Tours: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming, Birding Ecotours (Worldwide)
2025 Ohio – Eastern Warblers and Spring Migrants
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Moderate
Group Size Medium Group
On this Ohio birding tour, we have a realistic chance of finding nearly every eastern wood warbler, plus so many other migrants and residents. These New World warblers are arguably America’s most iconic and beautiful birds and one of the big reasons for world birders to visit the USA. This is the ideal tour to see them, often at eye-level, feeding to fuel their migration or on established breeding grounds. The birds are in bright, freshly molted spring plumage and are looking their snazzy best at this time of year.
Ohio is a surprisingly underrated birding state, full of diverse habitats and migrant traps. The northern and southern portions of Ohio are quite different, each providing unique birding opportunities and species to enjoy. The southern portion hosts some incredible prairies as well as vast, beautiful old-growth forests in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It is also the northernmost extent of several breeding birds, which use these amazing habitats in the spring and summer to the fullest. These include Prairie Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, and Yellow-breasted Chat, to name just a few.
Northern Ohio is bordered by the great Lake Erie, creating expansive freshwater marshes. The birding in this area has been made famous by the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival hosted by our friends at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. The lake is like a freshwater ocean, creating a similar obstacle for migrating birds, as they migrate along its shores before making the risky water crossing at its narrowest point. Luckily, the shorelines are full of fantastic nature preserves, parks and refuges, with great birding trails, including the world-famous Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. As birds migrate north and encounter the huge body of water, they put down into the trees along the shore to rest and feed before attempting to cross the unknown. This creates a massive build-up of birds with one mission: to fuel up before crossing the lake. Many of them take the shortest water crossing to Point Pelee, where they arrive tired and hungry; you can enjoy these incoming migrants on our custom tours here.
This tour highlights and targets 30+ species of wood warblers in the eastern United States by showcasing a wide array of habitats in Ohio and the true spectacle of spring migration in this fantastic birding state. We will begin in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a visit to some of its pristine local Metroparks before heading off to Shawnee State Park. The forests here are typically teeming with birds and we will target the southern specialties on the trip. After this we make the trip north for a few days of migration at Magee Marsh and surrounding parks with possible stops in Chillicothe and Columbus along the way. After some time with the jaw-dropping warbler views from the Toledo area we will head to the airport in Detroit, Michigan to wrap up our successful bird-packed adventure. When it’s all said and done, you should expect to have seen 180+ species, although we’ll most likely be pushing close to 200 eastern US birds!
It’s not all about warblers and other passerine migrants though. The north of Ohio also has some fantastic shorebird habitat, which supports tremendous numbers of birds on their journey to their breeding grounds in Canada. These beautiful birds are normally molting into their dapper breeding plumages and include Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Phalarope, and upwards of 15 others.
Duration: 8 days
Limit: 4 – 8
Date: 08 May – 15 May 2025
Start: Cincinnati, OH
End: Detroit, MI
US$3480 per person sharing assuming 4 – 8 participants
Single supplement: US$750
We can run the same trip at a price similar to the larger group price for 2 tour participants, if they rent their own vehicle and pay for fuel – please e-mail [email protected] for details.
- Guiding fees
- Entrance fees
- All transport while on tour
- Domestic and International flights
- Items of a personal nature, e.g. gifts
- Alcoholic drinks
- Personal insurance
- Laundry Service
Arrival in Cincinnati
After arrival at the Cincinnati airport (airport code CVG), you will be transferred to a nearby hotel for the evening. Depending on flight times and arrivals, we may have some time for a little birding before heading off for our first dinner of the trip. We will get to know each other a bit better and discuss the exciting birding ahead of us.
Cincinnati parks and transfer to Shawnee
On our first full day of the trip, we will explore the local parks and hope to catch some of the migrants from the previous night. Cincinnati has many fantastic birding locations like Sharon Woods and Otto Armleder Memorial Park for us to score our first warblers like Yellow, Chestnut-sided, and Palm Warblers. Of course, other migrants like Baltimore Oriole and Warbling Vireo should be around and common throughout the parks. After a nice morning of birding, we will make the 2-hour drive east to the Appalachian foothills and Shawnee State Forest.
After lunch we will begin our birding of this region with some grasslands and prairie habitats for Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, Eastern Towhee, and Blue Grosbeak. We will then make it to the lodge where we will spend some time birding around the grounds. Typically, there are very accommodating Cerulean Warblers nearby, plus Brown Thrasher and Wood Thrush in the woods. We will enjoy dinner at the lodge before calling it a day and preparing for tomorrow.
