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Birding Oakland County: Hotspots near Pontiac

 

(A) Seven Lakes State Park ★★

Seven Lakes State Park, which was once included many bodies of water, was transformed into a single lake by the erection of a large dam. There are 5 other lakes present, giving birders many areas to search for Wood Ducks and other waterfowl. The park’s habitat ranges from rolling meadows to hilly forest. Available amenities include a campground, restrooms, and a swimming beach.

Website: michigan.gov/sevenlakes | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Northern PintailNorthern Pintail

 

(B) Sorensen Park & Nature Center ★★

Sorensen Park & Nature Center is a 93-acre nature preserve featuring 5 miles of trails, a nature center, township recreation office, and a playground. The park’s habitat contains woodlands interspersed throughout with a number of meadows. On the southeast side of the park, the Shiawassee River flows out of Lacy Lake. The combination of open water and riparian habitat help to make Sorensen Park one of Oakland County’s top birding hotspots. Many species can be spotted during spring migration, including Common Gallinule, Northern Waterthrush, and Northern Parula.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(C) Rose Oaks County Park ★★

Composed of rolling meadows and hilly forest, Rose Oaks Park harbors 200 acres of valuable wetlands as well as several lakes within its boundaries. There are approximately 5 miles of hiking trails available to assist birders in exploring the 639-acre park. The forests of Rose Oaks County Park are a good place to search for Ovenbirds and Veeries.

Map: Click here
Fees: A daily pass is required
Directions: Click here

 

(D) Shiawassee Basin Preserve ★★

Protecting 514 acres of land next to the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Basin Preserve contains by a large forest, Kirby Lake, and several small ponds. Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks are common summer residents at Shiawassee Basin. Ecologically rich, the park’s landscape hosts many kinds of native Michigan flora. To view the delicate habitat, visitors will need to explore the preserve’s miles of hiking trails.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(E) Holly State Recreation Area ★★

Featuring rolling hills, forest, and prairies, Holly State Recreation Area’s 8,000 acres of land provide any outdoor enthusiast with many activities to choose from. There are also two lakes to explore—McGinnis Lake and Heron Lake. The recreation area’s forest provides habitat for Ovenbirds, vireos and other common songbirds.

Website: michigan.gov/holly | Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 634-8811
Directions: Click here

 

(F) Independence Oaks County Park ★★

Named by MetroParent Magazine as one of the top ten family-friendly parks for hiking, Independence Oaks County Park features more than twelve miles of trails, many of which are paved. The majority of the terrain at Independence Oaks County Park comprises forest, except for a few wetland areas. Birders have reported seeing over 100 bird species at the park, including Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Saw-whet Owls, and Common Loons.

Located on the shores of 68-acre Crooked Lake, Independence Oaks County Park has many amenities available, including a playground, restrooms, sand volleyball courts, a baseball diamond, a nature center, and a boat launch.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(G) Highland Oaks County Park ★★

Featuring a traditional American scene, Highland Oaks County Park contains picturesque pastures, wetlands, and rolling hills for visitors to explore. Located near the Shiawassee River’s upper tributaries, the 302-acre park is relatively undeveloped except for 2.6 miles of trails. The paths are popular with hikers, geocachers, and mountain bikers.

Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, and Great Crested Flycatchers are common sightings at Highland Oaks County Park. Uncommon species sometimes sighted include Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows.

Map: Click here
Hours: The park is open from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset
Fees: A daily pass is required
Directions: Click here

Vesper SparrowVesper Sparrow

 

(H) Indian Springs Metropark ★★

One of the best places in Detroit to find Barred Owls and Pileated Woodpeckers, Indian Springs Metropark has many hiking and biking trails for birders to explore. The Huron Swamp covers most of the park, so when visiting in the summer, bring bug repellent to help ward off abundant mosquitoes and deer flies. Also watch out for rattlesnakes, which sometimes sun themselves on the park's trails.

Website: metroparks.com/Indian-Springs-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 625-6640
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here

 

(I) Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area ★★

Protecting 3,745 acres of pristine natural habitat, Pontiac Lake Recreation Area comprises wetlands, ponds, mature forests, fields, and several lakes. The park’s main attraction is 584-acre Pontiac Lake.

