The Warbler Train: May 25—Jun 06, 2016

Kirtland's to Golden-cheeks

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Departs: Detroit, MI
Ends: Austin, TX
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Greg Lopez
Download Itinerary: PDF (1012 KB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is a freelance artist, author, and environmental consultant living in Cape M...


Louise Zemaitis

Louise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, New Jersey where she is a po...

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Kirtland's Warbler

Kirtland’s Warbler— Photo: Michael O’Brien


A remarkable north-south route through America’s heartland aboard Amtrak trains, linking Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Ohio’s famous Magee Marsh, East Texas, and the Edwards Plateau. 

Inspired by our wildly popular “Birding Across America by Train” tour, “The Warbler Train” is another amazing opportunity to step back in time to an era when train travel was the best way to move from one part of the country to another. This remarkable adventure will traverse an astounding array of habitats in search of birds, with a particular emphasis on warblers. As many as 30 or more warbler species are likely on this tour, including the very localized Kirtland’s and Golden-cheeked.

Our trip begins with a visit to Ohio’s famed Magee Marsh, a tiny stretch of woods along the Lake Erie shoreline, where migrating songbirds concentrate on their way north. Views of birds here can be astounding, with some often just a few feet away! During the latter part of the migration season, we hope to intersect some of the later migrant warblers such as Canada, Mourning, and possibly Connecticut. We will then head north to the wilds of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, home to the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. Although Kirtland’s will be a central focus, we’ll have three days of exploration to enjoy this region’s delightful array of songbirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds. This first segment of our tour concludes when we board an Amtrak train in Detroit and begin heading south through agricultural and pastureland of the Mississippi River basin.

A two-night stop in Longview, Texas, will give us a chance to visit habitats typical of the Deep South. Swampy woods near Caddo Lake State Park and nearby Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge are home to the stunning Hooded and Prothonotary warblers, as well as the much less common and more cryptic Swainson’s Warbler. During our time in the East Texas “Pineywoods,” we should also run across the flashy Red-headed Woodpecker and the diminutive Brown-headed Nuthatch. We’ll then re-board Amtrak for a beautiful ride west and south across open oak savannah and prairie.

The final segment of our tour takes place in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, based out of Austin. The Hill Country is famous for its mix of eastern and western species, so we can expect many additions to our trip list. The centerpiece of our time here will be Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, formed in 1992 specifically to protect the breeding habitat of two highly localized and endangered species: Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler. Deep canyons etched into early Cretaceous limestone will create a lovely backdrop as we search for these special birds.

Conditions at all hotels good to very good; cuisine very good; conditions aboard Amtrak good, with comfortable beds and showers, small rooms; considerable walking, sometimes on uneven terrain; a mix of weather conditions likely, with warm weather expected in the South and cool weather expected in the North.