It’s rare that two of my interests, user experience and birdwatching, collide. But they did last weekend, when I decided to go on a Kirtland’s Warbler tour in northern Michigan.
Why would I want to go on a guided tour instead of enjoying the beautiful spring weekend at home, gardening?
Spring migration is a huge birdwatching opportunity to see birds in their beautiful breeding plumage. I’ve shared photos of migrating birds in earlier posts.
With spring migration over, I didn’t want to miss my chance to see my first Kirtland’s Warbler of the year.
Since Michigan Audubon Society offers tours in late spring and early summer to catch a glimpse of the bird in its breeding habitat, I decided it was time to take the tour.
User Experience and Birdwatching?
You might wonder, what does user experience have to do with a birdwatching tour?
As Jared Spool mentions in delighting your customers, it’s the little things that made the difference.
Beginning with me searching online for Kirtland’s Warbler tour information, which was:
- Easy to find
- Written in plain language
- Provided details I was looking for
- Explained what to expect
More about the tour further on, but if you’re wondering why Kirtland’s Warblers are so special, here’s some background.
The Kirtland’s Warbler is an endangered bird, a bird that nests in scrubby Jack Pine habitat of northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and parts of Ontario.
The bird is very selective about the type of habitat where it will breed: only Jack Pine forests where trees are 5-6.5 feet tall, or trees that are about 15 years old.
When trees are taller, the bird leaves the area.
Over the years, loss of habitat caused the number of Kirtland’s Warblers to plummet to around 200 singing males in 1971.
Thankfully, focused land management practices and education by government and birding groups over the past few decades have increased the population to 2,365 singing males in 2015.
With such small numbers and a limited habitat, seeing the Kirtland’s Warbler is on many birdwatchers’ “must see” lists.
Going the Extra Mile
My first step was searching online for the Kirtland’s Warbler tour information.
I knew the tours were held daily, but didn’t know the time, cost, place, how long the tour would last, and other details.
My search for “Kirtland’s Warbler tour” in DuckDuckGo brought up exactly the tour information I was looking for.
The tour page answered my questions quickly, in easy-to-understand language. I didn’t have to dig into mountains of text to find the details I wanted.
The first paragraph in the Guided Tours section explained:
- Where guided tours are held: at Hartwick Pines State Park, north of Grayling, Michigan
- Who leads the tours: Michigan Audubon Society seasonal guide
- Cost: tours are free, but a Michigan State Recreation Passport is required to enter the state park (not a problem, I already had my recreation passport).
The second paragraph included information on:
- When tours begin: May 15, 2017
- Times for tours: once daily during the week at 7:00am
- Whether tours happen on the weekends and holidays: yes, and an extra tour is available at 11:00m
- When tours end: July 4, 2017
Great way to set expectations for customers.
Imagine you’re traveling on a long weekend for a special event, perhaps the Memorial Day or July 4th holiday weekends.
Nothing worse than to discover the event information didn’t explain they are closed on weekends or holidays.
The tour information continued with details for :
- Where to meet: Michigan Forest Visitor Center at the state park
- Short orientation: about the Kirtland’s Warbler and Jack Pine habitat (fascinating to learn about the bird’s nesting habits, lumber harvesting, and replanting)
- Caravan to see the birds: you can drive your own car or carpool with others in the group
- Group reservations: recommendations to attend the 11am tour for large groups. Helpful if you’re part of a birding group and want your group to attend the tour.
Additional details about the tour made it easy for me to plan my tour: walking to the visitor center (accessible entrance), professional photographers, how much walking to expect, what to bring (insect repellant, sunscreen), what to wear (good walking boots/shoes) make it easy to plan for your tour.
It was obvious to me that whomever wrote the content on the tour page understood exactly what questions people would have.
Information was easy to find, written concisely, and organized in short paragraphs.
Birdwatchers are known for traveling hundreds of miles to see birds. Providing lodging information on the tour page means you don’t have to make a second search to find a local place to stay.
The Michigan Audubon Society included information about local lodging, with a link to the Grayling Visitor’s Bureau.
Wonderful! A small detail, but it makes a difference.
Along with about a dozen other people, I took the weekend tour at 11:00am. The guide provided excellent information about the Kirtland’s Warbler, its history, and the Jack Pine habitat in a short presentation at the Visitors Center.
Afterwards, we took a fun hike in the forest to find the Kirtland’s Warbler.
We heard the bird singing within five minutes of entering the forest area, but it took a lot longer to find it.
I managed to get a ten-second glimpse of the warbler as we were heading out of the forest, but didn’t manage to take a photo. Darn!
The photo on this post is the Kirtland’s Warbler photo, taken by Joel Trick of United States Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest, licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Michigan Audubon Society provided key information about their Kirtland’s Warblers tours, quickly and in easy-to-understand language. Their tour page answered my questions about time, date, place, and what to expect.
Kudos to them for having:
- Designers and writers who paid attention to the small details
- Helpful information about groups and weekend tours
- Going the extra mile to give lodging information for birdwatchers who might be traveling hundreds of miles to see the bird
Thank you, Michigan Audubon Society for making my birdwatching tour more delightful!