The paved Paul Henry - Thornapple Trail follows the Thornapple River and has been called the most beautiful railtrail in Michigan. The area has an established population of the rare Red-headed Woodpecker, as well as all the other six eastern US woodpeckers. Trail brochure here.
To celebrate this, the third annual Thornapple Woodpecker Festival will be held April 26-27, 2013, with headquarters at the Village Hall (100 E Main St) in Middleville, Michigan. It features guided birding walks and golf cart tours of the woodpecker nesting area along the river and the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail. Also a nature photo exhibit and contest, talks by experts, and a Woodpecker Ball soiree dinner dance. Click on the News tab for more Festival details. The weather forecast looks as if winter is finally gone, low 60's. Small chance of a few sprinkles on Saturday, like last year.
A complete schedule and brochure is available here.
John James Audubon will be making several presentations. See a sample here.
The old railroad followed the river and was built in the 1800's. More recent adjustments in the dam at Middleville has killed many trees. Since red-headed woodpeckers prefer at least 35% open sky areas, this has produced good woodpecker habitat. In this view of one of the bayous, the Trail and river are hidden behind brush in the background. In 2011 we saw 52 species of birds. Apparently the cold weather held down the insect and bird numbers when we logged 47 species in 2012. Of course, many ducks, geese, swans, herons, cranes, and other waterbirds are usually seen on the bayous. In addition, the trees along the first portion of the trail are rather short, so the warblers etc. are "right in your face", an experience some have compared to Point Peelee.
Thanks to all the volunteers that helped make the second annual 2012 Thornapple Woodpecker Festival a success. And thanks to the exhibitors, workshop leaders and sponsoring organizations. We had 44 registered attenders, over 20 works of art displayed at the Nature Art Show, counted 47 species of birds, and had 32 happy people at the Woodpecker Ball.
Most importantly, many enthusiastic birders discovered a wonderful new place to pursue their hobby. When they returned, they saw different birds and flowers each week. The Trail is a truly unique, beautiful, and easily accessible birding location.