Birding Escapes: Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling, Michigan
By Bobby R. Harrison
July 15, 2013
Hartwick Pines State Park lies hidden in the great jack pine forest of northern Michigan’s lower peninsula. The woodlands encompassed in Hartwick’s 10,000 acres are a remnant of the massive white pine forest that once stretched from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan and contain the largest stand of virgin white pines in the state, as well as hardwood forests of beech, maple, and oak, with lowland habitat of spruce and tamarack. These varied habitats provide superb opportunities for birders and wildlife photographers.
More than 7½ miles of trails meander through the mixed habitat, giving visitors a chance to view a wide range of bird species. Walking the trails in spring and early summer, you’ll be serenaded by a cacophony of songs from Blackburnian and Black-throated Green warblers, Evening and Rose-breasted grosbeaks, Red-eyed Vireos, American Goldfinches, and Pine Siskins.
More than 200 species of birds have been seen in the park, but it is the reliability of finding Evening and Rose-breasted grosbeaks that makes Hartwick such a popular destination for birders. Just stop at the viewing platform of the park’s visitor center and you’ll get stunning close-up views of the grosbeaks and unparalleled picture-taking opportunities. You should also find Scarlet Tanagers, White and Red-breasted nuthatches, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Downy and Hairy woodpeckers, and more.
Adjacent to the park lies the vast jack pine forest—nesting grounds of the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. When planning a trip to Hartwick Pines, be sure to include at least one day to take a Kirtland’s Warbler tour. Tours take place from mid-May to early July, providing a perfect opportunity to see one of America’s most endangered warblers.
With virgin pines, colorful grosbeaks, and endangered warblers, Hartwick Pines State Park is an ideal birding escape.
From Grayling, drive north on I-75 to Exit 259. Head northbound on M-93 for about 2 miles, and look for the park entrance sign on the left side of the road.