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In 1998, Greg zig-zagged 130,000 miles across the USA, while trying to hold down a full-time job, aspiring to reach at least 700 species of birds in one calendar year. "The Big Year," a novel by Mark Obmascik detailed his travails alongside two competitors. The book was later turned into a movie of the same title that starred Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson!

Category Archives: Big Year Trip Report

Ohio-West Virginia Day 6

people on the Magee Marsh boardwalk
Birders on the Magee Marsh boardwalk – photo by Greg Miller


This is trip #4 of 11 Big Year Tours for Wildside Nature Tours. We birded in West Virginia and Ohio looking for spring migrants. This tour is especially good for Eastern Wood Warblers. There are 38 species of warblers possible on this itinerary, but not all are likely. So far, we have seen 32 of the 38 possible species of warblers. This is an excellent number given the wind and weather conditions. It’s been cold and the winds have been out of the north save for a single day earlier this week. (winds out of the south are coveted by birders here)

Today we visited the Magee Marsh boardwalk, Magee Marsh Estuary Trail, the Boss Unit of Ottawa NWR, Oak Openings Metropark, and the inland pond at Maumee Bay State Park.

Highlights today included an Orange-crowned Warbler before the small square on the boardwalk, a Yellow-breasted Chat near the same location as last year on the East Entrance extension on the boardwalk, Lark Sparrows at Reed & Girdham in Oak Openings, a Hairy Woodpecker at the Buehner Center at Oak Openings, and a Bonaparte’s Gull at the inland pond at Maumee Bay State Park.

And it was great to see the boardwalk start to fill with people as birders began arriving for The Biggest Week in American Birding festival.

Our day’s total is 92 species and our Ohio-West Virginia tour total after day 6 is 156. The Big Year Tours total is now 368.


Ohio-West Virginia Day 5

We finally made it back to Disneyland for Birders–Northwest Ohio in May. Warblerpalooza. And we visited Magee Marsh WMA, Maumee Bay State Park, and Pearson Metropark.

Scarlet Tanager at Magee Marsh WMA
Scarlet Tanager at Magee Marsh WMA – photo by Greg Miller


It was downright cold today with temperatures barely reaching 50 F with a brisk wind. Birds were few, but variety was decent. We tallied 83 species on the day with 12 species of warblers.

Far and away the rarest bird of the day was a light morph Rough-legged Hawk flying over Maumee Bay State Park boardwalk. This bird should be well on its way north to the Arctic to feed on lemmings. What is it still doing here in Ohio? Eating pie at Blackberry Corners? (haha. I couldn’t resist) The red morph Eastern Screech-Owl gets the award for being the cutest as it stuck its face out of a tiny owl box on the boardwalk also at Maumee Bay State Park. And an Orange-crowned Warbler was the best warbler of the day showing off to many near #7 on the Magee Marsh boardwalk.

Our trip total is up to 148 species and the Big Year Tours total is now 366 species. Our participants have done a marvelous job of finding birds and helping immensely by pointing out birds to other team members. It’s been a satisfying trip with a bunch of happy campers. Our warbler total is still 32. While the winds aren’t doing us any favors, I certainly can wish for some surprises tomorrow.

More birding in Northwest Ohio is on the agenda for tomorrow. Now it’s time for some shut eye…


Ohio-West Virginia Day 4

Today was fairly cool with a chilly north wind. We drove from Portsmouth, Ohio to Upper Sandusky, Ohio with pit stops at Glacier Ridge Metro Park in Dublin, Ohio and Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve near Kenton, Ohio. We had no time left to bird Killdeer Plains WMA. But we did squeeze in a late attempt for the Western Tanager in Upper Sandusky. Unfortunately, we arrived too late in Upper Sandusky. Ok. It was after 8pm, but at least we had daylight and we tried.

Some highlights from today include Virginia Rail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Vesper Sparrow, and Bobolink plus 11 species of warblers. Only Black-throated Blue Warbler was a new species of warbler bringing the trip total number of warbler species to 32.

Total species for the day was 82. Trip total is now 140 species. The Big Year Tour total is 362.

Tonight we are only 1 hour 15 minutes away from Magee Marsh Wildlife Management Area near Oak Harbor, Ohio–Thee Pinnacle of Warblerdom in May. I will look at radar and winds tonight and determine a plan for tomorrow.

Remember to check out the species lists for each of our trips. This trip list is being updated daily while we are on tours. Species List is here. And take a look at our upcoming trips at


Ohio-West Virginia Day 3

Hello from Southern Ohio right down on the Ohio River! What a day this was! We had rain overnight and NEXRAD radar looked great for Southern Ohio this morning. I was optimistic. Our first stop in Shawnee State Forest was decent, but not outstanding. Second stop was better. Time after time we added new species of warblers. By day’s end we had tallied a total of 24 species of warblers!

Pond Lick Run in Shawnee State Forest
Pond Lick Run in Shawnee State Forest – photo by Greg Miller


Shawnee State Forest was just as beautiful as ever. Wildflowers were still in bloom although some plants like the trilliums were almost done. Butterflies were out in abundance with Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Zebra Swallowtails putting on a special show.

Tomorrow we pack up and bird our way northward through Columbus. Tomorrow’s birding will target a few odds and ends. We’ll hit a couple migrant traps, too.

