Where to bird watch in Benzie County – Manistee News Advocate


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The American redstart is a common nesting warbler in the Benzie County area.
The yellow-breasted chat is a rare bird in the Benzie County area. This photograph was taken at Otter Creek at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a great place for migrant birds to turn up.
This scissor-tailed flycatcher was photographed at the Arcadia Marsh.
The red-winged blackbird is a common nesting bird.
The wood duck, photographed in Frankfort, is a common local bird.
This green heron caught a frog at the Arcadia Marsh.
The robin signifies the arrival of spring. Hummingbirds are harbingers of summer. Cardinals brighten the winter. 
For people like Carl Freeman and Sally and Doug Cook, that’s just the beginning. They are members of the Benzie Audubon Society, dedicated to the preservation of and increasing the knowledge of our feathered friends. 
The National Audubon Society dates back to 1895; the Benzie County chapter started in the 1970s. The Cooks have been members since moving to the area 16 years ago; both have served as the club’s president. Currently Doug serves in that capacity, while Sally handles publicity. 
“Benzie is great for many kinds of birds,” she said.
Home to numerous species, it also is a popular way station for migrating birds in the spring and fall. However, she said climate change has impacted populations and migratory habits.
“The migrations are much less predictable. Some birds show up earlier than they used to,” she said.
There is cause for concern. A 2019 study determined that nearly 3 billion breeding birds have been lost over the past 50 years across the U.S. and Canada. That trend is also reflected in the study, State of the World’s Birds, published in Annual Review of Environment and Resources.
“Staggering declines in bird populations are taking place around the world,” it notes, with loss and degradation of natural habitats and direct overexploitation of many species cited as the key threats to avian biodiversity. Climate change is identified as an emerging driver of bird population declines.
One result is birds being observed far from their traditional areas as they seek new breeding or feeding grounds. Freeman pointed to the appearance this year of the southern lapwing in the Oscoda area, far from its typical range in South and Central America. A common redshank was spotted in southern Michigan; neither bird had ever before been seen north of Mexico.
Closer to this area, he said a red-cockaded woodpecker was sighted between Benzie County and Ludington. Found primarily in the South, it is now listed as an endangered species, with a total population perhaps under 10,000, many in isolated groups facing local extinction. While it is exciting to see such birds, it’s also a reminder that climate change and loss of habitat are driving them from their natural habitat.
Many other species can be found once you step out of your back yard. Freeman said green heron are common in the Elberta and Arcadia Marshes.
“I really like them,” he said.
American White Pelicans are not uncommon at Arcadia Lake, one of the area’s birding hot spots.
Cook noted summer tanagers and orchard orioles among the birds she’s observed this year. A standout for her is a common visitor to homes around the area, the only bird that can fly backward.
“My favorite is the hummingbird,” she said.
She said they are now frequent visitors to hummingbird feeders as they’ve nested and the young are now fending for themselves. 
The Benzie Audubon Society offers monthly birdwatching field trips open to the public. The next is Aug. 17, starting at Petals & Perks in Frankfort.
On Sept. 20, birders will gather at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy site at Green Point, while Oct. 15 will find them gathering at Medalie Park in Traverse City to seek migratory waterfowl. Information on all the society’s activities can be found online at BenzieAudubon.org.
For those interested in simply seeing for themselves, Cook recommends the Elberta Marsh — bicyclists can often see several species from the trail, Platte Point, Otter Creek, Arcadia Marsh, any land conservancy preserve and any other wooded or waterfront areas. Others are listed at the organization’s website.

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