WARBLER GRAND TOUR
Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan
The migration phenomenon
This region draws people from all over the world, in other words, 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. Because of all these opportunities it is called the Warbler Grand Tour.
Starting our tour in northern Kentucky affords us some Appalachian breeders that often get missed at the migration hotspots up north. So the Swainson’s, Hooded, Worm-eating and Kentucky Warblers are the targets.
Birding in Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio puts us in Yellow-breasted Chat, Prairie, Yellow-throated and Cerulean Warbler range, so bring your camera.
The spectacle of migration will be on display at the famous Magee Marsh on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie. We should average 20 or more warbler species a day because of the location along Lake Erie and the time of year.
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 200 species in full breeding plumage singing away. Don’t miss the 2020 migration and this amazing opportunity to see all these birds on the Warbler Grand Tour.
Day 1 – Arrival in Cincinnati, Ohio
To start the Warbler Grand Tour, Fly into Cincinnati/Northern Ken
tucky International Airport (CVG). First, we’ll meet group at airport at 2:00 PM and drive to Lexington, KY. Second, check into hotel and off to dinner. Third, enjoy easy evening birding at a Lexington Hotspot. (D)
Day 2 – Red River Gorge, Kentucky
Our first full day in the field is in the beautiful Red River Gorge area inside the Daniel Boone National Forest. Most importantly, we will be in the northern most range for some southern warblers. Target birds include Louisiana Waterthrush, Swainson’s, Worm-eating, and Hooded Warblers. Other targets include Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren and Acadian Flycatcher.
Red River Gorge has wonderful mixed forests, cliffs, riparian areas and amazing scenery, so bring your camera. Below is a clip of the sounds of this ancient forest. We will also find some nice sparrow fields to target Henslow’s, one of my favorites. Heading back to Lexington area for our second night. (B, L, D) Checklist – Red River Gorge
Day 3 – Red River to Shawnee National Forest, Ohio
After another morning in this amazing habitat, we head north for Portsmouth, Ohio. Shawnee National Forest boasts a convergence of six natural ecological regions, while providing for a diverse habitat. In addition, we will also bird in Shawnee State Park, the largest state park in Ohio. Short hikes are needed to find the 13 species of warblers breeding in this habitat. Possible species include Cerulean, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Green, Worm-eating, Prairie and Pine Warblers, and Ovenbird. (B, L, D) Checklist – Shawnee State Park
Day 4 – Shawnee area
This whole day is spent in and around the national forest and state park. I can’t wait to take you to experience the morning chorus in this forest. Cerulean Warblers singing near Blackburnian Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers flying near Scarlet Tanagers, and Red-eyed Vireos and Black-and-white Warblers in the same binocular view.
Finally, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Chuck will’s-widow, Common Nighthawk, and American Woodcock should be added to our trip list for this option evening adventure. Second night in the same hotel. (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Heartland of Ohio to Magee Marsh
Leaving southern Ohio, our trip takes us through the heartland to the shores of Lake Erie. Depending on bird reports and weather, we’ll choose several stops on our way north. Maximizing our trip list and tracking down any rarieties is the plan. One of my favorite stops is to Battelle Darby Metro Park where rails are common. If time permits, we will spend a few hours at Magee Marsh boardwalk before going to our hotal for four nights. Because of the hotel location, we’re just a short drive from the migrating phenomenon. (B, L, D) Checklist – Battelle Darby Creek
Day 6, 7, 8 – Magee Marsh and other Ohio Hotspots
First stop, 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.” After an amazing morning, we’ll spend the afternoon at any number of amazing birding locations to add trip birds. Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Irwin Prairie State Wildlife Area, Maumee Bay State Park, Pearson Metropark, and Howard Marsh are just some of the options. (B, L, D) Checklist – Magee Marsh Boardwalk
Day 9 – 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. Driving around Lake Huron’s shores and 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 the state park. Because it sticks out into Lake Huron, birds concentrate along this park in migration. As a result, 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 Tawas, Michigan for two nights. (B, L, D) Checklist – Au Sable State Forest
Day 10 – Kirtland’s Warbler and Michigan’s Migration
Finally, it’s time 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 fill of Kirtland’s, the rest of the afternoon is spent at Tawas Point State Park for more photos and amazing migrants. In the evening we’ll visit Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area. Waterbirds, rails, ducks, and maybe owls await. (B, L, D) Checklist – Kirtland’s Warblers
Day 11 – Tawas Point SP – Detroit
After breakfast, we’ll spend a few hours either at Tawas Point or another spot for Kirtland’s Warbler depending on yestersday’s results. Breaking up our drive towards Detroit will include stops at Au Sable State Forest for migrants and Nayanquing Point SWA. At Nayanquing, anything is possible including both bitterns, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Wilson’s Phalarope, Herring Gull, Eastern Kingbird, Sedge Wren and Yellow-headed blackbird. Finally, the final night of the Warbler Grand Tour is near the Detroit airport. (B, L, D) Checklist – Tawas Point SP
Day 12 – Departure
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) – Flights home via hotel shuttle. (B)
DATES: 2024, May 7 – 18
DURATION: 12 days/11 nights
INCLUDES: airport pick-up/drop off, all local transportation, food, hotels, park fees, expert guide, tons of fun!
ARRIVAL: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
DEPARTURE: Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Detroit, MI (DTW)
EXPERIENCE: advanced beginner and up
FOCUS: birding, photography
SOLO SUPPLEMENT: $700
FINAL PAYMENT: Due 90 days out
GROUP SIZE: 4-6 people (plus 1 guide, Sue Riffe)
Cape May Warbler
Tawas Point State Park
- up to 36 warbler species
- Kirtland’s Warbler
- Kentucky Warbler
- Louisiana Waterthrush
- Swainson’s Warbler
- Cerulean Warbler
- Bay-breasted Warbler
- American Woodcock
- Henslow’s Sparrow
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak
- Scarlet Tanager
- plus many more!
Oak Openings Metropark
Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve
Maumee Bay SP