Area "Hall of Fame" Bird Sightings

May 2015: Whooping Crane

A Whooping Crane was first reported to the GRAC website on May 14, 2015 by Rob Vink. Rob found the crane in a field near the intersection of 76th St. SE and Hanna Lake Ave. A new Kent County record. Click on the thumbnail left for a complete report on the sighting along with further updates.

June 2015: Lark Bunting

On June 14, 2015 Rick Brigham reported the sighting of an unusual Lark Bunting at Allegan State Game Area, Todd Farm Unit. Several excellent photographs can be found in Warren Whaley's June 15 eBird report. Click on the thumbnail left for Warren's report.

August 2016: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

On August 11, 2016 a very astute Kevin Vande Vusse recognized that he was looking at a VERY unusual bird at Muskegon WTP. After consulting with expert birders it was verified that Kevin found a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper--a new state record. Click on the thumbnail left for the original eBird report.

September 2016: Black-necked Stilt

From time to time the Coopersville WTP turns up an interesting bird. However, on September 15, 2016 Chip Francke reported a truly unique find. A new Ottawa County record Black-necked Stilt. Click on the thumbnail left for Carl and Judi Manning's eBird report.

October 2016: Nelson's Sparrow

On October 4, 2016 Roselle Park was the site of a new Kent County record when Chace Scholten and Zachary DeBruine found a Nelson's Sparrow. Several excellent photographs left no doubt of the bird's identification. Click on the thumbnail left for the original eBird report.

October 2016: Parasitic Jaeger

A pelagic trip on Lake Michigan, 5 miles west of the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, yielded a Parasitic Jaeger on October 30, 2016. The lucky observers were Rick Brigham, Marylou Graham, Caleb Putnam and Chace Scholten. Click on the thumbnail left for the original eBird report.

December 2016: Western Grebe

A strong west wind on Christmas day was likely responsible for an unusual winter visitor at Port Sheldon's Pigeon Lake. On December 26, 2016 Carl and Judi Manning found a Western Grebe near the Lake Ave. boat launch. Click on the thumbnail left for the original eBird report. A second Western Grebe was reported by Jamie Krupka at Holland SP on November 22, 2017.

January 2017: Black-legged Kittiwake

Scanning the gulls at Holland State Park on January 15, 2017 rewarded Kevin Vande Vusse with a rare Black-legged Kittiwake. The bird lingered in the area until January 17 and was observed by additional birders. Click on the thumbnail left for the original eBird report. On December 19, 2017 Dale and Jeanine Roberts reported sighting two Black-legged Kittiwakes in the same area. One of the birds wintered at the West end of Lake Macatawa near Eldean Shipyard. Last observed February 25, 2018. On December 23, 2017 Judi Manning captured this photo.

April 2017: Ruff

On April 3, 2017 observer Terry Grabill first spotted an adult male Ruff, a vagrant Eurasian sandpiper, foraging with other sandpipers at the Muskegon Wastewater. Click on the thumbnail left for Chip Francke's eBird report with photograph. Additional photgraphs: (photo1) (photo2)

April 2017: Slaty-backed Gull

While scanning gulls at the Muskegon Wastewater on April 19,2017 Michael Boston found a rare coastal Asian vagrant Slaty-backed Gull. While unsure of what he found, it was later confirmed by other birders. Click on the thumbnail left for Scott Jennex's eBird report. (original photo)

May 2017: Lark Sparrow

On May 9, 2017 Emily Tornga discovered a rare Lark Sparrow at Harbor Island in Grand Haven; a new Ottawa Co record. This fairly common western species is only occasionally found east of the Mississippi. Additional photographs: (photo1) (photo2)

May 2017: Western Kingbird

A rare Western Kingbird was found by Will Walgren at the Allegan State Game Area Todd Farm May 16. Many observers found the bird loosely associating with Eastern Kingbirds on the power lines along 120th Ave east of 62nd St. Additional photographs: (photo1) (photo2)

September 2017: Sabine's Gull

A pelagic trip from the mouth of the Kalamazoo River led to the discovery of a rare Sabine's Gull by the group of C. Putnam, C. Scholten, M. Graham and R. Brigham. The trip also yielded a rare Parasitic Jaeger (see earlier report above). Additional photographs: (photo1) (photo2)

