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Kirtland’s Warbler, Bicknell’s Thrush and more

Birdquest's Michigan & New Hampshire birding tour is one of the more unusual North American birdwatching trips on offer. Our Michigan & New Hampshire tour stars Kirtland's Warbler and Bicknell's Thrush, but also features a wide variety of other birds.

Monday 26th May — Sunday 1st June 2014
(7 days)

Leaders: Simon Mitchell and a second Birdquest leader

Group Size Limit: 12

Tour Category: Easy to Moderate

Our Michigan & New Hampshire birding tour is one of a long series of North America bird tours crafted by Birdquest. Our Michigan & New Hampshire tour stars Kirtland's Warbler and Bicknell's Thrush, but also features a wide variety of other birds.

Every part of the world has its emblematic bird species and, for North America, the rare Kirtland’s Warbler is right up there at the top. Bachman’s Warbler tragically slipped away before it could be helped recover from human impact on its habitat, but, in contrast, the Kirtland’s Warbler story is one of success. Reduced by habitat loss and fragmentation, and brood parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds, to only around 400-500 individuals by the early 1970s, it took another two decades of careful habitat management and ultimately the trapping of cowbirds before breeding productivity recovered and population numbers started to significantly increase. Now the population is probably around 4500 individuals and its status has gone from endangered to near-threatened.

This attractive bird is both highly sought-after and very hard to get on one’s life list unless one visits its breeding grounds, which are predominantly in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The birds seem to migrate pretty much non-stop between their rather remote and rarely visited winter quarters in the southern Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands and their breeding grounds, so unless you spend a lot of time looking for migrants at Point Pelee or Magee Marsh, you are probably going to have to visit Michigan to encounter this very special bird.

Fortunately, the efforts of the Forest Service, who have carefully managed the Jack Pine forests over large areas in the Lower Peninsula to try and help the species recover, have really had a profound effect in recent times and, with the birds now far more common than they were a decade or two ago, we can expect some great views during this short tour at the very peak of Kirtland’s Warbler territorial activity.

The only other bird species that breeds only in the Northeastern United States (and adjacent Canada) is the uncommon Bicknell’s Thrush, a species that was long overlooked until research showed that, rather than just being a race of Gray-cheeked Thrush, it was a distinct and vulnerable species of the high mountains of the region. Seeing this species on its breeding grounds is the only realistic option for most of us, for it is decidedly uncommon on migration on the East Coast and very secretive and hard to see on its wintering grounds in the Greater Antilles (predominantly in the forests of Hispaniola). Bicknell’s Thrush in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is the second star-turn in our pleasing journey through America’s cool-temperate-zone woodlands.

We start our travels at Detroit in southern Michigan and from there head for the Jack Pine forests of northeastern part of the Lower Peninsula and our encounter with Kirtland’s Warbler.

Many other birds can be found in the mosaic of habitats in this region, consisting of coniferous and mixed forests, meadows and wetlands, including Trumpeter Swan, Bald Eagle, Wild Turkey, Sandhill Crane, Whip-poor-will, Black-capped Chickadee and Bobolink.

After returning to Detroit and flying to Burlington in northern Vermont, we will cross the state line into adjacent New Hampshire and explore the rich forests of the White Mountains.

The bird here is of course Bicknell’s Thrush, and it requires a bit of hiking effort to get to grips with, for the species mainly breeds above 3000ft (914m). We will be visiting one of the very best areas for the species, where we can be virtually sure of success.

A wide selection of other species occurs in the White Mountains and amongst the more interesting of these are Philadelphia Vireo, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Tennessee Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler and Rusty Blackbird.

(Note: The above is a summary of the tour. For more information please download the detailed, day-by-day itinerary. The button is at the top right of the page.)

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/motels are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus/passenger van or car. Roads in the Bahamas are rather variable in quality, but distances are short.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there will be one (possibly two) moderate grade uphill hike in the White Mountains in search of Bicknell’s Thrush and other higher altitude specialities.

Climate: Cool to warm, with a mix of sunny and overcast weather (some rain is likely).

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Linkable Birdquest: North Carolina & The Gulf Stream

Tour Price: £1540, €1820, $2340 Detroit/Burlington.

Price includes all transportation (including Detroit-Burlington flight), all accommodations, all meals, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Single Room Supplement: £232, €274, $353.

Deposit: £210, €250, $320.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

Download Detailed Itinerary 99kbpdf logo View Tour Report 1

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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