Grand Traverse Audubon Club

Birding Places

Here’s a quick guide to the region below.  For a more thorough guide, visit:



1) Open water at Boardman and Eighth Streets. A Peregrine Falcon hunted here in 2007.
2) Open water at Logan’s Landing (Medalie Park) on Airport Rd.
3) Open water at West Bay at Holiday Inn, Front St.
4) Baseball Park area, on US 31& 37 South, just north of Chum’s Corners (where US 31 turns)- for Snowy Owls

1) Trails at the Commons property, 11 st. off of Division.
2) Boardman Lake Trail, from Woodmere & Eighth to Airport (check Logan’s Landing for waterfowl).
3) Trails at the Grand Traverse Nature Preserve, south of Airport off Cass Road.

SUMMER AND FALL: Many areas. Read more detailed descriptions below.

Grand Traverse Nature Reserve – Boardman Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road.
From the junction of M37 and M31 (Chum’s Corner) south of Traverse City:
From the south( M37) turn right at the light and proceed about 3 miles to the Boardman River. From the west( M31) continue straight through the light 3 miles to the Boardman River. From the North (M37/31) turn left at the light then 3 miles to the Boardman River. The road you are turning onto is called Keystone Road.

The bridge over the Boardman River at this point is called Beitner Bridge. The River trail on the left (north) side of the road is the southernmost trail in the Nature Reserve which stretches along the river past Boardman Dam and Sabin Dam almost to South Airport Road in Traverse City. If you take this trail north it will follow the river downstream and also access Oleson Bridge trail and Lone Pine trail where there is a handicap accessible paved trail. Both of these trails can be accessed from Keystone Road and have paved parking lots. The distance from Beitner Bridge to the end of Lone Pine trail is about 2.5 miles and is not a loop. The best birding in the area is usually along the Lone Pine Trail where the hiker is above the river overlooking mud flats and the river where Boardman Dam pond begins.

To explore the north end of the reserve follow Keystone Road to Cass Road and turn left. Cross the one lane bridge over the power dam. On the right is the parking area for Beaver Pond loop trail. Further north is the new Boardman River Nature Center, which is about one and a half miles south of Airport Road. Maps and trail information are available at the center. The Sabin Dam trail follows the west side of the river along boardwalks to the Dam. Also, from the Nature Center, you will find the Fox Den Loop trail which continues north to cross Jack’s Creek and a cattail marsh on board walk and loops back to Sabin Dam & the center.

Boardman Lake and River
A variety of waterfowl are present on the lake whenever it is not iced over. During periods of migration there have been some unusual sightings of waterfowl, gulls, and sometimes shorebirds. Medalie Park at Logan’s Landing, (off Airport Road, east of Cass Road), is a good viewing spot, especially if you have a scope. Also try the NMC University center parking lot off Cass Road, and around the lake behind the library on Woodmere. The river at Boardman & 8th St. is an excellent winter viewing spot. Another good place is where the river enters West Bay near the Holiday Inn. You can walk the trail along the lake from Airport Road to Eighth Street.

Grand Traverse Commons
There are many trails on the property of the old State Hospital, now called the Grand Traverse Commons. Although right in the city, these trails are unknown to many, but have now been mapped and signed by the Boardman Nature Center. A surprising number of bird species can be found, especially during May and June. You can reach the property by turning west on 11th street from Division (U.S. 31S & M37). [1] Turn left at Elmwood and park at the barrier. Although dry this year and not as productive, you may find a few species by walking down the old gravel road and trails. [2] Another good area, near the water tower, is to come in on 11th street, continue past Elmwood and take the first left. Turn right on Blue Dr., left on Gray Drive and park at the end. Trails take off from this spot into the woods. [3] A third area is around the old barns. Coming from 11th again, go past Elmwood, take the first left, keep to the left and drive by the school on the gravel road to the barns. Trails take off up the hill and also into the woods. [4] A fourth area is up the gravel road from the barns. This will take you to the west side of the school where you can park. Trails lead off from here and into the woods just opposite the school. [5] A new parking access area, which takes you to the same trails, is out W. Front St. just south of Cedar Run. [6] Another area to investigate is at Elmwood and 7th Street. You can walk in to the east where you see a creek. A new road from Silver Lake Rd. now provides access from the south.

Reffitt Nature Preserve
This is about a 45 minute loop trail in the Traverse City area. The trail can be accessed from the east side of Three Mile Road near Parsons. It starts on the other side of the railroad track from the Tart bicycle trail. Another entry spot is off Four Mile Road at the end of Pine Drive. The trail passes through hardwoods and includes boardwalk over marshy areas and creeks.



