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 five eastern US woodpeckers. Trail brochure here.
To celebrate this, the seventh annual Thornapple Woodpecker Festival will be held April 29, 2017, with headquarters at the Village Hall (100 E Main St) in Middleville, Michigan. It features birding walks and golf cart shuttle of the woodpecker nesting area along the river and the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail. Canoe and kayak touring is also possible, as the woodpeckers nest in trees along the river. Click on the News tab for more Festival details.
A Woodpecker Festival flyer brochure is available here.
Map to Middleville.
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 2015 we saw 45 species of birds. 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 Pelee. See the Isthmus picture in the On the Trail album on the Photo Gallery web page.
To fill in your idle weekends, here is a PDF listing of 40 other natural areas that are good for birding.