Birders Set to Flock to Annual Tawas Point Festival May 13-15

The fifth annual Tawas Point Birding Festival is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, May 13-15. The festival is expected to draw a record number of birdwatchers to East Tawas and Tawas Point State Park to observe the thousands of birds that stop there during their yearly spring migration

We have camped at Tawas Point State Park and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The campsites were level, grassy and spacious. the facilities were what we have come to expect from Michigan State Parks, meaning they were well kept. the park itself is a treasure. Set onto a peninsula, the views are simply amazing, especially when you realize you can enjoy a sunrise and sunset over water.

“Tawas Point is unique because birds coming back to their breeding grounds fly along the Michigan coastline, but lose their bearings when they hit Tawas Point where the coast curves back south,” said Chuck Allen, Tawas Point State Park unit supervisor. “The birds get confused and are tired, so they stop and rest before continuing on. The main attraction for people is the opportunity to see a lot of different birds at one location.”

This phenomenon attracts birdwatchers from across the United States and the world. Allen estimates that some 4,000 visitors made the pilgrimage to last year’s festival to observe nearly 300 various species of birds returning from South America and Mexico to their breeding grounds. Allen explained that the annual Birding Festival that was started by the AuSable Valley Audubon Society is held the third week in May to time with the normal bird migration through the area.

“Birders have their list, kind of a bird bucket list, of species they want to see in their lifetime,” Allen said. “The Kirtland’s Warbler is one that people will travel a long distance to see.”

The Kirtland’s Warbler only nests in jack pines and in trees of a certain height, so they are a rare find for birdwatchers that come from as far away as England, Africa and Australia. “You have to realize that this is not one or two Scarlet Tanagers or Kirtland’s Warblers, but hundreds,” Allen said.

On festival days, park personnel and volunteer members of the Friends of the Park group are up before dawn brewing coffee and selling doughnuts to the early birds who arrive long before the guided tours start at 7 a.m. Allen says many stay until after dark.

During this year’s festival, visitors will be able to get a bird’s-eye view of Tawas Point by climbing the 70-foot tall tower of the park’s historic lighthouse for a $2 admission fee. Friends of the Park are offering an up-close look at raptors with their Birds of Prey lectures at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 14. A licensed expert will be demonstrating bird banding from 8 a.m. to noon Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14. For details on the park-sponsored events, contact the park at 989-362-5041.

Members of the Michigan Audubon Society are combining their annual conference with the festival and are coordinating many of the activities. The Audubon Society will be offering organized guided hikes and boat tours for various fees. Don and Lillian Stokes, authors of all-new “Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America,” will highlight the conference. For details or to register for those events, visit www.tawasbirdfest.com, or call the Michigan Audubon Society at 517-886-9144.

Tawas Point State Park in Iosco County is located at 686 Tawas Beach Rd., two and one-half miles outside of East Tawas, off US-23. For more information about this event, the park, accessibility, or persons needing accommodations to attend this event, contact the park supervisor at 989-362-5041 (TTY/TDD711 Michigan Relay Center for the hearing impaired) or visit www.michigan.gov/tawaspoint.

The Tawas Point State Park campground will be open for early camping. Camping reservations can be made on-line at www.midnrreservations.com, or by calling the central reservation system at 800-447-2757.

A Recreation Passport is required for vehicles entering the park. The Recreation Passport has replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boating access fee sites. This new way to fund Michigan's outdoor recreation opportunities also helps to preserve state forest campgrounds, trails, and historic and cultural sites in state parks, and provides park development grants to local communities. Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($10 for motor vehicles; $5 for motorcycles) by checking "Yes" on their license plate renewal forms, or at any state park or recreation area. To learn more about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport, or call 517-241-7275.