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Birding Jackson County: Hotspots near Jackson


(A) Concord Mill Pond ★

Despite its name, Concord Mill Pond is a two-mile long lake. One of the first bodies of water in Jackson County to see open water in the early months of spring, the lake is worth checking for waterfowl.

Directions: Click here


(B) Kate Palmer Wildlife Sanctuary ★★

Kate Palmer Sanctuary is a 53-acre preserve featuring several kinds of ecosystems, including deciduous forest, white pines, swampland, natural springs, and a trout stream. The sanctuary is the best place in Jackson County to enjoy spring wildflowers. From late April to the beginning of May, the foliage brightens with the presence of Trilliums and Trout Lilies. Many species of birds start their nests at the preserve during the spring months, including Baltimore Orioles and Eastern Wood-Pewees.

Directions: Click here


(C) Dahlem Center ★★

Devoted to helping children learn more about nature, the Dahlem Center gives visitors an opportunity to observe wildlife while hiking one of the many trails. There are many bird species which nest on the center's property. Visitors should look for the secretive woodland thrushes and flycatchers that nest in the preserve. The center is also home to the most successful bluebird restoration program in the country—with more than 500 baby birds raised every year!

Website: dahlemcenter.org
Phone: (517) 782-3453
Hours: The trails are open from open from dawn to dusk. The Dahlem Center building is open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, on Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and on Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. The building is closed Monday.
Directions: Click here

Eastern BluebirdEastern Bluebird


(D) MacCready Reserve ★★

MacCready Reserve is 408-acre preserve featuring a mature hardwood forest, natural springs, and green meadows that grow pretty wildflowers every spring. The reserve’s diverse habitat leads to many kinds of birds living within its boundaries. Birders have reported Northern Saw-whet Owls, Barred Owls, Great Horned Owls, and five kinds of hawks at the preserve.

One of MacCready Reserve’s highlights is a 62-acre island covered with a tall stand of White Pines. In 2013, supporters of the reserve began to raise money to build a 540-foot long bridge to the previously inaccessible island.

Directions: Click here

Northern Saw-whet OwlNorthern Saw-whet Owl


(E) Norvell Lake ★

Austin Road is next to Norvell Lake and another large body of water, providing birders with several places to pull the car off to the side of the road and scan the water for waterfowl. In February and March, Greater Scaups, Lesser Scaups, Canvasbacks, Redheads, and Northern Pintails can often be sighted on the lakes.

Directions: Click here

Northern PintailNorthern Pintail


(F) Watkins Lake ★

An important haven for waterfowl, Watkins Lake hosts many kinds of ducks in the spring and fall. One amazing sight that keeps birders coming back is the large flocks of Ringed-necked Ducks that crowd the lake in October and April. Birders should scan the lake for rarities that occasionally visit, such as the Greater White-fronted Goose.

Directions: Click here


(G) Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary ★★

Fall is the best times to visit Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. The sight of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, trumpeting loudly as they glide gracefully to the ground, make this sanctuary a must-see in Jackson County. The unique mixture of habitats (including beech and oak forests) provide a prime location for cranes and other birds to rest during migration. Birders will get the best view by walking to the top of Harold Wing Observation Hill. Helpful host guides are present on Saturday & Sunday in September and October during the peak of the crane migration.

There are many other exciting birds to see at Haehnle Sanctuary. Every few years a Whooping Crane, one of the rarest birds in North America, makes an appearance. Other species commonly seen Common Mergansers, Least Bitterns, and many kinds of sparrows.

Website: haehnlesanctuary.org | MapClick here
Phone: (517) 641-4277
Directions: Click here

Sandhill CranesSandhill Cranes


(H) Portage Lake Park ★

Portage Lake Park is a small lakeside county park frequented by boaters and fishermen. Scan the lake for ducks and geese, then make the short drive to Waterloo State Recreation Area on the southeast side of the lake to look for more birds (42.3342, -84.2368). The chilly months of October and November are the best time to scout out loons and grebes. Be sure to dress warmly! Look for Red-headed Woodpeckers in the woods nearby—these woodpeckers have a striking bright-colored head and black and white body that is easily recognizable.

Hours: The park is open from 6am to 10pm.
Directions: Click here


(I) Waterloo State Recreation Area ★★

The largest park in Lower Michigan, Waterloo State Recreation Area covers more than 900,000 acres of wetlands, woods, and lakes. Because of its large size, the park has many spots that birders rarely visit. By driving around with the windows down while listening for birds, it is possible to cover a large area and see more of the park’s wildlife.

One of Waterloo's birding hotspots is Sackrider Hill—a 120-foot mound with scrubby habitat perfect for warblers and sparrows. Do not hesitate to walk up the hill, because the scenic views from the top are worth the effort. Visitors can access the hill from the west side of Mt. Hope Road a short distance away from I-94.

Website: michigan.gov/waterloo | MapClick here
Phone: (734) 426-4913
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here