Excerpt from the News Advocate, Lifestyles edition, September 2-4, 2017:
Birds of Arcadia Dunes
by Paula Dreeszen
Arcadia – Arcadia Dunes is a large coastal nature preserve that provides plenty of habitat for birds and opportunities for bird watchers.
Managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, Arcadia Dunes: The C.S. Mott Nature Preserve, extends across 3,600 acres of land along the Benzie/Manistee county line, and includes two miles of lakeshore, coastal bluffs with perched dunes, hardwood forests, grasslands and even a couple small wetlands.
Want to see and hear birds at Arcadia Dunes?
Some of the most common birds are organized here by their preferred habitat: forest, forest edge, lakeshore and grassland.
Northern Hardwood Forest
Large tracks of forest provide habitat for forest interior birds, like woodpeckers, Barred owls, Ruffed Grouse, Wood Thrush, Veery, Scarlet Tanagers, Red-eyed Vireos and many species of warblers, including Ovenbird, Black-and-White, Black-throated Blue and American Redstart.
The flutelike “ee-oh-lay” song of the Wood Thrush echoes through the summer forest of Arcadia Dunes. Wood Thrush prefer large blocks of undisturbed forest, with dense interior canopy and thick understory. Their population has declined 50 percent since the mid ‘60’s due to habitat loss and forest fragmentation, but they have protected habitat here at Arcadia Dunes.
Good trails for seeing and hearing these birds include the new Overlook Trail and the “long scenic” trail from the Baldy Trailhead on M-22; the eastern half of the Chestnut Loop and much of the Dry Hill Trail, from the St. Pierre Trailhead, and Pete’s Woods Trail, from the Swamp Road Trailhead.
At the edge of forests and in shrubby old fields is where you can expect to find Indigo Buntings, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Towhees, Brown Thrashers, Gray Catbirds, Cedar Waxwings, cuckoos and sparrows.
At Arcadia Dunes, look for edge species near the Baldy parking lot on M-22 and the parking lot on St. Pierre Road. Bluebird nest boxes are located near these two trailheads. Drive and stop along dirt roads like Matzinger, Taylor, Zilch and Letteau. The Dry Hill Trail goes through several shrubby areas, especially southwest from the corner of Taylor and Letteau Roads.
From the bluff high over Lake Michigan, you are likely to see soaring Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, Barn Swallows, Caspian Terns, Ringbilled and Herring Gulls. During migration, expect even more raptor, warbler and other bird species.
There is no beach access at Arcadia Dunes, but lakeshore birds can be viewed from Baldy Dune and from the platform at the end of the new Overlook Trail. Hike to either view spot from the Baldy Trailhead parking lot on M-22.
The Conservancy has been actively restoring a Grassland Preserve at the southeastern end of Arcadia Dunes. Birds of the grassland include meadowlarks, harriers and sparrows like Grasshopper, Savannah, Vesper, Song, Field and Clay-colored.
The trailhead parking lot and kiosk for the Grassland Preserve is on Keillor Road north of Glover’s Lake Road. Be sure to also drive along Butwell Road to see the eastern section of the grassland. In the western half of Arcadia Dunes, park at Abby’s Woods trailhead on St. Pierre Road to see grassland birds in old fields to the south.
Year-round, over 150 bird species migrate through or nest and live at Arcadia Dunes. The preserve is a stop on the Sleeping Bear Birding Trail (www.sleepinbearbirdingtrail.org) and is an eBird hotspot (www.ebird.org).