Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky

Kirtland's Warbler with She Flew Birding Tours on our Warbler Grand Tour.

Kirtland’s Warbler

The migration phenomenon in this region draws people from all over the world and is known as the eastern warbler capitol. Each spring, thousands of passerines, waders, shorebirds and raptors pass through this area for breeding areas further north. With many Important Bird Areas, the flyway concentration and a little luck, we have a chance to see every one of these 38 eastern warblers while picking up many other species along the way.

Kentucky Warbler with She Flew Birding Tours on our Warbler Grand Tour.

Kentucky Warbler

Starting our tour in northern Kentucky affords us some Appalachian breeders that often get missed at the migration hotspots up north. Swainson’s, Hooded, Worm-eating and Kentucky Warblers are the targets being the furthest northern part of their range. Birding in Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio puts us in Yellow-breasted Chat, Prairie, Yellow-throated and Cerulean Warbler range.

Magee Marsh with She Flew Birding Tours on our Warbler Grand Tour.

Magee Marsh – boardwalk entrance

The spectacle of migration will be on display at the famous Magee Marsh on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie where 20 or more warblers and over 100 species of birds in one day is the norm. Leaving the crowded boardwalk of Magee Marsh, we head north for Michigan’s migration hotspot at Tawas Point. Here the birds concentrate on the narrow peninsula in small groupings of trees and bushes making the birds easier to see. Don’t leave your camera at home because both Magee and Tawas are excellent spots for bird photography. Kirtland’s Warbler, the rarest of all eastern warblers, breeds in Michigan. We’ll spend plenty of time looking at this warbler in its Jack Pine breeding grounds. We should expect 175 species in full breeding plumage singing away. Don’t miss the 2018 migration and this amazing opportunity to see all these birds on the Warbler Grand Tour.

Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve


Day 1 – Arrival in Lexington, Kentucky

Louisiana Waterthrush with She Flew Birding Tours on our Warbler Grand Tour.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Fly into Lexington, Kentucky’s Blue Grass Airport (LEX). Take airport shuttle to nearby hotel. We will meet in the lobby at 5:30PM for introductions, overview, questions and head off to dinner. (D)

Day 2 – Red River Gorge, Kentucky – Portsmouth, Ohio

Our first day in the field is in the beautiful Red River Gorge area inside the Daniel Boone National Forest. Here we will be in the northern most range for some southern warblers. Target birds include Swainson’s, Worm-eating, Hooded Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush. Other targets include Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren and Acadian Flycatcher.

Henslow’s Sparrow

Red River Gorge has wonderful mixed forests, cliffs, riparian areas and amazing scenery. As we leave Kentucky for southern Ohio and Shawnee State Park, stopping for bathroom breaks is a must! On the way we’ll stop for a healthy population of Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows. Other targets include Blue Grosbeak and Dickcissel. Overnight in Portsmouth, Ohio. Most of our food stops will be ‘local restaurants’ while avoiding chain restaurants. I always like to support the little guy! (B, L, D)

Day 3 – Shawnee State Park

Cerulean Warbler with She Flew Birding Tours on our Warbler Grand Tour.

Cerulean Warbler

This full day will be in the spectacular Shawnee State Park, inside the Shawnee State Forest. It boasts a convergence of six natural ecological regions and provides for a diverse and rich habitat for birds and fauna. Sitting atop the Appalachian plateau and just north of the Ohio River, it is the largest state park in Ohio. 14 species of warblers nest hear including these targets; Cerulean, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Green, Worm-eating, Prairie and Pine Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat and Ovenbird. Other birds we hope to see are both Black and Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Pileated Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Northern Parula, Bay-breasted Warbler, Eastern Towhee and Indigo Bunting. To find these birds we will explore this amazing mixed forest and take several short hikes throughout the day. After lunch, we will take a few hours to rest up for our evening excursion to The Edge of Appalachia Preserve. If we are lucky, this Nature Conservancy property should give us access to Chuck-will’s-widow, Eastern Screech-Owl, Common Nighthawk, Great Horned Owl, Bared Owl and American Woodcock. (B, L, D)

Day 4 – Heartland of Ohio

Shawnee State Forest

The morning will be spent filling in any gaps in this southern region. We’ll also take in this amazing mixed forest’s morning chorus of birds. Mid-morning starts our drive north. Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve’s 1.1 mile Boardwalk for Cerulean Warblers is the first stop. Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area for shorebirds, sparrows, migrating warblers, vireos, flycatchers and water birds is also on the list. Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve is a must for migrating Canada and Mourning Warblers. Our final destination is our hotel near Toledo for four nights. We’re just a short drive from the migrating phenomenon. (B, L, D)

Day 5 – Warbler Extravaganza Starts

Magee Marsh boardwalk

Drive to Magee Marsh coastal wetlands and boardwalk for the morning warblers. This trip coincides with ‘The Biggest Week in American Birding.’ Why come to northwest Ohio in May?  “ … it is quite simply the best place to witness spring migration of songbirds anywhere in North America. The southern edge of Lake Erie acts as a barrier that the birds are reluctant to cross during migration. The birds tend to “pile up” in the woodlots surrounded by marshland on the lake’s southern edge to rest and refuel before crossing the Lake. The timing of their arrival is early enough in spring that the trees have not leafed out, there are no bugs, and the birds are incredibly low and accessible. No such thing as “warbler neck” around here! We get HUGE numbers of birds, much like a fallout, only better! Fallouts occur when a weather event pushes birds down, and what birders find are the weary survivors. Here in NW Ohio, we get the same huge numbers of birds as you’d see in a fallout, but the birds are active and vibrant, and by the time they get to this latitude, the males are actively singing!” After an amazing morning, we’ll spend the afternoon at Oak Openings Metropark were habitats include: oak forest, pine plantations, riparian areas, swamp forests, scrubby thickets, open fields and sandy blowouts. Possible birds include, Lark Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Purple Finch, 9 thrushes, 6 vireos, 9 flycatchers, 6 woodpeckers, 13 sparrows and 36 warblers. After our exciting first day of passerine migration, we’ll head back to our Hotel. (B, L, D)

