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Birding Ottawa County: Hotspots near Grand Haven & Holland

 

(A) Grand River Park ★★

The cool breezes blowing off the river at Grand River Park help to create a pleasant birding experience. The park is an excellent place to search for common bird species that nest in the floodplain woodlands. Mallards, Wood Ducks, and Great Blue Herons can be seen from a large platform overlooking the Grand River. Other birds nesting in the area’s riparian habitat include flycatchers, vireos, pewees, and Scarlet Tanagers.

Visitors wishing to experience more of the park can walk one of the many nature trails. Be aware that the pathways often flood during the springtime, making waterproof boots a necessity.

Website: goo.gl/QUyNym | Map: Click here
Hours: From March 1 to October 15, the park is open from 7am to 10pm. From October 16 to February 28, the park is open from 7am to 8am.
Directions: Click here

Great Blue HeronGreat Blue Heron

 

(B) Aman Park ★★

Covering 331 acres of forest, Aman Park features six self-guiding loop trails and a pond. Another area that might garner interest from birders is two sewage ponds and a wetland about 600 feet east of the first parking lot. The ponds sometimes contain migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. There are restrooms and a number of other facilities available.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(C) Coopersville WTP (Restricted Access) ★

The Coopersville Waste Treatment Plant features five ponds a short distance south of I-96. The sewage lagoons are an excellent place to find ducks, sandpipers, and other birds—visitors have reported over 110 species. Please request permission before birding the area.

Directions: Click here

Red KnotRed Knot

 

(D) Coopersville Landfill (Rest. Access) ★

Coopersville Landfill is a large waste area a short distance south of I-96. Because of restricted access, birders will have to use Garfield Street to search the landfill area for birds. Species most likely to be seen include Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, Turkey Vultures, and Bald Eagles.

Directions: Click here

 

(E) Eastmanville Farm County Park ★★

Many years ago, Eastmanville Farm County Park provided the poor with both housing and work. Now, the country farm provides a place of solitude for nature lovers, featuring rolling open meadows, steep ravines with streams running through them, and over 1,300 feet of Grand River frontage. A 1930's era barn and historic cemetery are also located on the farm's property. The majority of the farm’s terrain consists of grassland habitat. Birders visiting the farm during the summer months should search for Eastern Kingbirds, Savannah Sparrows, and Bobolinks.

Map: Click here
Hours: The farm is open from March 1 to October 15 from 7am to 10pm, and from October 16 to February 28 from 7am to 8pm.
Directions: Click here

Eastern KingbirdEastern Kingbird

 

(F) Bass River State Recreation Area ★★

Birds tend to be wherever water is, and Bass River State Recreation Area features plenty of wet terrain, providing access to three miles of Grand River shoreline and a 300-acre lake. The 1,665-acre park consists of mature hardwoods, open shrubland, and grassy meadows. Because of the habitat diversity present, many kinds of birds can be found within the parks vicinity. Visitors can use the many available hiking and biking trails to search for flycatchers, wood warblers, and migrating ducks.

Website: michigan.gov/bassriver | Map: Click here
Phone: (231) 798-3711
Directions: Click here

 

(G) Riverside County Park ★★

Featuring one mile of Grand River frontage, Riverside County Park is an excellent place to go birding. Visitors arriving during springtime should search for Belted Kingfishers, Least Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, and Great Crested Flycatchers. Amenities available at Riverside County Park include a picnic shelter, large pond, and rustic restrooms.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(H) Crockery Creek Natural Area ★★

Crockery Creek Natural Area is a 331-acre nature preserve with frontage on Crockery Creek and the Grand River. The park features two miles of hiking trails traversing floodplain forest, wet meadows, and buttonbush swamps. The diverse habitat helps to create an excellent home for Sandhill Cranes and Red-headed Woodpeckers. The parking area is not plowed during the winter months.

Map: Click here
Hours: 5am to 10pm
Directions: Click here

 

(I) Conner Bayou Park ★★

Protecting almost a mile of the Grand River’s shoreline, Conner Bayou Park is a quiet nature preserve composed of forest and wetland habitat. Birders visiting Conner Bayou should keep their eyes open for Great Egrets, Wood Ducks, and Belted Kingfishers. The park features many amenities, including boardwalks, hiking trails, fishing docks, and rustic restrooms.

