Each spring, thousands of Tundra Swans make their way from their wintering grounds on the Atlantic coast to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Fortunately for area birders, Southwestern Ontario is situated en route and these birds are often observed across our area flying overhead, or on the ground feeding and resting in flooded farm fields. If seeing migrating Tundra Swans is on your spring birding to do list, than consider taking a trip to the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area.
Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is probably the best place in Southwestern Ontario to view Tundra Swans. Each year, these birds notoriously stop here to rest and feed before carrying on with their long migration. Surrounded by farmland, and situated on two large ponds, the habitat at Aylmer Wildlife Management Area is perfect for attracting these large migrants. Four viewing stands overlook the ponds, providing birders with excellent views of the Tundra Swans. Morning feedings provide the birds with adequate nourishment to help them on their long journey north, as well as keep them close to the viewing stands.
On Wednesday I decided to take a trip to the Aymer Wildlife Management Area to see the Tundra Swans. Reports from the area had a count of 3000 Tundra Swans that morning, so I knew there would be plenty of Swans to see. Daily counts can be found on the website. According to the reports, there were also two blue morph Snow Geese, a Ross’s Goose, and five Cackling Geese present. This had me excited as I still needed a Ross’s Goose for my life list.
On the way to Aylmer, several small flocks of Tundra Swans were observed flying overhead, all in a northwest direction. These Swans perhaps were on their way to the Thedford bog, another popular location for where Swans layover. Upon exiting the car after arriving in Aylmer, the sound of the Tundra Swans took over. Several birds circled overhead, while thousands of others could be heard and seen covering the north pond. I made my way up onto the first elevated observation stand and quickly realized that the morning count of 3000 swans was no exaggeration.
As I scanned the area with my binoculars, I quickly picked up the two blue morph Snow Geese on the grassy berm adjacent to the pond, feeding on corn. Further behind them, across the arm of the pond, was the lone Ross’s Goose. Happy to add this to my life list, I realized a better view would be had from stand number three. As I entered the stand, the Ross’s Goose was observed straight ahead. I scanned the pond and the surrounding land, but was unable to locate any of the Cackling Geese.
Despite the large ponds and the offerings of corn, there were not many ducks present on this day. In fact, there have not been many ducks reported yet this year from the area. A few pairs of Mallards could be seen around the pond, a pair of Northern Pintails, and a lone Ruddy Duck swam along the far shore of the pond. A Sandhill Crane was reported earlier in the week, but like the Cackling Geese, I was unable to locate it on this visit.
Three of the four observations stands at Aylmer Wildlife Management Area are elevated, providing great views overlooking the ponds. The third stand is at ground level and is fully accessible for those that require the assistance of a mobility device. It is also fully enclosed in case of inclement weather.
For those who have never been to Aymer Wildlife Management Area before, I highly recommended it. Whether you are a birder or not, the sight of so many birds in one place is truly spectacular. Tundra Swan migration was delayed slightly this year due to the cooler temperatures, and lack of snow and ice melt. Migration is now in full swing, and will not last for too long. With warmer temperatures and south winds in the forecast, Tundra Swans will be on the move.
If you are looking for a fun family activity to do this Easter weekend, consider heading down to Aylmer and observing the Tundra Swans. Centrally located in Southwestern Ontario, Aylmer is a nice day trip from almost anywhere. For more information, including hours, feeding times, directions, and daily Swan counts, visit the Aylmer Wildlife Management Area’s website.
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