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Birding Kent County: Hotspots near Grand Rapids

 

(A) Fisk Knob ★

The highest point in Kent County, Fisk Knob is an excellent place to view migrating raptors. Some of the species visitors should look for are Sharp-shinned Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Cooper's Hawks.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Cooper's HawkCooper's Hawk

 

(B) Howard Christensen Nature Center ★★

Highlighted by an impressive 70 miles of marked woodland trails, Howard Christensen Nature Center has plenty of terrain for birders to explore. The refuge features a 135-acre wildlife sanctuary and a visitor center. A short walk through wetlands and forests has the potential for revealing Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Purple Martins, and Henslow’s Sparrows, all of which nest in the preserve’s vicinity.

After exploring the nature center, journey next door to Rogue River State Game Area, which has the famous North Country Scenic Trail running through it.

Website: lilysfrogpad.com | Map: Click here
Phone: (616) 675-3158
Hours: The trails are open from dawn to dusk. The Red Pine Interpretive Center is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 4pm.
Directions: Click here

 

(C) Casnovia Sewage (Restricted Access) ★

The Casnovia Sewage Ponds features two large lagoons bordered by forest, providing excellent habitat for songbirds. Birders have recorded sighting of many kinds of ducks and sandpipers at the ponds, including Stilt Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruddy Duck, and Bufflehead. A fence borders the sewage lagoons, so request permission before trying to bird the area.

Directions: Click here

 

(D) Kent City Sewage Ponds ★

The Kent City Sewage Ponds consist of 3 large ponds short distance south of M-46. Visitors to the ponds may be fortunate enough to see many kinds of waterfowl and sandpipers. Unfortunately, access is limited—be sure to request permission from the office before trying to bird the area.

Directions: Click here

 

(E) Long Lake County Park ★★

Long Lake County Park's prime spot on the lakeshore gives guests a large list of recreational activities to choose. There are hiking trails, picnic areas, pavilions, restrooms, and a baseball diamond available for visitors to enjoy. The lake’s shoreline is wooded, except for a swamp on the north side. The park's diverse habitat hosts a variety of bird species, including Hooded Mergansers, Red-tailed Hawks, and Pine Warblers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Hooded MerganserHooded Merganser

 

(F) 17 Mile Road Marshes ★

Virginia Rails have been spotted in the large swamp south of 17 Mile Road. The marshes are also a good place to look for waterfowl and sandpipers. There are no parking areas available so birders will have to park on the side of the road.

Directions: Click here

 

(G) Wabasis Lake Park & Campground ★★

Located on the shores of a large, 418-acre lake, Wabasis Lake Park is a pleasant place for families to visit. Many activities are available, including hiking, fishing, picnicking, and playing basketball. There is also a large playground present for children to enjoy.

Wabasis Lake is an excellent place to search for waterfowl during spring migration—over 20 kinds have visited at one time or another. The forest and grassland habitat near the campground is also a good place to search for vireos, warblers, and sparrows.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(H) Myers Lake Park ★

Myers Lake Park is a small park that provides access to two lakes—Myers and Little Myers. There are many amenities and facilities available, including a playground, a swimming area, picnic tables, restrooms, and an open shelter. Although both of the lakes have heavily developed shoreline, the park is still a good place to find ducks, loons, and grebes in late winter and early spring before recreational enthusiasts crowd the lake.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(I) Brower Lake Preserve ★★

Serving as an outdoor education center, Brower Lake Preserve is highlighted by a rare stand of Black Savannahs growing on its property. Currently, volunteers are working to remove invasive plants and pine plantations so the savannah grove can expand. When visiting the preserve, birders should listen for Eastern Wood-Pewees, Willow Flycatchers, and Great Crested Flycatchers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(J) Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve ★★

Protecting 123 acres of sphagnum bog and grassland, Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve is an important place of refuge for wetland species. Visitors will enjoy walking on a boardwalk leading to a bog overlook. Many years ago, the preserve was home to Kent County’s only breeding pair of Sandhill Cranes.