October 2017: Pomarine Jaeger

On October 26, 2017, Carl & Judi Manning observed a Pomarine Jaeger at Holland SP, Ottawa Co. The bird was first seen invading a flock of gulls sitting on the south pier. They watched the jaeger and gulls take turns harassing each other. Additional photographs: (photo1) (photo2)

December 2017: Barrow's Goldeneye

An adult male Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted among 130 Common Goldeneye offshore from Douglas Beach Park, Allegan Co by Lizzy and Ethan Kibbey and Jim Fyfe December 2, 2017. The bird remained in the Douglas Beach area until December 4. Deteriorating weather conditions made further observations impossible until it was again observed on December 21.

February 2018: Eurasian Collared-Dove

Nine Eurasian Collared-Doves were spotted by Josh Kamp sitting in the trees and on wires at Sue Lynn Dairy Farm (along 20th St S of 144th Ave) near Dorr on February 23, 2018 – a new Allegan Co record. At least one remained through March 11. Six seen in same area July 13-21, 2019 by several observers. Seven observed September 1, 2019. (photo1) (photo2) (photo3)

April 2018: Whooping Crane

A first year (hatched 2017) Whooping Crane was found by Lisa Casler at Grand Haven State Game Area, Bruce Bayou, 129th Ave access in Ottawa Co April 11 and continued through April 14. Click here for Emily Tornga and Eric Gustafson's eBird report with photos and a video.

May 2018: Black-necked Stilt

On May 2, 2018 Steve Minard reported a Black-necked Stilt at Roselle Park in Kent County. This was the first reported sighting of the species in the county. Caleb Putnam was able to capture an excellent photograph of the bird. (photo)

May 2018: Lark Sparrow

On May 3, 2018 Doug Wassink reported a rare Lark Sparrow at a private residence (farm) on 152nd Ave and Ransom St in Ottawa County. Judi Manning captured a photograph of the bird. (photo)

May 2018: Glossy Ibis

On May 31, Brad Heath discovered a rare Glossy Ibis on the west side of Swanson Rd a few hundred yards south of Heights-Ravenna Rd in Muskegon Co. This general area is known by birders as the S Swanson Rd potholes. Unfortunately, the bird could not be relocated the following day. Brad was able to capture two photographs of the Ibis. (photo1) (photo2)

June 2018: White-winged Dove

On June 20, Carl and Judi Manning posted an eBird report of a White-winged Dove at their bird feeder. This species' native range is from the southwestern United States through Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The bird was last reported on June 21. (photo1) (photo2)

October 2018: Mew Gull

While doing a shoreline survey by boat October 14, a very rare Mew Gull (approx. 9th state record if accepted by the Michigan Bird Records Committee) was found at the Kalamazoo River mouth in Allegan Co by Rick Brigham, MaryLou Graham, Julie Pedreros, Caleb Putnam and Chase Scholten. (photo1) (photo2)

October 2018: Rufous Hummingbird

A hatching year female Rufous Hummingbird (as reviewed and confirmed by Allen Chartier, Michigan’s hummingbird expert) was seen by many observers visiting a feeder at the Hank Veldman residence on Fennessy Lake in Ottawa Co October 18-19. (photo1) (photo2)

April 2019: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

A rare Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was discovered by Michael and Karen Warner at Pine Creek Park in Ottawa Co on April 7. Evidently, the bird was only there for a day, but others also observed this rarity. This is reportedly the first time this species has been seen in Ottawa Co in over thirty years. (photo1) (photo2)

April 2019: Tufted Duck

A very rare Tufted Duck was discovered at the Fennville Sewage Ponds in Allegan Co on April 22 by Rick Brigham. The bird was observed associating with Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks. This rarity hung around until May 11 allowing hundreds of observations and additions to life lists. (photo)

June 2019: Eurasian Collared-Dove

Two Eurasian Collared-Doves were observed sitting in dead trees at the intersection of Byron Rd (Bus I-196) and 84th Ave in Ottawa Co on June 20 by Josh Kamp. The birds were still being seen Aug 16 and could be safely viewed from Westpark Way near the Holland Hospital Urgent Care facility south of the busy intersection. Josh also found the nine Eurasian Collared-Doves near Dorr in Allegan Co in February of 2018 (see above). (photo)

