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Greg Miller Big Year Series: Follow the Birds to ‘The Biggest Week in American Birding’

Grasshopper Sparrow Grasshopper SparrowOf the total of 50 species of warblers possible during this Big Year Series, 38 species could be seen on this trip! And for 25 species—half of all the warblers for the Big Year Series—this tour represents the best chance of seeing these species for the year! That is, the highest probability of recording these species on our year list according to the data in eBird! Amazing!

In addition to all the warblers, this trip also has an astounding number of migrants and rivals Louisiana and the Upper Texas Coast for variety. From the beautiful mountains of West Virginia to the marshes and shorelines of Western Lake Erie, this large area offers the birder a chance to see tons of birds in their breeding plumages as they wing northward to their breeding grounds.

The average number of species of warblers per checklist for the second week of May (May 8-14) is 15.4 (according to eBird for all years and the spring months March, April, and May as of March 3, 2015). This is more than Pt. Pelee in Ontario, and more than High Island in Texas. In fact, it is the highest of all the other 11 hotspots I checked. It is one of those bucket list kind of places. And, if you are like me, you might spend the next 35 years coming here every spring to welcome the gems of spring—the warblers.

So if you are considering this trip, you should probably consider tagging on Biggest Week in American Birding ( Yes, there will be lots of people during the festival. (We will have less than half of the crowd on our tour when we visit Magee Marsh). It’s a great social event, too. You will literally see birders from all around the world. And Wildside Nature Tours ( will be their helping with day tours, field trips, and presentations. Come say “Hi” to us and visit our booth at Maumee Bay State Park. Check out our trips to destinations around the world!

And you will have a chance to stop by BSBO—Black Swamp Bird Observatory—and give your support to their ongoing efforts of bird conservation and migratory bird research. Many of the birds you will see have traveled thousands of miles. This stopover is incredibly important. You can show your support in many ways. Stop by their headquarters there or go to their website at


  • Tour Cost
  • Number of Days (Length of Tour)

    8 days / 7 nights



    $2000.00 per person, based upon double occupancy from Detroit, MI.


    Single Supplement

    If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to get a roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $450.00 will be assessed.


    What is Included / Not Included in the Cost

    Included in the cost are all accommodations, transportation, entrance fees and permits.

    Participants will be responsible for purchasing their own meals and making their flight arrangements.



    $500.00, check, paypal or credit card, along with your completed Wildside Nature Tours Client Information Form.


    How to Book

    In order to hold your space, you must complete the Wildside Nature Tours Registration Form found on-line, and submit it to us on-line, or download a copy and mail it to us, along with a $500.00 deposit per participant.


    Final Payment

    The balance due or full payment, by check, is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

  • Itinerary
  • Brief Itinerary

    Day 1: Detroit arrivals at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

    Day 2: Morning birding then drive to New River Gorge, WV

    Day 3: New River Gorge, WV; Buery Mountain, WV; Crown City, OH

    Day 4: Shawnee State Forest, OH; Edge of Appalachia, OH

    Day 5: Edge of Appalachia, OH; Kiwanis Riverpark, OH; Glacier Ridge, OH; Magee Marsh, OH

    Day 6: Magee Marsh, OH; Pearson Metropark, OH; Maumee Bay SP, OH

    Day 7: Magee Marsh, OH; Metzger Marsh, OH; Ottawa NWR, OH

    Day 8: Magee Marsh; Afternoon departures from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)


    Full Itinerary


    Day 1 ~ Arrivals at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

    Arrive anytime today at DTW. We will have transfers to our hotel in Oregon, OH, about 1 hour south.


    Day 2 ~ Drive to New River Gorge, WV

    After some morning birding at Magee Marsh, we will make the long drive to West Virginia. Upon arrival at the New River Gorge we''ll see if we might be lucky enough to see a Swainson’s Warbler with the remaining daylight. Orientation at dinner. Night in Oak Hill, WV.


    Day 3 ~ New River Gorge, WV; Buery Mountain, WV; Crown City, OH 

    We will return to New River Gorge area again for Swainson’s Warbler. Other birds present may include Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow-throated and Hooded Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Parula, and Eastern Towhee. The Gorge is a very scenic area as well.


    At nearby Buery Mountain WMA we’ll look for migrants, but especially for Golden-winged, Prairie, Yellow-throated, and Black-throated Blue Warblers. More than 20 species of warblers have been reported here in this season according to eBird. We might get lucky and hear a Ruffed Grouse drumming in the forest. It will be hard to ignore such beauties as Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting. Common Raven, Hermit Thrush, and Blue-headed Vireo are possible here, too.


    In the afternoon we will drive back to southern Ohio and visit Crown City Wildlife Area. There is edge habitat and some open, grassland areas. Along the streams we will search for Yellow-throated Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. On the adjacent hillsides we’ll look for Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, and Worm-eating Warbler. The edge habitat is good for Yellow-breasted Chat, Prairie Warbler, and Blue Grosbeak. The open grasslands here have a small population of Henslow’s Sparrows. Other grassland birds include Grasshopper, Savannah, and Field Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Kingbird, Brown Thrasher, and Northern Bobwhite. Night in Portsmouth, OH.


