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Birding Allegan County: Hotspots near Allegan & Saugatuck

 

(A) Cottonwood Park ★★

Recently dedicated by Fillmore Township, Cottonwood Park serves its purpose well in providing local residents with a large, natural area to enjoy. One of the park’s unique features is a walking trail created from crushed rocks. The best place to look for birds in the park is at a large pond located about a quarter-mile north of the parking area. Visitors will appreciate the facilities available—the park has restrooms, a gazebo, and a small playground.

Directions: Click here

 

(B) Outdoor Discovery Center ★★

Outdoor Discovery Center is a non-profit organization devoted to outdoor education. The park offers five miles of trails, providing access to the 130-acre preserve. Some of the center’s highlights are a Zwier Remnant Prairie, the DeVries Wildlife Care Facility, wetlands, and numerous small ponds. A wide variety of bird species can be found within the preserve’s diverse habitat—Ring-necked Pheasants, Red-tailed Hawks, and American Kestrels are especially common.

Website: outdoordiscovery.org | Map: Click here
Hours: The trails are open from sunrise to sunset. The office is open from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday, from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, and from 12pm to 4pm on Sunday.
Directions: Click here

American KestrelAmerican Kestrel

 

(C) Huyser Farm Nature Preserve ★★

Built on swampland drained back in the 1930s, the habitat at Huyser Farm Nature Preserve has successfully recovered. The 102-acre farm is especially attractive to botany enthusiasts, who have counted over 295 species of vascular plants on property. Another one of area’s highlights is a large blueberry patch, where visitors are welcome to pick as many berries as they can eat for no extra charge.

The farm’s habitat consists of woods and fields, with a sandy creek that flows near a couple of broken-down farm buildings. Visitors should look for common woodland bird species, such as Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, American Woodcocks, and Red-eyed Vireos.

Directions: Click here

Scarlet TanagerScarlet Tanager

 

(D) Gilligan Lake ★

Surrounded by wetlands, Gilligan Lake is a good place spot to look for ducks and geese. During the springtime, many kinds of vireos and warblers can be seen in the trees next to the 10-acre lake.

Directions: Click here

Red-eyed VireoRed-eyed Vireo

 

(E) Laketown Township Park ★

Laketown Park is a small Lake Michigan beach park with stairs leading from the top of the dunes down to the water. Except for a large open area near the parking area, wooded terrain completely covers the park.

Directions: Click here

 

(F) Saugatuck Dunes State Park ★★

If climbing 60 feet up a sand dune to scan for migrating birds sounds like fun, do not miss visiting Saugatuck Dunes State Park! Located on a secluded 2.5 mile strip of Lake Michigan’s beach, the park features rolling hills and coastal dunes. The park is a good place to look for migrating hawks, ducks, and shorebirds during the spring and fall.

Website: michigan.gov/saugatuckdunes | Map: Click here
Phone: (269) 637-2788
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

Saugatuck DunesSaugatuck Dunes

 

(G) Fairview Nature Park ★★

Showcasing a variety of ecosystems, Fairview Nature Park usually provides birders with a surprise sighting or two. Many different kinds of birds live inside the 80-acre park, which features a mature forest, grassy meadows, sand dunes, and wetlands.

Besides migrating birds, another visitor that is often present at Fairview Nature Park are equestrian enthusiasts. Birders should be careful when walking on trails designated for horses, to avoid stepping in large piles of manure.

Directions: Click here

(H) Mt. Baldhead Park & Oval Beach ★★

Mt. Baldhead Park & Oval Beach is famous for its seemingly endless staircase which climbs to the top a large sand dune. The ascent is not as bad as it looks because sporadically placed benches provide multiple chances to rest. The reward at the top is tremendous—a spectacular view of Saugatuck Harbor awaits tired birders. Unfortunately, tree foliage blocks the view of Lake Michigan during the summer months. Even if the lake is invisible, it pays to climb to the top of Mt. Baldhead—where hawks, vultures, and other raptors can occasionally be seen soaring by on updrafts.

