Hiking and bird watching for National Trails Day

June 7th marked the first Saturday of the month, which meant National Trails Day was upon us. To celebrate, many parks, clubs and communities throughout the state of Michigan hosted Walk in the Park events as part of the MI Big Green Gym initiative, a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Each Walk in the Park event focused on promoting health and wellness through walking, running, biking or hiking in a mass effort to explore the wonderful parks we have here in state.

One such park is Orion Oaks County Park in Lake Orion, Michigan, which hosted the grasslands bird hike sponsored by the Oakland Audubon Society.

I had never been bird watching before but I had the privilege to participate in the hike around the 90-acre grassland, home to several species of birds. For those of a curious nature, exploring a new park with a community of experienced bird-watchers is a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Led by Nancy, our volunteer hike leader, we walked 3 miles of trail through forest, open plain, high grass and wet forest areas.

Aside from encountering the biggest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen, we saw some of the most unique birds. Throughout the hike, Nancy would stop and tell us what kind of bird we were currently hearing and the mood the bird was chirping in, who knew birds had attitudes too?

Perhaps the most unique experience came when a woman in our group demonstrated the iBird app on her phone by playing the sound of a Red Bellied Woodpecker. Within moments a Red Bellied Woodpecker began to fly frantically from tree to tree, making a similar noise as we stood and observed in the wet forest part of the trail. She then explained that the bird was acting out, believing another Red Bellied Woodpecker had invaded its territory, because of the sound from the app.

Some other birds we spotted on our hike:

As you’d imagine, the hike proved to be an excellent source of exercise. Our 3-mile hike provided plenty of opportunity to get the blood pumping and stay loose. A pedometer step conversion chart reveals, I could have easily taken over 10,000 steps or 217 steps per minute.

With over 915 acres of space, Orion Oaks County Park offers many fitness friendly activities if you’re looking to get in some exercise. The park features a wheel chair accessible lake, mountain biking and hiking trails, seasonal deer hunting and even a fenced dog park where you can let your pets off the leash to run free.

MI Big Green Gym events take place throughout the summer. For more information and weekly location details visit: www.mparks.org

Photo credit: Daniel Dumas

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