October 2019: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

On October 3, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was discovered at Muskegon Wastewater in Grassy Cell C1 by Roger Hagerman and a friend and verified by Adam Byrne.This was the second Sharp-tailed Sandpiper found at the Wastewater and the third state record. Click on the image left for Roger’s original eBird posting with photos. The first state record was also found at the Wastewater by Kevin Vande Vusse on August 11, 2016 (see listing above). (photo) (photo)

November 2019: Western Tanager

While on a late afternoon Ottawa County Parks bird walk at the 84th Ave access of Upper Macatawa Natural Area on November 1, ten participants discovered a probable first year male Western Tanager at the crosswalk over 84th Ave just south of the park entrance. The bird was eating insects in a box elder tree on the west side of the road next to the walking path. After observing the bird for about five minutes, all agreed on the ID. Photos were obtained, but the bird was partially obscured by leaves and branches. Unfortunately, the bird flew east/southeast into the woods and was not re-found. While searching the area on November 4, Chace Scholten happened upon the elusive bird in the same general location and was lucky enough to get a fairly decent photo before the bird again flew away. It was last seen on the 5th by several observers. (photo)

December 2019: Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird

A rare Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird was reported at Sue Smith’s residence on Mesa Dr in Rockford by Caleb Putnam on December 9 (continued through December 10). Apparently, the bird had been a regular visitor to their hummingbird feeder for several weeks before being reported. Since plumage of female/immature birds of both species is similar, capture or further study was needed for a definitive ID. Temperatures falling into the teens moved in late on the 10th and the bird was not seen again. (photo)

December 2019: Barrow’s Goldeneye

A male Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted by Tim Cornish on December 28 while scoping the hundreds of Common Goldeneye and other waterfowl along Lakeshore Dr south of 130th Ave in Allegan Co. This location is just south of the well-known fall and winter hotspot for waterfowl known as the “Lakeshore Dr Guardrail,” which is south of Douglas Beach Park. Tim was extremely lucky that he found the Barrow’s with the first group of goldeneyes he scanned. By New Year’s Day the bird was seen further north at the Lakeshore Dr guardrail area. It was present at this location through at least January 2, 2020. Click here for photos with an eBird report of the bird.

January 2020: Long-eared Owl

While hiking the paved trail along Maynard Ave at Millennium Park on New Year’s Day, Mika and Grace Roinila (Grace pointed out the owl to her husband) observed a rare Long-eared Owl roosting in a white pine on the west side of the trail. Surprisingly, the next day Caleb Putnam discovered a second bird at the same location. These birds were roosting in a very vulnerable location in very close proximity to a trail with much foot traffic including dog walkers. Birders were advised to exercise caution, be respectful and observe these sensitive birds from a distance (preferably from the east side of Maynard) so as not to disturb the roosting site. Both owls continued to be seen in the same location through January 9, and at least one was still seen through at least January 15 allowing many to observe and enjoy these beautiful, secretive birds. Click on the thumbnail left to view Mika’s original eBird posting with photos.

March 2020: King Eider

A visit to Grand Haven State Park on March 8 proved especially exciting for Zachary Frieben from Three Rivers and three birding buddies, Alex Cupp, Hayden Moore and Niles Vroma (click on thumbnail left for original report). While scoping for waterfowl located at the end of the north pier, Zach found an immature male King Eider amongst the White-winged Scoters and Red-breasted Mergansers. The bird briefly moved upstream near the Grand Haven Municipal Marina where it was spotted the next morning by several observers before returning to the end of the north pier to hang out with the scoters. Despite rough waters and unfavorable viewing conditions at times, the eider continued to be seen in the same general area off Grand Haven State Park through March 22. Click here for Joe Malott’s photos taken March 14