Day 6 – Magee to Pointe Mouillee

Let’s discover what the weather brings in as we walk the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. This is also a good time to get the close-up photos of these fresh plumaged beauties. Leaving the crowds, the afternoon location is only a one hour drive away to one of the largest freshwater marsh restoration projects in the world, Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, Michigan. Swans, scoters, Greater Scaup, Common Loon, Yellow-headed blackbird, bitterns, egrets, shorebirds, gulls, terns and migrating passerines are all possible. Back to our hotel. (B, L, D)

Day 7 – Northwest Ohio Hotspots

American Woodcock

Depending on the weather and target birds, we’ll spend our day at several possible locations. First is Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area along Lake Erie. It is known for waterfowl with its extensive impoundment areas. We should get good looks at Trumpeter Swans, American Black Ducks, all three mergansers, Bald Eagle, Dunlin, Warbling Vireo and many warblers. Second, Irwin Prairie State Wildlife Area also known as ‘Ohio’s Mini Everglades’ and is dominated by an extensive wet sedge meadow. The 1.25 mile boardwalk gives us access to migrating Blue-winged Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Field Sparrow and Indigo Bunting. Many rare plants abound here as well. Our third choice is Maumee Bay State Park is on the southern shore of Lake Erie and a great place for Orchard Orioles and Magnolia Warblers. However, anything is possible. Lastly, going back to Magee Marsh is also an option. Possible evening trip for American Woodcock if we dipped a few days ago. Final evening in Toledo. (B, L, D)

Day 8 – Magee Marsh to Tawas Pointe SP, Michigan

Hoping for a good stack up of birds at Magee Marsh, this is our final few hours at this magnificent migrant trap. As we head around Lake Huron’s shores, our drive up to Tawas Point State Park should be scenic. While a chunk of the day will be traveling, the rest of the time will be looking for Golden-winged Warblers and exploring Tawas Pointe State Park. Sticking out into Lake Erie, birds concentrate along this park in migration. It is famous in Michigan as the best migrant trap along the lake. Less crowded than Magee Marsh, we should enjoy this underutilized birding gem. They boast 260 species migrating in spring through this hotspot. Overnight in Oscoda, Michigan for three nights. (B, L, D)

Day 9-10 – Kirtland’s Warbler and Michigan’s Migration


An early start this morning is a must for the habitat restricted Kirtland’s Warbler. The contrasting blue-gray above and bright yellow below will seem as eye candy as we see this rare warbler in its preferred Jack Pine habitat. After our late breakfast, the rest of the morning is back at Tawas Point State Park. Later in the day we’ll visit Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area. Our targets here include Trumpeter Swan, American Bittern, Green Heron, Virginia Rail, Sora, Sandhill Crane, Alder and Willow Flycatchers, Marsh Wren, Bobolink, and Swamp Sparrow. Overnight in Oscoda, Michigan. (B, L, D)

Day 11 – Tawas Point SP – Detroit

After breakfast, we’ll spend a few hours to see what dropped in at Tawas Pointe. Breaking up our drive towards Detroit are two famous spots including Nayanquing Point SWA and Shiawassee NWR. Anything is possible at these spots including both bitterns, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Wilson’s Phalarope, Herring Gull, Eastern Kingbird, Sedge Wren and Yellow-headed blackbird. The final night of the Warbler Grand Tour is near the Detroit airport. (B, L, D)

Day 12 – Departure from the Warbler Grand Tour

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) – Flights home via hotel shuttle



DATES: May 3-14, 2018 (FULL), May 3-14, 2019

DURATION: 12 days/11 nights

COST: $3295

INCLUDES: airport pick-up/drop off, all local transportation, food, hotels, park fees, expert guide, tons of fun!

ARRIVAL: Blue Grass Airport (LEX), Lexington, KY

DEPARTURE: Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Detroit, MI

DIFFICULTY: moderate

EXPERIENCE: advanced beginner and up

FOCUS: birding, photography



FINAL PAYMENT: Due 90 days out

GROUP SIZE: 4-8 people (plus 1 guide, Sue Riffe)

SPECIES: 175-190

Maine and New Hampshire with She Flew Birding Tours

Bay-breasted Warbler

Tawas Point State Park with She Flew Birding Tours

Tawas Point State Park


  • up to 38 warbler species
  • Kirtland’s Warbler
  • Connecticut Warbler
  • Kentucky Warbler
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • Swainson’s Warbler
  • American Woodcock
  • Henslow’s Sparrow
  • shorebirds
  • plus many more!
Maine New Hampshire with She Flew Birding Tours

Prairie Warbler

up to 38 Warblers

Rose-breasted Grosbeak with She Flew Birding Tours

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Oak Openings Metropark with She Flew Birding Tours

Oak Openings Metropark

10 Flycatchers

Sedge Wren with She Flew Birding Tours

Sedge Wren

Golden-winged Warbler with She Flew Birding Tours on our Warbler Grand Tour.

Golden-winged Warbler

16 Sparrows

Irwin Prairie with She Flew Birding Tours

Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve

Maine and New Hampshire with She Flew Birding Tours

Piping Plover

29 Shorebirds

Scarlet Tanager with She Flew Birding Tours

Scarlet Tanager

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

Shiawassee NWR

7 Vireos

Springville Marsh State Natural Preserve

Springville Marsh SNP

Maumee Bay SP

Maumee Bay SP