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Birding Washtenaw County: Hotspots near Ann Arbor


(A) Leonard Preserve ★★

The terrain at 259-acre Leonard Preserve consists of small hills covered with rare prairie habitat. Because of the dry, sandy ground, few trees are able to grow in the preserve. One of the park's highlights is the River Raisin—Leonard Preserve protects nearly one mile of the river’s shoreline. Because of its diverse habitat, a wide variety of birds can be sighted within the park, including Hairy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black-capped Chickadees.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Hairy WoodpeckerHairy Woodpecker


(B) Nan Weston Preserve ★★

Composed of mostly wooded terrain, Nan Weston Preserve’s 248 acres of forest provides nesting habitat for Acadian Flycatchers, Cerulean Warblers, and many other kinds of birds.

Directions: Click here


(C) Sharon Shorthills Preserve ★★

Featuring a mixture of tall-grass prairie and oak savannah, Sharon Shorthills Preserve can be accessed from two miles of trails. The preserve is a good place to search for prairie species of birds, including Grasshopper Sparrows, Horned Larks, and Bobolinks.

Directions: Click here


(D) Cedar Lake Campground ★

Surrounded by thick forest, Cedar Lake Campground provides access to the shoreline of a 73-acre lake. To the west of the campground, a water channel connects Little Cedar Lake and Cedar Lake. Birders visiting the campground during March and April will most likely see Buffleheads, Horned Grebes, and other species of waterfowl.

Directions: Click here


(E) West Lake Preserve ★★

Spectacularly beautiful, West Lake Preserve features two miles of trails guiding visitors through many types of habitat, including open meadows, button-bush swamp, lakeshore, and upland oak-hickory forest. The preserve is a popular destination for migrating Sandhill Cranes. The Bald Eagles which nest in the area provide another highlight. The large raptors can sometimes be seen plucking fish out the lake’s waters.

To get a better view of the lake without hiking through the preserve, drive to Island Lake Road and park as far off the road as possible (42.3666, -84.0072).

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(F) Four Mile Lake Access ★

Located within the boundaries of Chelsea State Game Area, Four Mile Lake Access provides birders with a place to search the 256-acre lake for Pied-billed Grebes, Common Loons, and other waterfowl species. The combination of forest and open water creates an excellent spot to look for birds—naturalists have recorded over 130 species.

Directions: Click here


(G) Trinkle Marsh ★★

A large wetland complex, Trinkle Marsh is an excellent place to watch for migrating ducks and shorebirds. Every year, thousands of birds stop to rest at the marsh. There are two short boardwalks available, each providing access to the overlook close to the water’s edge. Over 130 kinds of birds have been recorded visiting the marsh, including Sandhill Cranes, Great Horned Owls, Rusty Blackbirds, and Brewer's Blackbirds.

Directions: Click here

Rusty BlackbirdRusty Blackbird


(H) Pinckney State Recreation Area ★★

A popular place to participate in outdoor sports, Pinckney State Recreation Area features mountain biking trails, fishing lakes, and several campgrounds for visitors to enjoy. While it may not be as heavily birded as nearby Waterloo State Recreation Area, the large preserve is still worth a visit.

During migration, many kinds of warblers and flycatchers can be seen migrating through the trees of Pinckney State Recreation Area. Cuckoos and vireos are also commonly found. Lucky birders may even get a chance to hear the haunting call of a Whip-poor-will. These secretive birds, which are only active at night, can sometimes be spotted sleeping on the ground during the day. The Whip-poor-will is most likely to be seen at Park Lyndon North.

Thousands of ducks and geese fly into Pinckney’s lakes in April and October. Silver Lake is the best place to find migrating grebes and loons. Surf Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks also turn up occasionally. In addition, Pinckney hosts many species of owls in its woods. Birders who stay till evening should not pass up the chance to walk the short Silver Lake Trail at dusk and listen for Barred Owls.

The park is easy to get lost in, so examine a map before leaving. The GPS points lead to the recreation area’s headquarters.

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


(I) Stinchfield Woods ★★

Stinchfield Woods is a large, 700-acre tract of coniferous forest planted over 80 years ago. The nature preserve, owned by the University of Michigan, serves as a research station. The area has many breeding bird species commonly found in northern Michigan, such as Ovenbirds, Brown Creepers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Golden-crowned Kinglets.

Website: goo.gl/GWJx0v
Phone: (734) 426-4742
Directions: Click here

Golden-crowned KingletGolden-crowned Kinglet


(J) Hudson Mills Metropark ★★

The Huron River flows gently through Hudson Mills Metropark, providing many great recreational opportunities and creating optimal birding habitat. There are many activities for non-birders to enjoy, including playing disc golf and walking on nature trails.

Birders also have a lot to be excited about—species that breed in the park, such as Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Black-billed Cuckoos, Wood Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, Scarlet Tanagers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

Website: metroparks.com/Hudson-Mills-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 426-8211
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here


(K) Independence Lake County Park ★★

The diverse habitat of Independence Lake County Park comprises oak stands, prairies, and wetlands. Located on the shores of a 200-acre lake, the park features a multitude of recreational opportunities, including a $4 million splash park, and several hiking trails.

