Use Your Birding & Nature Vacation to Revitalize Your Mind and Body Afternoons are the perfect opportunity to take personal time to relax and unwind. Spend yours as you please... napping, hot tubbing, walking, site seeing, or at a Popcorn Presentation!
This is where you get to know the field trips. Take a leisurely scroll or click a trip name to go straight to it's 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 in the upper elevations.
Carpool Trips Share a ride to minimize impact. Limited to twenty-five persons plus guides (exception Birding by Butt), these trips return around 2pm. We recommend driving yourself if you want to slip in late or slip out early for a little additional rest or sight seeing, 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 twenty-five persons plus guides, these trips are by big bus with a return time around 2pm.
• Tuesday – Glade Creek - FULL
• Wednesday – Woods, Creek & Farm - FULL
• Thursday – Burnwood to Babcock
• Friday – Fayette Station - FULL
• Saturday – Sugar Creek - FULL
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 4:30pm.
• Tuesday – Sugar Creek - FULL
• Wednesday – Bolt Mountain - FULL
• Thursday – Cotton Hill - FULL
• Friday – Going for Gold - FULL
• Saturday – Muddlety Wetlands & Ridges
All Day Trips Are an additional $25/person to the base package price and use upgraded transportation in a minibus with bucket seats; limited to twelve persons plus guides; return around 5pm.
• Tuesday – Burnwood to Babcock - FULL
• Wednesday – Bobolinks to Bald Eagles *this trip stops for dinner en-route and may return as late as 7:30pm - FULL
• Thursday – Cranberry Original *in a big bus with up to twenty participants plus guides; stops for dinner en-route and may return as late as 7:30pm
• Friday – Guest's Choice
• Saturday – Cranberry Glades - FULL
VIP Specialty Trips First available to participants of previous Festivals. Rendezvous at Opossum Creek Retreat for breakfast at 6am; go to Burnwood for bus departure by 7am; trip returns by 1pm. Transportation via big bus; limited to twenty participants plus guides.
• Monday – Never Been There
TreeTops Zip Line Canopy Tour OMGosh this is fantastic! Join us at Birding by Butt and add this to your Monday afternoon at $59/person. We depart from Opossum Creek Retreat by 1pm Monday and are back before dinner!
• Monday – TreeTops Zip Line
♦ All Day Trips have upgraded comfortable minibus transportation and are limited to twelve participants (exception Thursday Cranberry Original).
♦ Packages are available for all week, either half of the week, or any combination of single days.
♦ Packages with lodging check-in the day before the first field trip and check-out the day after the last field trip.
♦ Festival check-in is in the Meadows at Opossum Creek Retreat everyday after 2pm, where you'll be provided a checklist, personal itinerary, name tag, and other items.
♦ Birding by Butt Monday meets at the Meadows at Opossum Creek Retreat - coffee is on at 6am, breakfast at 8am.
♦ Never Been There meets for breakfast at Opossum Creek Retreat at 6am, then carpools to Burnwood to travel by bus by 7am, and returns by 1pm.
♦ All other field trips meet for a hot buffet breakfast at 6am in an outdoor pavilion at Burnwood.
♦ Field trips depart by 7am.
♦ Field Trip transportation is provided (exception Carpool trips). Travel to and from breakfast and dinner/presentation location, lodging, and airport is not included.
♦♦ Gold Standard is a big bus; Premium is an SUV or van; All Day is comfortable minibus with bucket seats and center isle.
♦ Trip return times: Gold Standard and Carpools by 2pm. Premiums return by 4:30. All-Days return by 5pm. Wednesday Bobolinks to Bald Eagles and Thursday Cranberry Original return by 7:30pm.
♦ Popcorn Presentations are at 3pm, then Dinner is at 6pm - both are at 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 only travel on foot around the property for some old school bird and nature watching. We use this time to refresh your knowledge of optics, tune your ears, sight your eyes, and get into the mode.
