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19 October 2021

Birdwatching In Ontario’s Southwest

 

One of my favourite ways to experience Ontario’s vast outdoors is to walk along wooded trails and coastal paths listening to the sounds of birds. Ontario is home to hundreds of species — more than 450 types make their way through the province during migration seasons and some 300 species breed here.

In our rural Ontario home, we are lucky enough to count Robins, Hummingbirds, Grackles, Cardinals and Blue Jays as frequent visitors. Last spring, a pair of Robins made a nest in a low bush right outside my son’s bedroom window and we were able to watch the glory of blue eggs hatching into tiny hungry baby birds. We’ve spotted Sandhill Cranes and even the occasional Great Blue Heron in our backyard. It certainly has ignited a passion for birdwatching in our family. When we go camping. we are often woken by the early morning sounds of chirping songbirds and we’ve spent countless hours wandering through the woods trying to spot an owl (no luck so far). We did, however, have the pleasure of seeing a Bald Eagle soar over Lake Erie one summer morning.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight. Photography by Alistair MacKenzie, c/o Ontario Parks.

The shores of Lake Erie — and the rest of Ontario’s Southwest region — are actually an incredible place for birdwatching. The climate, topography and unique location makes this region an alluring stopover for hundreds of birds on their migratory paths, both in spring and fall. This includes sweet songbirds, stunning waterfowl and even majestic raptors.

The best part about birding is that you don’t need any special equipment or skills — just head out on a hike and keep your eyes (and ears) tuned to the natural environment. A pair of binoculars and a good book on local bird species is certainly helpful, but not required for a good time.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Rondeau  Photographer: Caitlin Sparks

A good place to start is a hike through one of Southwestern Ontario’s many beautiful parks. You can download the South Coast Birding Trail map for detailed information on all the popular stops including Rock Point Provincial Park, Fanshawe Conservation Area, St. Clair National Wildlife Area and the Bird Studies Canada National Headquarters.

Rondeau, Emeleg. Photo courtesy of Ontario Parks

Three of our favourite places to visit for birdwatching, family bonding and relaxing are:

  • Point Pelee National Park: renowned around the world as a birding hotspot. This is not a big park but it packs a punch when it comes to birdwatching, with about 390 species calling this small spit of land home at some point in the year. Here you will find 12 kilometres of trails that traverse through forests and marshes, offering a chance to see dozens of bird species during an afternoon stroll. The Marsh Boardwalk, a one kilometre loop, is a favourite for observing both birds and turtles.
  • Rondeau Provincial Park has 11 kilometres of sandy beaches along Lake Erie as well as an extensive network of coastal wetlands and old growth Carolinian forests. The park has recorded 334 species of birds in the park so you’ve got a great chance of seeing a wide variety on your walks. Rondeau Bay is often home to thousands of ducks and Tundra Swans. If you get really lucky, you might spot the Prothonotary Warbler as Rondeau is one of the few places in Canada this endangered bird has been seen.
  • Pinery Provincial Park is a perfect location for watching some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets, but it is also a popular park for bird watching. The park has 10 kilometres of sandy beach along the stunning Lake Huron coastline. Inside the park, you’ll find lots of hiking trails that showcase the fragile oak savannah and coastal dune ecosystems that play host to more than 300 species of birds.

If you’re heading to the beautiful Southwest region for birdwatching, why not turn it into an overnight getaway with some of our unique accommodations or packages in the area? You’re sure to return home relaxed and invigorated.

Point Pelee National Park

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