Brown Bridge Quiet Area
Southeast of Traverse City is the Brown Bridge Quiet Area. Since the dam has been removed, this area is no longer a pond. The river now flows through here in its original bed. Native plants have been restored and a new habitat is forming. Birding should be interesting to see what new species are attracted.

U.S. 31 South & Lake Dubonnet
From Chum’s Corners, where U.S. 31 South turns to the west, go about three miles and look for the nesting Ospreys on a platform on the south side of the road. Continue on, past M137 about a mile and a half and turn right on Gonder Road to Lake Dubonnet. Follow the dirt roads around the west side of the lake to the campground where there is a launch ramp and further on, a viewing deck. More trails can be found following signs to another campground on the northwest side. The lake is a man-made flooding, created by a dam on the Platte River. Loons have been successful in raising offspring on this lake and are likely to be found anywhere on the lake, cruising around looking for fish. Trumpeter Swans have been seen here every year now. Ospreys have also nested here. Trails are good warbler viewing in the spring.



Old Mission Point County Park
Besides the beautiful drive up the peninsula to the end of M-37, you may find some breeding warblers and maybe even a Pileated Woodpecker. In June, Black-throated Green warblers and others have nested near the parking lot and in the surrounding mature forest. You are more likely to hear them than see them. There are hiking trails (which can be skied in the winter) through the forest area.



Leelanau Biking/Hiking Trail and Sutton’s Bay Wastewater Lagoons
This area is 15 miles north of Traverse City. On the way up the Leelanau peninsula on M-22 you will find a number of places to stop to view the bay for waterfowl. Parking for the trail is on 4th Street at Sutton’s Bay. Walking south about a mile will take you to the wastewater lagoons. The trail goes by the back lagoons. Biking the whole trail is a great way to find more species.

Leelanau State Park
This park is at the north tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. Entrance requires a state park sticker or paying a daily fee. Migrating warblers can be found in the park in the spring. Check the tall trees and bushes around the picnic, camping areas, and lighthouse in the early morning or early evening. The shoreline may have waterfowl and a few shorebirds. Mud Lake Hiking Trail and nearby Kehl Lake Natural Area are also good birding areas.



Yuba Creek Natural Area
Coming from Traverse City, there is a turn off from US 31N, just before Yuba Road. Parking is available here and after a short walk to the overlook, you will be able to view an Eagle’s nest with binoculars or scope. Eagles have been successful in raising young here for years. Just around the corner from US 31 on Yuba Road, there is a parking area. From here you can hike an easy half mile (one way) to get a much better look at the Eagles, still without getting too close to them to be a problem. Also, this area is good birding in spring and summer.

Maple Bay Farm Natural Area – Trails along the bay and woods, and Petobego Pond can be good birding. Look for a sign on the left, past Yuba.


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Glen Haven and Good Harbor Bay are good spots to look for waterfowl. Just before the county road 669 ends at Lake Michigan, there is a dirt north/south road. Search both sides of the north road to the picnic table and primitive rest room. The Prairie Warbler is frequently located through song along this area in May and June. Pine warblers are located near the intersection or along the south dirt road. Nashville warblers, American Redstarts, Black-throated Blues and even a Blackburnian warbler have been sighted along here in mid-May. Check the woods on Burnham Road for warblers & sparrows. Otter Creek is another good birding spot in the park, 14 miles south of Empire. Stop at the visitor center in Empire for more information. A helpful guide available there is, “Birds of Leelanau County and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: An Annotated Checklist,” by Chip Francke and Leonard Graf.

Kirtland’s Warbler Tours
Tours to see the Kirtland’s Warblers, guided by wildlife professionals, are available at Grayling and Mio. Admittance to the nesting territory is only with guided tours. Tours are generally 1 1/2 to 2 hours dependent on weather conditions and sightings. A 10 minute slide show highlights the Kirtland’s Warblers Jack Pine ecosystem.

Dead Stream Flooding & Michelson’s Landing/Reedsburg Dam areas
On your way to or from downstate, stop along old 27 on the west side of Houghton Lake. From the north, take the 2nd Higgins Lake exit off of 27 and go east to the first paved road which is old 27, turn south. From the south, turn on the old 27 from highway 55. Along this road you will see at least three Osprey pairs nesting on platforms and a Heron Rookery in the tall trees, (May – June). There is a viewing platform with parking and it is also easy to pull off the road all along the area. After driving the area along old 27 between 55 and the crossing of the Muskegon River (north), you may want to go back halfway and take county road 300 to the west where you will find more viewing sites and a good spot at Michelson’s Landing.

Other Birding Areas
Sand Lakes Quiet Area, Skegemog Swamp Pathway, and Grass River Natural Area are also good spots to look for birds. More information about these places are in, “Michigan Wildlife Viewing Guide.” It can be viewed online or you can order a copy for $12.00 from the Department of Natural Resources.

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