Exceptional birds and mammals in a diverse and awe-inspiring natural place
On this exciting tour of Ontario and adjacent Michigan, we start in marvelous Algonquin Park, where look for Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker and other northern specialties while keeping an eye out for moose, otter, maybe even wolf! Carden Plain supports Upland Sandpiper, Bobolink, Golden-winged Warbler and Loggerhead Shrike. At the “Big 3” migration hotspots on Lake Erie, Point Pelee, Rondeau and Long Point, we search for species such as Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-eyed Vireo, and Kentucky, Cerulean, Hooded and Prothonotary Warblers; during some spring migrations, up to 35 species of warblers may be observed at Point Pelee alone! We then search for the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler, a young jack-pine specialist that breeds in central Michigan.
• Relatively easy and productive birding in scenically impressive and diverse areas
• The songbird migration spectacle at Point Pelee!
• Kirtland's Warblers in their restricted and specific habitat
• Lots of mammals, from Otters to Moose!
Day 1: Arrival and Orientation
The tour begins with arrival in Toronto. Night in Toronto.
Day 2: Carden Plain
We depart early in the morning for Algonquin Park. During the day we stop at Carden Plain, which is an open area of thin soils on limestone bedrock and poor agricultural potential, called an Alvar. Because of this neglect, much of the area is old field, supporting an abundance of birds like Upland Sandpiper, Eastern Bluebird, Golden-winged Warbler, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper, Vesper, Field, Savannah and possibly Clay-colored Sparrows, as well as Eastern Kingbird, and Loggerhead Shrike. The Shrike is the Carden Plain's most famous inhabitant, as there are only a handful of sites in north-eastern North America which support this endangered subspecies. We also visit wetlands of the area to see Black Tern, American Bittern, Marsh and Sedge Wren, Osprey and Northern Harrier. Following this visit, we continue on our way to the Algonquin area to spend the night. Night at Oxtongue Lake.
Days 3-5: Algonquin Park
Algonquin Park is one of Canada's best wildlife viewing Parks. Its rugged topography lends itself to vast areas of broad-leafed forests, typical of more southern areas, as well as cold, mossy bogs and coniferous forests found throughout most of Canada's north. This mix of habitats creates a fantastic diversity of birds which use the park to breed. By visiting in early May, we will be present when returning migrants are at full song. Expected birds include 15+ species of Wood Warblers, Hermit Thrush (one of North America's best singers), Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, White-throated Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, Purple Finch plus many more. American Woodcock will be in display flights over open areas, In addition we pursue species typical of the boreal forests of Canada like Common Loon, Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee and the wanderers of the north, Red and White-winged Crossbills. The extensive forests of the park are good habitat for residents like the Pileated Woodpecker, Barred Owl, and Ruffed Grouse. Of course we are always on the lookout for the many species of mammals commonly found in the park such as Marten, Black Bear, Red Fox, Eastern Wolf and River Otter but these species are shy and not often seen. We should, however, encounter Algonquin's largest inhabitant on a daily basis: Moose. In the spring, Moose visit roadside ditches and wetlands in search of salty water, created by runoff of winter salting of the highways. At this time of the year, Algonquin will truly be an amazing place you won't soon forget. Nights at Oxtongue Lake. In the afternoon of day 5 of our trip we will travel southwest to Long Point, stopping along the way to check out interesting bird habitats. Night in Simcoe.
Days 6-7: Long Point
One of the "Big Three" migration hotspots of the northern shore of Lake Erie, Long Point is home to North America's oldest bird observatory. We visit one of the field stations early in the morning to see what migrants have arrived overnight. Later, we move inland to the some spectacular forest tracts to see southern species on their breeding grounds such as Hooded, Cerulean, Blue-winged Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Later in the afternoon we continue our westward journey to the town of Leamington where we spend our next few nights.
Day 8: Rondeau Provincial Park
Considered by many to be as fantastic a birding location as the famous Point Pelee, Rondeau is a beautiful Carolinian forest, which receives fewer visitors, and hence gives a more personal birding experience. We walk some of the many kilometers of trails in the Park, looking for resident Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and sort through the flocks of returning migrants. . Night in Leamington.
Days 9-10: Point Pelee
Point Pelee is a world renowned birding location which can host thousands of migrating birds given the proper weather conditions. When warm air is pumped up from the south and meets a sudden cold front during the night, the resulting rain can force hundreds of passerines to descend on Pelee during their nocturnal procession northwards. Amongst these major rarities can occur, which is what Point Pelee is partially famous for. We will bird the park in the mornings and visit surrounding sewage lagoons and wetlands in the afternoons for migrant shorebirds, such as Wilson's Phalarope, Short-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper and Dunlin, plus Ruddy Duck. Anything can turn up at Pelee - and usually does!
To give you a taste of what the birding is like at Pelee, consider the following; a day when 100 species are not seen is considered a poor showing, and on a good day you may see between 25 and 30 species of warblers alone, all at the height of their colorful breeding plumages! There is also variety; you may see birds like Little Gull, Worm-eating Warbler, Bald Eagle, White-rumped Sandpiper, Orchard Oriole, and Philadelphia Vireo all on the same day! Nights in Leamington.In the afternoon of day 10, we depart for Mio, Michigan. Night in West Branch.
Day 11: Search for the Kirtland’s Warbler
The endangered Kirtland's Warbler is found only in central Michigan, specifically in young Jack Pine stands. We will be allowed access into the breeding areas with local Rangers who will take us to several territories at roadside for easy viewing. The Kirtland's Warbler is currently enjoying a population increase which will further help our chances of fine viewing. Later, we bird areas nearby for species we may have missed earlier in the tour. Later in the day we head to Sarnia for the night.
Day 12: Return to Toronto and Departure
After breakfast, we return to Toronto where our tour concludes, arriving at the airport near noon for flights home.
• Kirtland's Warbler
• Prothonotary Warbler
• Black-backed Woodpecker
• Spruce Grouse
• Upland Sandpiper
• Little Gull
• American Woodcock
Dates: May 15 - 26, 2015
Duration: 12 days
Limit: 12 people
Price: t.b.a. (2013 was: $3,150 USD, $3,075 CAD, single supplement $495 USD, $485 CAD)
Tour Starts & Ends: Toronto, Ontario
• Moderately easy walking
• Mild and hot, possibly muggy climate
• Lakeside cottages; modern motel accommodation
• 4 to 8 participants with one leader; 9 to 12 with 2 leaders
• One or two 15-passenger vans
• Good to excellent accommodations
• Includes all breakfasts and lunches
Our daily travel schedule will vary to account for weather, bird species and habitat. You can expect some early morning, before-breakfast walks as we search out migrating passerines, as well as late evening viewing, including one or two owling expeditions for those interested. Our tour involves generally easy walking and some hill climbing, sometimes for periods up to 4 hours. During these walks we stop frequently. We follow woodland trails and venture forth into low brush and occasional swampy and uneven terrain. When we have two leaders, we sometimes split into “faster” and “slower” groups.
Around noon time we stop for a sit-down meal at a restaurant or to have a picnic lunch. If it is hot, as it can be in southern Ontario, we may rest for an hour or so during the middle to late afternoon. In the evening, we usually arrange to go to a local restaurant. During this time we discuss the day’s activities and review the list of birds seen and heard, and plan for the next day.
Spring weather in southern Ontario can be extremely variable and you should be prepared for anything from cold rain to muggy heat, however, the snow will have gone by then. While Ontario is widely known to be infested with mosquitoes and other biting insects in late spring and summer, feel secure in the fact that our trip will occur before the insect season begins. For the most part, May is very comfortable and a lovely time to visit the province.