Michigan and Ontario   -    23 May - 7 June 2008 
Birding trip report: sites (maps and photos) & species list
John van der Woude  - 
www.jvanderw.nl
This easy trip, done by the two of us in a rental car from Toronto, had several purposes. First, we finally wanted to see the northern wood warblers in their breeding habitat, and the last ones on migration together with other migrating birds. Second, we finally wanted to bird in the American equivalent of our often visited Scandinavian habitats (and hence get a few more lifers). Third, we paid a visit to relatives near London, Ontario; this was on the last two days.
The dollar (both US and Canadian) was very low so the trip was not expensive at all. We stayed in middle-class motels/hotels (a lot to choose from), and had good meals nearly everywhere. Additional food was often bought in gas stations. Car fuel may seem expensive to Americans but it was half of what we pay in Europe. Personal safety was not an issue at all. As ever in North America, the people were very friendly. The weather was mostly good, except maybe at Whitefish Point, a notorious place in this respect. The ABA birdfinding guide for Michigan (see below) was excellent, and its recent appearance was another reason for coming. As a guide like this does not exist for Ontario, the emphasis in the trip was automatically on Michigan. However, Point Pelee in southern Ontario and Chapleau in northern Ontario were also very good.
 

The left-hand map shows the border between Michigan (USA) and Ontario (Canada).
The three maps below are from North to South. Sites visited, in chronological sequence:
1. Point Pelee
2. Hillman Marsh
3. Nayanquing Point SWA
4. Tawas Point
5. Au Sable river area
6. N of Trout Lake
7. Taquamenon river mouth
8. Whitefish Point
9. Taquamenon Falls
10. Kingston Plains
11. Seney NWR
12. Hulbert Bog
13. Lake Superior park
14. The Shoals
15. Chapleau Game Preserve
16. Dingman's Marsh
17. Grass Bay Preserve
18. Shiawassee NWR
19. Port Huron SGA

All 14 Michigan sites (and many more!) are well described in: 
A.T. Chartier & J. Ziarno - A birder's guide to Michigan. ABA 2004. The site descriptions have good local maps.
Do consult this guide in orde to know which species are possible at each site. Moreover, the extensive bar graph at the end of the book shows the likelihood of seeing the species in the different regions of Michigan, for every species.

 

 

Near the south tip of the famous Point Pelee peninsula in Ontario, Canada. An open vehicle brings you to this point, where the woodland reaches the very tip of this protruding peninsula where so many migrating birds land after having crossed Lake Erie from the South. Many Cedar Waxwing and orioles at this spot, and ten warbler species (including Canada Warbler), but most migrants had apparently moved up a bit already, to the central and northern part of the peninsula. 'At sea' (Lake Erie), Bonaparte's Gull and Lesser Scaup.


The road through the central part of the Point Pelee peninsula. Good views on the wood warblers left and right, as well as on cuckoos (we had both Black-billed and Yellow-billed). Blackburnian Warbler high in the trees, and singing Least Flycatcher close to the road. The Woodland Trail (East of the road) is one of the better birding trails, we got the specialties Golden-winged and Hooded Warbler there.


View along Point Pelee's Laurier Homestead Trail with several Blackpoll, Chestnut-sided and Black-and-White Warbler, and an Orange-crowned Warbler. Green Heron too. American Redstart and Yellow Warbler abundant here.


Hillman Marsh just North of Point Pelee produced several waders - Semipalmated Sandpipers, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher ('prairie subspecies' according to the Sibley field guide), Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plover. This new wetland (a former arable field probably) is on the outer rim of the reserve; from the parking lot walk to the right as far as possible.


 Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area, our first site in Michigan, and situated along the Eastern coast. Several Yellow-headed Blackbird (the only ones of the trip), but because of the strong wind not much else.


Tawas Point, a sandy spit into Lake Huron (the mainland is visible across the bay). This is a well-known migrant trap and we got many warblers and vireos, including Mourning (one of the few possible lifers on this trip), Nashville and Canada Warbler and Philadelphia Vireo. Also several sparrow species, Brown Thrasher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine (not usual here but well seen), Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.


Towards the tip of the Tawas spit, where we had Least and Semi-palmated Sandpiper together, and a Sanderling.


