Over the past couple of years, trying to spot the neighborhood snowy owl is some of my favorite backyard bird watching. He floats from treetops to light posts, even lighting for an entire day recently on our roof. No doubt there are tasty mice and other rodents darting about the fields, or squirrels in the trees that have his attention.
Bird watching is a great way, owls or not, to find the marvel of Mother Nature close to home. Northern Michigan is a wonderful spot for this pastime, too, because our geography and topography make birds of many species feel right at home.
If you want to encourage birds into your backyard, put up a simple feeder. For best viewing, locate feeders far enough away from household pets like dogs and cats so you will not scare off your avian visitors. Also, keep your feeders well supplied with seed, or add a suet block for another treat birds love.
Be sure as well to place any feeders within easy viewing of windows, so you can watch the birds without frightening any away.
Bird watching is a great activity away from home as well, because it is both a year round activity, and because we live in some of the best bird watching environs anywhere. Spring and summer might be better than other times of year because of the migratory patterns of many of our birds, but do not forget how winter can make it easier to see through, with less leaf cover and a more contrasting backdrop.
If you are interested in expanding your birdwatching options, but are not sure where to turn, there are also great options in Northern Michigan.
A useful first step is checking out the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society, the local chapter of the worldwide birding group. This group meets monthly at the Northern Lights Recreation Center on M-119.
The local group’s parent organization, the national Audubon Society, organized in 1905, so is one of the nation’s oldest conservation organizations, and the local chapter hosts programming all year long, including winter events held monthly at the Northern Lights Recreation Center on M-119. For information about upcoming events, visit the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetoskeyAudubon or learn more about the organization and how to get involved at www.petoskeyaudubon.org
Another great local option is the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch. Organizing monthly outings in the Mackinaw City area, the MSRW regularly conducts bird counts, helping to track not only raptors, but waterfowl, shorebirds, and more as they pass the stretch of the Straits of Mackinac separating the state’s two peninsulas, primarily in the spring and fall migration seasons.
Northern Michigan is a naturally perfect spot for bird watchers, with our combination of lakes and rivers, open fields, and forests. Birds of many types call our neighborhood home, even if for only part of the year. Making an effort to watch some of the amazing aerial acrobatics is a great way to enjoy the region.