EAST TAWAS – Following a hiatus last year, the Tawas Point Birding Festival will make its way back to Iosco County on Thursday through Saturday, May 16-18.

A Michigan Audubon Signature Event, the festival is supported by the local chapter, AuSable Valley Audubon (AVA).

As reported, when the affair wrapped up its 12th annual run in 2017, it was determined that the event would be held every other year from that point forward.

The decision to run the festival biennially was made in order to maintain some of its novelty, allow people to experience other festivals, keep the birders interested and give everyone a break, while at the same time letting coordinators ensure that subsequent festivals will be even bigger and better than those previous, according to Michigan Audubon representative Lindsay Cain.

AVA, however, hosted a similar event in 2018 – Tawas Point Migration – so that birders would still be able to enjoy the various migrating species which stop in Iosco County every spring.

As for the 2019 festival, registration costs are $15 for Michigan Audubon members and $30 for non-members, with additional tours costing $15 to $25 each.

The Tawas Bay Beach Resort (TBBR), located at 300 E. Bay St. in East Tawas, will once again serve as the festival headquarters.  Organizers note that the tours will either begin here or from Tawas Point State Park, located at 686 Tawas Beach Rd. in East Tawas.

For the events occurring at the park, entry for residents requires an annual Michigan recreation passport. Non-residents may also purchase a daily or annual pass.

Online festival registration is encouraged ahead of time, as many of the tours are known to reach maximum capacity rather quickly. Should a particular event be sold out, visitors can still put their names on a waiting list if there are any cancellations.

Registration forms and further details can be found by visiting the Michigan Audubon website at www.michiganaudubon.org.

According to organizers, participants will be able to enjoy some of the best birding in the Great Lakes region, as Tawas Point is well known for high concentrations of migrating warblers during the month of May. Other species highlights have included the ruby-crowned kinglet, white-crowned sparrow, numerous raptors, shorebirds and more. 

As reported, more than 150 different species were either seen or heard throughout Iosco County by festival goers during the 2017 event.

According to the Michigan Audubon website, the 2019 affair will include birding walks and tours, lessons on bird identification skills, opportunities to support conservation efforts in Michigan, trips to local hot spots, a birding 101 workshop and a chance for birders to network and socialize.

Organizers point out that additional fees are not required with some of the events, but that registration is still necessary. When registering online, participants are asked to select all the activities they would like to take part in.

Anyone registering as a Michigan Audubon member who does not have a current membership will be expected to renew, join or pay the difference in ticket price. Those with questions about their membership status may send an e-mail to membership@michiganaudubon.org, or call 517-580-7364.

No membership or renewal fees are included with event tickets. Anyone who would like to join Michigan Audubon and register for the festival as a member is asked to visit https://www.michiganaudubon.org/get-involved/membership/.

The schedule of events for the 2019 festival are listed as follows:

Thursday, May 16:

• Registration and information tables open at the festival headquarters, from 2-8 p.m.

• A Birding 101 Workshop, including lessons on optics, field guides, etiquette, technology and identification basics, will take place at TBBR from 3-5 p.m. The fee is $25.

• The Birds and Brews event will return to Northwoods Steak House, located at 1222 E. US-23 in East Tawas, at 6 p.m. Participants will be responsible for paying for their own meals during the gathering, in which they can swap stories with Michigan Audubon members and other fellow birders.

• A guided birding trip to Tuttle Marsh National Wildlife Area will cost $25. Participants will meet at the festival headquarters at 7 p.m., board a bus and return at about 10 p.m.

Organizers state that waterfowl, shorebirds, marsh birds and forest species will be the source of the night’s entertainment.

• Another evening birding opportunity, Whip-poor-wills in the Moonlight, will also cost $25. To join in, attendees will carpool from TBBR at 8 p.m., then return at approximately 10 p.m.

Friday, May 17:

• Registration and information tables at the festival headquarters will be available from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on day two of the event.

• From 7-11 a.m. at Tawas Point State Park, guests can venture on their own through a series of stations along the Campground Trail and Lighthouse Trail. Guides will be on hand to help identify birds, and maps will be included in the registration packets.

Participants can expect to see migrating songbirds, hummingbirds, gulls and shorebird species along these routes.

• A guided tour of Sandy Hook Trail at the state park will last from 7 a.m. until 9:30 a.m., and will cost $15. Participants – who are asked to meet at the tent next to the lighthouse gift shop – are likely to see migrating warblers and songbirds on this trip, and possibly migrating shorebirds and gull species.