One of the Kirtland Warbler protection areas NE of Tawas, near the Sable river. No luck in this particular area (where we were led to by a ranger that we accidentally met), but we had extremely good views in another area North of the Sable river. Finding this rare species without participating in one of the usual excursions from Mio or Grayling saved us half a day or so.


The bridge from the Lower to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Forest Road 3145 N of Trout Lake on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and West of main road 123. Location B of site EU-11 in the ABA birdfinding guide. Grey Jay and Boreal Chickadee, and many singing White-throated Sparrow. At nearby locations A singing Connecticut Warbler and at C (at the other side of main road 123) Palm and Pine Warbler.


The forest area N of Trout Lake is rather wet, creating a mosaic of different vegetations, and hence a good bird diversity.

The Taquamenon river mouth (site nr. 7 on the above maps) is a nice small site but we stayed here only 20 minutes. A Pileated Woodpecker was feeding fanatically on a dead tree on the other (northern) side of the narrow river.

Whitefish Point, one of the most famous bird sites of Michigan, protrudes into Lake Superior and is another migrant trap. It is famous the migration of raptors as well as seabirds and songbirds. The weather was not very good here, but we saw quite a few warblers, and also species like Evening Grosbeak and Purple Finch. Loons and Red-breasted Mergansers were often visible 'at sea'.


Our most numerous songbirds at Whitefish Point were Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee. Of both species, several groups of a dozen or more were wandering around in this small area.

 
 Going inland from Paradise, the little town where to stay for visiting Whitefish Point, leads to two nice birding roads,  Farm Truck Road and Swamp Lake Road (photo), both alongside Taquamenon Falls State Park. The former produced Spruce Grouse, Sandhill Crane and Lincoln's Sparrow, the latter Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo and Trumpeter Swan.


The Kingston Plains had few birds (late afternoon), but look promising. This is along the dead-end side road going right towards a now broken bridge (Taylor Dam Road?). Some Brown Thrasher and Eastern Bluebird, and two Sandhill Crane.


The open area along the 'Diversion Ditch' near the northern entrance of Seney National Wildlife Refuge gave us the promised Sharp-tailed Grouse indeed. Also Brewers Blackbird, Upland Sandpiper and Bobolink (display flights).


Print of a Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) in the same area. We were able to compare this with a print in the visitor centre. Do wolfs eat grouse?


 This is a trick to keep Tree Swallows away from the nest of an Eastern Bluebird. 
Often, a Tree Swallow occupies a bluebird's nest box, but it will not tolerate another Tree Swallow near its own nest. So by placing two nest boxes next to each other, one will be occupied by a Tree Swallow and the other is available for a bluebird.
Same area as previous two photos; with singing Savanna Sparrows.

 
Typical view of the eastern part of Seney NWR, not far from the visitor centre. Interesting scenery, but no trip ticks apart from Caspian Tern.

 Hulbert Bog (site nr. 12 on the above maps) is just a small detour from the main road M28, and produced a Ruffed Grouse, quietly walking across the dust road.

In Canada again (northern Ontario), view from south of Lake Superior Provincial Park. A White-winged Scoter was swimming around, apparently still on migration or maybe not healthy.


In Lake Superior Provincial Park, just along the main road, one sees many sites like this. Beavers have built a dam (centre of the photo) and many trees have died because of that. In one of these small lakes we had our first Hooded Merganser, and Rusty Blackbird, one of the last lifer icterids for us.


Along the road from Wawa (an important stop in this empty northern part of Ontario) eastward to Chapleau, we dared to get out of the car to get a better view of this Black Bear. Along this road, we had five Black Bears in total.


Same spot as previous photo, this site is called The Shoals. We added Goldeneye and Wilsonīs Snipe to the list.


Moose crossing the road through the immense and very impressive Chapleau Game Reserve.  More beavers, bears, Goldeneye, and even a Spruce Grouse on a side track. We even had migrating birds along this 80 km long South-North road: a group of 7 Cedar Waxwing and some Blue Jays. Ovenbird was often heard, and once seen, in the dense woods along the road.


Common view in the Chapleau reserve. Commonest bird in lakes like this was Ring-necked Duck, also some Goldeneye, a White-winged Scoter, Hooded Merganser pairs and even two Bonaparte's Gulls. Several Tree Swallows, and once Cape May Warbler singing at a place like here at the right hand. Less Common Loon than expected.

