Use Your Birding & Nature Vacation to Revitalize Your Mind and Body, and your afternoons are the perfect opportunity to take personal time. Spend yours as you please... napping, reading, hot tubbing, walking, journaling, site seeing, Popcorn Presentation, etc.
This is where you get to know the field trips. Take a leisurely scroll or click a trip name to go straight to its description. Keep in mind as we travel to outdoor locations, after we depart our breakfast location modern restroom facilities are limited in availability on most trips. In response to weather conditions and bird movement, trip routes are subject to adjustment and a few trips may overlap territory.
Carpool Trips Share a ride to minimize impact, these trips return around 1pm. We recommend driving yourself if you want to slip in late or slip out early... just let us know.
• Monday – Birding by Butt
• Tuesday – Fayette Station
• Wednesday – Summerlee Rail Trail
• Thursday – Long Point Walk
• Friday – ACE Reptiles & Amphibians
• Saturday – Wolf Creek Walk
Gold Standard Trips All are absolute gems! Limited to fifteen persons plus guides, these trips travel by big blue bus with a return time around 1pm.
• Monday – Never Been There
• Monday – Birding the Summit *NEW*
• Tuesday – Glade Creek
• Tuesday – Sugar Creek
• Wednesday – Birding the Summit *NEW*
• Wednesday – Sugar Creek
• Thursday – Burnwood to Babcock
• Thursday – Sugar Creek
• Friday – Fayette Station
• Friday – Sugar Creek
• Saturday – Sugar Creek
• Saturday – Burnwood to Babcock
Premium Trips Are an additional $50/person to the base package price. Limited to ten persons plus guides, these small groups roll through the afternoon in deluxe transportation via suv or van with a return time around 3:30pm.
• Tuesday – Bolt Mountain
• Wednesday – Bolt Mountain
• Thursday – Dams, Rivers, Streams & Waterfalls *NEW*
• Friday – Going for Gold
• Saturday – Muddlety Wetlands & Ridges
All Day Trips Are an additional $25/person to the base package price and travel by a minibus with bucket seats; limited to twelve persons plus guides; return around 4pm.
• Tuesday – Burnwood to Babcock
• Wednesday – Bobolinks to Bald Eagles *this trip stops for dinner en-route and may return as late as 6:30pm
• Thursday – Cranberry Original *in a big blue bus with up to fifteen participants plus guides; stops for dinner en-route and may return as late as 6:30pm
• Friday – Guide's Choice *REDUX*
• Saturday – Cranberry Glades
♦ Lodging check-in with the lodging provider the day before the first field trip and check-out the day after the last field trip.
♦ Festival check-in depends on the Package you select; details are in your registration Confirmation.
♦ ♦ Check-in items you will be provided include a checklist, personal itinerary and name tag.
♦ Breakfast is served hot buffet style at 6am in an outdoor pavilion at Burnwood (exception Birding by Butt).
♦ Field trips depart Burnwood by 7am (exception Birding by Butt).
♦ Trip return times vary: Carpools and Gold Standard by 1pm; Premiums by 3:30pm; All-Days by 4pm (exception Wednesday Bobolinks to Bald Eagles and Thursday Cranberry Original by 6:30pm).
♦ Trips return to Burnwood.
♦ Transportation to and from breakfast, dinner, presentations, lodging, and airport is not provided.
♦ Field Trip transportation is provided (exception Carpool trips).
♦ ♦ Gold Standard's are in a big blue bus.
♦ ♦ Premium's are by SUV or van.
♦ ♦ All Day's are by minibus with bucket seats (exception Cranberry Original uses a big blue bus).
♦ Presentations and Dinners are in the Meadows at Opossum Creek Retreat.
♦ Evening Presentations immediately follow dinner.
♦ Directions and maps are provided prior to arrival.
Birding by Butt
Offered in full Monday only, Birding by Butt is a unique part of our Festival for first-timers and veterans alike. After you arrive at our headquarters, the Meadows at the bird-rich grounds of Opossum Creek Retreat, we take time to refresh your knowledge of optics, tune your ears, sight your eyes, and get into the mode as we take short walks around the property for some old school bird and nature watching.
