New birding trail connects southwestern Ontario’s top hotspots

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

Just in time for spring migration and a host of upcoming birding festivals (see below), we 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 connects hotspots, birding 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 locations featured are not only great places to watch migrating birds, but also offer easy access to other activities, including hiking and biking trails, paddling excursions, nature gift shops, winery and brewery tours, farm-to-table dining, and other activities.

Southwestern Ontario_220x220The area lies entirely within the rare North American hardwood forest region known as the Carolinian Life Zone, which makes up less than 1% of Canada’s landmass, but has greater biodiversity of flora and fauna than any other ecosystem in the country.

Nearly 400 species of birds have been listed there, more than half of the list of species for all of Canada. The total includes many species at risk, such as Acadian Flycatcher, Prothonotary and Hooded Warbler, Crested Tit and Louisiana Waterthrush.

Canada’s South Coast Birdwatching Trail connects 17 sites that are prime birding locations and provide essential visitor services, interpretive centres, signage and other amenities. Called “Bird Centers,” they include well-known destinations like Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, and Long Point Bird Observatory.

According to Joanne Wolnik, director of tourism product development at the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation, the trail was created by a team of tourism professionals, marketers and bird watchers.

“Knowing that expert birders track 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 start birding in southwestern Ontario.

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Plus, the creators wanted to make something expert birders could share with less-experienced friends asking where to go birdwatching, Wolnik told us.

The Canada South Coast Birdwatching Trail stretches east from the Ojibway Prairie complex near 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 features two birding centers on the south shore of Lake Huron: Canatara Park, in Sarnia, and Pinery Provincial Park, near Grand Bend.

Even better, the trail maps out about 60 additional destinations, called prime birding spots, which the developers say might lack the services and amenities of the 17 birding centers, but are excellent birding spots nonetheless. Details of key birding sites are available in southwestern Ontario.

We are excited to see this guide and look forward to using it. —Chuck Hagner, Editor

Read or download a copy of the Canada South Coast Bird Watching 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
Former Thedford Bog
March 12-April 3

Bird Festival
Point Pelee National Park
April 29-May 19

Spring Song Celebration
Pelee Island Heritage Center
May 6-8

Celebrating the Shoreline and Songbirds
Hillman Marsh Conservation Area
May 7-8

Flight Festival
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.