birds on

5 ways to spice up your spring birdwatching

Think birdwatching is limited to sitting silently in the woods for hours on end?

Think again.

From waterway adventures to birding safaris, Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail serves up innovative opportunities to get up-close and personal with more than 250 migrating species.

This spring, follow the feathers to Canada’s migration hotspot and experience birding in a whole new way!

1. Roll down the river

Long Point Eco-Adventures offers guided kayak tours of Big Creek, a deep channel into the Norfolk Sand Plain. Bordered by towering sycamore and black walnut trees, this four-hour exploration of a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve delivers a one-of-a-kind experience.

birds on the marsh

Drift serenely down the creek, keeping your eyes peeled for the flutter of feathers. Common sightings include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, wood ducks, Baltimore orioles, northern cardinals, and many species of warbler.

2. Embark on safari

Long Point Tours offers half- and full-day birding safaris. Climb aboard a 24′ Zodiac and cruise to the tip of Long Point, a National Wildlife Area recognized as a world-renowned refuge and stopover for thousands of migrating birds.

birders on shoreline

The tour includes time at the Long Point Bird Observatory Research Station and an opportunity to interact with some of the organization’s top researchers.

3. Start a band (no, not that kind…)

Bird banding allows researchers to study patterns in migration and bird behaviour. Get an up-close look at your favourite species and join expert banders as they extract the birds and record the data for each of them.

Bird bander

Ruthven Park Banding Station operates daily from the beginning of April until early June, and from early September to early November. Typically, migration monitoring and bird banding at this National Historic Site runs from sunrise until about noon.

Rock Point Provincial Park Banding Station operates from April 15 to June 1 from sunrise until 6 hours later, from August 15 to September 1 from sunrise until 10 a.m. and from September 1 to November 4 from sunrise until 6 hours later.

4. Chat with researchers

Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail plots out 17 Birding Hubs and over 60 Primary Birding Sites, including observatories and research centres. These facilities are open to the public and offer visitors a unique perspective into the important field research that is taking place within the region.

birders on boardwalk

Founded in 1960, Long Point Bird Observatory was the first organization of its type in North America. During migration, banding demonstrations occur from 9:00 a.m. until noon daily, weather permitting.

heronBird Studies Canada’s National Headquarters and Research Centre in Port Rowan provides habitat for a number of species and offers walking trails, an observation deck, interpretive displays and special events, such as fall migration and owl banding.

Holiday Beach Migration Observatory is ranked as the top hawk watching site in Canada by Audubon Magazine, and the third best in all of North America. The large wooden observation tower located within the Holiday Beach Conservation Area makes it easy to see why.

Founded in 1904, the Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary offers visitors a unique opportunity to hand-feed geese and ducks, see peacocks, exotic pheasants, wild turkeys and tundra swans, and learn about the local wildlife of Essex County.

5. Join the spring migration celebration

Take wing to the festivals and events celebrating the annual return of the birds to Ontario’s Southwest. There’s something for every level of birder, from guided hikes to workshops. Snag tips on digital photography birding basics or perfect your birdcalls.

birding workshop

Here are some the region’s top spring birding events:

Wings of Spring
Rondeau Provincial Park
March 12-20, 2016
Return of the Swans Festival
Old Thedford Bog
March 12 – April 3, 2016
Festival of Birds
Point Pelee National Park
April 29 – May 19, 2016
Springsong Celebration
Pelee Island Heritage Centre
May 6 – 8, 2016
Spring Shore and Songbird Celebration
Hillman Marsh Conservation Area
May 7 – 8, 2016
Festival of Flight
Rondeau Provincial Park
May 7 – 23, 2016
World Migratory Bird Day
Long Point Bird Observatory
May 14, 2016


Whether you explore Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail at your own pace, sign on for a guided adventure or swing by the festivals, you’ll soon see why Ontario’s Southwest attracts avid birders from around the globe.

And who knows? Migrating to Ontario’s Southwest may become an annual rite of spring for you too.