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Chestnut-sided Warbler

USA - The Midwest: 

Spring Migration Spectacular [NA_US004_MWS]


A 12-day, small group birdwatching tour of West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan at the peak of spring migration, taking in the famous Erie Lakeshore migration site, Magee Marsh, and more.

Our birding tour of Appalachia and the Upper Midwest takes us through some of North America’s most exciting spring birding venues just as migratory songbirds, resplendent in their breeding plumage, reach peak numbers in this part of the country. We begin in the mountains of West Virginia, looking for southerly warbler species that will have already commenced breeding here, and that will become scarce once we move into Ohio. From here we head north, exploring productive wetlands, grasslands, and migrant traps along the Ohio River, as well as known breeding sites for some sought-after species. In Ohio and further north into Michigan, we will spend our time at various sites along the shores of Lakes Erie and Huron, including Magee Marsh and Tawas Point, undoubtedly the best sites to observe spring migration in the eastern United States. Among an impressive concentration of species, we’ll look for various flycatchers, vireos and thrushes, up to 35 species of warbler including Cerulean, Golden-winged, Worm-eating and Kirtland’s, Sedge Wren, Henslow's Sparrow, King Rail, American Woodcock, Upland Sandpiper and Sandhill Crane.




Day 1: Charleston and the Kanawha River

Arrivals into Charleston international airport this morning. Depending on arrival plans, we may have time this afternoon for some introductory birding in hardwood forests and wetlands along the Kanawha River. Night in Charleston.


Day 2-3: The Appalachian Plateau

We have two days to explore various sites upon the Appalachian plateau and along the Kanawha and Elk Rivers. South of Charleston, we’ll explore the scrub along Hurricane Ridge and the forests of the New River Gorge, looking for breeding pairs of the rapidly declining Golden-winged Warbler, and the elusive Swainson’s Warbler in rhododendron thickets. We can also expect to encounter several more southerly species of wood-warbler such as Worm-eating, Yellow-throated and Hooded Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush, among a good selection of birds including Warbling Vireo, Willow Flycatcher, Scarlet Tanager and Black-billed Cuckoo. North of the city, we will explore the bird-rich hardwood forests and low-lying wetlands of McClintic Wildlife Management Area, one of West Virginia’s premier birding destinations. Breeding birds will be abundant and in full song, but we will be looking for Kentucky and Mourning Warblers in particular. We will also visit the cattail (or bulrush) marshes of Green Bottom WMA and several wetland sites adjacent to the Ohio River, where we can expect to encounter shorebirds, waterfowl, breeding Least Bittern and migrant Sora and Virginia Rail. Nights in Charleston.


Day 4: Charleston to Parkersburg via Kanawha State Forest and Belleville Wetlands

This morning we will spend a few hours in the broadleaf woodlands of Kanawha State Forest, looking for the increasingly scarce Cerulean Warbler alongside Wood Thrush, Red-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Acadian Flycatcher, and any other southerly breeding warblers we may have missed. Heading north, we will check a series of wetland sites at Belleville and elsewhere along the Ohio River, a course followed by many northward moving spring migrants where any number of species will be possible. We will arrive in Parkersburg for the night.


Day 5: Parkersburg to Wooster via southern Ohio grasslands and Killibuck Marsh

Starting early, we will visit a large area of grassland in southern Ohio looking for the several pairs of distinctive yet declining Upland Sandpipers that breed here. We will also look for Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows, Dickcissel and Northern Harrier. Arriving in Wooster by midday, we will spend the afternoon at Killibuck Marsh, an extensive wetland and excellent site for Sandhill Crane, Common Gallinule, Least Bittern, King Rail and various migrant shorebirds. Night in Wooster.


Day 6: Wooster to Magee Marsh via Mohican-Memorial State Forest and Pickerel Creek

This morning, we will explore the deciduous forests, upland pine plantations and hemlock ravines of Mohican-Memorial State Forest in search of several species of wood-warbler with a more northerly affinity, such as Magnolia, Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers and Northern Waterthrush, as well as Blue-headed Vireo, Hermit Thrush, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Dark-eyed Junco. Later, we will drive north and west to the town of Oregon for a three-night stay. The drive will take us along the southern shore of Lake Erie, where we will visit the Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area. Some of the best remaining natural wetlands along Sandusky Bay, these freshwater estuarine swamplands host shorebirds and waterfowl including Trumpeter Swan, Blue-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Sora, Virginia Rail, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Spotted, Solitary, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Black-necked Stilt, Great Blue Heron and Snowy Egret. Moving west, we will spend the last couple of hours before sunset beginning our exploration of Magee Marsh.


Day 7-8: Magee Marsh and surroundings

We have two days to explore the famous migration hotspot of Magee Marsh. Here, the concentration and diversity of neotropical migrant passerines, pausing to forage before making the arduous journey north across Lake Erie, is consistently impressive and downright incredible given an unfavourable weather front, or ‘fallout’ conditions. This spectacle of visible migration attracts hordes of birders, and although the area is busy at peak migration the birds are seemingly oblivious, and the sense of community here only adds to the excitement. A boardwalk through the wooded copse just inland of the lakeshore allows unrivalled access to migrants foraging in the understorey at close range, often at or below eye-level. 25 or more species of warbler are possible in a day, and among many others we will look for Bay-breasted, Black-and-White, Black-throated Blue, Blackpoll, Cape May, Chestnut-sided, Nashville, Palm, Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers, Northern Parula, American Redstart and Ovenbird, plus Veery, Swainson’s and Grey-cheeked Thrushes, Philadelphia Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Grey Catbird, Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied, Alder and Least Flycatchers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Screech-Owl, Eastern Whip-poor-will and the secretive American Woodcock in the leaf litter. Although we will visit the boardwalk each day, there are plenty of other excellent sites to explore in the nearby area. We will visit woodlots, wetlands, grasslands and beaches at Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Crane Creek, Ottawa NWR, Howard Marsh and Maumee State Park where we will come across a broad selection of species including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Mourning Dove, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Swamp, Chipping, White-throated and Field Sparrows, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Meadowlark, Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, American Bittern, Green Heron, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks, and Bald Eagle. Further afield, we will also make time to visit Oak Openings Preserve, a superb area of forest and grassland, home to nesting Lark Sparrows, plus Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Eastern Bluebird, Blue Grosbeak, American Goldfinch and Wild Turkey.