Because of the habitat diversity, Pontiac Lake Recreation Area is a good place to find many species of birds. Birders have reported seeing nearly 150 different kinds, including Horned Grebe, Black-crowned Night-heron, Sanderling, Barred Owl, and Bank Swallow.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Black-crowned Night HeronBlack-crowned Night Heron

 

(J) Drayton Plains Nature Center ★★

Dedicated to exhibiting earth’s finest treasure—nature, Drayton Plains Nature Center provides birders with an opportunity to search several small ponds for rare bird species and explore a pioneer era log cabin. Birds of interest that have nested on the property in recent years include Black Terns and American Bitterns. The ponds are a good spot to find waterfowl in the springtime.

Website: dpnaturecenter.org
Phone: (248) 618-3070
Hours: The trails are open from dawn to dusk. The nature center is open all week but the hours vary, so call for more details.
Directions: Click here

 

(K) Highland State Recreation Area ★★

Stretching across nearly 6,000 acres of forest, marshes, and lakes, Highland State Recreation Area is framed by the rolling hills of southeast Michigan. The park’s prime birding hotspot is on Haven Hill Lake’s north side. A small flock of ducks is usually present on the lake during March and April. In the spring, many species of warblers can be heard singing in the trees. The GPS points lead to a parking lot next to Haven Hill Lake.

Website: michigan.gov/highland | Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 889-3750
Directions: Click here

Flock of Northern PintailsFlock of Northern Pintails

 

(L) Proud Lake State Recreation Area ★★

Proud Lake State Recreation Area is a large nature preserve with over 4,000 acres of habitat including overgrown fields, deciduous forest, old pine plantations, and marshes alongside the Huron River. The large park provides excellent opportunities to find many bird species that are difficult to find anywhere else in Detroit—look for Blue-headed Vireos, Brown Creepers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Black-billed Cuckoos.

Website: michigan.gov/proudlake | Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 685-2433
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

 

(M) Kensington Metropark ★★★

An immensely popular Metropark, Kensington offers many recreational opportunities to birders and non-birders alike. Unfortunately, the large crowds of people that arrive in the summer frighten away many of the birds. The best time to visit is in the spring and fall. Start by touring the nature center exhibits, where trail maps are available. West of the nature center, several trails offer views of a nearby Great Blue Heron rookery. There are also Sandhill Cranes in the area that become quite aggressive if unsuspecting birders venture too close to their nest.

After hiking the woodland trails, drive around Kent Lake. From the numerous parking areas, birders can view flocks of swans, ducks, and gulls in the middle of the 1000-acre lake.

Website: metroparks.com/Kensington-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (810) 227-8910
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

 

(N) Lyon Oaks County Park ★★

Protecting 800 acres of forest and swampland, Lyon Oaks County Park features hiking trails, picnic areas, recreation fields, restrooms, and a playground. Common Yellowthroats and Yellow Warblers regularly reside at Lyon Oaks in the summer. Other amenities offered at Lyon Oaks include a 13-acre dog park.

Map: Click here
Fees: $5 per vehicle
Directions: Click here

 

(O) Novi Wetlands ★

Novi Wetlands consists of a large swampland on the north side of West Road. Within the wetlands, there are several ponds present, creating a good spot to search for American Wigeons and other species of waterfowl in the spring.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

American WidgeonAmerican Widgeon

 

(P) Lakeshore Park ★

Lakeshore Park is a small park positioned between Shawood Lake and Walled Lake. The park’s placement provides birders with an excellent spot to search for migrating waterfowl.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(Q) Robert H. Long Park ★★

Featuring a myriad of ponds and bridges leading through wetlands, Robert H. Long Park is a beautifully landscaped nature preserve. A covered bridge on the north side of the park provides access to additional trails. Robert H. Long Park is a popular birding destination—over 185 species of birds have visited at one time or another. Several species recently sighted by birders include Virginia Rail, Stilt Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, and Caspian Tern.

Directions: Click here

(R) West Bloomfield Woods Preserve ★★

A 162-acre park consisting of wetlands and forests, West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve was the first National Urban Wildlife Sanctuary in Michigan. Birders will enjoy viewing a Great Blue Heron rookery through their spotting scopes. Another attractive bird that lives in the preserve is the beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker. To see the woodpeckers and other birds, walk on one of the two nature trails.