Over 115 species of bird species have been counted at Independence Lake County Park. Waterfowl are especially common—a quick scan during the spring can reveal Blue-winged Teals, Northern Pintails, Hooded Mergansers, and many other species.

Map: Click here
Hours: The park is open from 8am to 9pm
Fees: $9 daily pass per vehicle
Directions: Click here

Blue-winged TealBlue-winged Teal


(L) Dexter Huron Metropark ★★

Dexter Huron Metropark is a forested nature preserve located next to the Huron River. The 122-acre property's colorful foliage brightens the forest floor in May. There are many amenities available, including a playground, restrooms, and a picnic area.

Search the wooded park for Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, and other secretive species. In the spring, the beautiful songs of resident Wood Thrushes permeate the forest.

Website: metroparks.com/Dexter-Huron-Metropark | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 426-8211
Fees: Metroparks Vehicle Entry Permit required ($7 daily, $30 annually)
Directions: Click here


(M) Delhi Metropolitan Park ★

Positioned next to a bend of the Huron River, Delhi Metropolitan Park is a pleasant place for visitors to enjoy and relax. The park is a popular destination for kayakers and fishermen. Amenities include restrooms, a picnic shelter, and a playground. Someday, the park will link to other Metroparks by the Border-to-Border Trail.

Website: metroparks.com/Delhi-Metropark | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(N) Brauer Preserve ★★

Composed of dry mesic forest, southern swamp, and fields, Brauer Preserve protects 85 acres of ecologically important habitat. A local conservation organization continues to farm the land, implementing conservative agricultural techniques such as crop rotation, field borders, and minimal pesticide use. Several trails wind through the park. However, no amenities are available.

Birders visiting Brauer Preserve should keep their eyes open for Field Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Horned Larks, and other grassland birds. After visiting the preserve, birder can drive south on Parker Road for a quarter-mile to view a large pond and search for ducks.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(O) DeVine Preserve ★★

DeVine Preserve is a 163-acre park that protects an important wetland area. The park features two loop trails, one of which winds through woodlands and old fields on the preserve’s northern side. There are no amenities available.

An excellent birding spot, the fields of DeVine Preserve often produce sightings of uncommon grassland species, including Savannah Sparrows, Bobolinks, and Dickcissels. Since the preserve is often wet and muddy, be sure to bring hiking boots.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(P) Dolph Nature Area ★★

Dolph Nature Area is a small 44-acre park that provides excellent opportunities for viewing migrating songbirds. A large number of bird species regularly visit the Dolph Nature Area, including White-eyed Vireo, Prothonotary Warbler, Fox Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and even a Virginia Rail. Do not miss visiting a small wetland area on the northeast corner of the park that local birders have appropriately nicknamed the “Waterthrush Hotel”.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

White-eyed VireoWhite-eyed Vireo

(Q) Bird Hills Nature Area & Pond ★★

Despite its name, Barton Pond is a wide, slow-moving section of the Huron River. It is the best local spot to find migrating waterfowl in March and April. Ospreys and Bald Eagles can regularly be seen catching fish in the river. Barton Nature Area is close by, featuring a collection of trails.

One of Ann Arbor’s most popular birding hotspots, Bird Hills Nature Area is an excellent place to search for woodland species. Many kinds of vireos, warblers, flycatchers, and thrushes nest within the preserve. One of the 151-acre park’s specialties is the Hooded Warbler, a southern species seldom seen in Michigan.

There are a number of walking paths available, some of which traverse deep ravines and lead past massive shade trees. The trails are south of Bird Road, a short distance southwest of the Barton Park’s parking area.

Directions: Click here



(R) Olson Park ★★

The main birding attraction of Olson Park for birders is a large pond that used to be a gravel pit—offering a good spot to search for Wood Ducks, Green Herons, and other birds. The 54-acre park also features a wetland area and a small forest, both of which are accessible from hiking trails. There are restrooms, athletic fields, and other facilities available.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Wood DuckWood Duck


(S) Argo Nature Area ★★

Argo Nature Area is a linear 22-acre park located on the east side of the Huron River. The park features a trail which runs its entire length, providing visitors with beautiful views of the river. The nature preserve is an excellent place to search for warblers in early May, when Northern Parulas, Bay-breasted Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, and Blackburnian Warblers visit.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(T) Cedar Bend Nature Area ★★

The heavily wooded Cedar Bend Nature Area preserves 19 acres of riparian habitat next to the Huron River’s steep banks. The park’s trails can be slippery and eroded at times. Vireos, warblers, and flycatchers are some of the common summer residents that frequent Cedar Bend Nature Area.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Great-crested FlycatcherGreat-crested Flycatcher


(U) Nichols Arboretum ★★

Nicknamed the “Arb”, Nichols Arboretum is a great place to watch migrating birds in the spring. Many kinds of warblers and hawks regularly visit the arboretum's grounds. During the winter, several different types of finches as well as American Robins manage to survive the cold months. For an eye-level view of migrants passing through the trees, walk to the top of a hill nicknamed “the ridge.”