April 2020: Loggerhead Shrike

A rare Loggerhead Shrike was found by Will Walgren at the Allegan State Game Area Todd Farm Unit on April 7. The bird was located in the vicinity of 117th Ave and 58th St near the site where the Western Meadowlark has been seen. The bird continued through at least April 9. Click on the thumbnail left to view Jim Markham’s eBird report, including photographs.
Considered state endangered, the last breeding pair in Allegan Co was recorded in 1981. There have been sporadic sightings in the state usually in the Upper and Northern Lower Peninsula, but occasionally further south. On April 30, 2014 one was seen at Riley Trails Park in Ottawa Co and a pair nested in Isabella Co in 2017

April 2020: Yellow Rail

A very rare Yellow Rail was found at Upper Macatawa Natural Area in Ottawa Co the early morning of April 22 by Rick Brigham, Elizabeth Notman, Caleb Putnam and Chace Scholten. A male was recorded singing (sounds like two stones clicking together) between 6:32 and 6:50 AM and seen underfoot briefly. The bird was located near the horseshoe shaped pond at the southeast corner of the property. A subsequent visit later in the week was not successful, but the bird was again found (clicking calls heard) by Mike Overway May 2 and continued May 9. The latest location was just west of the first bridge from the 84th Ave entrance. Click here to hear Ken Bishop’s recording. This is the fourth Ottawa Co record of a Yellow Rail.

April 2020: Ruff

A Ruff was found, hanging out with American Golden-Plovers, by Caleb Putnam in the flooded field at 92nd St and Patterson Ave SE in Kent Co April 29. This field is known, especially in the spring, for shorebirds, waterfowl, gulls and other species. Click on the thumbnail to view his May 3 photos of the first Kent Co record of this rare Eurasian vagrant. Observers “flocked” to see this rarity later that day and through May 4.

April 2020: Lark Sparrow

While birding across from Holland State Park’s Lake Macatawa Beach Campground near Ottawa Beach Inn late afternoon April 29, Chace Scholten found a Lark Sparrow foraging alone near the sidewalk. When the bird was flushed, it would return to the same area to feed. Click on the thumbnail to view Judi Manning’s photos. This is only the third known county record for this species. One was found at Harbor Island in Grand Haven by Emily Tornga May 9, 2017 and another on May 3, 2018 by Doug Wassink at his farm.

May 2020: Yellow Rail

The early morning of May 2, Caleb Putnam, Julie Pedreros and Rob Emelander found another Yellow Rail. This time at Roselle Park in Kent County. The bird was heard clicking and then seen briefly in flight. It was located in the north central part of the marsh. The bird was heard again by several that evening.

May 2020: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

A rare Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was found by Mike Boston at Muskegon State Game Area on May 10. No details were given of exact location within the game area. (photo)

May 2020: Black-necked Stilt

A Black-necked Stilt was found by Jim Fyfe and Ethan Kibbey at the Muskegon Wastewater in the grassy cells on May 18. The bird continued to be seen through May 20. (photo)

June 2020: Blue Grosbeak

A first year male Blue Grosbeak was found along 136th Ave north of Polk St near the power substation in Ottawa Co on June 16 by Carl and Judi Manning. A female was observed by Ty Wagenmaker and others at same location later the same day. One bird was seen possibly carrying nesting material on the 22nd. The two continued to be seen by many in the same area through at least July 18. Click Here to view Ken Sapkowski’s close-up photo.

July 2020: Western Tanager

A male Western Tanager visited Eric Slaughter’s residence on Sunset Bluff Dr in Holland on July 22. Click on the thumbnail left for the eBird report with photograph. Unfortunately, the bird was not reported again.

September 2020: Vermilion Flycatcher

While checking for shorebirds at the 116th Ave and 8th St wetland in Allegan County September 28, Tim Cornish discovered a very rare Vermilion Flycatcher. The bird was sitting on a dead branch occasionally flying out over the pond for insects and returning to the same perch. Click on the thumbnail left to view Tim’s comments and photos captured from video. Unfortunately, the bird flew off and even after a search by others it was not relocated.

September 2020: Nelson’s Sparrow

On September 29 around 11:20 AM, while searching for the LeConte’s Sparrow at the Caledonia Sewage Ponds in Kent County, Ken Bishop discovered an even rarer Nelson’s Sparrow. The bird was located in the southeast cell of the six western cells of the facility. Click on the thmbnail left to view his comments and photos. Many others observed the bird later in the day after relocating it in the northeast cell. It was not seen after October 1.

