” On The Road ” Mackinac Island

As I sit in my hotel room on my last night on Mackinac Island, I must confess dear readers, that this post (being my first for my “On The Road” series), I’ve not given much thought, or time. So now I must gather my thoughts and memories on this, my 25th anniversary trip to this charming island community.

Having never been here before I didn’t know what to expect, either from a tourist or a birding point of view, for that matter. I won’t bore you with the driving aspects of this trip, but the only comment I’d like to make is the drive north from Saginaw was ablaze with all the usual autumn colors. Mile after mile of the most forested state I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit.Even the rest area was a joy to behold.

And we most remember where we are when it comes to birding. We’re in Kirtland’s Warbler country, as this sign will attest.

As proud as the citizens of Michigan are for their conservation efforts in maintaining and conserving the plight of the Kirtland’s Warbler, they are equally proud of this monumental feat of engineering and construction. The Mackinaw Straights Bridge.

Before we get along into the birding portion of the trip, lets talk about Mackinac Island itself.

8 miles in circumference, with bluffs rising up to a flat interior of dense hardwoods and evergreens, it is a very manageable island, either on foot or bicycle. Situated at the foot of a bluff, on the waters edge, is the town. Everything into and off the island passes through here.

The town isn’t very large and is easily walked. What you’ll find in town is all your normal tourist attractions and shops dedicated to separating your money from you. You’ll find most of your hotels, restaurants and shops in this district. What you’ll find too much of is the t-shirt and cheap gift stores. Don’t get me wrong, their filling a need, it just seems that they went over board. Speaking of over board, I gave up on counting how many fudge shops there are. One company alone, Ryba’s Fudge Shop, had 5 locations on main street. 2 of them, no more than 10 feet away from each other. Fudge is such a integral part of the economy, the locals call the tourist “Fudgies”. And this isn’t meant to be derogatory. I’m sure they sell tons of the densely sweet confection each year. And I’m proud to say we didn’t buy any.

I rose early the next morning to go birding at a location along the lakes edge in front of the Mission Point Resort. This resort, right outside of town, has a hike bike trail that runs along the water front.

The evening prior, we went for a walk here and the bird activity was impressive. I haven’t seen this kind of warbler activity since Magee Marsh in the spring. Not just here, but all over the island. As you’ll be able to see from the next pictures, the kind of habitat that was supporting our fine little friends.

I could have spent hours here. It was that active. But being my anniversary trip, we must give a little. And I’m glad I did. Once you leave the hustle and bustle of the town, then the real beauty of this island opens up. Rent a bike and cycle around the island. This time of year there were practically no crowds. Park your bike along the way and go for a short hike in the woods. They have bike racks situated along the road just for this purpose. But you must stop just to enjoy the scenery.

As you can tell from this perspective, how high the bluffs are.

Aside from the beauty of the coast, with it’s contrasts and gentle lapping to the water, my heart drew me to the woods. It’s autumn, and with the changing of the leaves to colors that only God can create, we both hiked and biked through this enchanted woodland.

With miles of both hiking/bridle and biking trails, it would take you weeks to walk each and everyone.

One of the hike/bridle trails

Paved bike trail

One of the many geological formations.

As you walk through this beauty, don’t forget to look down at the plants that are still holding on.

As our trail leads us on, we forget our worries as the peace of the forest envelopes us. But as our trail leads us on…

Kathy commented to the fact that it seems everything on the island leads us towards the Grand Hotel.

I did get a few good picture of some birds. Nothing to write home about, but I like them.

Ring-bill Gull, the only gull species I found while there.

Pileated Woodpecker

White-crowned Sparrow (female)

Though I didn’t bird as much as I wanted to, I feel that doing nothing but bird watching for the entire trip, would be an in justice to what this island has to offer. It forces you into its’ way of life. And I was eager to accept it. You really forget how quiet a place can be without automobiles, motorcycles, and trucks. I will sorely miss that the most. The older I get, the less of the mechanized world I want to hear. Lead me to a place where I can end the day with this image to remember.

The complete trip list of birds are:

  1. Rough-leg hawk
  2. Common Raven
  3. Common Crow
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Sandhill Crane
  6. Ring-bill Gull
  7. Double-creasted Cormorant
  8. Pileated Woodpecker
  9. Black-capped Chickadee
  10. Blue Jay
  11. House Finch
  12. Mourning Dove
  13. Mallard
  14. Downy Woodpecker
  15. Yellow Warbler
  16. Grackle
  17. Yellow-rump Warbler
  18. Song Sparrow
  19. White-throated Sparrow
  20. Tree Sparrow
  21. Palm Warbler
  22. White-crown Sparrow
  23. Northern Cardinal
  24. Nashville Warbler
  25. Grey Catbird
  26. White-breasted Nuthatch
  27. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  28. Red-breasted Merganser
  29. American Redstart
  30. Red-wing Black Bird
  31. Blue Grey Gnatcatcher
  32. Cooper’s Hawk
  33. Trumpeter Swan
  34. Turkey Vulture



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