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 27 of 67

Michigan's Tawas Point 26 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2015 fying in perfect single fle only 15 ft. off the water, making a beeline out of the bay to the south. I'm not sure how many minutes they took to pass, but it was like waiting at a train crossing and guessing how many more cars would come before the caboose. When autumn begins to look more like winter, it's gulling season at Tawas Point. Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, and Glaucous gulls join the al- ways-present Ring-billeds and Herrings. The entire bay side of the peninsula offers good gull- ing from the campground to the point. Offshore sandbars are best viewed from the beach just behind the lighthouse and from the observation deck at the end of the trail. Flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls churn the shal- low water in the bay throughout the fall. Oddly, the all-time highlight for November at Tawas wasn't a gull at all. In 2011, a Common Ground-Dove spent much of the month there, delighting birders with one of the northernmost records for the species. When the bitter cold and heavy snow of winter arrive, few birders will brave a walk at Tawas Point. For those who do, the ducks and gulls can still be reward- ing, as can focks of Snow Bunting on the fats and beaches. There is little shelter anywhere for human or bird, so only the hardiest of tundra-migrant month listers will be around. During "invasion" years, Snowy Owls frequent the ice foes and en- joy easy access to ducks in the bay. Getting to Tawas Point is easy, and the drive scenic. The second half of the three- hour drive from Detroit on US-23 takes you past a host of birding destinations. Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is on your left, and Bay City State Recreation Area at the base of Saginaw Bay is on your Continued from page 24 right. In spring and summer, Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area can get you Yellow-headed Blackbirds, the species's easternmost continually used nesting location. Tawas City is a tourist town but without a tourist- trap feel. Lodging is inexpen- sive and readily available. Tawas Point State Park has a campground, providing the opportunity to sleep as close to the birds as possible. Things get a little more hectic during the Tawas Point Birding Festival on the third weekend of May. Contact the Michigan Audubon Society at (517) 641-4277 or go to tawasbirdfest. com for details on the annual event. The gathering has produced great bird lists, including some unexpected rarities almost every year. The park's Victorian lighthouse is a must-see attraction for a break from bird- ing. In the summer, you could try your hand at a new hobby by joining the kite surfers on the beach. If you've never at- tached yourself to a kite in a Lake Huron wind, however, you may want to do what every good birder at Tawas Point does: just watch and marvel. Piping Plover chicks are banded for future identifcation shortly after hatching. An orange fag indicates a bird from the endangered Great Lakes population, while colored band combinations identify the individual. Photo © Phillip Odum

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