Map: Click here
Hours: From March 1 to October 15, the park is open 7am to 10pm. From October 16 to February 28. The park is open 7am to 8pm.
Directions: Click here

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

 

(J) Bruce Bayou Access ★

Located next to the Grand River, the Bruce Bayou Access point provides birders with an excellent place to search for wetland bird species. Visitors should look for American Bitterns, Soras, and Virginia Rails. The access point is a part of the Grand Haven State Game Area.

Directions: Click here

 

(K) Mill Point Public Access ★

Mill Point Public Access provides birders with a convenient place to search the Grand River for ducks. Close by, the Grand River Greenway crosses through about 600 feet of wetlands. The swampy habitat is a good place to search for sparrows, swallows, and other birds. A White Pelican visited the point in 2013.

Directions: Click here

American White PelicanAmerican White Pelican

 

(L) North Ottawa Dunes Park ★★

Showcasing 513 acres of parabolic sand dunes, North Ottawa Dunes Park is a truly unique destination. The height of the highest U-shaped dune exceeds 750 feet. Visitors to the nature preserve will enjoy walking on 10 miles of trails, some of which link to P. J. Hoffmaster State Park and North Beach Park. There are modern restrooms available. Birders should search for warblers and flycatchers.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(M) North Beach Park ★

Stretching alongside 745-feet of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, North Beach Park is a popular destination, featuring a dune overlook deck that provides visitors with scenic views of the lake. There are restrooms, a picnic shelter, and a playground available. During the cold months, birders visiting North Beach Park have reported seeing many kinds of diving ducks, including Surf Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers.

Map: Click here
Fees: From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, each car is charged a parking fee.
Directions: Click here

Surf ScoterSurf Scoter

 

(N) Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve ★★

Showcasing the developmental cycle of a sand dune ecosystem, Kitchel-Lindquist Dunes Preserve displays the progression from bare sand habitat to a majestic dune forest. The park is famous for the large numbers of hawks which migrate by in the fall. The raptors are especially numerous when a strong east wind is blowing.

Unfortunately, private residences limit access to Lake Michigan's shoreline. Visitors will have to settle for walking out on a 1000-foot long pier instead. From the pier, there is a good chance of seeing Caspian Terns, Purple Martins, and other birds. Another option is to check the Grand River for birds from a nearby marina.

Website: goo.gl/Dg8btH
Directions: Click here

 

(O) Grand Haven State Park ★★

Crowded with sun-loving people every summer, Grand Haven State Park’s beach transforms into an excellent birding spot when the temperatures begin to drop. Sandpipers, gulls, and ducks can be found seeking shelter from the rough Lake Michigan waters. The park’s birding highlight is the South Pier, which can be accessed from the west side of Fisherman’s parking area.

A short drive around Grand Haven will reveal many other birding hotspots. Harbor Island is accessible by car and offers excellent chances of seeing dabbling ducks in the spring and fall. There are several parking areas on US-31 near the Grand River.

Website: michigan.gov/grandhaven | Map: Click here
Phone: (616) 847-1309
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

 

(P) Rosy Mound Natural Area ★★

Untouched by development, Rosy Mound Natural Area is a classic example of what the Great Lakes shoreline used to look like. The park’s highlight is a strenuous 0.7 of a mile hike to a dune overlook high above Lake Michigan. Once visitors reach the hilltop, they will be able to enjoy miles of breathtaking scenery.

The views give birders an opportunity to spot hawks, loons, and waterfowl as they migrate offshore. While most natural areas have limited amenities, Rosy Mound is an exception. The park has picnic tables, grills, interpretive signs along the trails, restrooms, and a shade canopy on the beach for visitors to enjoy.

