OHIO AND MICHIGAN
11–21 May 2013
11–21 May 2014
North-western Ohio, where three major migration routes converge, is one of the very best places to observe wood-warblers. Migrants find the swampy woodlands around Magee Marsh and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge ideal places to rest and feed. This two centre tour is timed for mid-May, when migration is at its peak and rare summer breeders are back on territory.
Day 1 Scheduled flight from London to Detroit, Michigan, followed by a short transfer to Port Clinton, Ohio, our base for the next six nights. If time allows we may get to see our first migrant warblers before we check in to the hotel.
Days 2–6 Jewel-like warblers will provide much of the focus of this portion of the tour. All of them will be in spring finery and some in full song, while most will be seen from the famous boardwalk at Magee Marsh on the southern shore of Lake Erie. Here we will enjoy the spectacle of close-up, confiding warblers, many of which will seem to be oblivious to the assembled crowds. Cape May, Bay-breasted and Black-throated Blue Warblers feed in the mid-to-upper canopy, whilst below them Ovenbirds, Prothonotary Warblers and American Redstarts forage in the leaf litter alongside American Woodcock and thrushes including Veery. The birder coverage is so thorough that little, if anything, is missed and we will be at the ready to chase any rarity that might show up such as a Connecticut or even a Kirtland’s Warbler. Magee Marsh and the trails at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge will provide a superb stage for this. It is possible to see over thirty species of warbler in a week at Magee and we should see all of them well in that time. In the process we may also find Swainson’s, Grey-cheeked, Wood and Hermit Thrushes, Warbling, Blue-headed, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos and Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied and Least Flycatchers. Magee Marsh also has breeding Great Horned and Eastern Screech-owls. The fields and marshes of Ottawa NWR and Metzger Marsh will also be worthy of exploration. Trumpeter Swan, Wood Duck, Green Heron and Marsh Wren all breed and, after rain, the fields might hold Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover and White-rumped Sandpiper. Indeed, with as many as twenty major birding spots within an hour of Port Clinton we will be spoilt for places to visit. The furthest of these, Oak Openings Preserve, provides habitat for Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Meadowlark and Lark and Grasshopper Sparrows. During our five days in the area our itinerary will be flexible to maximize our chances of seeing migrants.
Days 7–9 After Port Clinton, Ohio, and its migrant hot-spots we will leave for Grayling, Michigan, and our focus will shift to the rare summer breeders and residents of the mid-west. Along the way we shall search for Henslow’s Sparrow, a rare and declining grassland species. In the same area Sandhill Crane, Barred Owl, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-winged and Cerulean Warblers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Bobolink can also be found. We will aim to reach Grayling with enough time to go out looking for rails, weather permitting. The main target will be Yellow Rail, though we will also have a reasonable chance of seeing Sora and Virginia Rails, American Bittern and hordes of Swamp Sparrows. At dusk, American Woodcock and Whip-poor-will can be found. Kirtland’s Warbler, an exceedingly rare species which breeds only in young Jack Pines, is a key target species. The world’s population, all of which summers in mid-to-upper Michigan, is currently estimated at a mere 1800 pairs. We will join a guided tour in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, which is inside Kirtland’s Warbler breeding grounds, to ensure that we all have good views. The same habitat is home to a number of breeders including Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee and Vesper, Clay-coloured, Lincoln’s and Field Sparrows. Provided that we all have satisfactory views of Kirtland’s Warbler we will also spend a full day in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at ethereal boreal woodlands, grasslands, swamps and lakes. Our target species will be Sharp-tailed and Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Grey Jay, Boreal Chickadee and White-winged Crossbill. Many birds in the boreal zone are not shy but are thinly distributed and may take some finding. In the process we may come across a rare breeder such as Connecticut Warbler or Le Conte’s Sparrow. Three nights in Grayling, Michigan.
Day 10 On our final morning we will visit the Rifle River recreation area, which harbours many breeding species including Common Loon, Ruffed Grouse, Great Crested Flycatcher, Golden-winged and Canada Warblers and Indigo Bunting. From here we will drive to Detroit for an overnight flight back to London, arriving on Day 11.
General Information This is a relatively easy-paced tour operating from just two bases. Most walks are relatively short (less than one mile). However, the boardwalk at Magee Marsh can involve being on foot for extended periods and the boardwalk may also be crowded at peak migration time. The weather can be highly variable, ranging from hot and sunny to cold with wind and rain. Early mornings in Grayling can be chilly and frost is possible. Some grassland areas can be wet and rubber boots can be useful in such situations. There are no special medical requirements; ticks, however, especially deer ticks, which can carry Lyme’s disease, can be found in long grass and woodland and mosquitoes and black flies can be a nuisance in some areas, especially the north woods, so a good insect repellent is recommended. Visas are required. Food is excluded from the tour price but is relatively inexpensive; allow about £20 per day depending on your requirements.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 9 with 1 leader, 16 with 2 leaders.