Michigan’s GEMS are the jewels of springtime birding!
The return of migratory birds is the signature start to the season in Michigan. The trill of a red-winged black bird and guttural call of the prehistoric sandhill crane offer an earful – and spotting them offers an eyeful – of spring’s natural wonders. To enjoy the arrival of these feathered travelers, grab your binoculars and explore a Grouse Enhanced Management Site.
GEMS are areas of publicly accessible land managed for wildlife habitat and wildlife recreation. Each area provides abundant food sources and shelter for diverse species, including migratory birds. While these areas are primarily used for upland game bird hunting in the fall, they provide excellent birding and wildlife recreation opportunities year-round. Each area is complete with walking trails, parking areas, site information and maps. Accessible to people of varying physical abilities, these trails are the perfect place for new birders or hikers to explore.
As birds return and search for a suitable mate, they will perform courtship displays across the GEMS and other public lands. Among the most unique displays is the dramatic dance of the twirling timberdoodle. Also known as American woodcock, these birds are unique in appearance, with their plump bodies and long, skinny, pointed bills. Just after dusk on the edge of a grassy area, listen for their “peent” sound followed by a spiraling aerial performance. This mating display is one of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in Michigan each spring.