October 2020: Varied Thrush

On October 23, while watching birds from his dining room window, Cascade resident Mike Holaday spotted a Varied Thrush foraging in leaf litter in his back yard. Many observers staked out and/or searched for the bird later the same day and the next, but it was not seen again. Click on the thumbnail for the eBird report with photographs.

February 2021: Barrow’s Goldeneye

An adult male Barrow’s Goldeneye was spotted amongst Common Goldeneyes on Pigeon Lake at Port Sheldon in Ottawa County February 8 by Ty Wagenmaker. The bird was relocated, again associating with Common Goldeneyes and other divers, February 13 by Curtis Dykstra offshore on Lake Michigan near Pigeon River outlet. The bird continued to be seen in the vicinity through at least February 20. Click on the thumbnail to view Ty Wagenmaker’s digiscoped diagnostic photo.

February 2021: Varied Thrush

A female Varied Thrush was found by Dr Greg Forbes visiting a feeder at a private residence near Lowell in Kent County February 15 through at least March 24. Dr Forbes mentioned this bird was likely same individual that was present in early February at this location. Click on the thumbnail left for initial eBird report. The exact location was undisclosed to respect homeowner and visits were by permission only. Click here for photographs of the thrush.

March 2021: Black Vulture

A rare Black Vulture was discovered by Sandra Hartman in a tree in her back yard (Kalamazoo Dr [4th St] north of 139th Ave) near Wayland in Allegan Co on March 27, 2021. According to Sandra, the bird sat for hours resting, occasionally preening and not alarmed when approached a bit closer to view with binoculars and obtain a photograph. Click on the thumbnail left for initial eBird report, comments and photo. The bird was still in the area on the 30th hanging around with Turkey Vultures and observed eating a carcass in a field southwest of Kalamazoo Dr and 139th Ave. Click here to view Rick Brigham’s photos taken Mar 29.

April 2021: Cinnamon Teal

A rare adult male Cinnamon Teal was observed by Dave Herdegen from his residence on the Grand River near Martinique Island in Ottawa County April 20. Several observers were able to view the bird from his residence before it flew upstream. It was relocated later in the day off East Grand River Park near Grand Haven where it was viewed again far offshore on the 21st. Karl Sineath observed it while canoeing the Grand River southeast of the park on the 22nd. Carl and Judi Manning were the only observers to obtain a photo. Click here to view the photo of this western counterpart to the Blue-winged Teal taken from the Herdegen residence.

May 2021: Harris’s Sparrow

Imagine Jan Lewis’ surprise when she observed a Harris’s Sparrow May 14 visiting her yard and eating beneath her feeders on Camille Dr SE in Kentwood! The word went out and not surprisingly, birders flocked to the area to see the rarity. This may be only the second Kent County record for this species. Click on the thumbnail to view Jan’s photos and comments.

May 2021: Glossy Ibis

Lucky Tim Cornish was birding at a pond located on the east side of 8th St north of 116th Ave in Allegan County late afternoon May 19 when he spotted ten Glossy Ibis in breeding plumage. The pond is located just north of the 116th Ave and 8th St wetland, which is birded frequently for shorebirds. The birds hung around for awhile that evening allowing other birders good looks and likely an addition to some life lists before they all flew off toward the west around 8:45 PM. Click on the thumbnail for Tim's initial report and click here for additional photographs.

May 2021: White-faced Ibis

A White-faced Ibis was seen by Charlie DeWitt at Muskegon State Game Area, Lane’s Landing on May 23. Several observers saw the bird before it flew off to the southeast. Click on the thumbnail left to view Ken Sapkowski’s photos. Because the White-faced and the Glossy do interbreed, the possibility of a hybrid might have to be considered. As of this writing, hybridization has not been questioned.

