Birder's Guide

MAR 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 23 of 67

Michigan's Tawas Point 22 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2015 best spots in Michigan for close encounters with both American and Least bitterns. In the spring of 2010, a Purple Gallinule was the highlight of the decade in the marsh. Only four years later another Purple Gallinule, or perhaps the same bird, spent May at Tuttle Marsh. Spring migration is a wondrous event at Tawas Point. It may be clichéd to paint a picture of warblers "dripping from the trees", but no description more accurately captures the experience of a May morning spent meandering the length of the pen- insula on the Sandy Hook Nature Trail. Because there is little vegetation compared to a place like Magee Marsh, the migrants concentrate on the trees and shrubbery like ornaments on over-decorated Christmas trees. You might get six warbler species in one tree at other migrant traps, but here the same six will all be in one small, iso- lated bush 10 feet off the trail. A goal of 20 warbler species in one day is realistic during peak migration in mid-May. Even as late as the last few days of May, I've man- aged to pick up a dozen warblers. A particularly fne warbler treat at Tawas Point is one of the ABA Area's rarest song- birds, Kirtland's Warbler. With nearly all of the world's population of Kirtland's nesting in the jack pine forests within 100 miles of the point (to the west and north), these birds are becoming reliable annual visitors in May. During the Michigan Audubon Society's Tawas Point Birding Festival in 2010, birders were rewarded with a par- ticularly boisterous Kirtland's. The male was foraging literally at the feet of the as- sembled birders, "singing its head off", ac- cording to one seasoned festival attendee, who couldn't help but use the word "magi- cal" in describing Tawas Point. A species that may have become extinct a few de- cades ago was—thanks to the interven- tion of federal and Michigan agencies under the Endangered Species Act—for- aging too close for the use of binoculars. Approaching a ground-nesting bird that closely on the breeding grounds is both reckless and prohibited, but at migration traps you can stand in one spot, and the rarest of birds may come to you! Of course, migration is about more than Gray Vireo. Photo © Brendon Grice Map © Rad Smith Though hard to fnd in spring at Texas migrant traps, species with more easterly migration paths, such as Black-throated Blue Warbler and Cape May Warbler (here), are often downright abun- dant at Tawas Point. Photo © Angus Molyneux

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