 
Bears may be impressive, but this group of Otters halfway the Chapleau reserve road was an absolute highlight. They swam towards us! We were standing on the road, and this creek went through a broad culvert underneath us to a small lake on the other side of the road. And they went there indeed.


Back in Michigan, we visited Dingman's Marsh on the north coast of the Lower Peninsula. American Bittern was the best species here, and in the nice woodland to the right of the photo we added Red-breasted Nuthatch to the list.

This is site nr. 17 on the above maps, a small wet dune area called Grass Bay Preserve. The narrow trail towards this little gem is not easy to find, it's a very small mark along the main road. We saw remarkable and probably rare plants, and finally go to see a Veery with its eerie song. Also a Garter snake of 50 cm, and this brave Killdeer.


Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge was one of the highlights of our trip. Protonothary Warbler is one of our most favorite warblers, and this reserve is a real stake-out for that species. It's a nice 40 minutes walk to reach the protonotharies from the parking lot near the end of Curtis road, which runs along the South side of the reserve. Shore Lark is around the parking lot, and several Willow Flycatchers sing North of the parking lot. Near the spot of the photo we were so lucky to witness the jumping out of their nest box of six Wood Duck ducklings. Afterwards we spoke the warden of this reserve, and he said he had never seen this happen in his 20 or so years in reserves like this.

This is where we saw a few pairs of Protonothary Warbler in the Shiawassee refuge. From the parking lot, walk up North, then at a complicated crossing keep right, then after about 200 m go left, then after 2 km or so go right at a sign 'Photo Blind 1/4 mile' and then find the birds along the bayou. Their song is rather loud. Of course, seeing this beautiful golden-colored bird amidst the dark woods is an unforgettable experience. We saw three pairs close by along the trail. Be careful, there are also many Yellow Warblers around.
Do walk on to the watch tower, which overlooks a nice open marsh behind the woods. Got a note that Sedge Wren is a specialty of this open marsh.


Port Huron State Game Area was our last site in Michigan, before heading towards London (Ontario) for the visit to the relatives. ABA says this is a good site for a few warbler species (in their breeding habitat) that are not so easy elsewhere in Michigan, and we found all three whished species near the bridge of location B of the ABA guide: Mourning Warbler (although we had seen that earlier on the trip) right at the bridge, and Blue-winged and Cerulean Warbler at the spot of this photo. This spot can be reached by following the narrow trail from the SW corner of the parking lot.

Species list
For all Michigan sites visited, the ABA guide shows in detail which species can be found there (see esp. table).
Species that we saw in northern Ontario only are marked with O.
There is no distinction between species of Michigan and southern Ontario.
* = species was lifer for us.
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great White Egret
Green (Striated) Heron
American Bittern
Trumpeter Swan *
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
White-winged Scoter O
Common Goldeneye O
Hooded Merganser O *
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Osprey
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Spruce Grouse *
Ruffed Grouse *
Sharp-tailed Grouse *
Sandhill Crane
Grey (Bl.-bellied) Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Wilson's Snipe O
Upland Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Short-billed Dowitcher
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper?
Dunlin
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Bonaparte's Gull *
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Black Tern

Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo *
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Olive-sided Flycatcher O
Eastern Wood-pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher *
Alder Flycatcher *
Willow Flycatcher *
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Horned (Shore) Lark
Tree Swallow
Purple Martin
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 
Sand Martin (Bank Swallow)
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cedar Waxwing
Winter Wren
House Wren
Grey Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
Veery
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet O
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Black-capped Chickadee
Boreal Chickadee *
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Grey Jay
Blue Jay
Common Raven
American Crow
House Sparrow
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo *
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Eastern Warbling-vireo
American Goldfinch
Purple Finch
Evening Grosbeak
Red Crossbill
Blue-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler O
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Kirtland's Warbler *
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Ovenbird O
Northern Waterthrush O
Connecticut Warbler
Mourning Warbler *
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Savannah Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Orchard Oriole
Northern (Baltimore) Oriole
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird O *
Common Grackle
Brewer's Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bobolink

168 species,
incl. 31 warblers and 6 vireos
Remarks on some rarer species:
Western Sandpiper: presumed at Hillman Marsh north of Point Pelee, several,
and near Semi-palmated Sandpipers, on 24 May in the evening. But it's a tricky species.
Upland Sandpiper: clearly scoped in the grassland of the northern part of Seney NWR, on 1 June.
Northern Mockingbird: noted as seen in Point Pelee NP on 24 May; we did not realize then how
special this bird is in this region, otherwise would have given it more attention.
White-eyed Vireo: same remark as for N. Mockingbird.
Connecticut Warbler: clearly heard at its stake-out location A of the ABA-guide site EU-11 North
of Trout Lake on the Upper Peninsula.
Red Crossbill: two seen on the surface of the sandy Vermillion road near Whitefish Point,
Upper Peninsula.
 

