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Hanmer's
Riverside Resort & Livery
Benzonia, Michigan
Benzie County, though the smallest of the
83 counties in Michigan, offers wonderful
birding opportunities throughout the year
but especially in Spring and Fall.
About 270 species have been recorded
in the county and about 220 of these
may be seen in a given year. The Benzie
Audubon Club hosts a Big Day Count the
middle of May each year and has recorded as a group many as 168
species in one day.
    Individual birders have recorded as many as 132 species in a day. The
    Benzie Club and the Manistee Audubon Society just to the south have
    consistently recorded the highest species total on their Christmas Bird
    Counts of any other count in northern Michigan.
With its rolling hills covered by forests and fields and interspersed with numerous lakes, ponds,
rivers and streams, and with marshes and a long coastline along Lake Michigan, Benzie County
is ideally situated for Spring and Fall migrants. The Spring migration begins slowly in March,
builds from mid-April until early May and peaks the middle of May. After the peak the migration
winds up quickly so that by the end of May it is essentially over.
In the Fall migration actually begins as early as July when a few shorebirds, having already
completed their nesting in the Tundra begin a leisurely southward trek. The entire Fall migration
is much less frenetic than the Spring migration and will actually last into December. The peak
migration now is difficult to define as different species seem to peak at different times, but
usually the best overall birding may be had from mid-September through mid-November.
Through the early part of the Spring migration and most of the Fail migration weather is
extremely variable and birders should be prepared for a wide variety of conditions. Weather,
especially wind direction, also plays a large role in the movement of the birds.
Those interested in observing migrating waterfowl should find April and October and November
prime months. The best observation points are Platte Point at the mouth of the Platte River and
Point Betsie where you will also find the most photographed lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Platte Point in the winter often holds huge concentrations of waterfowl Over 20,000 Greater
Scaup have been seen here along with thousands of Common Goldeneyes and Buffleheads as
well as many other species. Up to 350 Common Loons per hour have been seen passing Point
Betsie as well as hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks and occasionally many Scoters.
The Elberta Marsh and Betsie Bay area is a great place to see dabbling ducks, shorebirds,
herons and Sandhill Cranes.
The Otter Creek area offers a fine selection of field birds along M-22 and Each Rd. and great
birding for spring warblers and other passerines in the wooded areas nearer the lake.
For canoeists and kayakers, the Grass Lake flooding on the upper Betsie River is a wonderful
place to bird in the month of May with many Eagles, Osprey, Rails, Pied-billed Grebes, Herons
and passerines such as Yellow-throated Vireos that seem to prefer more inland areas away
from Lake Michigan. Canoeing or kayaking the Elberta Marsh is another worthwhile trip.
On the southern boarder of Benzie County is the Arcadia Marsh and Lake just a couple of miles
south of the county line in Manistee County. Both Spring and Fall this area harbors many
migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, cranes and many other birds. Viewing is easy from M-22. Don't
forget to drive some of the back roads for more birding opportunities.
Birding in Benzie County
For more information contact:
Benzie Audubon Club, POB 804, Frankfort, MI 49635
Visit:
BenzieAudubon.org
Email: westphal@benzie.com