The Bird Habitat will fully reopen to the public on July 15 at Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve

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ARCADIA – One of the region’s most diverse and productive nature reserves is reopening fully to the public this week.

Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve — one of the state’s few remaining Great Lakes coastal wetland environments — is set to reopen a section of its universal-access trail on Friday.

The central part of the boardwalk trail is closed from April 15 to July 15 each year in “an effort to avoid disturbing several species of birds that nest in this critical habitat,” according to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, which owns and maintains the marsh.

A portion of the Arcadia Marsh Parkway Trail is considered critical bird nesting habitat and is closed for three months per year. This section of the trail is scheduled to reopen on July 15.

Arielle Breen / News Advocate

“(Birds) won’t breed or nest in an area if there’s too much disturbance,” conservation spokesman Nate Richardson said in a previous interview. “Birds and other animal disturbances are also a big reason we have a no dogs rule in the swamp.”

It is estimated that over 80% of all original Great Lakes marshes have been destroyed. Only 15 such habitats remain in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, making what remains “ecologically extremely important,” according to the conservation website.

The 313-acre marsh is home to more than 200 species of plants — many of them native — and about 250 species of birds have been identified there, including 17 listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern, according to part of the website.

“Most bird species benefit from having part of the parkway closed, but there are a few more sensitive species like American Bittern and Marsh Wren that benefit greatly,” Richardson said. “Various species of waterfowl such as wood duck and teal also benefit from a more private setting to raise their young.

An iNaturalist.org entry on Arcadia Swamp lists sightings of more than 170 species, including birds like the green heron, American bittern, Caspian tern, kingfisher and a wide variety of others waterfowl and songbirds spotted in the wetland.

Sandhill cranes, pictured here, are one of more than 200 bird species that have been sighted at Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve.

Sandhill cranes, pictured here, are one of more than 200 bird species that have been sighted at Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve.

File photo

The abundance of biodiversity in the swamp is supported by data from eBird.org, which lists the swamp as one of the best birding hotspots in the region.


Why are so many birds drawn to the Arcadian Swamp? Food is the main reason, according to an Arcadia Marsh field guide.

“Healthy water and plants produce an abundance of aquatic prey – think insects, fish and amphibians – which, in turn, attract dozens and dozens of species that focus on this quality forage throughout of the year,” reads the guide. “Larger birds of prey are in turn attracted to smaller species that frequent the swamp, leading to a well-rounded community of feathered friends.

In addition to birds, observers have also identified 28 species of fish in the marsh, as well as a variety of semi-aquatic reptiles and amphibians, as well as mammals such as river otter, fisher and muskrat. .

Great Lakes coastal marshes are nearly as productive as rainforests in terms of biomass per acre, according to the field guide.

This is largely due to the diversity of plant species that grow in this unique habitat. They include everything from grasses and sedges to reeds and flowers, as well as a state-threatened species of wild rice.

Efforts to preserve Arcadia Swamp have led to the removal of invasive plants like Reed Canary Grass and Phragmites, which have allowed essential native plants to thrive.

Quality nesting habitat is also a major attraction for migratory bird species, which seek this specific type of habitat to raise their young. The swamp’s unique native vegetation makes it a key nesting ground for many species, according to the conservation.

“The restoration of native vegetation and habitats has in turn contributed to Arcadia Marsh’s growing reputation as one of the best birding spots in the entire state,” reads the field guide. .

Visit gtrlc.org to learn more.

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