Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan

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

Kirtland’s Warbler

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve


Day 1 – Arrival in Cincinnati, Ohio

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

Louisiana Waterthrush

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 Jacobson Park or East Fork State Park. (D) Checklist – East Fork SP Checklist – Jacobson Park

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. Most importantly, 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, so bring your camera.

As we leave Kentucky for southern Ohio and Shawnee State Park, stopping for bathroom breaks is a must! A healthy population of Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows awaits us. Other targets include Blue Grosbeak and Dickcissel. Overnight in Portsmouth, Ohio. Most of our food stops will be ‘local restaurants’ while avoiding chain restaurants. In other words, I always like to support the little guy! Below is a clip of the sounds of this ancient forest.(B, L, D) Checklist – Red River Gorge

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, while providing for a diverse habitat. In addition, it is the largest state park in Ohio. Short hikes are needed to find the 14 species of warblers. Possible species include Cerulean, Kentucky, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Green, Worm-eating, Prairie and Pine Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat and Ovenbird. Finally, 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, Barred Owl and American Woodcock. (B, L, D) Checklist – Shawnee State Park

Day 4 – Heartland of Ohio

Shawnee State Forest

The morning will be spent filling in our bird list from this southern region, while mid-morning starts our drive north. Depending on bird reports and weather, we’ll choose several stops on our way north. Possible stops include Battelle Darby Metro Park, Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve’s Boardwalk, Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area and Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve. Our final destination is our hotel near Toledo 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 5 – The Biggest Week Starts

Magee Marsh boardwalk

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 Oak Openings Metropark were we could see Lark Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeaks, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Purple Finch and lots of other goodies. So after our exciting first day of passerine migration, we’ll head back to our Hotel. (B, L, D) Checklist – Magee Marsh Boardwalk

Day 6, 7, 8 – Magee and Northwest Ohio Hotspots

American Woodcock

Mornings will be at Magee Marsh with the afternoons at one of many amazing birding hotspots. Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area is known for waterfowl with its extensive impoundment areas. 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 and many rare plants. Maumee Bay State Park is a great place for Orchard Orioles and Magnolia Warblers, but anything is possible. Pearson Metropark is also close and can produce any migrant. Finally, Howard Marsh Metropark is the spot for shorebirds. Above all, we will have lots of places to bird in northern Ohio. (B, L, D) Checklist – Howard Marsh

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 Erie, 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 Oscoda, 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. The rest of the morning is back at Tawas Point State Park. In the evening we’ll visit Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area. Our targets here include Sandhill Crane, Alder and Willow Flycatchers, Marsh Wren, Bobolink, Swamp Sparrow and especially rails and bitterns. Overnight in Oscoda, Michigan. (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. Breaking up our drive towards Detroitwillinclude 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: 2023 – May 7-18 (space available)

DURATION: 12 days/11 nights

COST: $3995

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)

DIFFICULTY: moderate

EXPERIENCE: advanced beginner and up

FOCUS: birding, photography


DEPOSIT: $1,300

FINAL PAYMENT: Due 90 days out

GROUP SIZE: 4-6 people (plus 1 guide, Sue Riffe)


Maine and New Hampshire with She Flew Birding Tours

Cape May Warbler

Tawas Point State Park with She Flew Birding Tours

Tawas Point State Park


  • up to 35 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
  • shorebirds
  • plus many more!
Maine New Hampshire with She Flew Birding Tours

Prairie Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak with She Flew Birding Tours

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Oak Openings Metropark with She Flew Birding Tours

Oak Openings Metropark

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

Irwin Prairie with She Flew Birding Tours

Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve

Scarlet Tanager with She Flew Birding Tours

Scarlet Tanager

Magnolia Warbler

Maumee Bay SP

Maumee Bay SP