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Birding Chippewa County: Hotspots near Sault Ste. Marie & Whitefish Point

 

(A) Vermillion Point Nature Preserve ★★

A drive up Vermillion Road can provide birders with the opportunity to see many boreal bird species. The first place to stop is at Andrus Lake Campground. The brushy areas surrounding the campsites can sometimes reveal Red Crossbills and Black-backed Woodpeckers. The road ends finally at Vermillion Point Nature Preserve, home of the Vermillion Research Station. The building is an old Coast Guard Station located on 7,900 feet of protected Lake Superior shoreline. Piping Plovers sometimes nest on the beaches nearby. The area is especially exciting to visit during the spring and fall migration, when fallouts can occur.

Directions: Click here

Black-backed WoodpeckerBlack-backed Woodpecker

 

(B) Whitefish Point ★★★

One the best birding hotspots in North America, Whitefish Point’s remote location means it gets fewer visitors than Point Pelee or Cape May. The point’s hawk and waterfowl migrations, however, are unbeatable. Thousands of raptors and other birds migrate past the peninsula’s tip every year. At the end of April, the point hosts the Spring Fling, an annual festival where birders listen to nature presentations before leaving on field trips. Popular avian targets include Spruce Grouse and other northern specialties.

There are many different birding hotspots in the vicinity of the point. A hawkwatching platform is the best place to visit for birders looking for raptor species. Large numbers of waterfowl can be viewed at the tip, and sometimes Red-throated Loons can be seen flying overhead. There are brushy areas around the lighthouse and museum, where warblers, crossbills, and other small birds can be spotted.

Website: wpbo.org
Phone: (906) 492-3596
Directions: Click here

 

(C) North Shore Road ★

North Shore Road starts west about 1.5 miles south of Whitefish Point. Nicknamed the "Owl Road", the trip is a popular destination for travelers after birding the point. In the wintertime, sightings of Great Grey and Northern Hawk Owls sometimes occur. The Boreal Owl is another possibility, even though it is the rarest of the Upper Peninsula’s owl species.

Directions: Click here

 

(D) Wildcat Road ★

Heading northwest from Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, Wildcat Road is a popular “second stop” for birders after they visit the point. Look for Ruffed Grouse alongside the road’s edge. Be careful when exploring the area—some of the roads may require four-wheel drive.

Directions: Click here

Ruffed GrouseRuffed Grouse

 

(E) Tahquamenon Falls State Park ★★

Home to the largest waterfall in Michigan, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is worth a visit for both the scenery and the northern species of birds which live there. While the birding opportunities are similar to the rest of the UP, the amenities available at Tahquamenon Falls make it a convenient place to camp overnight. Whitefish Point is only a 20-mile drive from the state park. Visitors staying for a longer period should walk the Clark Lake Loop—a 5.6 mile long trail.

The Rivermouth Unit of Tahquamenon Falls is the best place in the park for birding. The unit features a marsh where Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads, and other waterfowl can easily be seen. Many warblers migrate through the area during the spring. Boreal Chickadees, Gray Jays, and Black-backed Woodpeckers are also possible sightings.

Website: michigan.gov/tahquamenonfalls | Map: Click here
Phone: (906) 492-3415
Fees: Recreation Passport required ($11 resident, $31.10 non-resident)
Directions: Click here

 

(F) Hulbert Bog ★

Hulbert Bog’s large boreal forest helps create a genuine north woods birding experience. The swamp used to be one of the best places in the eastern UP to look for Boreal Chickadees. Although the birds have been hard to find in recent years, many other northern species are possible. Rough-legged Hawks, Red Crossbills, and White-winged Crossbills regularly make appearances during the wintertime. Flocks of Gray Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, and other finches sometimes show up.

Like many other UP birding destinations, Hulbert Bog does not have any established trails. Birders will have to search from their car, or leave the vehicle behind and walk up and down the road.

Directions: Click here

Gray JayGray Jay

 

(G) Bear Butt Bar & Grill ★

Bear Butt Bar & Grill is a popular stop for birders during the wintertime, particularly because the owner keeps the bird feeders filled. Evening Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, and Pine Grosbeaks are all possible sightings.

Phone: (906) 748-5656
Directions: Click here

 

(H) Ranger Road ★

Driving on Ranger Road provides birders with access to the boreal woods of Hiawatha National Forest. The road is a good place to search for finches in the winter. The best place to look is in the yards of homes with bird feeders.

Directions: Click here

CrossbillCrossbill

 

(I) Monocle Lake Campground ★★

Located on the shores of a large, 148-acre lake, Monocle Lake Campground lies beneath a beautiful canopy of Red Maples, White Birch, and Aspen. Birders have recorded seeing many species of warblers near the campground, including Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, and Black-throated Green.

There are 39 rustic campsites available on a first come, first serve basis. The campground also features a two-mile trail that starts from the day-use parking lot. The best time to visit is when the campground opens in May, during the middle of songbird migration.

Map: Click here
Hours: From the middle of May to the middle of October
Directions: Click here

(J) 3 Mile to 12 Mile Roads ★

The roads south of Sault Ste Marie traverse many square miles of farming and hunting land. Every winter, birders drive through the area searching for northern species of birds which have migrated south. Be sure to check local hotlines to see when any northern specialties were last seen.