Our trip total list of warblers now stands at 31 species! Of the 38 species of regularly occurring Eastern Wood Warblers there are only 7 more species that are possible save for an accidental surprise. And of those seven, three are quite rare. The list of remaining warblers: Kirtland’s Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, and Canada Warbler.

As always, you can check out the species list for each tour (plus the overall list) which I attempt to update daily during every trip on the Species Total tab of

Today’s total species count was 84. The Ohio-West Virginia total is 130 at the end of day 3. And the total for the Big Year Tours is now 360 species.

This is the 4th tour out of 11 tours that I am doing this year in the Lower 48 States with Wildside Nature Tours. We are attempting to see 500 species of birds with tour participants in one calendar year. And we are raising money for American Birding Association’s Young Birders. Many thanks to Leica for sponsoring my optics with binoculars, telescope, and camera.

If you’d like to take one or more of these tours with me, check out my list of tours at

Last year I ran a similar tour and had 33 species of warblers before Biggest Week ever began. Hopefully we can best that record this year.

See you all at Biggest Week in American Birding!

Ohio-West Virginia Days 1 & 2

West entrance to Magee Marsh Bird Trail
West entrance to Magee Marsh Bird Trail – Photo by Greg Miller


This is the fourth Big Year tour of 11 tours for the year I am doing with Wildside Nature Tours. The tour officially kicked off with a 30-minute drive to the famous Magee Marsh Bird Trail. This is the same boardwalk that gets so much attention in May during Biggest Week in American Birding.

Here we started out with over 50 species in a couple hours including Snowy Egret, Orange-crowned Warbler, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Pine Warbler, an early Northern Waterthrush, and Hermit Thrush.

We stopped in East Central Ohio in the heart of Amish Country for a hearty meal at Dutch Valley Restaurant. After all, riding along in a van is such hard work.

Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek, OH - photo by Greg Miller
Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek, OH – photo by Greg Miller


But we still had a long way to go. Over 400 miles total. In the rain…

wet highways in West Virginia
wet highways in West Virginia – photo by Greg Miller


We finally arrived at our hotel rather worn out. Only half of us made it to dinner. But it was yummy.

Dirty Ernie's BBQ
Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit near Fayetteville, WV – photo by Greg Miller


Day 2 was very full. We birded several areas near New River Gorge National River. Our top target was seen and heard by all of us by 10am. Yes. We did it in the rain. Yes. It took lots of patience. But the reward was totally worth it. Swainson’s Warbler! Major CHA-CHING! No. I did not get a photo. It was r-a-i-n-i-n-g. And no, it was not close enough for my waterproof point-and-shoot. So just use your imagination. Ok?

Some of the other incidental birds we saw while looking for the Swainson’s Warbler included Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Towhee, a hooting Barred Owl, and a singing Yellow-throated Vireo.

We left New River Gorge and headed north returning to Ohio again. We stopped at Huntington for a not-on-purpose long lunch before birding Crown City WMA in Gallia County in Southeast Ohio near the Ohio River. Was that enough prepositions for one sentence? Yes. Both eyes are a little glazed over this evening.

Crown City was good again with Henslow’s Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Acadian Flycatcher, Broad-winged Hawk, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Cerulean, Blue-winged, Blackburnian, Hooded, and Kentucky Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Our afternoon adventure was cut a bit short with rumbles of thunder. The dark skies flashed occasionally with lightning. It is probably just as well as I would be writing this blog an hour or two later.

We did our checklists for day 1 & 2 tonight at dinner. Our official tally for yesterday was 70 and today 68. Our trip total after a couple days of much driving stands at 109 species. My Big Year Tour total is now at 355 species.

Tomorrow promises to be an exciting day. We are headed to one of my favorite places in Ohio–Shawnee State Forest. And we will spend the entire day birding there.

Now it is time for this weary adventurer to recharge his batteries. Sleep is near.

Louisiana-Texas Day 6

Day 6. Trip 3 of 11 with Wildside Nature Tours. Short update tonight. I am bushed. Today was better with 114 species for the day. Trip total stands at 181. Year total up to 337 now. Highlights today included the sighting of a bobcat bounding across the road in a flash at Anahuac NWR! And… Continue Reading

Louisiana-Texas Day 5

I cannot believe it is already Day 5 of our Big Year Tour with Wildside Nature Tours! The week has gone so fast with great places to explore, fabulous birds, and terrific places to eat. It has been a grand experience. I looked at radar and decided to head directly west this morning. Our first… Continue Reading

Louisiana-Texas Day 4

Today is the fourth day of my third Big Year Tour in 2016 with Wildside Nature Tours. Here is a quick summary of today’s adventures. When I looked at the hi-def composite NEXRAD from University of Wisconsin this morning at 5:15am I changed our day’s itinerary.   So we left Lake Charles and headed directly… Continue Reading

Florida Trip Report

Another week whooshed by! And El Niño strikes again with cooler weather and heavy rains. We saw a total of 159 species despite the inclement weather.   Our first full day of birding started out with an unexpected bird! Soon after we arrived at Viera Wetlands I heard a King Rail call. And then we… Continue Reading

Southern California Trip Report

Wow! That week went incredibly fast! 208 species! I was anticipating about 160 species total. The number is good. But what matters is uniqueness. What do I mean? Well, getting a great bird in Southern California may be a common bird on another tour. In short, it means more effort to see a bird we’ll… Continue Reading

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