A great variety of birds can be seen at Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve. Several kinds of vireos occasionally make an appearance at the preserve, including Yellow-throated, Warbling, and Red-eyed. The swamp is also a good place to search for southern bird species, such as Orchard Orioles and Prothonotary Warblers.

To access the preserve from 6 Mile Road, turn (north) into a very long driveway, follow the preserve signs, then turn left onto a gravel two-track just before reaching the house.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Orchard OrioleOrchard Oriole

 

(K) Pickerel Lake Park ★★

Situated near Cannonsburg State Game Area, Pickerel Lake Park features beaver bonds, glacial moraines, and a tamarack swamp for birders to explore. A newer boardwalk leads birders out to the water’s edge, where swans, ducks, and loons peacefully congregate and feed. The rest of the preserve is typical of southern Michigan deciduous forest.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(L) Warren Townsend Park ★★

Warren Townsend Park is a small recreational area featuring a mixture of meadows and forest. The preserve is home to a unique piece of history—a 90-year old stone shelter that was the county’s first park structure. There are many other amenities available, including a restroom, a playground, and several hiking trails. There is a small creek present on the southeast side of the park. Bird species regularly seen at Warren Townsend Park include Field Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, and Eastern Kingbirds.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Eastern KingbirdEastern Kingbird

 

(M) Cannonsburg State Game Area ★★

Cannonsburg State Game Area is a large, remote wilderness that birders seldom visit. Though the hunting area lacks restrooms and groomed trails, it is still is a great destination for birders who do not mind a little exercise. Start by visiting one of the parking areas, which can be found on 5 Mile Road, 4 Mile Road, 3 Mile Road, or Dursum Ave. These parking areas mark the beginning of many hunting trails, where birders may be able to spot grosbeaks, tanagers, and many other kinds of birds.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(N) Chase Lake Access ★

Chase Lake is pristine, 50-acre lake surrounded by wetlands and forest. Nearly 100 species of birds visit the lake every year, including American Bitterns, Sora, Virginia Rails, and Common Gallinules.

Directions: Click here

Common GallinuleCommon Gallinule

 

(O) Seidman County Park ★★

Featuring an extensive network of trails, Seidman County Park offers birders a chance to see Eastern Wood-Pewees, Scarlet Tanagers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks along with many other species of woodland birds. Honey Creek runs through the southern end of the park, providing birds with scrubby habitat and wooded swampland. Nesting species include Black-billed Cuckoos, Field Sparrows, Louisiana Waterthrushes, and Blue-winged Warblers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Black-billed CuckooBlack-billed Cuckoo

 

(P) Ada Township Park and other Parks ★★

Peacefully resting amidst the green shrubbery, the spring-fed pond at Ada Township Park is a delight for visitors to walk around. One of the park’s highlights for visitors to watch the mating display of the American Woodcock.

Michael McGraw Park (42.9399, -85.4582) and the Grand River Nature Area are a short distance east of Ada Township Park, providing visitors with scenic views of the majestic Grand River. When nearby lakes become frozen, Common Goldeneyes and several other species of waterfowl can be found seeking harbor in the ice-free water. The GPS points lead to Ada Township Park.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(Q) Cascade Peace Park ★★

Cascade Peace Park is a 198-acre property featuring mature old growth forest, grassy meadows, and floodplain swamps. The park’s wetlands provide habitat for many types of birds, including Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, and Green Herons. When driving to Cascade Peace Park, visitors will pass by Leonard Park, a small riverside preserve with a covered bridge.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(R) Wittenbach / Wege Center ★★

The mission of Wittenbach / Wege Education Center is to providing students with a thorough knowledge of the outdoors. The center, which is conveniently close to Grand Rapids, features 140 acres of rolling forests, grassy meadows, and pristine wetlands. Every year, classes of children visit the center on field trips to learn more about the different ecosystems. The preserve provides habitat for Eastern Meadowlarks, Field Sparrows, and many other birds.

