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New birding trail connects southwestern Ontario’s best hotspots

Prothonotary Warbler at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ohio, May 18, 2014, by Joan Tisdale.
Prothonotary Warbler at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ohio, May 18, 2014, by Joan Tisdale.

Just in time for the spring migration and a host of upcoming birding festivals (see below), we’ve learned of a new trail that will help you find and enjoy more birds this year.

Called Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail, the new network links hotspots, bird observatories, and accommodations in one of eastern North America’s best birding regions — southwestern Ontario, between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

According to the creators, the featured locations not only are great places for spotting migrating birds but also offer easy access to other activities, including hiking and cycling trails, paddling excursions, nature gift shops, winery and brewery tours, farm-to-table dining, and other activities.

Ontario's Southwest_220x220The area lies entirely within the rare North American deciduous forest region known as the Carolinian Life Zone, which makes up less than one percent of Canada’s landmass but boasts a greater biodiversity of flora and fauna than any other ecosystem in the country.

Close to 400 bird species have been recorded in it — over half of the species list for all of Canada. The total includes many at-risk species, such as the Acadian Flycatcher, Prothonotary and Hooded Warblers, Tufted Titmouse, and Louisiana Waterthrush.

Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail links 17 sites that are prime birding locations and offer essential visitor services, interpretation centers, signage, and other amenities. Labeled “birding hubs,” they include such well-known destinations as Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, and Long Point Bird Observatory.

According to Joanne Wolnik, tourism product development manager with the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, the trail was created by a team of tourism professionals, marketing specialists, and birders.

“Knowing that expert birders follow the birds using tools like eBird,” she says, “we developed this map with beginner and recreational birders in mind. The goal was to provide enough information to get started birding in Ontario’s Southwest.”

In addition, the creators wanted to make something that expert birders could share with less experienced friends who ask where to go birding, Wolnik told us.

Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail reaches east from Ojibway Prairie Complex, close to Windsor and Detroit, along the north shore of Lake Erie to Rock Point Provincial Park, at the mouth of the Grand River. It includes a pair of hotspots in or near the city of London — Fanshawe Conservation Area and Komoka Provincial Park — and showcases two birding hubs on the south shore of Lake Huron: Canatara Park, in Sarnia, and Pinery Provincial Park, near Grand Bend.

Even better, the trail plots out an additional 60 or so destinations, called primary birding sites, that the developers say may lack the services and amenities of the 17 birding hubs but are excellent birding locations nonetheless. Details about primary birding sites are available from Ontario’s Southwest.

We’re excited to see this guide and can’t wait to use it. — Chuck Hagner, Editor

Read or download a copy of Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail.

Seven spring birding events along Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail

Wings of Spring
Rondeau Provincial Park
March 12-26

Return of the Swans Festival
Old Thedford Bog
March 12-April 3

Festival of Birds
Point Pelee National Park
April 29-May 19

Springsong Celebration
Pelee Island Heritage Centre
May 6-8

Shore and Songbird Celebration
Hillman Marsh Conservation Area
May 7-8

Festival of Flight
Rondeau Provincial Park
May 7-23

World Migratory Bird Day
Long Point Bird Observatory
May 14

Explore eBird Canada.

Get descriptions, maps, and directions to hotspots in Ontario.

  Originally Published

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