An opportunity to spend time with those you’ll bird with through your time with us, sometimes birding becomes secondary to getting acquainted with fellow bird and nature enthusiasts, hosts, guides and volunteers who love teaching and sharing the art and lifestyle of bird and nature watching.
The setting is best described as laid back. Imagine sipping a hot cup of coffee in the morning on the porch enjoying the morning chorus - while being treated to the song and fiery looks at Scarlet Tanager, not an occurrence that happens every year but certainly one that does happen. Hooded Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, and Northern Parula are in abundance here, and with plenty of spotting scopes and well-trained eyes on hand many people find themselves seeing the birds often enough that they turn from identification to observing behavior.
Dr. Bill Hilton Jr. demonstrates the “how and why” of banding and using field marks for identification. A mothing area may be staged if conditions permit. Botanizing is lush. And you never know when fallout could happen.
*Carpool Monday. Coffee is ready at 6am. Breakfast is ready at 8am. Impromptu and relaxed guided walks begin after lunch. Ends at 1pm.
Never Been There
This field trip was added in 2018 to explore new territories for veteran Festival family. Now it's a keeper and a Gold Standard. Heading toward Brooklyn, we’ll travel the plateau through farm country spending time looking through fields, mixed mesophytic forests and edges for a variety of bird species, then descend almost 800 feet in elevation into the New River Gorge National Park with several stops exploring the historic river corridor where old coal towns have been long reclaimed by the forests.
Worm-eating Warbler, Wood Thrush, American Redstart, sparrows, larks... let’s just see what we find!
*The initial bus ride to the first stop is ~20 minutes. Participants are in and out of the bus with minimal hiking between stops. Return ride is ~40 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
*Gold Standard Monday. Travel by big blue bus, limited to fifteen participants plus guides.
A rim to rim extravaganza that allows you to see the spectacular New River Gorge and historically famous New River Gorge Bridge from the north rim, and from nearly 900 feet below at river level, then back up to the south rim. As birders, we all know when the habitat changes, so do the birds. We’ll ease our way back up the south side of the Gorge to a favorite local spot called “Birds Eye View.” A few of the birdy targets for this trip are Louisiana Waterthrush, many wood warblers and opportunity for a variety of migratory songbirds. Waterfalls and other natural features enhance this trip!
*The initial ride is ~7 minutes. Participants will experience little to no hiking as we will be on and off the bus or vehicles to spend time at various locations. Return ride is ~15 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
*Gold Standard Friday. Travel by big blue bus, limited to fifteen participants plus guides.
Flowing into the heart of New River, Glade Creek offers true exploration of our major flyway. Year after year, point counts conducted along this corridor yield an unmatched diversity of species and it’s among the first places in our area to receive flocks of migrating warblers, vireos, orioles and tanagers. A treasure to our local birding community, we look forward to getting you into this birdy and beautiful part of the Gorge - rich in birds, botany and butterflies!
*The initial bus ride is ~45 minutes. The majority of the day is spent on a leisurely walk along a graveled Park Service road following the river. Return ride is ~60 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
*Gold Standard Tuesday. Travel by big blue bus, limited to fifteen participants plus guides.
Dams, Rivers, Streams & Waterfalls *NEW*
A trip into the New River valley, winding through the mountains to the confluence of the New and Gauley Rivers where the Kanawha River is born. Here, in the flood plain of the mighty Kanawha Falls, we reach the lowest elevation of any of our filed trips, home to Warbling Vireos, Baltimore Oriels, Spotted Sandpipers and Wood Ducks. The expanse of water also offers us a chance at a grand slam of swallow species and scope views of the river for lingering northbound waterfowl.
Stops along the way may include Hawks Nest Dam where we're hopeful to see Bald Eagles and Osprey; the scenic Cathedral Falls for that postcard selfie; a stroll through a riverside campground with towering sycamores quite often filled with a host of warblers, waxwings, and waders below. This historic and scenic field trip may produce great looks at a large number of birds, but it may also add motion sickness to your checklist.
*The initial suv ride is ~30 minutes. Be aware of the risk of developing motion sickness. We’re in and out of vehicles with minimum hiking between stops. Return ride is ~20 minutes, with a return time at ~3:30. Total trip ~8.5 hours.