Website: goo.gl/q9ehs7 | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Field SparrowField Sparrow

 

(S) Fallasburg County Park ★★

Located on the banks of the Flat River, Fallasburg County Park features the last two covered bridges in Kent County. Botany fans will enjoy visiting the nature preserve because of the numerous species of wildflowers, vines, and trees that live in the park. The majority of the park’s terrain is riparian woodlands, with the exception of several small fields. There are also two spring-fed creeks that traverse the 180-acre park.

One of the area’s top destinations, Fallasburg County Park quickly fills up once school gets out. Hundreds of people visit every summer to enjoy swimming in the Flat River, hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail, playing disc golf, picnicking, and engaging in other outdoor activities. Because of the park’s popularity, the best time to visit is early in the morning when Belted Kingfishers and Barn Swallows can be seen from the river’s banks.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(T) Bradford White Nature Preserve ★★

Protecting 45 acres of hardwood forest and shrub wetland, Bradford White Nature Preserve was donated in 2003 to the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The property features a trout stream and a mile-long hiking trail, providing birders with a chance to see Scarlet Tanagers, Red-eyed Vireos, Ovenbirds, and other songbirds.

Directions: Click here

Scarlet TanagerScarlet Tanager

 

(U) Coldwater River Sanctuary ★

Coldwater River Sanctuary is a 6-acre park that provides birders with a place to search for Yellow Warblers and other migrants. Restrooms and picnic tables are available.

Directions: Click here

(V) Caledonia Sewage Ponds ★

The Caledonia Sewage Ponds consist of two large ponds a short distance west of Cherry Valley Ave. At the pond’s edge, many kinds of sandpipers can be found during migration. The lagoons are also a favorite stopping place for migrating waterfowl. In the past, birders have seen Cackling Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese at the ponds.

Directions: Click here

White-fronted GooseWhite-fronted Goose

 

(W) Prairie Wolf Park ★★

Though hard to fathom today, wolves once roamed freely throughout Kent County. In order to preserve the wolves’ former habitat, local authorities created Prairie Wolf Park by protecting 45 acres of meadows and forest. The park features several paved trails, a creek, and a small pond, providing birders with an excellent place to search for migrating warblers. There is a parking area next to the Gaines Township building, which provides visitors with public restrooms.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(X) East Paris Nature Park ★★

Featuring wetlands, several ponds, and a small forest, East Paris Nature Park is a pristine nature oasis amidst the bustle of Grand Rapids. There are many paved trails available, including a boardwalk that leads to an overlook on the side of a pond. Mallards, American Black Ducks, and Great Blue Herons are likely to be seen.

Directions: Click here

 

(Y) Gerald R. Ford Airport ★

Kraft Avenue provides birders with access to Gerald R. Ford Airport, where large fields attract Eastern Meadowlarks, Horned Larks, and other grassland birds. In May and August, the meadows are a good place to look for shorebirds—sightings of Upland Sandpipers, Whimbrels, Wilson's Snipes, and Greater take place almost annually.

In the winter of 2013-2014, the airport infamously shot and killed 9 Snowy Owls. After a petition received 3,497 signatures, the airport immediately reverted its policy to trap and relocate the owls instead.

Directions: Click here

Eastern MeadowlarkEastern Meadowlark

 

(Z) Hotel Avenue Wetlands ★

Located just south of Target, the Hotel Avenue Wetlands cover a large, swampy area. To view the wetlands, birders will need to walk about 150 feet, crossing over a small hill in the process. Red-winged Blackbirds, Sandhill Cranes, and Yellow Warblers are common summer residents.