Overnight: Shawnee State Park Lodge
Shawnee State Park
We will be up and out of the door before dawn to visit this 60,000-plus acres of old-growth forest. As we navigate our way up the curvy roads before dawn, we should see plenty of eye shine of Eastern Whip-poor-will in the road. The morning chorus here can be absolutely deafening with loads of migrating birds echoing through the slopes and ravines. We will start on higher grounds, as migrants typically land at the tops of canyons for a rest. As with most migration it can be hit or miss depending on the winds, but we should be able to score a bright Blackburnian Warbler glowing in the morning sun and see loads of Black-and-white Warblers scooting up trunks. After things slow down on the mountain tops, we will move back down into the ravines alongside creeks and streams. Here we will see loads of Yellow-throated Warblers and Northern Parulas. Next, we will move into areas with precipitous drops to find a true southern special, Worm-eating Warbler. These mid-to-high elevations also provide us with excellent opportunities to see the jaw-dropping blue of Cerulean Warbler up close and personal. This huge forest is filled with the skulking Ovenbird and Hooded Warbler as their songs echo throughout the entire area. In the evening we will head out to a small creek in Adams County to listen for Barred Owl and Eastern Screech Owl. This is also the only place in the entire state of Ohio where Chuck-will’s-widow breeds. Then we’ll head back to the lodge for a good night’s sleep after an action-packed day.
Overnight: Shawnee State Park Lodge
Morning at Shawnee and transfer north
We will spend one more morning up at the top of the mountains, listening to the dawn chorus and searching for new migrants. Anything can show up in these trees, including over 20 different species of warbler, so hopefully we will be able to dig up something new that we didn’t get the previous day, such as Tennessee Warbler or Scarlet Tanager. We may also need to spend a little time cleaning up on southern specialty species. After a nice, relaxing morning of enjoying the new migrants, we will begin our long journey north towards Lake Erie. Depending on time and reports, we may make brief stops along the way in Chillicothe or Columbus before eventually getting to Oregon, Ohio, our base of operations for the next several days.
Magee Marsh and Northwest Ohio
Over the next three days we will experience the true greatness and fascination of spring migration in Ohio as we visit Magee Marsh and the numerous other parks along the Lake Erie shoreline! Spending most mornings at the Magee Marsh boardwalk, we will be treated to eye-level looks at a great diversity of warblers and migrants as they drip from the trees like rain droplets. This will also give us a chance to see how drastically things can change from one day to the next with different waves of birds moving through. One day may be dominated by Chestnut-sided and Black-throated Blue Warblers and the next by Bay-breasted and Cape May Warblers, with little to none left of the previous day. Expect to experience things like Magnolia Warbler bouncing in trees right above your head and Northern Waterthrush foraging on the marshy leaf litter under the boardwalk. Like in previous days, we will take special interest in targeting any warbler or other migrant we still need for the trip, especially some of the later migrants like Wilson’s Warbler and Canada Warbler.
There is great diversity of habitats here which provide for all species of birds from warblers to shorebirds. We usually see breeding-plumage Dunlin and American Golden Plover in great numbers at the brand-new and fantastic Howard Marsh. This is a site specially managed with birds in mind, as the water levels are controlled to aid shorebirds on migration. We will also explore some unique areas to the west in Toledo like the pine and oak savanna at Oak Openings Preserve. It is here we will find one of Ohio’s breeding populations of the colorful Lark Sparrow as well as plenty of singing Blue-winged Warblers and noisy Red-headed Woodpeckers foraging in stands of dead trees.
Our final morning together may allow for a quick visit to Pearson Metropark or the boardwalk at Maumee Bay State Park to see any new migrants that came in. After this we will make the approximately 45-minute drive to Detroit International airport for drop-off and conclusion of the trip.
Will we do any birding the first day?
YES! – Assuming that everyone’s flight arrives before dark. One of our first targets is only a few minutes from from the airport.
How should I dress for the tour?
Check the weather for the destination as close to your departure date as possible, and dress accordingly for your comfort level. You can also review our What to Bring page for more information.
Besides clothes, what do I need to bring?
There are many items the will be useful to you while on a Bird Treks tour. We have put together our list of recommendations on the What to Bring page.
What language are tours conducted in?
Our tours are all conducted in English, but we do have some experience working with client that don’t speak English well – Some English would be needed for safety reasons. In locations where another language is predominately spoken, a native guide may accompany the tour.
Can you help me book flights?
Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
Can you book accommodation for us the night before the tour starts or the night the tour ends?
While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour.
NOTE: Most often it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment where the guide is staying.
Do you provide trip insurance?
No, we do not. We find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Are meals included?
For most tours, meals are included in the tour price. This may include a hotel-provided breakfast, or guide-provided box lunches. For dinners, we strive to find interesting and delicious local restaurants – this allows us to give back to the local economy, and find exciting new place to eat.