*Premium Thursday. Travel by suv, limited to ten participants plus guides.
Summerlee Rail Trail
This easy, flat, paved walking trail has for many years been a most visited local birding hot spot; guests have commented about the wonderful birding on the trail next to the Holiday Lodge. White-eyed Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Wood Thursh, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ovenbird and Orchard Oriel are just a few of the targets.
The biodiversity on this trip is due to several factors, including the proximity of Route 19, the school complex, creek bed and town environment.
*The initial carpool ride is ~20 minutes and has only one stop. The majority of our time is spent walking less than 4 miles comfortably on a flat paved trail. Return ride is ~20 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
Birding the Summit*NEW*
Fayette County, WV played host the the 2019 World Scouting Jamboree and we found a great way to make use of the 10,000 acre, half billion dollar, Summit Bechtel Reserve ... bird the heck out of it! The scouts call this their home for the next 100 years and you'll see why they're so excited about it.
We won't cover all 10,000 acres but we'll hit a few hot spots, including a lake, and a gorgeous spot called "Garden Ground" perched on a long, high ridge with a fabulous overlook, and we'll have lunch in the treetops... in the amazing Sustainability Treehouse to be precise. When we manage to pull ourselves away from this picnic spot there are a few other gens to hit before heading back.
We have been lucky to bird the property and have had some exciting sightings, like the Golden-winged Warbler, Grasshopper Sparrow, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and oriels. We're hoping for a Swainson's Warbler to make this the trifecta of trips!
*The initial suv ride of ~30 minutes. We’re in and out of vehicles with minimum hiking between stops. Return ride is ~30 minutes, with a return time at ~1. Total trip ~6 hours.
*Gold Standard Monday and Wednesday.Travel by big blue bus, limited to fifteen participants plus guides.
Providing spectacular scenic views, this trip was added to the Festival itinerary in 2005 and continues to receive rave reviews. It is a short ride and sure to please those with plant interests as well as bird watchers. Descending from a high ridge separating the New and Gauley Rivers, this trip provides the unique experience of exploring high, mid, and river level territories. We're hopeful to get to the river but winters are hard on back mountain roads so we'll go as far as we can. Birds commonly seen include Cerulean Warbler, Yellow and Black-billed Cuckoos, Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles.
*The initial ride is ~25 minutes. We’ll be in and out of vehicles with minimal hiking between stops. Return ride of ~60 minutes.
*Gold Standard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Travel by big bus, limited to fifteen participants and two or more guides. Return time ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
Long Point Walk
This 3.2 mile round-trip trail hike is along a prominent ridge jutting out into the New River Gorge, creating a marvelous migrant trap. The trail begins in a birdy parking lot, passes by a field behind a residential area, follows a woodland trail, then descends through rhododendron and mountain laurel. As one of our favorite hiking trails in the area, it provides a jaw dropping view of the world famous New River Gorge Bridge. Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager and Rose-breasted Grosbeak are among the target birds on this trip.
*The initial carpool ride is ~25 minutes. This carpool has only one stop and traverses a woodland trail, rated by the National Park Service as “intermediate” as it’s mostly level with a couple of rocky areas. Further improvements were made in 2017 to enhance accessibility. Return ride is ~25 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
Burnwood to Babcock
Babcock State Park is one of West Virginia’s premier state parks, and home to one of America’s most photographed grist mills in Mann's Creek Canyon. Filled with wonderful vistas and teaming with warblers and vireos, the area offers some of the best opportunities for Black-throated Green Warblers, Swainson's Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos.
*The initial bus ride is ~40 minutes. We’ll be in and out of the bus with plenty to explore and walking short distances along paved paths and mostly level dirt roads but with a couple of short hills. Expect more time on your feet on the All Day version which is not the easiest for those with knee trouble. Return ride is ~50 minutes.
*All Day Tuesday. + $25/person. Travel by minibus, limited to twelve participants plus guides. Return time at ~4pm. Total trip ~9 hours.