Directions: Click here

 

(a) Ken-O-Sha Park ★★

Ken-O-Sha Park is a large wooded preserve located within city limits. Visitors will enjoy walking on Plaster Creek Trail, which follows a small stream. The forest is an especially good place to listen for songbirds singing. Visitors have recorded sightings of over 100 bird species at Ken-O-Sha Park. Some of the birds which migrate through the park include Louisiana Waterthrushes, Northern Waterthrushes, Bay-breasted Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, and Blackpoll Warblers.

Directions: Click here

 

(b) Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve ★★

Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve is a 40-acre nature sanctuary with over a dozen ponds and a creek. Renowned for the many species of plants growing within its boundaries, one of the preserve's unique species is the Water-meal, which is the smallest plant in the world. Visitors will enjoy exploring several loop trails.

The preserve offers many other natural attractions, including a butterfly house which encloses native caterpillars and their host plants during the summertime. Visitors have reported seeing over 170 species of birds, including Orange-crowned Warbler, Osprey, Sora, Bonaparte's Gull, and Black-billed Cuckoo.

Website: calvin.edu/academic/eco-preserve | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Orange-crowned WarblerOrange-crowned Warbler

 

(c) Cook Valley Boulevard Wetlands ★★

The Cook Valley Boulevard Wetlands comprise a large swamp next to a residential neighborhood. There is a paved bike trail which runs by the wetlands, where nesting Sandhill Cranes and Common Yellowthroats can be spotted.

Directions: Click here

 

(d) Reeds Lake & Hodenpyl Woods ★★

Reeds Lake is a large body of water located east of Grand Rapids. There are several parks alongside the lake’s edge, giving birders places to scan for waterfowl. The highlight is across the road from Remington Park, where birders can walk through a large wetland area on a boardwalk to an overlook.

Another area of special interest is Hodenpyl Woods, a pristine forest located on the lake’s northwest corner. During the springtime, the woods provide exceptional opportunities to see many species of warblers. The best time to visit is early in the morning before the influx of joggers and bikers arrive. After birding Hodenpyl Woods, drive around the lake while look for waterfowl. John Collins Park is a good location to stop and scan the lake with a spotting scope.

The GPS points lead to Remington Park.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(e) Frederik Meijer Gardens ★★

Famous for its incredible sculptures and beautiful botanical gardens, Frederik Meijer Gardens is also a notable birding hotspot. Visitors have recorded sightings of over 100 species. The best place to search is a large wetland area with boardwalks on the northeastern side of the property, where many kinds of warblers, sandpipers, and ducks can be found.

Website: meijergardens.org
Directions: Click here

Semi-palmated SandpiperSemi-palmated Sandpiper

 

(f) Roselle Township Park ★★

Roselle Township Park is a 247-acre nature preserve that features nature trails winding through forests, wetlands and prairies, a short distance from the Grand River. Builders recently completed a number of construction projects, providing visitors with better access and views of the surrounding terrain. Other facilities available include a large wetland observation deck and an observation tower, where visitors can look for American Bitterns and Great Egrets. Visitors should bring insect repellent to help ward off the mosquitoes. There are rustic restrooms available.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(g) Versluis Park ★★

A popular destination for Grand Rapids urbanites, Versluis Park provides guests with many recreational activities, including fishing, swimming, volleyball, boating, and a paved one-mile walking path. The park’s main birding attraction is a 50-acre, man-made lake. The best time to visit is before Labor Day, when city officials begin to collect a daily swimming fee of $10. The cost is not worth it since there are many other great places to go birding in the Grand Rapids area.

During the cold months, many kinds of ducks can be seen at Versluis Park or on the nearby Grand River. Some of the species birders may see include Redheads, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and Common Mergansers.

