Birding

CranePhoto by Melissa H-DThe Bruce Peninsula is a great place to go birding in Ontario. It doesn't matter which season or where you are on the peninsula - there are lots of birds to find. The habitats are diverse and the geography is ideal. Good roads and trails take you to a variety of forests, lakes, wetlands, shorelines, fields, meadows, streams and more. The peninsula is one large "corridor" of land between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. During migration season, there are multitudes of travelling birds to track down. The different habitats offer homes to good mix of species. This all adds up to a great place to go "birding". Access is available through the parks, conservation areas, roads, trails and waterways. A pair of binoculars, a good field guide, a decent map and a healthy dose of curiosity is all you need.

 

Wetlands (fens, marshes and swamps) are rich with wildlife and especially birds. Good examples are; Isaac Lake, Oliphant Fen, Black's Creek, Crane Lake and Dorcas Bay. Here, expect to find; Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Great Blue Heron, American Bittern, Osprey, Caspian Terns, Snipe, Woodcock, Kingfisher, Pileated Woodpeckers, wrens, swallows, warblers and Red-wing Blackbirds. At night listen for Virginia Rail and Sora.

 

barred-owl(1)Trails in places like Spirit Rock, Barrow Bay, Gun Point, Black's Creek, Cape Chin, and Bruce Peninsula National Park offer a good sampling of the forests which change from hardwoods in the south to mixed conifer and softwoods in the north. A full spectrum of colour can be seen in the movements of these forests. Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Scarlet Tanager, Blue Jays, Northern Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Purple Finch are just a few. The strident voices of thrushes, wrens, warblers, and vireos will draw you further down the trails. Woodland raptors round out the ecosystem with diversity and intrigue. Look for Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Goshawk, Broad-winged, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. The calls of night predators include; Great Horned, Barred, Eastern Screech and Saw-whet Owls.

 

soaring-bald-eagles 111(1)A unique and special place to look for birds are the islands around the peninsula. There are several groups to explore - some easy to get to - others that are not so simple. The Fishing Islands just off shore of the Oliphant beaches have a mix of forests and barren rock. There are good samples of woodland birds plus the colonies of birds such as gulls (including; ring-billed gulls, Herring gulls and occasionally a greater black-backed gull) , double crested cormorants, great blue herons and black-crowned night-herons. Ospreys make huge nests at the tops of trees. Bald Eagles can be seen from time to time as well. Merlins have moved into the islands and hunt along the shorelines. The Islands at Tobermory are mostly forested and have a good sampling of birds you would expect plus a few more common to the north. A strange situation occurs here as well where there ecological niche shifts where you will find birds on some islands but not on others - even though the habitats stay the same. This is called Island Biogeography.

 

seagullPhoto by Rachal WilesOut on the open waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay you can find Common Loon, mergansers and gulls throughout the year. During the busy migration (early spring and late fall) you can find; grebes, cormorants, scooters, Oldsquaw, Goldeneye, Bufflehead, terns and other transient waterfowl. Spotted Sandpipers have staked claims for all available shoreline. They bop and fly along the water's edge almost everywhere you go from May to September. Lake Huron has a few good stretches of sand and mud which attract a regular mix of shorebirds during busy migration.

 

RobinThe meadows and over grown fields are scattered everywhere. All the regular open land birds are represented here including; Eastern Kingbird, Horned Lark, Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird, Robin, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and loads of sparrows. The vast expanse of the Ferndale Flats, smack in the heart of the Peninsula, acts like our own chunk of prairie habitat and attracts a few interesting species. This is a good place to find; Upland Sandpiper, Brewer's Blackbird, Northern Harrier and Grasshopper Sparrow. Sandhill Cranes like to forage throughout the flats and can be seen in a few fields from May to October.

 

turkey-vulture-sc5xeyThe Niagara Escarpment has some impressive cliff faces. The ledges and crannies on the rock faces offer special nesting sites for colonies of Rough-winged, Cliff and Barn Swallows. Turkey Vulture, Common Raven and Herring Gulls also seek the isolation of these places.

 

This is a sample of great birding spots and only a partial list of what you might experience while Birding the Bruce Peninsula.