When it comes to watching the fall raptor migration, Holiday Beach is the place I pick year in and year out.
A 40-foot-tall observation tower is strategically located to maximize viewing of raptors that funnel along the lakeshore to cross at the southern end of the Detroit River.
The first time I visited the hawk tower, I was hooked. It was mid-September, and I was fortunate enough to see a massive movement of Broad-winged Hawks. As a hawk counter, I have the privilege of witnessing the entire migration season unfold: accipiters in September, Peregrine Falcons in early October, Golden Eagles in November. Without a doubt, the bird landscape is always changing.
I also love watching passerines from the tower: It’s one of the few times you can look down to see warblers. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds buzz past your ears, and hundreds of thousands of Blue Jays scream through each fall. The surrounding wetlands are full of waterfowl, herons, egrets, and bitterns. Even if it’s a slow day for raptors, birds are always waiting to be found at Holiday Beach. — Sarah Rupert
Sarah Rupert is the interpretation coordinator for Point Pelee National Park. She spends most of her spare time each fall volunteering for the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Wetlands, swamp forest, open dry forest, and manicured parkland.
Relatively flat with uneven paths.
More than 200 species. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Northern Goshawk, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Broad-winged, and Rough-legged Hawks, Osprey, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Golden and Bald Eagles, Turkey Vulture, waterfowl, herons, egrets, Sandhill Crane, American Crow, Blue Jay, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cape May, Nashville, Magnolia, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Blue-headed and Warbling Vireos, Horned Lark, Swainson’s Thrush, American Pipit, Field, Swamp, and White-crowned Sparrows, Eastern Towhee.
When to go
Early September to late November for migrating raptors. Passerine migration in spring and fall.
Forty-foot observation tower, walking trails, picnic area, seasonal camping, and seasonal washrooms. Festival of Hawks held annually in September; this year it’s scheduled for September 15-16 and 22-23.
County conservation area. Open to vehicles dawn to dusk April through mid-October. Foot and bicycle traffic only the rest of the year. Daily entrance fees $10 per vehicle, $2 per walk-in or bicycle. Additional fees for camping.
Days with north winds provide the best viewing for raptors. Dress for the weather; conditions can vary from hot and humid in summer to bitter cold in late fall. Scopes and chairs are welcome on the tower. Bring a lunch and drinks.
For more info
Holiday Beach Conservation Area
Holiday Beach Migration Observatory
Hillman Marsh Conservation Area
Junction of County Rd. 37 and 2nd Concession Rd., Leamington. Diked wetland, with walking trails. A key staging area for shorebirds in fall.
5200 Matchette Rd., Windsor. One of the largest remaining tallgrass prairies and oak savannahs in Ontario. Tufted Titmouse and Eastern Screech-Owl year-round.