Saginaw Bay – Fall

Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay found in the central Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the largest contiguous freshwater wetland complex in the United States. Where land meets water, one finds the greatest diversity of birds as passerines and raptors follow and concentrate along this natural ecological barrier providing for September birding that rivals the fabled spring migration noted for in the Midwest. The middle of September is perhaps the best time of the year to bird this area as recently-fledged boreal passerines arrive in excellent numbers and waterfowl move south. Neotropical migrants have yet to fully push south, while Nearctic migrants will have just begun migration. All in all, an eclectic mix of birds will be found at this time including migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, raptors, and passerines, including 25+ species of wood-warbler, 10+ species of sparrow, 7+ species of flycatcher, 6 species of thrush, 5 species of vireo, buntings, kinglets, nuthatches, wrens, cuckoos, and woodpeckers among others.
This trip will be centered around Tawas, Michigan, which is located at the northern extent of the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron! With our focus in a narrow geographic area, it will allow participants to have multiple opportunities to see the diverse birds making passage through Michigan’s Saginaw Bay region.
NEXT DEPARTURE DATE: To be confirmed
DAY 1: Bay City SP, Nayanquing Point SWA
After a late morning pick-up in or near MBS International Airport, we will begin the day at Bay City State Park. With its proximity to Saginaw and mixture of habitats, this very accessible park will allow us to encounter our first passerine migrants as well as shorebirds, gulls, terns, and herons along the lakeshore and interdunal wetlands.
After a quick, late lunch in Linwood, we will visit Nayanquing Point SWA which is known for its collection of waterfowl and waders. If water levels have been controlled, shorebirds should be excellent. From the viewing platform, we will be able to watch southbound raptors. The small, wooded areas of this marsh complex contain excellent pockets of migrating passerines. This is a relatively large area, so we will sample the more easily accessible habitats. If time allows, we may visit Pinconning County Park and check for late afternoon migrants.
Dinner will be along Tawas Bay where we can watch for migrating Common Nighthawks!

Accommodation: East Tawas, MI
Sunrise: 07:10; Sunset: 19:50

DAY 2: Tawas Point SP, Kirtland’s Warbler restoration lands, Tuttle Marsh
After a 06:00 breakfast, we will begin the day at Tawas Point State Park. This is one of the premiere migratory stopover sites in the Great Lakes as this narrow peninsula funnels southbound migrants into a small area with short trees allowing for optimal viewing. As well, an extensive sandy beach that projects into Tawas Bay ensures loafing gulls, terns, and shorebirds. The unique position of this park attracts any number of migrant species, including rarities and vagrants.
Lunch will be in Tawas.
In the afternoon, we will visit Tuttle Marsh, a series of extensive diked pools known for waterfowl, rails, and if the water is drawn down, excellent shorebirds. The coniferous woods will also contain passerine migrants. We may have time before or after Tuttle Marsh to visit one of the Kirtland Warbler breeding areas in Iosco County to look for any remaining birds.
Dinner will be in Tawas.
If the group has the inclination, we will call for nocturnal birds locally with hopes of hearing and seeing: Barred, Great Horned, Eastern-Screech, and Northern Saw-whet as well as a late Eastern Whip-poor-will perhaps.

Accommodation: East Tawas, MI
Sunrise: 07:11; Sunset: 19:48

DAY 3: Tawas Point SP, Au Sable River & Lumberman’s Monument, Wurtsmith AFB, Clark’s Marsh
After another 06:00 breakfast, we will begin the day at Tawas Point State Park, checking for new migrants and experiencing anew the more common passerine migrants. Depending on the activity of the birds at the park, we will then have an early or late lunch in Tawas.
After lunch, we will explore the Au Sable River Valley which has a series of dams on the Au Sable River with multiple scenic pull-outs and parks. Not only we will learn a little about the lumber era in Michigan, but also look for migrants along the way. On our return towards Tawas, we will take a short diversion to Wurtsmith Air Force Base. Its grasslands provide opportunity to see Savannah and Vesper Sparrows as well as other open field species. Nearby Clark’s Marsh is one of the better locations for now-localized Red-headed Woodpeckers.

Accommodation: East Tawas, MI
Sunrise: 07:14; Sunset: 19:47

DAY 4: Tawas Point SP, Au Gres area (Midland)
Our last morning will begin at 06:00. We return once more to Tawas Point State Park, looking for new migrants as turn-over is very high day-to-day.
After lunch in Tawas, we will explore shoreline, grassland, and forest habitats near Au Gres including Noggle Road, Point Au Gres and the Big Creek/Manor Road area.
Afternoon return may afford us to stop at Whiting Overlook Park in Midland, known in recent years for fall American White Pelicans.
Guests will be dropped off in the late afternoon/evening at or near MBS International Airport.

Sunrise: 07:15; Sunset: 19:45

Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at  

Also see the Saginaw Bay Birding website for the most recent sightings in the region!