An opportunity to spend time with those you’ll bird with through your stay, birding becomes secondary to getting acquainted with fellow bird and nature enthusiasts, hosts and guides who love teaching the art 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 behavior observation.
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.
*Monday. Coffee is ready at 6am. Breakfast is ready at 8am. Impromptu and relaxed guided walks begin after lunch. Ends at 1pm.
*You can go Birding by Butt AND add TreeTops Canopy Tour in the afternoon!
Whoa... this is one of the coolest ways to view nature! Join us at Birding by Butt then spend your afternoon with a birds-eye view. With 10 zip lines, five sky bridges, a couple short hikes and a rappel, TreeTops Zip Line Tour will immerse you in the surrounding forest. You'll descend through a series of deciduous trees as each zip gets a little longer and a little higher. The forest turns into a Hemlock stand and you will cross pristine Mill Creek as you continue through the course. A series of short sky bridges allows you to take your time and really experience the forest for the trees. A short hike brings you to 'Rock Launch,' one of the longest zips on course. A few zips and a bridge later and the rappel station brings you back to terra firma. Our unique combination of ziplines, sky bridges, and stationary tree platforms offer a whole new perspective of local flora and fauna. Click here to see what it's like.
Closed-toed shoes are required. Participants must weigh between 90 and 260 lbs. There are two hikes: 800 feet long at roughly 10% grade and the second is about 200 feet long. Everything you need to zip is provided (harnesses gear, helmets and gloves).
*You can start the day with Birding by Butt!
*Departs from Opossum Creek Retreat by 1pm Monday. The carpool ride is ~6 minutes. Total trip ~4 hours.
*Carpool Monday. + $59/person. Limited to twenty-five participants plus guides.
Never Been There
This inaugural field trip will explore new territories for veteran Festival family. 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.
*VIP Specialty Monday. Travel by big bus. Limited to twenty 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 ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Carpool Tuesday. Limited to twenty-five participants plus guides.
*Gold Standard Friday. Travel by big bus, limited to twenty-five 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 ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Gold Standard Tuesday. Travel by big bus, limited to twenty-five participants plus guides.
Woods, Creek & Farm
Explore three vastly different territories, in less than a five mile radius of one another. After breakfast, start with a stroll around Burnwood as the dawn chorus ramps up with Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Wood Thrush, vireos, sparrows, and others. Then we’re off to a wetland habitat at the headwaters of Laurel Creek to find other species including, heron, ducks, Swamp Sparrow, oriels, and Kentucky Warblers. After that, it’s to the open grassland habitat at Whitlock Farm. In 2015 the Farm produced 47 species in less than forty minutes - warblers, Osprey, swallows and Savannah Sparrow were among those counted. Then we finish up back at Burnwood for lunch and looks at the species we left behind after breakfast.
*The initial bus ride is ~15 minutes. Expect to spend a considerable time meandering a total of 3 miles throughout the day on private properties along mostly flat country lanes, fields and wetlands. Return ride is ~20 minutes, with a return time at ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Gold Standard Wednesday. Travel by big bus, limited to twenty-five 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 small 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 ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Carpool Wednesday. Limited to twenty-five participants plus guides.
Cutting and fragmenting of the hardwood forests on the nesting grounds as well as on the migration and wintering grounds in Central and South Americas have endangered the Cerulean Warbler - one of our most beloved and spectacular Neotropical migrants. Despite such gloomy news, southern West Virginia remains a stronghold for Ceruleans, something our Festival participants get to see every year… and there is no place like Cotton Hill to observe the Cerulean Warbler! Other abundant target birds on this trip are Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, and a wide range of wood warblers.
*The initial suv ride of ~25 minutes. We’re in and out of vehicles with minimum hiking between stops. Return ride is ~40 minutes, with a return time at ~4:30. Total trip ~9.5 hours.
*Premium Thursday. + $50/person. Travel by suv, limited to ten 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. 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.
*Premium Tuesday. + $50/person. Travel by suv, limited to ten participants and two guides. Return time ~4:30pm. Total trip ~9.5 hours.
