The Best of the Midwest:
Birding Michigan and Ohio


Dates: May 31 - June 6, 2020

$1,925 per person | ($500 deposit due upon registration)
7 participants max

Prairie potholes, boreal bogs, enigmatic endangered warblers, birding in Michigan and Ohio has surprises around every corner. Our trip will take us to a wide variety of habitats including open prairies (Sharp-tailed Grouse, Western Meadowlark, LeConte’s Sparrow, Dickcissel), boreal forests (Spruce Grouse, Canada Jay, Connecticut Warbler), pine-oak woodlands (Kirtland’s Warbler, Lark Sparrow, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-headed Woodpecker), and unique wetlands (Yellow Rail, Black-necked Stilt, American White Pelican, Whooping Crane). A truly exciting week of Midwest birding!

Additional Information

Chip Darmstadt is the executive director of the North Branch Nature Center and an avid birder and naturalist. Chip has guided birding trips to Ecuador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and around the US for over twenty years. Zac Cota is an AmeriCorps Teacher/Naturalist at North Branch Nature Center who loves sharing his passion for birds with others.

Both guides are equipped with high quality spotting scopes and a plethora of birding books and resources.

All of the lodging is in standard hotels. The listed price is for a double, but singles may be available.

Be prepared for mosquitoes and other biting insects! While no strenuous hiking is expected, we will spend plenty of time walking on park trails.

What’s included:

  • All lodging and some breakfasts at hotels
  • Two expert naturalist guides
  • Any entrance fees and park admissions, including a Kirtland’s Warbler tour
  • Transportation in a 15-passenger van

What is not included:

  • Airfare (and airport departure tax)
  • gratuities
  • extras in hotels (e.g., room service, laundry, etc)
  • most meals and any alcoholic beverages.

Ready for the Midwest?
Email [email protected] to get signed up.


Day 1 (Sun 5/31): Central Michigan forests and fields

After arriving in Detroit we’ll hit the ground running. Our first stop, Waterloo State Recreation Area, is an over 20,000-acre park with miles of trails weaving through open woods and along numerous small lakes. This will be our best chance to find southern songbirds, such as Kentucky, Cerulean, and Prothonotary Warblers, as well as Acadian Flycatcher and White-eyed Vireo. We’ll continue north from here to Sharonville State Game Area, a grassland with a high density of nesting sparrows. Scanning the open fields might yield Henslow’s, Grasshopper, Field, Clay-colored, Savannah, and Song Sparrows, as well as Dickcissel, Bobolink, and Eastern Meadowlark. From here we head to dinner and our hotel further north in Grayling.

Day 2 (Mon 6/1): Kirtland’s Warbler tour, Seney NWR (Upper Peninsula)

Kirtland’s Warbler is the star attraction for day two. We’ll be packed up and out in time for a 7am guided tour at Hartwick Pines State Park. Afterwards we head further north to the Upper Peninsula where we will spend the next two nights. After lunch in Saint Ignace we’ll head to Seney National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge boasts dozens of nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swan, the largest waterfowl in the continent, which returned from brink of extinction thanks to conservation efforts. Although they are very secretive, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the Gray Wolf pack that calls Seney NWR home. Dinner on the Saint Ignace waterfront and an early bedtime.

Day 3 (Tue 6/2): Prairie potholes, boreal forests (Upper Peninsula)

Wake up early and tune your ears! Arriving at Munuscong Potholes before dawn gives us our best chance to hear the enigmatic Yellow Rail, a seldom seen and much sought after skulker of the prairie potholes. Walking the road around the potholes provides an opportunity to see Sharp-tailed Grouse, Sedge Wren, LeConte’s Sparrow, and Upland Sandpiper. Just down the road, a trail to the mouth of the Munuscong River may have riparian songbirds as well as herons and Black Tern. We head west from here and have a bag lunch along the Dryburg Grasslands. Here we have another chance to find Sharp-tailed Grouse, Eastern Meadowlark, and sparrows. A dizzying change in habitat happens next, as a 30-minute drive finds us traversing forest roads deep in the boreal forest. After a busy day of birding we’ll return to the hotel by 5pm. For those who still have some energy left, an optional after dinner outing will visit Point La Barbe. This park features beaches and wetlands looking south toward the Straits of Mackinac, separating Lakes Michigan and Huron (outing will reroute to potholes if YERA is missed in the AM).

 Day 4 (Wed 6/3): Wetland walks and rambles (Central Lower Peninsula)

After an early and busy day yesterday, we have a later start to a more leisurely day today. We’ll spend most of the day traversing the state, making it to Ohio to spend the next three nights. On our way south we’ll make two birding stops. The first is to Houghton Lake Wildlife Research Area, a sedge marsh with an extensive boardwalk trail. Virginia Rail and Sora are possibilities, as well as Sedge Wren and American Bittern. We’ll get lunch in Houghton Lake before heading further south. Our next stop is at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, where we may see Forster’s Tern, Least Bittern, American White Pelican, and nesting Prothonotary Warbler. Afterwards we head to Toledo and settle into the hotel where we will spend the next three nights.

Day 5 (Thu 6/4): Southern Forests (Lower Peninsula, Ohio)

We will spend most of today in big, open forests. Oak Openings is a unique park home to an array of rare and endangered flora and fauna, including Prickly pear cactus, Karner Blue Butterfly, and Blanding’s Turtle. It is also a breeding site for Red-headed Woodpecker, Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow, and Chuck-will’s-widow. We’ll spend the entire morning wandering the park before heading north to Lake Hudson recreation area. Several rarities have been spotted in that area, including Western Meadowlark, Loggerhead Shrike, and Whooping Crane. After dinner in Toledo there will be and optional evening trip returning to Oak Openings in search of nightjars and owls.

Day 6 (Fri 6/5): Lakeside marshes (Ohio)

Our final birding day of the trip takes us to the marsh lined southern shore of Lake Erie. We’ll stop by Pearson Metropark in the morning, a patchwork of woods and wetlands where Acadian Flycatcher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo are possibilities. From there we head to a series of conserved marshes including the famous Magee Marsh, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Metzger Marsh. Throughout the day we’ll search for waterfowl, wading birds, and migrating shorebirds. Targets include King Rail, Wilson’s Phalarope, Black-necked Stilt, Common Gallinule, Forster’s Tern, and Ruddy Duck. Our last stop of the trip, Maumee Bay, has extensive sandy beaches where we can enjoy Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and Red Knot before returning to our hotel.

Day 7 (Sat 6/6): Depart Detroit, 10am flight out.

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7