Canada: Point Pelee and the migrants of Ontario May 2022

Every Spring as the amazing variety of North American warblers and other migrants stream North, there are various ‘bottlenecks’ where the local geography results in the birds becoming much more concentrated allowing birdwatchers the opportunity to enjoy some spectacular encounters.

Two such locations are Point Pelee and Long Point on the North side of Lake Erie in Ontario and on this tour led by Limosa’s Chris Charlesworth, we plan to combine these two migration hotspots with a visit to Algonquin and Rondeau Provincial Parks and the world-renowned Niagara Falls.

 

Our tour will start in the Canadian city of Toronto and we will start our holiday by heading Northwards to Algonquin. This reserve is the oldest provincial park in Canada and is where the Southern hardwood forests meet the conifers of further North and over 270 bird species have been recorded. Along with resident birds such as Ruffed Grouse and Grey Jay, this will be our first introduction to the dazzling array of warblers which breed in the Canadian forests. The range of species can be amazing with Cape May, Bay-breasted, Magnolia, Pine, Yellow-rumped, Blackburnian, Nashville, Black-and-white and Black-throated Green all previously seen here on just one morning walk!

 

There is much more to look for too and as we explore forested trails and the shores of lakes, other possibilities could include Hooded Merganser, American Wood Duck, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Brown Thrasher, Brown Creeper, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and White-throated Sparrow, along with mammals such as Beaver and the diminutive Least Chipmunk.

 

Our next destination will be Long Point which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Here, a 20-mile-long spit extends out into Lake Erie (one of Canada’s “Great Lakes”) and this acts like a magnet for migrants as they cross over from the South. The birding can be amazing and when one of our groups was here on a previous occasion, the birds were so plentiful that they walked barely 100 metres in 3 hours with 20 species of warblers recorded! With piebald Black-and-White Warblers creeping along tree trunks and mouth-watering Black-throated Blue Warblers, Northern Parulas, American Redstarts and Ovenbirds gleaning insects, the birding can be exceptional. And when the backup cast can include White-breasted Nuthatch, Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Swainson’s Thrush, on some occasions, it is possible to see over one hundred species in a day!

 

Moving onwards, our next destination is only a couple of hours further West along the Northern coast of Lake Erie and this is the Rondeau Provincial Park. Once again, a headland pokes out into the 250 mile long ‘lake’ and whilst this one is more modest in size than Long Point, nevertheless, it still attracts plenty of exciting migrants. New warbler species we could find here include the glowing gold Prothonotary Warbler or the dainty pale blue and white Cerulean Warbler amongst a host of possibilities.

 

Our last major birding destination of the trip will be Point Pelee where a long spit points due South out into Lake Erie. The birding here can be truly mindboggling with more opportunities to enjoy more technicoloured warblers and look for any species we might have missed. Pine Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Kentucky Warbler could all be found here, and these might be joined by other species such as Black-billed Cuckoo, Wood Thrush, Cedar Waxwing and much more besides.

 

After three days enjoying the excitement of the migrants and other species such as Great Horned Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Northern Cardinal, we will reluctantly begin our journey back towards Toronto, although we will end with a further highlight with a visit to the impressive Niagara Falls.

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