*Gold Standard Thursday and Saturday. Travel by big bus, limited to fifteen participants plus guides. Return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
Bobolinks to Bald Eagles
Covering one of the widest varieties of habitat and terrain through the course of the day than any of our trips, we start the morning at over 3000 feet elevation with Bobolinks at one of the highest points in Fayette County. This hill top is a wonderful vista and bobo nesting ground. From there, we’ll follow the water down to a different Glade Creek to an old barn and most serene spot. Warblers galore. Then continue the descent to river level in Hinton through several magical points along the way hoping to spot Bald Eagles, various waterfowl and swallows too numerous to count. We wrap up the trip with dinner riverside at Kirk’s Restaurant, and return to the Burnwood as late as 6:30pm.
*The initial bus ride is ~45 minutes. We’ll be in and out of the bus with minimum hiking between stops. Return ride is ~75 minutes, with a return time at ~6:30pm. Total trip ~11.5 hours.
*All Day Wednesday. + $25/person. Dinner at Kirk's is included. Travel by minibus. Limited to twelve participants plus guides.
Muddelty Wetlands & Ridges
Described by American Birding Association President Jeff Gordon as “the birdiest habitat in the Appalachians” this trip through varied habitat of wetlands and ridge tops offers quality looks at favorite migrants and resident birds, butterflies, plants and wildlife. If we’re lucky, we can stop to hug the century’s old largest tulip popular tree in West Virginia.
*The initial suv ride is ~50 minutes. We’re in and out of the suv’s with minimal hiking between stops. Return ride is ~45 minutes, with a return time at ~3:30pm. Total trip ~8.5 hours.
*Premium Saturday. + $50/person. Travel by suv. Limited to ten participants plus guides.
Cranberry Glades (and Original)
This is a true favorite that many returning participants continue to repeat. Year after year we hear it is “well worth the drive” from participants and guides alike. This All Day trip is an opportunity to take full advantage of the unique birding and flora found in a remnant of the glacial age. The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is among West Virginia’s most unique eco-systems as it consists of bogs and highland areas whose plant and bird life are similar to that found in the "muskegs" of the far north. The southern-most point in North America where some northern-most plant and bird species are found! A boardwalk through a botanical area is ripe with flora seen nowhere else in WV. Also often seen on this trip are abundant signs of black bear.
Birds normally encountered on this trip include Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blue, and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, singing Hermit Thrush, and species not normally encountered elsewhere in the state… Red-breasted Nuthatch and Red Crossbill.
*The initial bus ride is ~90 minutes. Participants are in and out of the bus at various stops with minimal walking on mostly level land, including a half-mile boardwalk mile loop that truly is slippery when wet. Return ride is ~120 minutes.
*Original All Day Thursday. + $25/person. Travel by big bus, limited to fifteen participants plus guides. Dinner en-route at Whistle Punk in Richwood is included. Return by ~6:30pm. Total trip ~11.5 hours.
*All Day Saturday. + $25/person. Travel by minibus, limited to twelve participants plus guides. Return by ~4pm. Total trip ~9 hours.
Wolf Creek Walk
Carpool to Wolf Creek Park's Wetlands Boardwalk, a favorite spot for many of our expert and local guides. An easy walk on mostly level ground through woodland trails and on boardwalk, we expect to see many birds including Blue-winged Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Black-and-white Warbler, Hooded Warbler, and diverse plant life. The site is an outdoor classroom, active research station and bird banding site since 2009. If weather permits we may have the opportunity to participate in banding research.
*The initial carpool ride is ~20 minutes. This is a one stop carpool trip with an easy walk on mostly level ground over woodland trails and boardwalk. Return ride is ~20 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
Guide's Choice *REDUX*
Every spring prior to the Festival, the hosts, volunteers, and guides are birding and scouting. On most occasions we spot some interesting birds that are not in our regular field trip territories. This trip takes us in search of some of those species and territories.
Are the Peregrines back on the old pine tree perch? Are there wayward waterfowl at Plum Orchard? Has the new old cut produced Golden-winged Warblers? Where are the nests that are in easy view without disturbing the birds? A flock of ... just dropped out of the sky at ...! The only way you can find out is to sign up.
*Ride times vary. We’ll be in and out of the minibus with minimum hiking at stops.
*All Day Friday. + $25/person. Travel by minibus, limited to twelve participants plus guides. Return time at ~4pm. Total trip ~9 hours.
