By Doug Fuller, Harbor Springs
Birding is one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S and even worldwide. Birds are everywhere and almost everyone takes note of a pretty or unusual bird or a distinctive birdsong. Most everyone can identify the most common species seen around their home or yard (e.g. Robin, Blue Jay, Cardinal). This can lead to taking birdwatching to the next step—purchasing a bird identification book and binoculars to help identify less-common species, downloading one of the numerous birding apps, or setting up a feeder to attract birds. Whether you are a casual backyard bird watcher or a serious birder who may travel near or far to see a certain species, there is ample opportunity to watch birds in the Walloon area.
The Petoskey Regional Audubon Society (PRAS) has been a local chapter of the Michigan Audubon Society since 1966. PRAS is dedicated to creating a greater awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the inter‑relatedness of all of Michigan’s wild places and wildlife and the need for stewardship, with emphasis on our local region. We have more than 200 active members. PRAS holds monthly meetings, featuring a speaker or informational program, the second Tuesday of each month September through May. Additionally, PRAS members lead birding field trips year-around (although mostly in Spring and Summer), and sponsors projects that benefit birds or other natural resource protection. The best way to find out about upcoming field trips is to search for Petoskey Audubon on Facebook. Field trips and programs will be listed as a post and/or as an event.
PRAS also has an email list serve (Petoskey Audubon Google Groups) where programs are announced and where people post interesting bird sightings, etc. To be added to the list serve, contact PRAS’ communications coordinator Lisa Hoyt (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PRAS recently collaborated on establishing the Sunset Coast Birding Trail, a guide to 35 locations along northwest lower Michigan’s west coast where there are good birding opportunities. Paper copies of the guide are available from the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. There is even a Facebook page for this group: https://www.facebook.com/Sunset-Coast-Birding-Trail-1189567971094210. There is one location featured in the Walloon Lake Watershed—the Walloon Lake Trust and Conservancy’s (WLTC) The Fields Nature Preserve. The trails of this Preserve run through open hay fields, hardwood forest, and a cedar swamp along Schoof’s Creek. Look for American Kestrels and Eastern Meadowlarks in the hay fields. Clay-colored Sparrows frequently nest in the scrubby areas bordering the fields. Black-throated Green Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Scarlet Tanagers can be seen or heard in the wooded areas.
For those new to birdwatching, The National Audubon Society’s website has some good tips on how to start birding. The NAS also has a great mobile app which allows you to keep track of specific birds you encounter during your travels, including photographs and mapping.
Ebird is a national on-line forum to gather and share information about birds and recent sightings.
A listing of the 456 species of birds that have been documented in Michigan can be found on Avibase.
PHOTO CREDIT: https://birdwatchinghq.com/orioles-in-michigan/