(G) Oden Fish Hatchery ★★

One of the most technologically advanced fish culture facilities in North America, Oden State Fish Hatchery received a complete makeover in 2002. The facility rears hundreds of Brown and Rainbow trout every year. Where the old hatchery used to stand, there are now educational exhibits present that inform visitors about the Great Lakes Watershed. The displays are a part of the Michigan Fisheries Visitor Center.

The habitat surrounding the fishery is heavily forested and features several small ponds and a creek. Look for Hermit Thrushes and Veeries in the thick woods. There are a number of walking trails available.

Directions: Click here


(H) Round Lake Nature Preserve ★★

Round Lake Nature Area is a small park consisting of a forest and shoreline on a half-mile long lake. There are a few trails available for birders to explore, as well as a boardwalk leading out to the lake. During the springtime, come prepared by wearing boots to avoid getting wet feet—water levels can sometimes rise above the boardwalk.

Mute Swans, Common Loons, and several species of terns and swallows nest on the lakeshore. Northern Waterthrushes can sometimes be seen foraging in the underbrush for food.

Directions: Click here


(I) Petoskey State Park ★★

Covering 300 acres on Little Traverse Bay’s eastern side, Petoskey State Park features a beautiful shoreline and a large hill. Kids will enjoy walking the half-mile trail up to the top of Mt. Baldy, and birders will appreciate the ability to be eye-level with the warblers and flycatchers flittering in the treetops. The park also hosts a thriving population of Barred Owls. Petoskey State Park has two campgrounds, both of which offer modern amenities.

Website: michigan.gov/petoskey | Map: Click here
Phone: (231) 347-2311
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Barred OwlBarred Owl


(J) Waterfront Park & Sunset Park ★

Located on bluffs overlooking Little Traverse Bay, Petoskey Waterfront Park & Sunset Park offer some of the best waterfowl scoping opportunities in the area. Positioned a short distance inland, the trees of Sunset Park form the backdrop for Petoskey Waterfront Park. Birders should leave their vehicles at one of the parks and walk to the other one.

Throughout the year, many species of ducks, loons, gulls, and terns can be found on Little Traverse Bay. Glaucous and Great-backed Gulls occasionally show up in the late fall before the ice freezes. Do not forget to check the small pond at Sunset Park for birds.

Directions: Click here


(K) NCM College Natural Area ★★

North Central Michigan College Natural Area is a 195-acre nature preserve that provides access to 5 miles of trails. The preserve's flat terrain consists of pine & maple forest, the Bear River, grassy meadows, and a pond. In the past, local ornithologists have conducted bird population surveys.

The natural area is an excellent place to check for songbirds. In recent years, birders reported seeing Pine Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, and Yellow-throated Vireos.

Directions: Click here