Going for Gold
This is far more than a one species trip. Golden-winged Warblers have been a moving target the past few years due to changes in habitat. Come with us to the top of Fayette County to look for the Golden-winged and their neighbors Cerulean Warbler, American Redstart, and Ovenbird. If we’re lucky enough to find the Golden-winged, we’ll move from seeing to observing the habits of the delightful species in its habitat.
*The initial suv ride is ~60 minutes. We’re in and out of the vehicles with minimum hiking at each stop. Return ride is ~40 minutes, with a return time at ~3:30. Total trip ~8.5 hours.
*Premium Friday. + $50/person. Travel by suv, limited to ten participants and two guides.
ACE Reptiles & Amphibians
Added in 2018 and immediately became a favorite, this is a hands on exploration of the outstanding biodiversity of amphibians and reptiles found in a variety of habitats is staffed with great herpetologists for your discovery and identification experience. We carpool to the largest outdoor adventure resort in the county with several great locations with interesting life to discover.
WVDNR reports there are currently 65 known species of amphibians and reptiles in Fayette County, including 35 salamander species, 14 frog and toad species, 13 turtle species, 6 lizards and skinks species, and 22 snake species. Several amphibian and reptile species are on WV’s rare species list and two species of salamander are endemic to West Virginia.
Birds we may encounter include Pileated Woodpeckers, ducks, wood warblers, and Belted Kingfisher. If we’re lucky, we’ll see North American River Otters and North American Beavers.
*The initial ride is ~20 minutes. We’ll drive to several locations on the property with a little hiking at each one along lakes, ponds, creeks, and woodland trails on mostly level ground, and there are a few inclines with varying soft or rocky terrain. Return ride is ~20 minutes, with a return time at ~1pm. Total trip ~6 hours.
*Carpool Friday. Restrooms available upon arrival and at departure.
Our first stop is at the Erma Byrd Center where the birds we have encountered in past years have been delightful: Horned Lark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Pectoral Sandpiper, Killdeer, and Golden-winged Warblers. Then we're off to Bolt Mountain at an elevation near 3000 feet. One part of our day takes us to an old contour strip, mined in the 1960’s and '70's. Migrants such as Veery, Golden-winged Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Least Flycatchers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Black-throated Green Warblers and others may be seen. If time allows we'll stop at Maple Meadow, a lower elevation, and pick up grassland species, such as Grasshopper Sparrow, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Meadowlark, Prairie Warbler and Eastern Kingbirds.
*The initial suv ride is ~40 minutes. We’re in and out of the vehicles with minimum hiking at each stop. Return ride is ~40 minutes, with a return time at ~3:30. Total trip ~8.5 hours.
*Premium Tuesday and Wednesday. + $50/person. Travel by suv, limited to ten participants and two guides.
Recommended from here: Speaker & Trip Schedule, Lodging and Festival Registration.
Carpool trips return by 1:00. Recommended for those who want a day to slip in late or slip out early for a little additional rest or sight seeing.
Gold Standard trips return by 1:00. A few are tried-and-true and a few are new; all are absolute gems. Limited to fifteen participants plus guides, these trips are on a big blue bus.
Premium trips return by 3:30 and are an additional $50/person to the base package price. Limited to ten persons plus guides, these small group trips roll through the afternoon in deluxe transportation via suv or van.
All Day trips return by 4:00 (exception Bobolinks to Bald Eagles and Cranberry Original return by 6:30) and are an additional $25/person to the base package price. Limited to twelve persons plus guides, these trips use a comfortable minibus (exception Cranberry Original, limited to fifteen participants, uses a big blue bus).
Dinner Out means the trip stops at a local restaurant for dinner and returns by 6:30pm. Dinner is included. Bobolinks to Bald Eagles Wednesday, and Cranberry Original Thursday.
Popcorn Presentations when you just can’t get enough, start at 3pm in the Meadows at Opossum Creek Retreat and last approximately one hour. Yes... we serve popcorn!
Use Your Birding & Nature Vacation to Revitalize Your Mind and Body, and your afternoons are the perfect opportunity to take personal time. Spend yours as you please... napping, reading, hot tubbing, walking, journaling, site seeing, Popcorn Presentation, etc