*Gold Standard Saturday. Travel by big bus, limited to twenty-five participants and two or more guides. Return time ~2pm. Total trip ~7 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 are being made in 2017 to enhance accessibility. Return ride is ~25 minutes, with a return time at ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Carpool Thursday. Limited to twenty-five participants plus guides.
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 ~5pm. Total trip ~10 hours.
*Gold Standard Thursday. Travel by big bus, limited to twenty-five participants plus guides. Return time at ~2pm. Total trip ~7 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 rendezvous as late as 7:30pm.
*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 ~7:30pm. Total trip ~12.5 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 ~4:30pm. Total trip ~9.5 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’s slippery when wet. Return ride is ~120 minutes.
*Original All Day Thursday. + $25/person. Travel by big bus, limited to twenty participants plus guides. Dinner en-route at Whistle Punk in Richwood is included. Return by ~7:30pm. Total trip 12.5 hours.
*Upgraded All Day Saturday. + $25/person. Travel by minibus, limited to twelve participants plus guides. Return by ~5pm. Total trip 10 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 ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Carpool Saturday. Limited to twenty-five participants plus guides.
The evening or morning prior to this trip, guides canvas each participant to learn what birds they want to see most and plan the field trip stops to provide the best opportunity to see those favorites or nemesis birds - just don't ask for an Auk, Western Tanager or some other out-of-range species or who knows where you’ll end up ;) This is not a “century day.”
*The bus ride times vary. We’ll be in and out of the bus with minimum hiking at stops.
*All Day Friday. + $25/person. Travel by minibus, limited to twelve participants plus guides. Return time at ~5pm. Total trip ~10 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 ~4:30. Total trip ~9.5 hours.
*Premium Friday. + $50/person. Travel by suv, limited to ten participants and two guides.
ACE Reptiles & Amphibians
This 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 to look at.
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 ducks, wood warblers, and Belted Kingfisher, and if we’re lucky we’ll see North American River Otters.
*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 ~2pm. Total trip ~7 hours.
*Carpool Friday. Limited to twenty-five participants plus guides. Restrooms available nearby.
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 ~4:30. Total trip ~9.5 hours.
*Premium Wednesday. + $50/person. Travel by suv, limited to ten participants and two guides.
Carpool trips return by 2:00. Recommended for those who want a day to slip in late or slip out early for a little additional rest or sight seeing. Limited to twenty-five persons plus guides.
Gold Standard trips return by 2:00. A few are tried-and-true and a few are new; all are absolute gems. Limited to twenty-five persons plus guides, these trips are by big bus.
Premium trips return by 4:30 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 5:00 (exception Bobolinks to Bald Eagles and Cranberry Original return by 7:30) and are an additional $25/person to the base package price. Limited to twelve persons plus guides, these trips use minibus transportation (exception Cranberry Original uses a big bus and is limited to twenty participants plus guides).
VIP Specialty trips are first available to participants of previous Festivals. Never Been There rendezvous at Opossum Creek Retreat for breakfast at 6am; goes to Burnwood for bus departure by 7am; trip returns by 1pm. Transportation via big bus; limited to twenty participants plus guides.
TreeTops Zip Line Canopy Tour gets an excited emoji for its combination of ziplines, sky bridges and tree platforms providing an exciting birds-eye view of flora and fauna!
Dinner Out Bobolinks to Bald Eagles and Cranberry Original stop at a restaurant for dinner and return at approx 7:30pm. Dinner is included.
Popcorn Presentations when you just can’t get enough, start at 3'ish at the Meadows at Opossum Creek Retreat and last approximately one hour – and yes... we serve popcorn!
Use Your Birding & Nature Vacation to Revitalize Your Mind and Body. Afternoons are the perfect opportunity to take personal time to relax and unwind. Spend yours as you please... napping, hot tubbing, walking, site seeing, etc. Or at a Popcorn Presentation!