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Courtesy James P. Smith

Without doubt this tour has become Birdfinders premier trip for the close observation of North American wood-warblers. This year we again tallied 31 species, but with a slightly different species composition compared to May 2013. The vast majority of warblers were seen extremely well, often in multiples ensuring that no one on the tour missed a thing! This year we streamlined the tour which benefitted our time in Michigan, though hearts did sink when we awoke to two inches of fresh snow on the morning that we tried for Kirtland’s Warbler! We needn’t have worried, the Kirtland’s put on a fantastic show and proved much hardier than might have been expected for a species that winters in the Bahamas. Later that day as the leader checked-in to our comfortable hotel in East Tawas , our guests tallied no less than 13 species of warbler in the hotel parking lot! This provided an ideal precursor to the following morning at Tawas Point which provided some of the most exciting birding of the entire trip - it took us almost two hours to leave the parking lot and explore the rest of the peninsula, such was the compelling nature of the morning ultimately highlighted by close views of a stunning male Golden-winged Warbler.

But this easy going tour has many more elements to it than warblers alone. We also had fantastic views of top quality species such as Black-billed Cuckoo, Philadelphia Vireo and many Catharus thrushes, and Magee Marsh must be the easiest place anywhere to see American Woodcock – we saw two active nests without even leaving the parking lot! And, not to be forgotten, the remarkable display Bald Eagles which turned out to be the commonest raptor of the trip.

As with any tour, we also had a sprinkling of less than usual species and this year a Henslow’s Sparrow found just off the boardwalk at Magee Marsh proved a massive attraction. It was there for just one day, but the incredibly active grapevine ensured that everyone on the boardwalk got to see it. Not quite as rare but extremely good for mid-May was the Fox Sparrow found by Dermot Breen, again off the boardwalk at Magee.

In summary, this was an incredibly successful trip full of the excitement and anticipation of migration at its best. Quite simply, we have yet to experience a better place to see migrant landbirds… it’s truly phenomenal.

Next year’s tour will take place during 10-20 May 2015 and we’re already taking bookings.

James P. Smith, Northfield, Massachusetts, USA

Trumpeter Swan
Black-billed Cuckoo Pileated Woodpecker
Swainson's Thrush Ovenbird
Golden-winged Warbler Golden-winged Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler Orange-crowned Warbler
Mourning Warbler Kirtland's Warbler
Kirtland's Warbler Cape May Warbler
Magnolia Warbler Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler Yellow Warbler
Palm Warbler Black-throated Green Warbler
Henslow's Sparrow Beaver
Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler