It’s getting close to late summer — are you getting tired of seeing the same old birds in your area? If you’re a birdwatcher looking to venture beyond your own backyard, consider a road trip to any one of these wildlife refuges, national parks, or birding trails. There’s a great adventure ahead just waiting for you, no matter where you live in the U.S.
Birdwatching in the North
If you live in the north or are interesting in venturing there, these three states offer a variety of species of birds for you to add to your life list. Come prepared with your binoculars, camera, and equipment to see species of birds you might not see in your own backyard.
You’ll be able to spot Trumpeter swans at Crex Meadows, often found on the flowages during the summer. You may also be treated to osprey, bald eagles, and the sharp-tailed grouse. Bird watchers might get lucky and spot yellow-headed blackbirds, northern harriers, and Le Conte’s sparrows during the summer.
Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge offers birdwatchers over twenty-seven thousand acres with many grassland species, such as the Baird’s sparrow. Here, you can enjoy a plethora of waterfowl, shorebirds, and prairie species. This refuge also offers a unique seven-mile car tour route throughout the summer until September. Some of the birds you may see during the tour include pied-billed grebe, American white pelican, sora, the endangered piping plover. Also look for the Franklin’s gull and the black tern.
Yes, another birding trail in Wisconsin! The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge boasts more than three hundred species of birds. This six-mile trail offers hiking as well as a three and half mile car tour route in the summer until mid-September. The visitor center provides birdwatchers ever-changing exhibits, free posters, maps, and information. Horicon is renowned for supporting the largest nesting population of redhead ducks east of the Mississippi River.
Birding Watching in the South
For birdwatchers who don’t mind the heat, or already live in the southern corner of the United States, these three destinations are a chance to add something new to your life list. Whether you choose a trail or a resource center, there’s plenty to see during late summer.
The 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center sits on the banks of one of the canals that traverses the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. From the decks of the Delta Hall and the surrounding trail, birdwatchers enjoy a prime viewing spot to observe birds of the marshes and waterways. Late summer visitors will be looking for brown pelicans, osprey, king rail, and a variety of species of herons. The lucky birdwatcher may catch sight of the purple gallinule, an occasional visitor to the center.
If you’re interested in seeing the grandest salt marshes in the United States, go no further than Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail. It’s a year-round home for clapper rails, marsh wrens, and other marsh inhabitants. Northern harriers, white ibises, and spoonbills are also common sightings for summer birdwatchers. The island’s beaches are protected, but easily reached by bridges and causeways. Further in from the coast, enjoy Cumberland Island’s wilderness, home to dazzling painted buntings. Plan in advance as this destination is reached only by ferry, an added delight to an amazing adventure.
The Great Florida Birding Trail links the high points of the peninsula and the Florida Panhandle. This 2000+ mile trail offers birdwatchers close to five hundred sites. Late summer birdwatchers can expect to see Florida’s heaviest concentrations of their most famous water birds, including pintails and wintering teal. And, the region’s marshes often hold large colonies of sooty terns and brown noddies. With a little luck, you might spot the elegant white-crowned pigeon or the black-whiskered vireo, birds that originate in the Caribbean.
Birdwatching in the East
Unbearably hot days may have some birdwatchers wanting to take their binoculars someplace cooler. If you live in the east and have to stay close to home during late summer, these three destinations offer some great destinations to see species of birds you may not spot in your own backyard.
The Delaware Birding Trail may be small, but six well-defined ecological regions offer birdwatchers a trip worth taking. Twenty-seven sites along this trail touch on the coastline, beaches, tidal flats and marshes. It’s an excellent location to spot the endangered piping plover nesting on the beach. And it’s not just a great place for spotting new species of birds. It’s also a great place to learn about the ecology of the birds you encounter during your visit.
The New Jersey Audubon Society played a huge role in developing the New Jersey Birding and Wildlife Trails. Their strategic planning highlights the rich birdlife of the area. There is a trail that winds through Cape May and the southern Delaware Bay shore, an ideal spot for observing migratory birds. The Meadowlands Trail is home to more than two hundred bird species, including the great blue heron and bald eagles. The cool evergreen forests here provide a respite from heat. Look for blue-headed vireo singing their songs from overhead and water thrushes alongside creeks.
Virginia is said to have been the model for other states in developing a statewide birding trail. Each of its three distinct regions offers its own unique topography and bird species. Birdwatchers can walk the coastal section, along the beaches or the trails in the western mountains. Walking along the beaches, you may spot Wilson’s plovers, royal terns, and brown pelicans. A highlight of this visit could be seeing the colorful Canada warbler in the rhododendron thickets.
Birdwatching in the West
If you’ve always wanted to head out west, you might want to consider planning a trip to one of these great birdwatching destinations. Each of these birding trails offers birdwatchers a unique birding experience with a host of exciting species of birds to see.
While many travelers will be headed into the Colorado Rockies, birdwatchers should also consider the Colorado Birding Trails during their visit to Colorado. Head to the treeless prairies where you will hear the songs of the lark buntings and chestnut-collared longspurs. The open tundra comes alive in summer with endless wildflowers where you may spot the white-tailed ptarmigan, which camouflages itself there.
Sponsored in part by the Tucson Audubon Society, the Southeastern Arizona Birding trail offers fifty-two key sites for birdwatchers. It’s home to more than four hundred species, many spilling over from the Mexican border. Lowlands offer riverside forests that are home to gray hawks and Abert’s towhees. The mountain summits are a natural habitat for Mexican chickadees. There are specific sites on this trail noted for at least a dozen species of hummingbirds, the highest concentration you will find anywhere in the United States. Being close to the border of Mexico, these sites offer birdwatchers glimpses of rare species such as the Sulphur-bellied flycatcher and the colorful elegant trogon, a member of a purely tropical family of birds.
Take a look at these Fantastic Hummingbird Facts!
The trails of the Montana Birding and Nature Trail wind through forests and meadows, running along cool, clear streams. While you might expect a common pileated woodpecker, you’ll be taken aback by the site of the delicate Calliope hummingbird. Stunningly colored western tanagers fly by through the pines so quick you’ll need to keep your eyes open for them. As you look for those tanagers, look for the violet-green swallows as well. In late summer you may see Swainson’s hawks. With this area being the last stronghold of the greater sage-grouse, this is a destination to add to your ‘must see’ list.
As the late summer doldrums set in and many people find themselves getting bored with their surroundings, you can choose to head north, south, east, or west. Whichever direction you choose to travel this summer, the above trails offer you not only an opportunity to change up your scenery, but the opportunity of a lifetime—to spot birds you might never see in your own backyard.