Website: goo.gl/yexsCc | Map: Click here
Hours: From March 1 to October 15, the park is open from 7am to 10pm. From October 16 to February 28, the park is open from 7am to 8pm.
Fees: Motor vehicle parking fees are in effect from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Directions: Click here

Ring-necked DuckRing-necked Duck

 

(Q) Hofma Preserve ★★

Hofma Preserve is a 324-acre park that is mostly wooded except for a large wetland area. The habitat provides an excellent place to look for migrating warblers and other birds. The preserve features 4.5 miles of trails, restrooms, and a 885-foot long floating bridge.

In recent years, some of the highlights spotted at the preserve include Virginia Rails, Alder Flycatchers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and Long-tailed Ducks.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(R) Hofma Park ★★

Featuring over 400 acres of pristine woodlands and marsh, Hofma Preserve and Park combine to offer over 5 miles of trails through varied habitat. The area’s highlight is a boardwalk through the Pottawattomie Bayou, where Black Terns can often be seen soaring over the marsh. Red-winged Blackbirds and Swamp Sparrows also live at the preserve. In the past, birders have reported seeing Virginia Rail and Sora only a few feet from the boardwalk.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

Virginia RailVirginia Rail

 

(S) Palomita Reserve ★★

Spanish for “little dove”, Palomita Reserve was once a staging area for hundreds of thousands of Passenger Pigeons. Now, the reserve protects a mixture of forest and swampland. The park’s highlight is a paved bike trail which runs alongside the road, close to the wetland habitat. There is a boardwalk overlook available where visitors can search the swamp for birds. In recent years, birders have sighted Snowy Egrets and American Coots at the preserve.

Unfortunately, the reserve does not have any parking areas—visitors will have to park alongside the road.

Directions: Click here

 

(T) Kirk Park ★★

Located on Lake Michigan’s shoreline, Kirk Park showcases 68 acres of pristine dune habitat. The park has many overlook platforms, offering visitors spectacular views of the lake. During the fall migration, the elevation provides birders with eye-level views of soaring hawks. There are several nature trails and paved paths leading to the lake, which can be accessed by handicapped birders.

Website: goo.gl/ZGt0bk | Map: Click here
Phone: (616) 738-4812
Hours: From March 1 to October 15, the park is open from 7am to 10pm. From October 16 to February 28, the park is open from 7am to 8am.
Directions: Click here

 

(U) Olive Shores County Park ★★

Olive Shores County Park preserves a 20-acre property comprising mature beech, hemlock, and maple forest. The combination of woodland shelter and open water create an excellent place to search for many types of water birds and migrating warblers. Common and Caspian Terns can regularly be seen flying along the shoreline.

Located alongside 738 feet of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, the park features modern restrooms, hiking trails, picnic tables, and a wooden boardwalk which makes it easier for guests to cross the dunes and access the beach. There is also a large overlook deck with a display informing visitors that movie producers once used the beach for the production of a movie starring Tom Hanks—“Road to Perdition.”

Map: Click here
Fees: $7 per day
Directions: Click here

 

(V) Pigeon Lake Boat Launch ★

Pigeon Lake Boat Launch provides access to a 225-acre lake connecting Lake Michigan to the Pigeon River. Close by the east side of Lakeshore Drive, a paved walking path provides birders an additional area to check the river’s waters and wetlands for ducks, herons, and bitterns.

Directions: Click here

 

(W) Hemlock Crossing Park ★★

Over 6 miles of hiking trails leading through pine forests and open fields characterize the 239-acre Hemlock Crossing Park. The excellent but varied habitat gives birders many opportunities to see common Michigan species that nest in the woodlands. Belted Kingfishers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Wood Ducks are easy sightings.

Before leaving, be sure to walk the Meadow Loop south of the park entrance. In the spring, Eastern Bluebirds and Vesper Sparrows can often be heard singing to defend their territory.

Website: goo.gl/CA0IBh | Map: Click here
Hours: From March 1 to October 15, the park is open from 7am to 10pm. From October 16 to February 28, the park is open from 7am to 8am.
Directions: Click here

Vesper SparrowVesper Sparrow

 

(X) Holland State Park ★★

At Holland State Park, the combination of Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa provides enough open water to find all of Michigan’s waterfowl species in one location. Mallards, American Black Ducks, and other dabblers can be seen nibbling on weeds just below the lake’s surface.