Day 9-10: Tawas Point

The final leg of our tour takes us north into Michigan to Tawas City for a two-night stay. Along the way, we will stop at Nayanquing Point, to scan the freshwater marshes for Sedge and Marsh Wrens, Yellow-headed Blackbird, lingering waterfowl such as Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup and Goldeneye, and migrant shorebirds. This afternoon we’ll begin our exploration of Tawas Point, a narrow headland extending into Lake Huron that attracts similar concentrations of migrants to Magee Marsh but with far fewer birders. The scattered and scrubby nature of the vegetation here concentrates migrants making them easy to see, and we will enjoy good, close views of many migrants, including Blue-winged, Canada, Connecticut , Orange-crowned, Pine, Tennessee, Wilson’s and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet, Summer and Western Tanagers, Orchard Oriole, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Northern Rough-winged and Cliff Swallows, with Ring-billed, Bonaparte’s and Franklin’s Gulls, and Caspian, Forster’s and Black Terns on the sandy shores of the peninsula. In nearby fields and pastures we will also look for Bobolink, Clay-coloured and Vesper Sparrows, and Brewer’s Blackbird. Almost all the limited population of this exceedingly rare Kirtland’s Warbler summers here in the forests of Michigan. Smart males should be singing incessantly as they set up territories in stands of young Jack Pine, and we will make a particular effort to locate them at known breeding sites. During our stay we will find time to drive north into the vast deciduous forests of Huron National Forest around Mio, where the boreal influence will add species such as Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and possibly Ruffed Grouse to our list.


Day 11: Tawas Point to Saginaw

We will spend most of today birding Tawas Point, with a possible return visit to Nayanquing Point, before driving south to Saginaw for the night.


Day 12: Depart Detroit

Departures from Detroit international airport today.

TBA 2022

with Leio De Souza

Duration: 12 days

Group size: min. 6 / max. 7 with 1 leader

2022: ₹ TBA

$ TBA / £ TBA / € TBA

(Charleston WV/Detroit MI)

Single room supplement: ₹ TBA

$ TBA / £ TBA / € TBA

Deposit: $ TBA / £ TBA / € TBA

The tour is priced in US Dollars ($). Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

The tour price includes:

  • Accommodation

  • All meals

  • Ground transportation

  • Services of a guide throughout

  • All birding activities

  • Reserve entry fees

  • Tour info, pre-travel notes and checklists

Estimated flight costs: $ 950 / £ 685 / € 800

Estimated visa costs: $ 14 / £ 10 / € 12

More information on what's included

Read about our small group surcharges

Custom tours

Best time: May

2022: from ₹ TBA / $ TBA / £ TBA / € TBA

(Price per person based on 2 people travelling together; costs for other group sizes  on request)

Tour grading: Easy to Moderate.  Most birding will be on foot along quiet, paved or gravel roads, well-worn trails on level ground, or on boardwalks, although there may be some moderately steep terrain in West Virginia; the tour is intensive in terms of time spent on your feet and in the field, with early starts, long days in variable conditions, and some (optional) evening excursions for owls.

Accommodation: Comfortable, modern hotels or motels of good or medium standard throughout. 

Birds: 280+

Mammals: 5-10

Photography: Excellent

Key species: Wild Turkey, Sandhill Crane, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Pied-billed Grebe, Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, American and Least Bitterns, King, Yellow and Virginia Rails, Sora, Black-necked Stilt, Marbled Godwit, Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, Upland, Solitary, Stilt, Spotted, Semipalmated, Pectoral, White-rumped and Least Sandpipers, Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls, Forster's and Black Terns, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's and Broad-winged Hawks, Bald Eagle, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Acadian, Alder, Willow, Least, Yellow-bellied and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Warbling, Philadelphia, Red-eyed, Blue-headed, White-eyed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Tree and Cliff Swallows, Purple Martin, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper, Marsh, Sedge and Carolina Wrens, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Hermit, Wood, Grey-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes, Veery, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Evening Grosbeak, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, several species of sparrow, including Henslow's, Grasshopper, Lark, Swamp, Field and White-throated, Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard and Baltimore Orioles, Rusty and Brewer's Blackbirds, as many as 35 species of wood-warbler, including Ovenbird, Louisiana and Northern Waterthrushes, Kirtland's, Golden-winged, Worm-eating, Cerulean, Yellow-throated, Hooded, Kentucky, Mourning, Nashville, Cape May, Prothonotary, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Canada, Chestnut-sided, Black-and-White, Yellow, Wilson's and Palm Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula and American Redstart,  Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Bunting, Dickcissel, Coyote, White-tailed Deer, Muskrat, Groundhog, Eastern Fox Squirrel, Eastern Cottontail.

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