May 2021: Royal Tern

A rare Royal Tern was found by James Markham at the Grand Haven north pier on May 24. The bird is similar to a Caspian Tern, which it was hanging with, but somewhat smaller. What excitement! Birders descended upon the area in droves to observe Jim’s fabulous find and photograph this mega-rarity, which only hung around for a day. Likely a first Ottawa County record. Royals normally inhabit warm saltwater coasts, but can be found inland following hurricanes. How this bird arrived here is anyone’s guess. The only weather disturbances preceding the tern’s arrival were remnants of a low pressure system in Texas and another low off the East Coast. Click here for additional photos by Carl and Judi Manning.

May 2021: Black-necked Stilt

A Black-necked Stilt was found by Bailey Mitchell and Steve Minard (both were birding separately at the same time) at the Muskegon Wastewater May 28. In the afternoon Charlie DeWitt found a second bird. At least one continued May 29. Click on the thumbnail left to view Bailey’s eBird report and photos. One was last reported at this location May 18-20 of 2020.

July 2021: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

You just never know what may show up when you are birding. A birder identified on eBird as Bryan K and a fellow birder witnessed three Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks land at the popular hotspot Window on the Waterfront in Holland in Ottawa County in the early afternoon of July 10. Other observers quickly flocked to the area to photograph and see these rarities. Click on the photo for Glen Miller's July 11 report with several photos. One observer mentioned that the birds were even calling. And yes, they really do whistle. Visit eBird's identification page and click on “Listen” to hear an example of their voice recorded in Texas. Click here to view Eric Gustafson and Carl Manning’s photos from July 10 or click here to view Tori Martel’s photos taken July 11. A fourth duck, found by Patricia Deventer and two other observers, joined the other three on the 14th and 15th. The birds were still being seen there through July 16. This species occurs throughout Central and South America, but is expanding its range northward into the United States and has established itself largely in the southern states. Over the past several years they have been seen as vagrants even further north. Other recent sightings in Ottawa County include a group of six viewed from the west end of Lake Macatawa on May 21, 2020 flying north to south along the Lake Michigan shoreline during a migration count by Michael McBrien. On May 17, 2018, a group of three was discovered at Grand River Park by Jess Sory and seen again later in the day by several observers.

October 2021: Nelson’s Sparrow

While birding at Huff Park in northeast Grand Rapids on October 7, Jim Markham spotted what he thought was either a LeConte’s or a Nelson’s sparrow near the marsh observation platform. Unfortunately, the bird disappeared into the marshy underbrush. Jim, Caleb Putnam and other birders returned the next day, photos were obtained and the ID was confirmed as the rarer Nelson’s Sparrow. The bird was still being seen in the same area of the park October 9. Click on the thumbnail left to view Jim’s eBird report with photos.

October 2021: Western Tanager

While birding along Mt Pisgah Dune Boardwalk in Holland the afternoon of October 23, Caleb Putnam, Julie Pedreros, Will Keller and Chace Scholten spotted a rare Western Tanager near the entrance area of Holland State Park’s Lake Macatawa Campground. The bird evidently was seen again in several locations in the western part of the campground. As of November 3, the bird was still being seen high in the trees at the campground, at times accompanying Eastern Bluebirds, in the area of the entrance and campsite #151. Click on the thumbnail left to view Caleb’s original checklist with comments and a map of the locations where the bird was observed. Click here to view Mark Parker’s photos and listen to an audio recording of its call.

October 2021: Harris’s Sparrow

On the afternoon of October 25, Craig Kingma spotted another rarity while searching for the Western Tanager at the Lake Macatawa Campground area – a Harris’s Sparrow. According to Craig, it was hanging out with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos. Unfortunately, the bird was not seen on subsequent days following the original sighting. Click on the thumbnail left to view Craig’s original checklist and beautiful photos.

November 2021: Black-legged Kittiwake

Many times birding along the lakeshore in the fall can turn up gull rarities. On November 10, a juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake was found at Holland State Park by Eric Gustafson, Carl and Judi Manning and Mark Parker. They were definitely in the right place at the right time, because these were the only checklist reports of this bird recorded in our area on eBird. Although, another observer, Matt Bueby, reported a juvenile the previous day at Grand Haven State Park (unknown if this was the same individual). Click on the thumbnail left to view Mark Parker’s great photos.

Area Rarities

These are sightings of rare birds reported in Allegan, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

Click on the thumbnail of any of the birds for additional information.