Directions: Click here

Red-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker

 

(S) Orchard Lake Nature Sanctuary ★★

Orchard Lake Nature Sanctuary is a 5-acre wooded park with lakefront property on both Orchard Lake and Upper Straits Lake. There are several hiking trails available. The sanctuary does not permit bicycles and pets on its grounds. During spring migration, the sanctuary is a good spot to search for Sandhill Cranes and many kinds of ducks.

Directions: Click here

 

(T) Marshbank Park ★★

Recently renovated, Marshbank Park is a popular destination for city residents. Located on the shores of 1,280-acre Cass Lake, the park’s best birding hotspot is a large wetland on its eastern side. Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Sandhill Cranes are common summer residents at Marshbank Park.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Great EgretGreat Egret

 

(U) Heritage Park ★★

Heritage Park is a 211-acre park with hiking trails leading through deciduous forest. The open areas alongside the Rouge River create excellent birding habitat. The River Trail is a good place to see different kinds of flycatchers, vireos, and orioles.

The park has many amenities for families to enjoy, including picnic shelters, sand volleyball courts, history museum, and more.

Map: Click here
Hours: The trails are open from 8am to dusk. The nature center is Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and on Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. It is closed on Holidays and on Mondays during the winter months.
Directions: Click here

 

(V) American Center Marsh ★

Surrounded by large office buildings, the American Center Marsh covers two acres of excellent birding habitat. Visitors to the marsh should keep their eyes open for many kinds of birds—over 160 species have been recorded in the marsh, including American Bitterns, Least Bitterns, Black Terns, and Purple Martins.

Directions: Click here

Purple MartinPurple Martin

 

(W) Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve ★★

A 42-acre city oasis, Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve features a forest, a 5-acre lake, and several hiking trails. There are interpretive signs positioned alongside the trails, providing visitors with an educational experience. Because of a recent $1.5 million grant from the EPA and DNR, volunteers were able to make many changes, helping to improve the habitat around the lake.

Over the years, birders have reported seeing more than 120 species of birds at Carpenter Lake Nature Preserve, including many kinds of wood warblers and flycatchers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(X) Red Oaks Nature Center & Park ★★

Protecting 38 acres of forest, Red Oaks Nature Center & County Park regularly hosts meetings and events on biology and the environment. Housed in a cozy 2,400 square-foot log building, the center has many seasonal exhibits on display.

The park’s habitat consists of deciduous forest, vernal ponds, grassy meadows, and open shrubbery, providing habitat for Least Flycatchers and other birds. One of the highlights is the beautiful landscaping present, showcased by a small pond with a waterfall near the entrance. There is a 1.3-mile long paved trail available for visitors to use.

Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 975-9717
Directions: Click here

 

(Y) E. L. Johnson Nature Center ★★

The pinnacle of a 40-acre preserve, E. L. Johnson Nature Center oversees a mature forest next to a branch of the Rouge River, where fortunate birders can sometimes spot Bald Eagles plucking fish from the water. The center provides a number of cages for injured animals currently rehabilitating. There are two miles of neatly wood-chipped trails available for visitors to explore, as well as an old homestead from the 1800s. No pets or bicycles can be brought onto the preserve’s premises.

Website: friendsofthejohnsonnaturecenter.org | Map: Click here
Hours: From Monday to Friday, the park is open from 8am to 7pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, the park is open from 9am to 4pm.
Directions: Click here

Bald EagleBald Eagle

 

(Z) Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center ★★

Protecting a small forest oasis in the midst of the town of Troy, the mission of Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center is to inform urban residents about the ecology of southeastern Michigan. Every so often, staff take visitors on bird walks through the woods, giving them a chance to see Willow Flycatchers, Warbling Vireos, and other birds.

