Birding is excellent throughout the county because it has a heavy forest growth. Enjoy some casual bird watching or work on your Life List! The sites below represent known locations where specific species have been spotted. The birds listed are just a sample of what can be seen; many more species live in those areas.
Click Here for a .pdf flyer outlining the birdwatching opportunities in the Grayling area.
- Kirtland’s Warbler Tours: The panoramic forests that cover the hills and valleys of Northern Michigan are home to Michigan’s rarest bird, the Kirtland’s Warbler. Special areas are being managed through timber harvest, tree planting and controlled burning to maintain the world’s only nesting grounds for the elusive bird. Warbler nesting grounds are found primarily in the many acres of Jack Pine forests around the Grayling Area and are off limits during the nesting season, except in guided tours. The female Warbler builds her nest of leaves and grass below 5-20 foot tall Jack Pines in the midst of dense undergrowth. In the fall, Kirtland’s Warblers migrate to the Bahamas. The Warbler’s threatened extinction is being caused primarily by loss of its very selective habitat. Managed timber harvest, tree plants, and controlled burning have helped double the number of Kirtland’s Warblers from 1961 to now. Tours are available Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m., and Saturday & Sunday, 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., June 1-30 from the Hartwick Pines State Park for $10 per person. You need a Recreation Passport to enter the park. They sell them at the park entrance – $11 Michigan annual, $31 out of state annual, $9 daily. For groups of five or more, please email the Mi.Audubon to make reservations firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals can just show up at the Park. 4216 Ranger Road, off of M93. For questions call the Park Visitors Center at 989-348-2537. For more information on the Kirtland’s Warbler visit these sites:
- AuSable and Manistee Rivers: Numerous public access sites are available. Look for Mallards, Black Ducks, Mergansers, Great Blue Herons, Baltimore Orioles, Sandpipers, Downy, Hairy,and Pileated Woodpeckers, Red Winged Blackbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, White- and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Turkeys, and Eastern Kingbirds. A canoe float trip is a quiet trip and one of the best methods of viewing the many species.
- Deward Watchable Wildlife Site: A non-motorized area, all dirt road driving. At the flashing light in Frederic drive .4 miles to Hulbert Road on the left. Drive .6 miles to the stopsign at Kolka Creek Road, turn right. Drive .7 miles to Cameron Bridge Road on the left. Drive 5 miles and turn right onto Manistee River Road. Drive approximately 3 more miles and watch for the binocular sign on the left. This is a two-track. There is a parking area and it’s about a short five minute walk to the river. Look for Belted Kingfishers, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Hermit Thrushes, Veeries, Eastern Phoebes, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks (fall, winter) Eastern Kingbirds, Ruffed Grouse and Turkeys.
- Dyer Truck Trail/Connor’s Marsh: A large marsh can be seen on the right side of Dyer Truck Trail shortly after entering the road. This is a non-maintained trail: there are a couple of areas you can pull off the road right before the marsh, ½ mile after you leave North Down River Road. If you don’t want to drive down a two-track, park on the shoulder of N.Down and walk in. The other side of the marsh can be accessed by Connors Flat Road, also a dirt road off of McMasters Bridge Road, 20 miles east of Grayling. Hawks, American Bitterns, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats. Song Sparrows, Savanna Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows and Turkeys.
- Hanson Hills Recreation Area: Miles of walking trails through rolling oak hills offer possible sightings of Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Ovenbirds, Eastern Phoebes, Nuthatches, Chickadees, Wood Thrushes, Veeries, Hermit Thrushes, Brown Thrashers, Song and Field Sparrows, Turkeys.
- Hartwick Pines State Park: Enjoy birding at Michigan’s 5th largest State Park (9,672 acres). Rolling hills to flat landscapes with a wide variety of forest types offer excellent habitat for birds. A section of the East Branch of the AuSable River, three lakes and 49 acres of old growth conifer forest are just an example of the kinds of habitat that can be found at the park. Three hiking trails (7 miles) and three mountain biking trails (15 miles) run throughout the park for those interested in actively searching for birds. For those who prefer the comfort of indoors, the Michigan Forest Visitor Center has a bird feeding station and a bird monitor so that visitors can watch the birds as well as listen to them sing…… Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Ovenbirds, Hermit Thrushes, Veeries, Wood Thrushes, Brown Thrashers, Turkeys.
- Mason Tract Pathway: Look for Belted Kingfishers, Eastern Kingbirds, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, White- and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Veeries, Hermit and Wood Thrushes, and Turkeys in this non-motorized area with over 11 miles of hiking trails that run near the AuSable River.
- Rayburn Estate: Walk or bike this two mile paved trail off of North Down River Road that leads to the AuSable River and look for Turkey Vultures, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Field, Savannah, Chipping and Song Sparrows, Great Blue Herons, Rufous-sided Towhees, Brown Thrashers, Ovenbirds, Hermit and Wood Thrushes, Veeries, and Turkeys. There is a parking area, however, this site is not marked. The parking area is directly after the MATES facility on the right. (There is a 1.4 mile walk or bike to the river on a paved trail.) Look for a couple of military tanks on the left. To access from M72 East, drive 1.3 miles from the overpass and turn left at the stone pillars. There is a parking area and a short walk (.8 miles) on a non-maintained trail to the river. A bridge allows you to cross the river on foot or bicycle.
- Sewage Pond, City of Grayling: 1.4 miles south on Industrial Drive, M72 East. Partial pavement. Pond on the right, parking in the grass. Multiple water birds.
- Wakeley Lake: A loon nesting area, this is federally owned property with over 16 miles of trails and is non-motorized. There is a regulation to use artificial baits only for fishing. All fish caught must be returned to the water. Look for Common Loons, Woodpeckers, Ruffed Grouse, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Cedar Waxwings, Rufous-sided Towhees, Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Hermit and Wood Thrushes, Veeries, and Turkeys.
NOTE: Follow any public two-track road in the County (except where signed off-limits) for excellent bird watching. Most of these roads are on state or federal land and open to foot traffic. Many are also open to vehicular traffic.