The northern shore of Lake Huron is a place rich in marshes, rocky peninsulas and sandy coves. Forests of white cedar, balsam fir, white birch and quaking aspen dominate the shores. Hardwood forests of sugar maple and beech favor the deeper soils inland.
Wetlands range from marshes along Lake Huron with their neighboring sedge meadows, to bogs with tamarack and black spruce and white cedar swamps. White and red pine tower above sand ridges and old beaches near the lake meadows and other grasslands can be found just inland from the alke and at the northern end of Drummond Island.
This area is a migratory stopover site and significant nesting area for over 250 bird species. The forested shoreline and peninsulas provide landing and launching habitat for birds crossing over the straits in the spring and fall. Inventories have shown a wide variety of bird species including neo-tropical warblers, waterfowl and arctic species.
The rich diversity in habitat and the changing seasons provide a constantly changing panorama for bird watchers. Few of the 150 species of birds found in the Les Cheneaux area remain here all year. Some migrate through Les Cheneaux, others breed here and winter far south, while still others breed as far north as the arctic and come south to winter here.
Contact our Welcome Center (1.888.364.7526) for our free Birds of Les Cheneaux Islands Area brochure, which lists a number of species, when they visit and where they can be found in the area.
Self Guided Birding Opportunities
Some of the best places to watch migrating birds in the Great Lakes area are along shorelines, and the northern Lake Huron shoreline is one of several excellent spots. Springtime is particularly rich in the sounds and sights of migrating bird life. Early birds arrive in the Lower Peninsula as early as February, and continue moving northward through the state until early or mid-June. Fall migration begins in July, and finally winds down in November. Travelling along M-134 you will find numerous pullover spots for accessing excellent birding locations. Best bets for birding along the northern Lake Huron shoreline include:
Search Bay Forest Service Land
Located at the end of Search Bay Road, about 7 miles east of I-75 off of M-134. This part of the Hiawatha National Forest is great for songbirds in April and May. Look for Sandhill Cranes or kettles of raptors in September; small flocks of warblers, vireos, chickadees and nuthatches move quickly through the balsam fir, white cedar and white birch.
DeTour State Forest Campground – St. Vitals Point
Large flocks of warblers can be seen in the parking lot near DeTour campground in May, late August and September. The Cranberry Lake flooding area immediately to the north is ecellent for seeing a variety of warblers, thrushes, and kinglets. Look for a scattering of shorebirds, especially yellowlegs, in both spring and fall near mudflats. This areas is part of the Lake Superior State Forest.
M-134 Rest Stop near M-48
Operated by the Michigan Department of Transportation, this rest stop provides a perfect shoreline view to spot mixed flocks of warblers, vireos and flycatchers. Gulls and cormorants are common offshore. Raptors steadily stream westward during September.
Also Check Out:
Cedarville Bay Waterfront Park
The Nature Conservancy’s Gerstacker and Woollam Preserves
Little Traverse Conservancy’s Birge Preserve
Little Traverse Conservancy’s Derby Preserve
Birds by Season
Winters are snowy. Rare northern raptors (such as the great grey owl) appear occassionally, while pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, crossbills and redpolls are more frequently seen. Persistent birders may spot spruce grouse, black-backed woodpeckers, gray jays and boreal chickadees.
As snow and ice melt, birds trickle back and the growing tide of returning or migrating birds reaches a spectacular peak in mid to late May. Thoswe here earliest include robins, juncos, siskins and blackbirds. These are soon followed by waterfowl and loons. Finally, large numbers of songbirds alight.
The movement of the warblers into the Les Cheneaux area can be spectacular. Leterally hundreds of vireos, thrushes and brightly-colored warblers, tanagers and grosbeaks may crowd the shoreline areas where they feed on tiny midges hatching in the near-shore waters.
More than 15 species of warblers call Les Cheneaux home. Each has a favored habitat: American redstarts and black-throated green warblers for example, are commonly found near white cedar trees. Blackburnian, black-throated blue and mourning warblers are scattered throughout the shoreline area.
In secluded spots on water, bald eagles and loons nest. Marshes support nesting black terns and sedge wrens. Look for grassland birds like sharp-tailed grouse, northern harriers, bobolinks and Savannah sparrows in grasslands north of M-134 or at Maxton Plains on Drummond Island.
The cool, crisp northern winds bring birds flying south. Mixed flocks of chickadees, nuthatches, warblers and vireos move through quickly. Migrating flocks of blue jayhs, broad-winged hawks and a steady stream of sharp-shinned hawks, merlin and the occasional peregrine falcon follow this shoreline westward toward Wisconsin.
Sandhill cranes call high above,in flocks of dozens heading over the lake. As in spring, close looks at this shoreline will reqard you with sights of loons, red-necked grebes and waterfowl. Beaches and rocky points provide stopover sites fro small flocks of horned larks, American pipits, Lapland longspurs and snow buntings.
Visit the Calendar Page at lescheneaux.net for event dates and times!
All Year: Story & Craft Time at Les Cheneaux Community Library, 10:30 am, Cedarville
All Year: Les Cheneaux Farmers & Artisans Market, 10 am to 2 pm, Hessel School House, Hessel
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