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Here come the bird festivals


Planning for Southwestern Ontario’s spring migration festivals is set. All that is left is for us to decide which ones to participate in. Photo by Paul Nicholson.


With the official start of spring, the migration of birds has already picked up and planning for this year’s birding festivals has been set. So grab your daytimer and circle some dates!

The biggest Southwestern Ontario migration festival is the Festival of Birds at and around Point Pelee National Park in Essex County. It will run from May 1 to May 22. There will again be birding hikes led by experts every day. There are dozens of other bird-themed events such as birdsong clinics, sketching in nature, Pride birding, wildflower hikes, and habitat restoration. A number of expert birders hailing from London (including Pete Read, Susan Nagy, and Tim Arthur) will again be leading and presenting for the festival. Many of the participant lists for the guided hikes get filled before the hike dates, so it makes sense to register as soon as you know you will be attending. For details and reservations, visit festivalofbirds.ca.

Rondeau Provincial Park will again be hosting the Festival of Flight migration festival. The dates this year will be May 6 to 22. Morning and evening guided hikes will be available as well as birding at the Blenheim lagoons. The annual Big Day birding competition is set for May 14. For more information, call the park at (519) 674- 1768. I really enjoy birding at Rondeau through the festival dates because it is so close to London, and while the birds flying through the park are tremendous, there are typically fewer birders here than at Point Pelee.

A third multi-day spring event is the Huron Fringe Birding Festival based at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. Ninety events have been scheduled for the 25th annual edition of this well-run, eight-day festival. Because it is a little further north, it always follows the south Ontario bird festivals. This year, it will run on May 26 to 29 and from June 1 to 4. Hikes and other birding happen within the park and also in the surrounding areas. While the primary focus is on the migrating birds, there is also programing that focuses on botany, nature photography, insects, and culture. Steve Burrows, author of the “Birder Murder Mystery series”, will be the keynote speaker at the festival banquet. To register for events, visit HuronFringeBirdingFestival.ca.

Some other spring birding events will also be happening. Pinery Provincial Park plans to host a full weekend of migration-themed hikes and talks. This is planned for May 20 to 22.

The Long Point Bird Observatory in Norfolk County is always an excellent destination, and through May there are daily bird banding demonstrations with bird scientists. Search on Long Point Bird Observatory or check out @LongPointBirdOb on Twitter for details.

Other events to keep your eye on include local birding hikes let by nature groups such as Nature London.

Of course you can go further afield if you want a different adventure. Other festivals will happen across the province, from Thunder Bay to Presqu’ile. Or you could even head to Magee Marsh in northern Ohio for the Biggest Week in American Birding running from May 5 to 14.

Even if you are inclined to plan your own birding, now is the time to ping a birding friend and circle a few dates for your own Big Day of birding, or maybe even your first post-COVID trip to Point Pelee.

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