Wednesday, March 31, 2010

13 Good Places to Bird in Muskegon County

The following list of the 13 Top Birding Sites in Muskegon County was compiled by Brian Johnson for publication in the Sept-Dec. 2003 issue of Michigan Audubon's Jack Pine Warbler.

A few details about the sites were updated on the previous Muskegon County Nature Club website by Ric Pedler in February 2008. The number order reflects Brian's opinion in 2003 of the relative quality of the sites; i.e. Lane's Landing ranked as the number one birding site in the county. (You can click the map above to see a larger image.)

1. Lane's Landing: West off Maple Island Road one mile north of the Muskegon Wastewater entrance. Assuming good weather, birders could see and/or hear 100 species in a day here during the peak of the spring migration.  Be careful entering and exiting Maple Island Road!

2. The Muskegon Wastewater System: Lagoons, fields and woodlots east of Maple Island Road and north of Apple Avenue (M-46) attract migrating shorebirds, waterbirds and raptors. Grass fields, marshes and woodlots south of Apple Avenue are excellent for Upland Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, sparrows and hawks. Known throughout the state, this area is patrolled by police regularly. You must register at the office and have a pass to birdwatch here.

3. Muskegon State Park: Snug Harbor on Ruddiman Drive west of North Muskegon provides excellent birding with paths leading south to the Muskegon Channel and north around Lost Lake. Dunes north of the Muskegon Channel provide good viewing of migrating hawks. Michigan State Park rules apply.

4. Causeway Area: View birds along the ponds of Veterans Memorial Park. Look for breeding Peregrine Falcons on the B.C. Cobb Plant smokestack. Look for songbirds in the thick habitat of the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve northwest of the Causeway. View waterbirds from the birdwatching sign on the Muskegon Conservation Club property west of the preserve.

5. Muskegon State Game Area Headquarters: Adjacent to Lane's Landing, accessible from Maple Island Road a mile north of the Lane's Landing entrance. The loop path along the banks of the Maple River and adjacent woods and fields provide nearly as many species as Lane's Landing. Excellent for spring warblers, Wilson's Snipe, vireos, cuckoos, etc., etc.

6. Pere Marquette Park: "The Ovals" city park on the shore of Lake Michigan south of the Muskegon Channel. Check the breakwater rocks for Purple Sandpipers from late fall through winter when conditions are safe, and the lakeshore anytime for gulls, waterbirds, raptors, etc. Also try along the one-mile channel wall and at Kruse Park two miles south at the end of Sherman Blvd.

7. White River Marsh: View birds from the walking path along the east side of Business US-31 between Whitehall and Montague. During migration raptors cruise the flats. Waterfowl are common in the open water. The cattail flats supply typical marsh species like herons, rails and swallows.

8. Hoffmaster State Park: Between Grand Haven and Muskegon at the west end of Pontaluna Road. This combination of woodland, stream, dune and shoreline habitats provides very good birding in the breeding season and excellent birding during migrations. Michigan State Park rules apply.

9. White Lake Channel: West of the White Lake Country Club. Like the Muskegon Channel, but on a smaller scale. Duck species such as Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Greater and Lesser Scaup and Redhead can be seen when the lakes start to freeze. For whatever reason, this channel is more reliable for Long-tailed Ducks and scoters. Grebes also occur here.

10. Lake Harbor Park: Along the north side of the Mona Lake Channel west of Lake Harbor Road, this is an excellent migrant songbird site. Although small, its proximity to Lake Michigan can supply good diversity and numbers. In the winter the boardwalk offers views of wintering waterfowl and gulls. These birds may be far out or just off the channel.

11. Ravenna Sewage Ponds: Southwest of the village of Ravenna, this is a migrant waterfowl and shorebird site. It's like the Muskegon Wastewater lagoons on a much smaller scale.  A bonus area in springtime might include Patterson County Park, a wonderful spot for migrating warblers, just two miles south of these ponds on Blackmer Road.

12. Hilton Park Road: One mile west of the Wastewater properties at the road's northern end. Excellent for spring migrants. During breeding season regularly-occurring birds have included Acadian Flycatcher and Great Horned Owl. Unfortunately the smell of dead fish is often present on warmer days.

13. Mill Iron Road: Midway between Muskegon and the Wastewater properties. Bird feeders on private property (but viewable from the public access site where the road ends at the Muskegon River) provide every possible feeder bird in wintertime including all six local woodpeckers. The power line easement a quarter mile south of the river provides excellent birding west for about a mile during spring migration and the breeding season.