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 24 of 67

Volunteers help keep birds (and birders) happy at Tawas Point. Fresh-cut oranges attract orioles. Photo © Wayne Pope 23 March 2015 | Birder's Guide to Travel warblers. Scarlet Tanagers, vireos, thrushes, and joyfully singing Empidonax fycatchers all crowd onto the point in May. The veg- etated interior of the peninsula tapers from several hundred feet across to little more than 50 ft. at some points, so the birds are really packed in. Even the more cryptic lurkers, like cuckoos, have no choice but to offer themselves up for good views. North of Tawas Point at Tuttle Marsh, the waterfowl impoundments are surrounded by dense conifer forest. Ovenbirds and Wood Thrushes serenade birders who are scoping the waders and ducks. There are no facilities at Tuttle Marsh, but the unpaved road through the area has frequent pullouts. The raised dikes are open to hiking. The best birding strategy in this area is to park and wander along the road or the dikes. As in most of the Midwest, summer is a more relaxed season at Tawas Point. Mimids take over the central vegetated strip on the peninsula, with Gray Catbirds and Brown Thrashers adorning almost every tree. They're joined by Baltimore and Orchard orioles, as well as a few warblers that stick around to nest, most notably American Redstart and Yellow Warbler. With the chaos of migration winding down, bird- ers' attention can be turned to the beach near the tip of the peninsula, where several pairs of the endangered Great Lakes population of Piping Plover are regu- lar nesters. The summer of 2013 saw fve nesting pairs, although only four chicks were successfully fedged. The immediate area around the nests is closed to access, but several nearby spots provide easy viewing even with- out a spotting scope. A small observa- tion deck at the terminus of the trail is a good spot, as well as atop the small dune between the trail and the beach. Once midsummer rolls around, Arctic-nesting shorebirds are already headed south. The observation deck at the end of the Sandy Hook Nature Trail overlooks pebble beaches, mudfats, an offshore sandbar, and a vegetated island. Any shorebird on the Atlantic or Mississippi fyways can be expected here. Highlights in recent summers and falls have in- cluded American Golden- and Black- bellied plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, White-rumped and Baird's sandpip- ers, Whimbrel, and Red Knot. The last two are more frequently found in May than during fall migration, which may be a result of having more eyes on the point during the festival. Where there are shorebirds and weary Kirtland's Warbler is very rare but regular at Tawas Point during migration. But if you miss it here, you can always try for it on the nearby breeding grounds. Photo © Robert Epstein Blackburnian Warblers are challenging to locate high in the dense canopies of their breeding grounds but often easy to fnd in more open habitat during migration. Photo © Phillip Odum

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