Be sure to leave before the crack of dawn—oftentimes, dozens of birders will congregate on the roadside near an owl, causing it to fly back into the woods. Birders should be careful when driving close to Lake Huron: because many areas do not get plowed regularly, it is easy to get stuck. Another important detail to remember is to dress warmly—during February, the temperature can drop down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the different birds seen every winter in the Soo area are Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Shrikes, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owls, Snowy Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, Snow Buntings, and Common Redpolls.

Directions: Click here

Boreal OwlBoreal Owl

 

(K) Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant ★

Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant is a scenic Sault Ste Marie landmark that birders and tourists alike will enjoy visiting. The power plant releases hot water into the river, creating a large ice-free area during the winter. In the past, Gyrfalcons have wintered at the power plant. Bald Eagles and many species of ducks and gulls can be seen in the river. There is a large parking area on the eastern side of the powerplant.

Directions: Click here

 

(L) Aune Osborn Park ★

Located on 20 acres of waterfront, Aune Osborn Park provides birders with a good view of the St. Mary River. Because the park is several miles southeast of the power plant’s warm water discharge, the river often freezes in January and February. The campground, which has electricity and other modern amenities, closes during the wintertime.

Directions: Click here

 

(M) Sugar Island Ferry & Sugar Island ★

Heavily coated with boreal forest, Sugar Island is a good place to search for northern specialties during the wintertime. Be sure to check eBird before making the trip—in some years, not many birds are present. The only way to access the island is by riding a car ferry, which operates all year around. The channel separating the island is a good place to check for ducks and gulls.

Directions: Click here

Red-breasted MerganserRed-breasted Merganser

 

(N) Dafter Post Office ★

The Dafter Post Office is a popular stop for birders in search of winter finches. Dafter is a small village surrounded mostly by large fields, presenting birders with many places to search for Rough-legged Hawks and Snowy Owls.

Directions: Click here

 

(O) Dafter Sanitary Landfill ★

The Dafter Sanitary Landfill attracts hundreds of Ravens, gulls, and other birds that are looking for an easy meal. Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks can easily be found soaring overhead. Unfortunately, the closest parking area to the landfill is a considerable distance away, so be sure to bring a spotting scope. In the past, Glaucous Gulls and Iceland Gulls can also be found near the dump.

Directions: Click here

 

(P) Dunbar Forest MSU Feeding Stations ★

Operated by Michigan State University, Dunbar Forest Feeding Stations is a reliable place to find Bohemian Waxwings, Pine Siskins, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Grosbeaks, and other small birds. Occasionally hawks can also be seen. After visiting the feeding stations, continue a short distance further to a parking area and a picnic table at the mouth of the Charlotte River.

Website: goo.gl/YB7PTs
Phone: (906) 632-3932
Directions: Click here

Pine GrosbeakPine Grosbeak

 

(Q) Munuscong Bay State WMA ★★

Known for its expansive fields and wetlands, Munuscong Bay State Wildlife Management Area is an excellent place for birding grassland species. One of the preserve’s highlights is a large population of Le Conte’s Sparrows. Some of the other birds that breed within Munuscong include Sharp-tailed Grouse, Eastern Meadowlark, Sedge Wren, Bobolink, Upland Sandpiper, and American Woodcock.

The main attraction for birders visiting Munuscong is the sandpipers that often congregate near the man-made potholes. Another good place to check for shorebirds is the Munuscong river mouth.

While the wildlife area does not have any amenities, there are restrooms and campsites available at a nearby state forest campground. The campground sits on the north side of the coastal marsh birding hotspot. At the east end of the campground, there is a dike, providing birders with a chance to get closer looks of waterfowl.

Website: goo.gl/gmMs4Q | Map: Click here
Phone: (909) 293-5131
Directions: Click here

 

(R) Rudyard Fields & Feeders ★

During the winter, driving through the town of Rudyard can be a good way to see northern finches. Many of the town’s residents keep their feeders full of sunflower seeds, helping to attract Purple Finches, Pine Grosbeaks, and Common Redpolls.

After touring the town, go and explore the countryside. A trip through the fields north of Rudyard in January and February can yield half a dozen sightings of Snowy Owls. The birds usually spend their day sitting on top of barns, power poles, and other farm structures.

Directions: Click here

 

(S) Cranberry Lake ★

Highlighted by a wild and undeveloped shoreline, Cranberry Lake is a 40-acre lake located a short distance north of De Tours State Park. On Caribou Lake Road a little farther west past the turnoff for Cranberry Lake, there is a pullout where travelers can park and search Caribou Lake for birds. Common Loons, Trumpeter Swans, and Bald Eagles are regular visitors during the springtime.

Directions: Click here

Trumpeter SwanTrumpeter Swan

 

(T) Potagannissing WFA ★★

Managed by the DNR, Potagannissing Wildlife Flooding Area is a large wilderness preserve located on the north side of Drummond Island. The floodplain is an excellent spot to search for sparrows and other grassland birds. There are several small bridges located near the parking area.

Website: goo.gl/vBo6bc
Directions: Click here

 

(U) Maxton Plains Preserve ★

One of the world’s last remaining tracts of alvar grassland, Maxton Plains Preserve features hundreds of open meadows, hiding the limestone beds underneath. There are many kinds of birds which inhabit the northern prairies, including Bobolinks, Upland Sandpipers, Common Nighthawks, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Broad-winged Hawks. The area is undeveloped so birding will have to be done from the roadside.

Directions: Click here