Hours: During the summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the park is open from 9am to 10pm.
Fees: There is a daily parking fee of $6. A season permit is $40. To avoid paying a fee, park at Mt. Baldhead Park on Park Street by the river. The park is located 300 feet past the entrance for Oval Beach (42.6608, -86.2074).
Directions: Click here

View from Mt. BaldheadView from Mt. Baldhead

 

(I) Douglas Beach Park ★

A “local secret”, Douglas Beach Park is less crowded than similar Lake Michigan beaches. Birders will enjoy searching the shoreline for waterfowl and gulls. After birding, visitors may want to stop and satisfy their hunger at the picnic area, which has tables and a grill. There are restrooms nearby.

Directions: Click here

 

(J) Wade's Bayou Memorial Park ★

A tributary of the Kalamazoo River, Wade’s Bayou’s slow-moving waters are a good place to look for waterfowl species. The area’s mudflats can be very productive for migrant shorebirds. In the past, birders recorded sightings of Red Knots, Marbled Godwits, and Baird's Sandpipers. Terns and rails are also common sightings.

There are a couple more parks located east of I-196. Continue east on 130th Avenue and drive north on Newport Road or 63rd Street: both lead to good birding spots with excellent views of the Kalamazoo River.

Directions: Click here

Red KnotRed Knot

 

(K) Schultz Park & River Bluff Park ★

Schultz Park is a 20-acre nature preserve located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River. The water is relatively shallow, creating an excellent place to find shorebirds—over 15 different kinds of sandpipers and plovers visit every year. The park has many amenities available, including a boat launch, picnic pavilion, restrooms, and a playground.

Located on the west side of I-196 in Saugatuck, Schultz Park is a short distance south of the Kalamazoo River. River Bluff Park is a short walk away on the north side of the river.

Directions: Click here

 

(L) West Side County Park ★

Famous for its beautiful sunsets, West Side County Park gives visitors a place to search Lake Michigan for waterfowl. Duck species spotted near the park's shoreline include Greater Scaups, Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Common Goldeneyes. There are a number of modern facilities available at the park, including picnic tables, pavilions, restrooms, and a playground.

Directions: Click here

 

(M) Allegan State Game Area ★★

Covering 50,000 acres, Allegan State Game Area is the largest public nature preserve in the Lower Peninsula. Because of its size, the preserve is critically important to many kinds of threatened plants, birds, and animals. Some of the best places to look for birds are:

  • Area Headquarters on 118th Ave
  • Swan Creek Highbanks Unit parking area on 124th Ave
  • Ottawa Marsh Unit parking area on 126th Ave
  • Swan Creek Trail on 118th Ave

Many of the other refuge units are closed to visitors. Be sure to print out a map before visiting. The GPS points lead to a parking area for the Swan Creek Highbanks Unit, which is an excellent spot to search for Hooded Mergansers, American Bitterns, Yellow Warblers, and other birds.

Map: Click here
Phone: (269) 673-2430
Directions: Click here

American BitternAmerican Bittern

 

(N) Littlejohn Lake County Park ★★

Encompassing over 100 acres of heavily wooded land Littlejohn Park is easily accessible, being only three miles southwest of Allegan. The park’s highlight is 35-acre Littlejohn Lake, which features a swimming beach. There are also restrooms, picnic tables, and other facilities available.

Directions: Click here

 

(O) Bysterveld County Park ★★

Located on a 70-acre parcel, Bysterveld County Park contains two miles of nature trails, one of which leads to a small pond with a boardwalk overlook. The diverse forest and grassland habitat help to create a good place to look for Great Blue Herons, Mallards, and other common birds. There is a picnic shelter, playground, and restrooms available.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

 

(P) Patterson Road Cattle Ponds ★

There are two large cattle ponds on the west and east sides of Patterson Road. One of the ponds is in Allegan County, and the other one is in Barry County. During the month of May, the ponds are a good place to look for sandpipers. Species recently sighted include Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Spotted Sandpiper.

Directions: Click here