• For $25, festival goers may take part in a guided tour of the Pine River Kirtland’s Warbler Management Area. A bus will leave the festival headquarters at 7 a.m., stop at a known trumpeter swan nesting site on the way back and return at about 11:30 a.m.

In addition to Kirtland’s Warblers, birders may spot clay-colored sparrows, red-headed woodpeckers, Brewer’s Blackbirds, brown thrashers and other species of the Jack pines habitat.

• A guided tour of Eagle Run Trail in Oscoda, along the AuSable River, will be offered at a cost of $25. Attendees will meet at TBBR at 7 a.m. to board a bus, which is expected to return at 11 a.m.

Eastern towhee, rose-breasted grosbeak, veery and hermit thrush are among the potential species which may be spotted, according to organizers.

• A carpool tour of the grasslands between East Tawas and Oscoda, as well as Clark’s Marsh, will begin from the festival headquarters at 8 a.m.

The group may lunch on their own in Oscoda, with a return to the headquarters at 12:30 p.m. The cost will be $25, and the species to be observed may include upland sandpiper, bobolink, grasshopper sparrow, eastern meadowlark and various marsh species.

• Also beginning at 8 a.m. and costing $25 will be the Birding at Little Loon Lake Nature Area event in Hale. The carpool trip will depart from TBBR, with an estimated return time of 12:30 p.m.

Eastern towhee, rose-breasted grosbeak, veery, hermit thrush and a variety of warblers are all possible during this excursion, for which guests may have lunch in the area on their own.

• A Wildflowers of the AuSable carpool tour will begin at 9 a.m. from the headquarters, with the fee being $15 and an expected return time of noon.

Guided by AVA member Emily Kemnitz, participants will visit several sites along the AuSable River corridor as they learn about wildflowers, while also observing bird species unique to wetland and woodland habitats.

• Another guided tour of Sandy Hook Trail in Tawas Point State Park will be available at 10 a.m., for a cost of $15.

• From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the vendor area will be open at TBBR.

• A Waterbird ID Workshop will be led by Rachael Pierce of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, from noon to 1:30 p.m. It will take place at the festival headquarters, and the fee is $15.

• A Warbler ID Workshop will be hosted by Michigan Audubon Conservation Program Coordinator Linnea Rowse-Chriest, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. It will be held in the TBBR, at a cost of $15.

• Another guided birding experience at the Tuttle Marsh National Wildlife Area, costing $25, will be offered. Participants will board a bus from the event headquarters at 7 p.m., and will return at about 10 p.m.

• A second Whip-poor-wills in the Moonlight guided tour will take place, as well, at a cost of $25. Birders will meet at TBBR at 8 p.m. to carpool to the event.

Saturday, May 18:

• The final day of the festival will begin with the opening of the registration and information tables at TBBR, from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• From 7-11 a.m. at Tawas Point State Park, guides will again be stationed at the Campground and Lighthouse trails for birders who will be traveling the route at their leisure.

• Guided tours of the Sandy Hook Trail in the state park will go on at 7 a.m., and again at 10 a.m. The cost for each event is $15.

• A second bus trip to Pine River Kirtland’s Warbler Management Area is set to begin at 7 a.m. from the headquarters. The fee is $25 and registrants are expected to return at 11:30 a.m.

• Festival goers can also opt for the $25 Eagle Run Trail adventure in Oscoda, for which a bus will depart TBBR at 7 a.m. The expected return time is 11 a.m.

• Another carpool tour of the grasslands between East Tawas and Oscoda, as well as Clark’s Marsh, will begin at 8 a.m. from the festival headquarters. The fee is $25.

• Also starting at 8 a.m., for a $25 fee, will be the second carpool trip to Little Loon Lake Nature Area in Hale. Participants will depart from TBBR, and are expected to return by 12:30 p.m.

• The vendor area of the festival headquarters will be open again from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Rowse-Chriest will return to host another Warbler ID Workshop at TBBR, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The fee is $15.

• Executive Director of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, Rich Couse, will host a Raptor ID Workshop at the festival headquarters from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cost will be $15.

• The Wildlife Recovery Association will offer a Birds of Prey presentation at TBBR, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

• A tally rally will wrap up the festivities, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at TBBR. Birders will share highlights of the species they detected during the course of the event, with light hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar also available.