A flock of migrating birds silhouetted against the backdrop of a vivid sunset is a classic Canadian image and a familiar one along the Lake Huron Shoreline. Each spring, birds of various species migrate north along this natural highway. In the fall, the Canadian geese honk their way south in a familiar V-formation. Pack your binoculars and a bag lunch to catch a glimpse of Mother Nature's feathered community. Spring, fall, summer and winter...the birding is grand!
Chantry Dune System:
A unique and sensitive dune system along the Southampton shoreline not only prevents the erosion of the dunes, it is a haven for several species of birds. Caspian terns fish along the shore during breeding season, while gulls and other waterfowl gather on the shore during the spring and fall. Check out the interpretative signs along the dune pathways for more info on this ecological project.
Approximately 1 km off the shores of Southampton, lies Chantry Island, home to both an imperial lighthouse and a federal bird sanctuary. Here, double-crested cormorants, black-crowned night herons, great blue herons, great egrets, ring-billed and great black-backed gulls are among the species that nest, breed and feed in safety. The island can be viewed--with binoculars--from the foot of Beach Street.
Hint: For a sneak preview of the birds, visit the Chantry Island website and under the list of pictures, click on "The Birds of Chantry Island".
To the south...
Along the shore road to Port Elgin, 3 kilometres south of Southampton, the mudflats of Miramichi Bay are superb places to view shorebirds and waterfowl during migrating season. Park along the shoulder and take in a sunset along with your birdwatching.
Hint: A great blue heron is a regular visitor to these mudflats during the summer months, often during the supper hour.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park
A birding hotspot!! Each year, this park hosts the Huron Fringe Birding Festival in late May to early June. The park's innumerable habitats, including Class I wetlands, are a birdwatcher's idea of bliss. Take advantage of the observation tower at the south end of the park (and avoid wet feet!). May, the peak of the spring migration, heralds the return of wood warblers, vireos, tanagers, indigo buntings, orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks.
Open year round, the small cheery birds of winter--the chickadees--will perch on the edge of your hand and scoop seeds from your palm. Children love it! User Fee Applies.
Ducks Unlimited Pond
Birds love the Ducks Unlimited Pond--restored wetlands--on the southern boundary of the park and bird lovers will, too. With the wetlands restored, so was the habitat for a wide assortment of birds. Starting in April, ring-necked ducks and buffleheads return to the pond, followed by wood ducks, mallards and black ducks. The last three stay and breed during the summer. Canada geese take up residence here, too.
Pied-billed grebes breed in the wetlands, while great blue herons and black-crowned night herons need wetlands like these as a food source. Although they nest and breed on Chantry Island which is safe from predators, they rely on wetland areas for food.
Warblers pass through the park in May on their way to northern breeding grounds. The American redstart and the common yellowthroat stay to raise and nurture their young in the wetlands.
The viewing tower allows birdwatchers to catch a glimpse of birds feeding at tree-top level and to view waterbirds at the far side of the pond.
To reach the Ducks Unlimited Pond and Viewing Tower, either travel through the park or turn west at North Bruce from Highway 21. Travel approximately 3 kms toward the lake and watch for the bridge over the ditch on the north side of the road. Cross the bridge, walk along the dike to the tower which is on the west shore of the pond.
Hint: During the spring and fall, watch for spotted turtles in the wetlands.
And stilll further south....
Baie Du Dor
This small bay lies south of MacGregor Point and north of Inverhuron Provincial Parks. Observe migrating water birds from the viewing tower, constructed by naturalists, on the bay's north shore. Glaucous gulls winter here and, from November to March, bald eagles gather to feast on the fish at the outflows to Bruce Power.
How to Get There: From Highway 21, turn west onto Concession 8 (former Bruce Township)--it's about 15 kms south of Port Elgin. Follow it to Red Pine Street, turn south and continue on to the lake. The boat launch signs will lead you almost right to the viewing tower. From the foot of Concession 6, the south end of the bay can be reached.
Inverhuron Provincial Park
Rich in archaeological history, Inverhuron is also a migration concentration point for birds on the go. From Highway 21, travel west on Bruce Township Concession Road 2, then turn south onto Park Road.
Hint: Sunsets are spectacular here, too!
The Sewage Lagoons
Ruddy ducks are one of several waterbirds attracted to the sewage lagoons at Kincardine's south end. Many species of gulls prefer the dump at the east side of the lagoons. A wooded trail leads to the south of the lagoons where many resident and migrating songbirds can be spotted. To reach the lagoons, turn west onto Kinhuron Road from Highway 21.
In late December, a Christmas Bird Count is hosted by the Bruce Birding Club.
Point Clark marks the southern headland for the vast bay which starts at Cape Hurd in the north. Birds which are, as a rule, seen offshore can be observed here during the migrating season. Jaegers, red-throated and common loons, phalaropes and brant geese make an appearance during this time. Info on the three nature trails--Deer Run, Tuscarora and Attawandron--can be picked up at MacNay's Wee Corner Store in Point Clark.
How to Get There: From Highway 21, take Huron Township Concession 2 toward Lake Huron. Turn south onto Victoria Road, then west onto Lighthouse Road.
Bird Bits & Bites
Snowy owls and rough-legged hawks like the open fields along Highway 21. Make a family car game out of who can spot these birds first.
In April, red-throated loons and common loons, double-crested cormorants and many diving ducks like the open waters of Lake Huron between Kincardine and Point Clark. The shoreline's wooded areas have attracted once southern-only species to nest and breed. Among these newcomers are red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina wrens and blue-grey gnatcatchers.
The unique and sensitive dune areas are a paradise for shoreline birds such as gulls and caspian terns.
Inland, the pasture lands lure birds of prey. Rough-legged hawks, short-eared and snowy owls circle the skies in their hunt for food. Keep an eye open for northern shrikes, snow buntings and lapland longspurs.