    Day 4 ~ Shawnee State Forest, OH; Edge of Appalachia, OH 

    Shawnee State Forest is over 60,000 acres of hilly, forested land near the Ohio River. The forest is managed for timber providing for a number of different habitats for a diverse set of birds. This area has one of the larger breeding populations of Cerulean Warbler in the United States—one of the targets here, of course. Amazingly, more than 30 species of warblers have been recorded here in May according to eBird! Some of the warblers that can be harder to find at Magee Marsh include Yellow-throated Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Hooded Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler, and Yellow-breasted Chat (Ok. It’s no longer a warbler, but I am still including it in the grouping here). Other birds we may find could be Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, Broad-winged Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Scarlet Tanager.


    After a full day in Shawnee, we’ll stop for dinner. About an hour before dark we’ll head west to Adams County for some night birding. The highlight is listening for a possible Chuck-will’s-widow. It’s the only spot they breed in Ohio. Hopefully, we’ll get to add Eastern Whip-poor-will and Barred Owl, too. Night in Portsmouth, OH.


    Day 5 ~ Edge of Appalachia, OH; Kiwanis Riverpark, OH; Glacier Ridge, OH; Magee Marsh, OH 

    We’ll get a leisurely start this morning since we had a long day yesterday. Our day will begin where we left off the night before—Edge of Appalachia. Only this time we will visit during the day. We’ll have another shot at Blue Grosbeak. Prairie Warblers breed here in abundance. And we may get lucky and see a displaying Yellow-breasted Chat. It is wonderfully entertaining to watch this clown totally go bonkers in a dramatic display!


    Afterwards, we will begin our drive north toward Lake Erie and the Disneyworld of Warblers—Magee Marsh. We will make a couple pit stops in the Columbus area to break up the long drive. Kiwanis Riverpark in Dublin, Ohio has some nest boxes for Prothonotary Warblers. Wood Ducks may be here, too. In nearby Glacier Ridge Metro Park we will have a chance to see some early-arriving Bobolinks. Other good birds can be found here, but we will probably not linger as the tractor beam of warblers at Lake Erie will be tugging at us, too.


    Our warbler GPS will take us directly to Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and we will get our first taste of the Warbler Show. This is my very favorite place to be in May on the North American Continent. It is one place I return to every year like a pilgrimage—I’ve been doing this for over 30 years now. And I never get tired of see the ornaments that decorate the trees in Northwest Ohio—the warblers. It is spring time and their plumages are bright and dazzling and their cheerful songs fill the air with a lightness that is otherworldly. Night in Oregon, OH.


    Day 6 ~ Magee Marsh, OH; Pearson Metropark, OH; Maumee Bay SP, OH

    We will head back out to Warblerpolooza! We’ll explore the boardwalk again and maybe some of the area trails. Birding here can be amazing.


    After tearing ourselves away we’ll venture over to nearby Pearson Metropark. The feeder setup is convenient and comfortable and sometimes warblers come in to bathe in the little pool. Indigo Buntings occasionally frequent the feeders as do Baltimore Orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Purple Finches may linger into May and this is a good place to find them. The park can have quite an array of migrants depending on weather conditions.


    The last stop of the day will be Maumee Bay State Park. The shoreline of the small lake might have gulls and terns and the Lake Erie shore can hold surprises. Migrants can be decent here, too. And we’ll look for Eastern Screech-Owls peeking out of nest boxes along the boardwalk. If there is enough interest we can return here after dinner at dusk to see timberdoodles—American Woodcock performing their aerial displays. Night in Oregon, OH.


    Day 7 ~ Magee Marsh, OH; Metzger Marsh, OH; Ottawa NWR, OH

    Our day begins again at Magee Marsh. Every day is brand new. Visiting here daily can be like a fast-reading novel. Each page has something new. Metzger Marsh often has a few things that are harder to find at Magee. Warblers may be bathing in little pools of water in the woodland area at the end of the road. The causeway can have exciting birds. Some years you may find Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Metzger might have a good shorebird or two as well. We’ll visit Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge today. The wooded areas on the east side can be good for migrants. The refuge is good for marsh birds and sometimes lingering waterfowl. Occasionally, conditions are decent for shorebirds. But that is usually not the case. But Ottawa can be a good place to find rarities. Who knows what we’ll find? Our last night will be in Oregon, OH again.


    Day 8 ~ Magee Marsh; Afternoon departures from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)

    Those staying for the Biggest Week in American Birding festival can continue birding. For folks not staying for the festival, we will return to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) in Detroit by noon for afternoon departures.

  • Accommodations
  • Depending on group size we will use an SUV or 15-passenger van. The choice will be based upon the number of participants, and each participant will have a window seat in the vehicle.