Nederlandse namen volgens Dutch Birding West-Palearctische soorten 2008
Dutch names acc. to Dutch Birding bird names - list of Western Palearctic bird species 2008

Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great White Egret
Green (Striated) Heron
American Bittern
Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Mallard
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
White-winged Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-brested Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Osprey
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Sandhill Crane
Grey (Bl.-bellied) Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Killdeer
Wilson's Snipe
Upland Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Short-billed Dowitcher
Sanderling
Semipalmated Sandpiper
(Western Sandpiper)
Dunlin
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Bonaparte's Gull
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Black Tern
Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Alder Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Horned (Shore) Lark
Tree Swallow
Purple Martin
Sand Martin (Bank Swallow)
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cedar Waxwing
Winter Wren
Grey Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Veery
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Common Raven
House Sparrow
European Starling
White-eyed Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Evening Grosbeak
Red Crossbill
Blue-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Savannah Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Northern (Baltimore) Oriole
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bobolink
: 117 species also in WP;
of these, 90 are vagrants in WP
IJsduiker
Dikbekfuut
Geoorde Aalscholver
Am. Blauwe Reiger
Grote Zilverreiger
Groene Reiger
N-Am. Roerdomp
(Grote) Canadese Gans
Carolina-eend
Wilde Eend
Groenvleugeltaling
Slobeend
Ringsnaveleend
Kleine Topper
Am. Grote Zee-eend
Brilduiker
Kokardezaagbek
Grote Zaagbek
Middelste Zaagbek
Kalkoengier
Steenarend
Am. Zeearend
(Am.) Blauwe Kiekendief
Visarend
Am. Torenvalk
Smelleken
Slechtvalk
Canadese Kraanvogel
Zilverplevier
Am. Bontbekplevier
Killdeerplevier
Am. Watersnip
Bartrams Ruiter
Am. Oeverloper
Steenloper
Kleine Grijze Snip
Drieteenstrandloper
Grijze Strandloper
(Alaskastrandloper)
Bonte Strandloper
Ringsnavelmeeuw
Zilvermeeuw
Kleine Kokmeeuw
Reuzenstern
Visdief
(Am.) Zwarte Stern
Treurduif
Zwartsnavelkoekoek
Geelsnavelkoekoek
Schoorsteengierzwaluw
Bandijsvogel
Geelbuiksapspecht
Elzenfeetiran
Kleine Feetiran
Phoebe
Strandleeuwerik
Boomzwaluw
Purperzwaluw
Oeverzwaluw
Am. Klifzwaluw
(Am.) Boerenzwaluw
Cederpestvogel
Winterkoning
Katvogel
Spotlijster
Rosse Spotlijster
Veery
Dwerglijster
Heremietlijster
Roodborstlijster
Roodkroonhaan
Canadese Boomklever
Raaf
Huismus
Spreeuw
Witoogvireo
Philadelphiavireo
Roodoogvireo
Avonddikbek
Kruisbek
Blauwvleugelzanger
Geelvleugelzanger
Tennesseezanger
Brilparulazanger
Gele Zanger
Roestflankzanger
Magnoliazanger
Tijgerzanger
Blauwe Zwartkeelzanger
Mirtezanger
Gele Zwartkeelzanger
Sparrenzanger
Palmzanger
Kastanjezanger
Zwartkopzanger
Azuurzanger
Bonte Zanger
Am. Roodstaart
Ovenvogel
Noordse Waterlijster
Gewone Maskerzanger
Monnikszanger
Wilsons Zanger
Canadese Zanger
Zwartvleugeltangare
Zanggors
Witkeelgors
Witkruingors
Grijze Junco
Savannahgors
Roodflanktowie
Roodborstkardinaal
Indigogors
Baltimoretroepiaal
Geelkoptroepiaal
Bruinkopkoevogel
Bobolink
: 117 soorten ook in WP,
waarvan 90 dwaalgast zijn in WP