Website: troynaturesociety.org | Map: Click here
Hours: The nature center is open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 3pm, and on Saturday from 10am to 4pm. The hours can change without advance notice, so please call before visiting. The trails are open from dawn to dusk.
Phone: (248) 688-9703
Directions: Click here

 

(a) Thelma G. Spencer Park ★★

An urban nature preserve, Thelma G. Spencer Park provides access to a 38-acre man-made lake. There is a paved walking path present which circles the lake while winding through a thick deciduous forest. The lake sometimes holds Common Mergansers, Blue-winged Teals, and other migrating ducks in March and April. There are many amenities available, including restrooms, picnic tables, volleyball courts, a playground, and tennis courts.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Blue-winged TealBlue-winged Teal

 

(b) Rochester Hills EEC & Avon Area ★★

Positioned inside Avon Nature Area, Rochester Hills EEC offers visitors interactive exhibits and displays, detailing local conservation efforts and the ecology of southeastern Michigan. The 102-acre nature area comprises wooded riparian habitat next to the Clinton River, providing habitat for Green Herons and Belted Kingfishers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(c) Hawk Woods Nature Center ★★

The centerpiece of an 80-acre preserve, Hawk Woods Nature Center offers guests a covered picnic shelter, heated restrooms, marsh boardwalk, and neatly groomed nature trails. The preserve’s habitat consists of meadows, wetlands, forest, and a large pond on the south side of the property, giving birders plenty of habitat types to explore. Birds commonly seen near the nature center building include Hairy Woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, and Wood Ducks. The abundance of natural wildlife provide the staff of Hawk Woods Nature Center with plenty of opportunities to teach young visitors about nature.

Directions: Click here

Wood DuckWood Duck

 

(d) Bald Mountain SRA ★★

Occupying the most rugged terrain in southeast Michigan, Bald Mountain State Recreation Area is a popular destination for backpackers and mountain bikers. The park features many trails, lakes, and streams, providing birders with many areas to explore. Pileated Woodpeckers, Great-crested Flycatchers, and White-breasted Nuthatches are common summer residents.

A large swimming beach on Lower Trout Lake provides birders with a convenient place to set up their scopes and scan for migrating ducks.

Website: michigan.gov/baldmountain | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(e) Draper Twin Lake Park ★★

Featuring neatly mowed paths leading visitors through wetlands, farmland, and lakeshore, Draper Twin Lake Park is an excellent place to start a “Big Day.” The 90-acre park’s rolling topography provides a home for Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, and Green Herons.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Red-tailed HawkRed-tailed Hawk

 

(f) Lost Lake Nature Park ★★

Popular for its steep sledding hill, Lost Lake Nature Park is an excellent place for nature lovers to visit. The park’s terrain is mostly wooded, except for a wetland next to an 8-acre lake. The lake is the best place to search for birds—Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, and other ducks can regularly be sighted during migration.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(g) Addison Oaks Park ★★

Covering 1,140 acres, Addison Oaks Park features two lakes, a spring-fed pond, and over 15 miles of hiking trails. One of the park’s highlights is a paved 2.5-mile path, which leads visitors around Buhl Lake through wooded terrain. The area contains 15 miles of hiking trails, some permitting the use of mountain bikes.

When visiting Addison Oaks Park, birders should bring a spotting scope to scan the lake water for ducks and grebes. The nearby forests are an excellent spot to search for Eastern Wood-Pewees, Yellow-throated Vireos, and other kinds of songbirds.

Map: Click here
Phone: (248) 693-2432
Hours: 8am to 9pm
Fees: A daily vehicle pass is $5 for Oakland County residents, $10 for non-residents, and $4 for military and seniors ages 62 and over.
Directions: Click here

Yellow-throated VireoYellow-throated Vireo

 

(h) Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary ★★

Ecologically important, the habitat at Lakeville Swamp Nature Sanctuary protects over 400 species of native plants. The sanctuary, which was notoriously difficult to access in the past because of rattlesnakes and poison sumac, is now safely explored by a boardwalk. Fortunate birders may be able to hear the call of an American Bittern when walking through the preserve.

Directions: Click here

 

(i) Oakwood Lake Township Park ★★

Traversed by a branch of the Flint River, Oakwood Lake Township Park features numerous hiking trails for visitors to enjoy, some of which lead to Rossman Lake. A deciduous forest covers most of the park's terrain. Listen for the songs of Scarlet Tanagers and Ovenbirds when walking alongside the river.

Map: Click here
Hours: The park is open from 9am to 9pm
Directions: Click here