Farther out on Chippewa Point, sandpipers and sea ducks enjoy feasting on shoals of minnows. Rare shorebirds can sometimes be seen on the mudflats in August—American Avocets, Western Sandpipers, and Little Gulls have all been spotted at various times.

Website: michigan.gov/holland | Map: Click here
Phone: (616) 399-9390
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

 

(Y) Anchorage Marina ★

Anchorage Marina provides birders with a good place to park and scan Big Bay for loons and diving ducks. Across nearby Ottawa Beach Road, there is a large swamp and a paved walkway for visitors to explore. Red-winged Blackbirds and Eastern Kingbirds are abundant near the wetlands.

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here

 

(Z) Pine Creek Park ★★

Pine Creek Park is a small community park with trails leading around a pond. The park’s habitat consists of forest, wetlands, and a creek. Mallards, Canada Geese, and Sandhill Cranes can easily be found.

Directions: Click here

 

(a) Howard B. Dunton Park ★★

Covering 21 acres, Howard B. Dunton Park’s location next to 1700-acre Lake Macatawa provides visitors access to an excellent waterfowl viewing spot. The park features a picnic area, playgrounds, boardwalks, and includes a pier with a covered pavilion at the end of it.

Birders will appreciate the shelter during rainy weather, which is one of the best times to scan the lake for waterfowl. Green-winged Teals, Canada Geese, Tundra Swans, and many other species visit the lake during migration.

Directions: Click here

 

(b) Paw Paw Park ★★

Paw Paw Park is a 50-acre nature preserve located on the banks of the Black River. Situated in the midst of the low-lying river floodplain, the park’s habitat consists of 80% wetlands. The dense shrubbery provides a good place to search for migrating Golden & Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Nashville Warblers, and other warbler species. The park features a network of hiking trails and a picnic area.

Directions: Click here

Ruby-crowned KingletRuby-crowned Kinglet

 

(c) Windmill Island Park ★★

Featuring the only authentic Dutch windmill in the United States, Windmill Island Park is a popular tourist destination. During the summertime, a number of events take place to celebrate Dutch culture, including dancing, guided tours, and games.

The Macatawa River and a large wetland are a short distance away from Windmill Island Park. From February through April, the river is a good place to search for ducks. Once the crowds of people arrive, try checking the wetland area instead for birds. The wetlands can be viewed from Lincoln Ave or Window on the Waterfront Trail, which starts just before the entrance to Windmill Island Park. Bird species sighted at Windmill Island Park in recent years include Black-crowned Night-herons, Gadwall, Cliff Swallows, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Directions: Click here

 

(d) Kollen Park ★

Positioned next to the 1,700-acre Lake Macatawa, Kollen Park is a 24-acre community park that features a playground, restrooms, and picnic areas. The park’s highlight is the Heinz Waterfront Walkway, where birders can walk alongside the lake’s edge and search for migrating ducks and grebes.

The park is an especially good place to look for rare gulls. In recent years, Kollen Park visitors have recorded sightings of Iceland Gulls, Glaucous Gulls, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Directions: Click here

Iceland GullIceland Gull

 

(e) DeGraaf Nature Center ★★

Naturalists have counted almost 120 species of birds at DeGraaf Nature Center, which resides on an 18-acre woodland preserve. A number of interpretative displays are available to assist visitors in learning more about the park’s southern deciduous forest. Two bird species commonly seen in the woods are Carolina Wrens and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Website: goo.gl/OS6LRJ | Map: Click here
Phone: (616) 355-1057
Hours: The trails are open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. The nature center is open from Tuesday to Friday 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.
Directions: Click here

 

(f) Upper Macatawa Natural Area ★★

Upper Macatawa Natural Area is a 650-acre preserve that protects grassland, wetland, and forest alongside the Macatawa River. The park features many miles of trails, some of which mountain bikers ride on. There are also picnic tables and rustic toilets available.

The preserve is an excellent place to search for ducks, sandpipers, and other kinds of birds—visitors have sighted over 140 species. The GPS points lead to a parking area on 84th Street. A short distance east, there is another parking lot on 76th Ave (42.8073, -85.9703).

Map: Click here
Directions: Click here