Website: goo.gl/qf5arA | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 647-8986
Hours: The trails are open from open from dawn to dusk. The Reader Center is open Tuesday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. The Center is closed on weekends and major holidays, except for ticketed events.
Directions: Click here


(V) Furstenberg Park ★★

Showcasing wetlands, prairie, and oak savannah habitat, Furstenberg Park is next to the Huron River. The park features several paved trails and bridges, as well as restrooms, picnic areas, and benches. A series of posts with numbers correspond to an interpretive brochure, offering information about a tree or plant close by the post.

Furstenberg Park is a good spot to search for migrating birds—over 150 kinds have visited in the past. Check the Huron River for migrating ducks, grebes, and loons.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Common LoonCommon Loon


(W) Gallup Park ★★

The most popular recreation area in Ann Arbor, Gallup Park is a beautiful place to visit. The scenic 69-acre park features several bucolic pedestrian bridges and paved asphalt trails which provide access to several islands on the Huron River. There are restrooms and picnic areas available.

Because of its urban location, Gallup Park is a popular Ann Arbor birding hotspot—naturalists have recorded over 140 species of birds. From ducks to warblers, the diverse habitat presents numerous opportunities to see many kinds of birds.

There is another parking area for Gallup Park on Geddes Road, where visitors can also access Ruthven Nature Area and Elizabeth Dean Butterfly Garden.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(X) Matthaei Botanical Gardens ★★

Attractive to both warblers and gardeners, Matthaei Botanical Gardens artfully showcase dozens of beautiful perennials amidst acres of lush greenery. Because of the incredible natural beauty on display, the gardens are a popular wedding spot. There are also several nature trails available for visitors to explore.

The woodland habitat, which encloses three small ponds and Fleming Creek, providing birders with an opportunity to see songbirds. Orchard Orioles can often be found near the Conservatory parking lot.

Website: goo.gl/3GAiFD | Map: Click here
Phone: (734) 647-7600
Hours: The trails are open from open from dawn to dusk. The Conservatory and store are open from mid-May until Labor Day from 10am to 8pm. After Labor Day, the buildings are open 10am to 4:30pm except for on Wednesday, when they stay open until 10pm.
Fees: There is a parking fee of $1.40 per hour or $5 for the whole day.
Directions: Click here

Prothonotary WarblerProthonotary Warbler


(Y) LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve ★★

LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve features a mature forest threaded by an elaborate trail system. Other types of habitat present include fields, wetlands, ponds, and a creek.

Birders should bring bug spray when visiting the preserve after May—the mosquito population can be overpowering at times. LeFurge Woods is a great place for birders to attempt a “Big Day,”—birders have recorded over 155 species on the 325-acre property. The preserve is an especially good place to look for migrating songbirds.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here


(Z) Ford Lake ★★

A large lake with numerous small parks facing its waters, Ford Lake has several excellent viewpoints from which birders can search for ducks with a spotting scope. During migration, the lake provides shelter to almost every waterfowl species native to Michigan. Some of the most sought after specialties include Horned Grebes and Ospreys, which visit Ford Lake every year. Once the water starts to freeze, Great Black-backed Gulls can commonly be spotted roosting on the side of the ice.

Here are some of the different parks surrounding Ford Lake:

  • North Bay Park has a boardwalk and an observation tower. Park officials collect a $5 entrance fee during the summertime.
  • Ford Lake Park attracts woodland species such as Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Carolina Wrens.
  • North Hydro Park provides birders with spectacular views of the river below the dam, where Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, and Bufflehead often hang out.
  • Loonfeather Point Park is the best place to view waterfowl congregating in the middle of the lake. During the winter, the gate closes, so visitors will have to park at the entrance and walk past the right side of the parking lot to the viewing platform.

Directions: Click here


(a) Marsh View Meadows Park ★★

Marsh View Meadows Park is a 54-acre park highlighted by wetland and forest habitat. Nature lovers visiting the park will enjoy walking on a boardwalk which leads through the wetlands to several overlooks. The park features two miles of trails, a playground, restrooms, and a picnic area.

Birds likely to be seen in season at Marsh View Meadows Park include Great Blue Herons, Song Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Directions: Click here


(b) Hewen's Creek Park ★★

Composed of a mixture of lowland forest, wetlands, fishing pond, and old farm pastures, Hewen's Creek Park features a great amount of habitat diversity, explorable by an extensive network of hiking trails. Keep an eye out for Yellow Warblers, Black-capped Chickadees, and Northern Waterthrushes.

After visiting Hewen’s Creek, birders may want to stop at Rolling Hills Park, which offers a large pond, network of trails, wooded terrain, and a splash park.

Directions: Click here

Black-capped ChickadeeBlack-capped Chickadee


(c) McCrone & Gooding Road Sod Farm ★

The sod fields next to McCrone & Gooding Road are an excellent spot to search for sandpipers during shorebird migration, which takes place in May and August. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied Plovers, and Least Sandpipers are all common sightings.

Directions for McCrone Rd: Click here
Directions for Gooding Rd: Click here