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Michigan – Lower Peninsula | kiwifoto.com

Michigan – Lower Peninsula

June 16

I got into Detroit around 4PM last Friday and immediately embarked on my 3.5 hour drive up to Grayling, MI in the Northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Since the sun doesn’t set until well after 9PM at these latitudes I decided to check out some known nesting locations for Kirtland’s Warbler around Mio. I didn’t have much luck but I did get some nice photos of Common Nighthawks flying around.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

Saturday morning I took the Kirtland’s Warbler tour out of Grayling (offered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service). You can read more about the Kirtland’s Warbler tour here.

Kirtland's Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler

Since it was still relatively early in the day when the tour ended I decided to check out some spots for Upland Sandpiper and other nesting specialties in
Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. I never did locate any Uplands but had a nice adult Bald Eagle fly over me as I was driving down the highway. I also found a Brown Thrasher that was presumably bringing food to recently hatched chicks.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Brown Thrasher
Brown Thrasher

I encountered a few other areas that were designated as Kirtland’s Warbler nesting locations but I never heard or saw any. Being mid-day probably contributed to lack of any noticeable activity. Between the abundance of Jack Pine stands were large parcels cleared for local oil drilling. These areas supposedly had nesting Upland Sandpipers but I never did find any.

Oil Rig

Kirtland’s Warbler Jack Pine Habitat

I decided to throw in the towel on the Upland Sandpiper for the time being and head over to Rifle Recreation Area which was just East of Rose City. The area was primarily a migrant hotspot but they claimed to have nesting Olive-sided Flycatchers. I’ve been trying to get better photos of them for a while with no luck and today was no different. The park did offer some great scenery though.

Rifle Recreation Area

I took a quick nap in the car because I was working off a few hours sleep over the past few days – not going to bed until close to midnight and waking up (essentially) 2AM Pacific Time catches up with you. I decided one last futile attempt for Upland Sandpiper by checking out areas of Amish farmland north of Mio. It was pretty overcast and drizzled off and on but that didn’t matter much since I never found any Uplands. I did encounter a few displaying male Bobolinks along the sides of the roads.

Amish Horse Carriage

That afternoon I met up with some friends from Houston, TX. They had spent the past few days in the UP (Upper Peninsula) and had spectacular luck in finding Connecticut Warbler, Black-backed Woodpecker, Ruffed and Spruce Grouse and many other great birds. I just wish I was able to fly up mid-week to bird with them up there!

Since I didn’t get to meet up with them until late afternoon I decided to take them back to the Kirtland’s Warbler spot where I had photographed the male earlier that day. For the most part the weather was sunny and I was able to get a few more nice shots before the storm clouds started rolling in close to dusk.

On Sunday, we decided to work our way back down the “coast” toward Detroit since my flight was at 7:30PM that evening. Checked a few local hotspots for nesting Black Terns, Yellow Rails and Sedge Wrens. Unfortunately we started a bit late so we never heard any Yellow Rails calling. We did find nesting Swamp Sparrows and lots of calling Sedge Wrens (that didn’t seem to want to come out of the reeds).

Trumpeter Swan
Trumpeter Swan

Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow

We also checked a local hotspot for nesting Northern Goshawk, Yellow-throated Vireos, Red-headed Woodpeckers and many other Eastern passerines. We heard many Red-headed Woodpeckers calling in the area but never saw any. An over abundance of Red-eyed Vireos, Warbling Vireos and a single Yellow-throated Vireo. A Scarlet Tanager was also calling in full song nearby. We even spooked a Badger that was foraging in the leaves.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

Yellow-throated Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo


Last stop was Tawas Point (about 3 hours north of Detroit) along the coast of Lake Huron to look for Piping Plovers. I found the area where they were supposed to be nesting and there was a nice sign warning people to not enter during the nesting season months…but unfortunately there were two guys windsurfing along the beach so obviously nothing was there!!

Piping Plover Nesting Area

Lake Huron Coastline

There were lots of nesting Cliff Swallows in the area though. A couple of Bank Swallows flew by – too quickly to get any photos though.

Cliff Swallow
Cliff Swallow


Posted by on June 16, 2009 in Photography Adventures


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7 responses to “Michigan – Lower Peninsula

  1. Paul

    June 16, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Great variety of birds, love that shot of the Kirtland’s Warbler.

  2. steve happ

    June 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Hi chris,
    love the story, and my favourite photo was the nighthawk.


  3. Janet

    June 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Nice pics of your Michigan trip. I like hearing about the adventure that goes along with the photos.

  4. Peg Abbott, Trumpeter Swan Society

    June 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

    I was also just at the Kirtland’s Warbler site and in the Mio area looking for many of the same species. We had a nice pair of Trumpeter Swans hopefully settling in at Wakeley Lake. I’d be interested in hearing more on your sighting – nice shot of the two featured on this site. You might be interested in our new blog feature – a PHOTO OF THE MONTH section – see trumpeterswansociety.wordpress.com. Thanks for your interest/post on Trumpeters! We are working hard on conservation of this magnificent species.
    Peg Abbott http://www.trumpeterswansociety.org

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  6. Terrance Ottis Williams

    March 31, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Is it possible that I kid saw a KIWI BIRD around Rennie Lake (traverse city area)???

  7. ctaylor

    April 15, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Unlikely, but maybe an escaped bird from a zoo?


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