Hours: The park is open 11am to 8pm from Memorial Day to the middle of August, and from 11am to 9pm for the rest of the summer. When school is in session (starting in September), the park is open from 7am to sunset.
Fees: During the summer months, there is a fee of $10 per car
Directions: Click here

 

(h) Rogue River Park ★★

Rogue River Park is a popular staging area for recreational enthusiasts visiting White Pine Trail State Park. There is a trail which follows the Rogue River before passing by a number of little ponds. Wood Ducks and various kinds of blackbirds are common summer residents at Rogue River Park. There are public restrooms available.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Wood DuckWood Duck

 

(i) Donald Lamoreaux Park ★★

Donald Lamoreaux Park is a heavily wooded park with a trail leading to a wooden overlook above the Grand River. The river is a good place to find Common Goldeneyes and other ducks during the wintertime, when nearby lakes freeze over. Be aware that the entrance to the park leads down a steep hill, creating a potential trap during icy conditions. The park is popular with local dog owners, making it necessary for birders to keep one eye on the trail (for dog piles) while scanning for birds.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(j) Huff Park ★★

Huff Park is a large recreational area featuring a forest, wetlands, and many trails. The park’s highlight is a boardwalk that leads to a wetland overlook. Nearly 150 species of birds have visited the park, including Black-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Virginia Rails, and Sora.

Directions: Click here

 

(k) Comstock Riverside Park ★★

Comstock Riverside Park is an excellent birding hotspot with several ponds and channels close by the Grand River. For birders visiting during the springtime, the chorus from Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds will be hard to ignore. Other species regularly seen at Cornstock Riverside Park include Great Blue Heron, Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher, and large numbers of Canada Geese. In the past, visitors have complained about the accumulation of goose droppings on the disc golf course.

Directions: Click here

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

 

(l) Ah Nab Awen Park ★

Ah Nab Awen Park is a 6.5-acre park located on the banks of the Grand River. During the early spring months, the river is an especially good place to look for waterfowl. In the past, birders have sighted Red-necked Grebes and White-winged Scoters.

History buffs will especially enjoy visiting Ah Nab Awen Park, where a Native-American village once existed. Another nearby place to visit is the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. There are parking areas accessible from Pearl Street, Scribner Avenue, and Bridge Street.

Directions: Click here

 

(m) Blandford Nature Center ★★

Blandford Nature Center is a 143-acre nature preserve dedicated to providing the public with classes and events to increase visitors’ understanding of local ecology. Sturdy wooden boardwalks lead to scenic marsh overlooks at Blandford Nature Center, giving visitors easy access. When walking the trails, search the holes of Wood Duck houses to see if there are any Eastern Screech-Owls in them.

Another place to look for birds is the visitor center feeders, where White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers can usually be seen feeding. Birders have recorded over 100 species at Blandford Nature Center. Be sure to check the nature center’s website for upcoming events—sometimes the staff will lead visitors on “owl prowls” and other nature hikes.

Website: blandfordnaturecenter.org | Map: Click here
Phone: (616) 735-6240
Hours: The nature center is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 12pm to 5pm. The trails are open from dawn to dusk.
Fees: $3 admission fee
Directions: Click here

 

(n) Millennium Park ★★

Recently completed by the city of Grand Rapids, Millennium Park reclaims 1,500 acres of land for public recreation. The park features a series of wetlands, rolling hills, small lakes, and a 6-acre beach. There are a number of good places to find birds inside the park. The first stop after arriving should be to walk along the boardwalk and look for ducks and grebes in the open water.

Situated between the towns of Walker, Grandville, Wyoming, and Grand Rapids, Millennium Park is one of Michigan’s largest urban parks. Be aware that it may take some time before birds and wildlife can reclaim the area in the same capacity as they did many years ago.

Website: goo.gl/Tj23Tv | Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Pied-billed GrebePied-billed Grebe

 

(o) Johnson Park ★

A paved road winds through the forest at Johnson Park, gently guiding visitors through the rolling hills. On the western side of the park, Butterworth Street borders the Grand River, creating a good place to search for many of Michigan’s common bird species, including Tree Swallows and Wood Ducks. Amenities available at Johnson Park include playgrounds, a disc golf course, and restrooms.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here