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Go Watch Woodpeckers in Middleville, Michigan

The town’s third-annual festival is a fine excuse to get out there and peer through binoculars into the Midwestern woods.

A woodpecker on a bird feeder
Photo: Courtesy of the Thornapple Trail Association
 

Look into the woods very closely and you may spot a certain red-headed, tree-hammering bird

This weekend is literally for the birds in Middleville, Michigan, a small town about 15 miles south of Grand Rapids hosting its Third Annual Thornapple Woodpecker Festival Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27. The bird-watching festival offers a fine excuse to get outside and explore the rail trail that winds along the Thornapple River and through an area that is home to the relatively rare red-headed woodpecker and five other varieties of the sharp-billed birds. Here are three highlights of the weekend:
 

  • Take a guided bird-watching hike along the Thornapple Trail, led by Brian Ellis, the artistic director of Prairie Folklore Theatre (a Peoria company devoted to celebrating ecology and history through original musical productions) and the award-winning author of 14 books on ecology, education, and history. Walks scheduled from 8 to 10 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday; $15.
  • Tour the Otis Audubon Sanctuary, a 128-acre property that is home to pileated and red-headed woodpeckers, grasshopper sparrows, bald eagles, osprey, and sandhill cranes. A trolley will transport birdwatchers from the town’s village hall to the sanctuary. Guided three-hour tours available on from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday; trolley and tour is $25.
  • Tromp through the Maher Sanctuary, an 80-acre wetlands and woodlands preserve in Barry County that is home to chipping and swamp sparrows as well as yellow warblers and gray catbirds. A trolley leaves village hall at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday for the three-hour tour; $25.
     

GO The Third Annual Thornapple Woodpecker Festival in Middleville, Michigan. 616-293-8666, woodpeckerfest.webs.com

Where to Stay: The Leonard at Logan House Bed and Breakfast, (440 Logan St. SE, Grand Rapids, 616-308-6585, leonardatlogan.com) has eight guest rooms in a 99-year-old mansion that was once home to the family that owned Grand Rapids’ leading refrigerator manufacturer; rates range from $109 to $179 per night. The Peaches Bed and Breakfast (29 Gay Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, 616-454-8000, peaches-inn.com) has five second-floor guest rooms in a 97-year-old Georgian mansion within walking distance of shops and restaurants in downtown Grand Rapids; rates are $127 per night.

Where to Dine: At Grove Restaurant (919 Cherry St. S.E., Grand Rapids, 616-454-1000, groverestaurant.com), chef Patrick Wise uses locally sourced ingredients (and partners with Real Time Farms) to create a daily-changing menu. The Green Well (924 Cherry St., Grand Rapids, 616-808-3566, thegreenwell.com) is a gastropub known for its fish tacos (with fire-roasted salsa and coconut cabbage slaw) and grilled vegetable and goat cheese quesadillas.

 

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