During mid-summer many birders hang up the binoculars with thoughts of fall migration and a little siesta, but don’t think this is the time to sleep in, save it for mid-winter!
This is the time of year to find breeding birds and the first shorebirds moving south. Esch Road and Otter Creek in the National Lakeshore in northern Benzie County is a hotspot on eBird and a great location for early morning summer birding. Along the trail parallel to the creek is good habitat for Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers and if you are lucky a Mourning or Canada Warbler. In the past Olive-sided Flycatchers have been seen in the snags adjacent to the wetlands here. Hermit Thrushes sing their ethereal song in the boreal transition forests and dune forests west of the trail. One of the summer prize birds here for Michigan birders is the Prairie Warbler nesting in the juniper and dogwood shrubs in the open dunes. As you bird these areas please remember not to harass the birds with playback calls and note this is also illegal in the National Lakeshore.
Starting in July it’s time to think of shorebirds in addition to the nesting Spotted Sandpiper and Piping Plovers. Get up early before the beach strollers and check the best spot, Platte River Outlet, to see what may have shown up. Good shorebirds this time of year can include Avocet, Marbled Godwit, Willet, and later in the summer Baird’s Sandpiper. Good shorebirds have also showed up at Sleeping Bear Point in Leelanau County and if the water levels drop this summer it would be worthwhile checking the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula at Leelanau State Park and nearby Cathead Bay.
Although spring migration is over this time of year can also produce the surprise discovery of uncommon nesting birds and rare migrant shorebirds that are exciting and provide the motivation to put off the siesta and grab your binoculars. Another option is to head for the grasslands along M-22 and Esch Road up to Stormer Road for Grasshopper Sparrows, Meadowlarks and Bobolinks or cut across the county east of Lime Lake to the eBird Hotspot Bodus Road Fields where a Western Meadowlark has been present all spring and summer. Summer is still a season of discovery. Get out there and enjoy it and I hope to see you in the field or along the shore of our Sleeping Bear Birding Trail.