Point Pelee National Park, located on the north shore of Lake Erie in southwestern Ontario, is about to come alive with birds and birders. Every May the park hosts the Festival of Birds, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors wanting to view some of the thousands of birds that migrate through the area. This year’s 2014 festival runs May 1st through May 19th.
Point Pelee is the southernmost tip of mainland Canada and sits at the crossroads of two major flyways. This combined with it’s mixed Carolinian habitat makes it the perfect stopover location for migrating birds that have just crossed Lake Erie. More than 380 bird species have been recorded in the park with over 100 of them breeding within its boundaries. In fact, 80% of all the birds recorded in Ontario have been seen at least once within Point Pelee’s birding area.
The many shorebird species found feeding along the sandy spit are a popular draw, but the main attraction for most birders is the warbler species. Of the regularly occurring warblers in North America 42 of the 55 species have been observed in Point Pelee National Park, giving it the distinction of “The Warbler Capital of Canada”. On average 36 warbler species are seen each spring in the park. Prothonatary Warblers, an endangered species in Ontario, are a favourite among many birders.
It is not just birds that Point Pelee National Park is famous for. The park is home to over 750 native plants, some of which are rare, threatened or endangered in Canada. Plants of concern include, but are not limited to: American Water Willow, Common Hoptree and Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus. There are also several rare forms of animal life including: Fox Snake, Spotted Turtle, Five-Lined Skink, and the recently reintroduced Southern Flying Squirrel.
The American Birding Association has published daily updates on the birding news section of their website in previous years during the festival. This is a great place to keep on top of recent sightings, as well as where within the park they were seen. The link to the site can be found here.
The Point Pelee National Park Festival of Birds is something that is on every serious birders’ bucket list and attracts visitors from all over the world. For more information on the festival including daily activities, fees, directions, and hours visit their website here. If you are planning a visit to the park for the festival be sure to read the code of ethics section, as this is something that is taken quite seriously and any infraction can result in your removal from the park.
If you happen to make it to this year’s Festival of Birds, please let me know of your sightings either in the comment section below this post or by using my contact form. I am always interested in hearing from fellow birders!