Bird Watching

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Bird Watching Balloon Rides in Michigan
Offer “Birds Eye View” Like No Other

20140317-waterbirds-1Can you bird watch from a hot air balloon? “Absolutely,” says Scott Lorenz, President and Chief Pilot of Westwind Balloon Company of Plymouth, Michigan. “As a balloonist I’ll see and hear hundreds of birds on every flight.”

“A Hot Air Balloon Is a Terrific Platform for Bird Watching” says Balloonist Scott Lorenz

Hot Air Balloon Drifts just above the water on bird watching flight in Michigan“A balloon is a great platform to watch birds in their natural habitat especially since we often fly with or above the birds. Sometimes you can even see eggs in their nests as we fly over. You just can’t beat our ‘bird’s eye’ view.”

“The state of Michigan is host to many types of birds who live here year round and others who migrate through on the way to somewhere else. We are fortunate to have bird sanctuaries in our flying area in nearby Island Lake State Park located in Brighton and

Kensington Park located in Milford, both of which share the Huron River,” says Lorenz who recently flew a National Public Radio reporter and an Ornithologist on a flight over Kensington Park. (Listen to the story here.)npr logo

Bird_Header_640x350Blue-Sky-bottom42Area bird watchers estimate there are more than one-hundred varieties of birds living in these parks. “Which types we’ll see on any particular flight depends on the time of year,” says Lorenz. “For instance, Sandhill Cranes can be viewed up until December when they migrate. They have a very distinctive call so we’ll often hear them before we see them. In fact, I flew an ornithologist from the University of Michigan a few years ago who pointed it out so now I am acutely aware of their call.”  (Click here to listen)

Open Air Gondola Lets Passengers Hear the Bird Calls

“Since we’re in an open air gondola we can hear the birds as we fly near them. Between flights, I listen to the Birds of Michigan Audio CD by Stan Tekiela to try to determine what it is I am hearing.  I’ve flown through the tops of cattails over swamps listening to the cacophony of songs from hundreds of Red Wing Black Birds,” says Lorenz, “It’s pretty amazing.”

“We See Trumpeter Swans on Most Flights”

“On neaBalloon Swans_0326rly every flight we’ll see Trumpeter Swans, which were all but extinct around here 20 years ago but have made a comeback and now are on most lakes,” said Lorenz. “Seven swans flew directly over the balloon last year and made the most incredibly beautiful sound with their wings.”

When flying over ponds and lakes, we’ll often see dozens of ducks ‘walking on water’ and flapping their wings to get airborne. Lorenz notes there are many types of ducks in the area including Mallards, Common Mergansers, Ring-neck Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Coots and Common Goldeneye. A terrific birding resource, says Lorenz, is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

According to area ornithologists the area is home to over 20 types of Warblers. Some of these types are the Pine, Cape May, Parula, Wilson’s, Canada and the Hooded. Other birds which are rarer like the Yellow-breasted Chat and Gray-cheeked Thrush have also been spotted in recent years; these birds have not been seen or heard from in many years, until now.

Great Blue Herons and White Egrets Are Best Buddies

Sand Hill Cranes by Kent Lake You won’t miss seeing the largest of all North American Herons, the Great Blue Heron, on a balloon flight. These gigantic birds reside in and around the parks. It’s quite remarkable seeing these birds up-close as they can reach up to about five foot tall, while having wing spans up to six feet. According to Lorenz he and his passengers see Great Blue Herons on just about every flight. “Great Blue Herons are everywhere in our flying area. They love the water and love to catch fish,” says Lorenz. Already this year he’s spotted a Great Blue Heron and White Egret rookery on an island in a lake in the General Motors Proving Grounds. “We flew directly over the rookery and could peer down into their nests made of large sticks woven together, about the size of a bushel basket. We saw one or two eggs and sometimes two parents sitting on the same nest. Talk about tight quarters!”

Island Lake State Park and Kensington Metro Park are Great Bird Sanctuaries to Fly Over

bird 13In the end, if you are into bird watching and nature, don’t miss Island Lake State Park or Kensington Metro Park. Here you will have an opportunity to see common birds like egrets, gulls and the Great Horned Owl, which nests there each year. You may also happen upon other types of birds that are rarer to the area such as the Osprey which has been reintroduced to the parks in recent years. Who knows, you may even arrive at the parks during the filming of a movie; after all – Steve Martin’s The Big Year movie was filmed in and around bird sanctuaries in Canada. The movie was about three competing bird watchers on a yearlong bird spotting competition.

If you ever get the opportunity to go birding at these two parks, you should do it. And if you want the ultimate bird watching experience check out a balloon ride with Westwind Balloon Company.

Hot Air balloon flights cost $695 for a private ride which is two passengers and the pilot. All flights are pre-paid. Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover and PayPal are accepted. Gift certificates are available. All flights are non-refundable. “If we get bad weather we just reschedule the flight,” says Lorenz.

To schedule a Bird Watching Balloon ride, call Westwind Balloon Company of Plymouth, Michigan, Flying over Kensington Park, Island Lake State Park, Brighton, South Lyon and Milford. 734-667-2098 Scott Lorenz, Pilot and Owner.

NPR Reporter Rebecca w FlameAbout Scott Lorenz

Scott Lorenz, a commercial balloon pilot since 1982, has logged 1,650 + hours in-flight. He has flown over Niagara Falls, The Great Wall of China, Disney World, the Olympics, Austria, Japan, Spain, Red Rock Canyon NM. He co-piloted a Guinness World Record flight to 19,000’ and a 20 hour-Gas Balloon flight from MI to KY. Westwind has been featured by FOX-2 Detroit, WDIV, WJR, The Detroit Free Press, Oakland Press to name a few and was named “most creative date” by It’s Just Lunch. In 2012 Westwind was name one of America’s Most Romantic companies for the balloon engagement flights. Scott’s Westwind Balloon Company offers unforgettable rides over Michigan’s breathtaking countryside. Balloon rides make terrific gifts!!

To schedule your flight call 734-667-2098 or email scheduleflight@westwindcos.com

Westwind Balloon Company is a member of  The Balloon Federation of America (BFA) and the Southeast Michigan Balloon Federation (SEMBA).

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