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Ready to Take Your Birding Skills to the Next Level?  Try Our 1-Day BIG DAY BONANZA!

A BIG DAY is one of the fastest-paced, most exciting events in all of birding:  a literal race to see how many species of birds you can find and identify within a particular geographic area over a 24 hour period.  Are you a beginner or  moderately experienced birder looking to take the next step?  Then this BIG DAY BONANZA could be your ticket.  Whether you are visiting for Biggest Week in American Birding, live nearby or are looking to pump up your trip list this May, then you may find this offering to your liking.  In addition to the fast pace of the tour, you will learn HOW to maximize species diversity on day lists:  understanding the importance of scouting, the state of migration and how it impacts Big Day strategy, time management and so much more.  The BIG DAY BONANZA can be done in NW Ohio only, or over the entire state of Ohio, depending on preference.  Here is what a day in NW Ohio could look like:

As the clock strikes midnight (start time is entirely up to you, but a "real" Big Day always starts at 12:00:01!), we may find ourselves alone in the western Lake Erie marshes.  But silent, it won't be.  Marsh Wrens will be sounding off all around and Sora and Virginia Rails are very likely as well.  With some luck, we could have the rarer Sedge Wren staked out and we’ll have to keep a sharp ear ready for King Rail, American and Least Bittern, all of which are possible.  There are multiple lakeshore locations we will visit and we should add American Woodcock, Common Gallinule, Eastern Screech-owl and a number of other more common species before we head west.

By 3am, we will find ourselves west of Toledo with a couple of hours left to bird in the darkness.  We will target a number of nocturnal species, as well as species that will often call in the darkness:  Barred Owl, Whip-poor-will, Grasshopper Sparrow and maybe Yellow-billed or Black-billed Cuckoo.  The dawn chorus will begin with the first singing American Robins, and by 5am we should have a list of maybe 20 or 25 species.  The forests and grasslands west of Toledo are perfect to kick the BIG DAY BONANZA into high gear.  Nesting specialties are the targets here, including Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeaks, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpeckers and a whole host of warblers that can be a real challenge along the lakeshore migrant traps:  Hooded, Pine, Blue-winged, Yellow-throated and Louisiana Waterthrush will all be high on our list.  Other specialties of the area include Acadian Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Broad-winged and Red-shouldered Hawks, Orchard Oriole and much more. 

We will head back toward Lake Erie and its migrant traps and marshes by late morning and our species list will likely top 100 already.  The afternoon will focus on four distinct areas:  ducks, shorebirds, migrant songbirds and hard-to-find “pick-ups”.  Our first stop east of Toledo is a relatively little-known spot that offers some of the best birding in all of Ohio.  We will likely add 15-20 species of birds in this one location, including a number of ducks and shorebirds, and migrant songbirds.  We will target hard-to-find (in this season) species like Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Ruddy Duck and Red-breasted Merganser.  The open expanses here often host a rarity or two, so we may not be too surprised if we turn up an ibis or an American White Pelican.  A couple of “pick-ups” like Osprey and Cattle Egret later, we will be heading west again, toward more popular birding areas in Lucas and Ottawa Counties. 

Mid-late afternoon often brings lulls, but target species like Upland Sandpiper and Black Tern should keep our spirits high.  We will finish the day at well-known migrant traps looking to get any and all species we may have missed during the day.  It will be difficult to look away from all of the great migrants we will be sure to encounter, but our focus will be squarely on those holes on our list that still need filled.  We will be tired, maybe very tired, but we won’t stop until we are absolutely satisfied that we have run out of time, or birds.  


Depending on the weather and the state of the migration, you can expect 150 or more species on this day alone.