Canada - Migration Special 2016
Saturday 7th May – Tuesday 17th May
The northern shore of Lake Eerie is home to some of the most exciting migration watching that you will ever experience. Our specially designed tour concentrates on three of the most famous and exciting watch points in North America. However, we will begin with a visit to the spectacular Niagara Falls, just a short drive from Toronto. From here we will begin our migrant quest at Long Point, famous as a ringing station and where an astonishing variety of northbound migrants can be found. We will search the trails for such delights as Grey-cheeked Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Scarlet Tanager and many others. Tearing ourselves away from this wonderful spot we will then head west and base ourselves in Leamington, which is situated just outside the entrance to Point Pelee for 8 nights. From here we will make daily excursions into the park where in the right weather conditions the falls of tired migrants can be phenomenal. We will also visit Rondeau Provincial Park and Hillman Marsh, both excellent migrant hotspots. Imagine standing on the tip of Point Pelee as wave after wave of tiny passerines literally land at your feet! With over 30 species of brightly coloured warblers to search for, as well as vireos, tanagers, flycatchers, thrushes, orioles and sparrows we literally just won’t know where to look first!
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DAY 1 UK – Toronto - Niagara Falls - 7th May
Fly from London arriving at Toronto in the afternoon. We will then drive to our motel by the spectacular Niagara Falls for our first night.
DAY 2 Niagara Falls - Long Point
We’ll spend the early morning around Niagara Falls where we will soon see our first North American birds, such as Great Blue Heron, Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed Gulls, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle and Blue Jays amongst others. Any open areas with bushes are likely to produce our first stunning Yellow Warbler, whilst Black-capped Chickadee, Grey Catbird, or an Eastern Kingbird might set our pulses racing! The road alongside the falls is productive, where apart from the stunning views we can see the huge Purple Martin, as well as Northern Rough-winged, Tree and Cliff Swallows, and Chimney Swift.
Leaving the falls behind us we head west to Long Point, a superb watch point, which given the right weather conditions can play host to hundreds of northbound migrants. Lots of brightly coloured warblers may include Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, Blackpoll, Black-and-White, Yellow, Wilson’s, Palm, Bay-breasted and many more. Other species we will look out for include Brown Thrasher, Northern Oriole, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Ovenbird, Cedar Waxwing, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Grey Catbird. We will spend the night nearby at Simcoe.
DAY 3 Long Point - Point Pelee
After spending the morning around Long Point we will then head to Leamington our gateway to mass migration. Here we spend the next 8 nights which gives us a fantastic opportunity to explore Point Pelee National Park which has gained a world wide reputation for being one of the best places to be during North American spring migration, and given the right weather conditions can witness breathtaking falls of thousands of birds, with trees and bushes supporting every colour of songbird imaginable.
Warblers may include Golden-winged, Blue-winged, Magnolia, Canada, Blackburnian, Mourning, Black-throated Blue, Cape May and Northern Parula, and if are fortunate we could find Worm-eating, Swainson’s, Yellow-throated or the skulky Connecticut. Kirtland’s Warbler can also occur as seen on our previous tour, saving the long tedious drive into Michigan for this rare species. Vireos should include Red-eyed, Yellow-throated, Blue-headed, Warbling, Philadelphia and White-eyed, with stunning Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles and Blue Jays also present.
DAYS 4 - 10 Point Pelee, Rondeau and Hillman Marsh
Each day here can present different birds, where one day may see hundreds of raptors passing through, while the next waders take over. In the wet marshes, viewable from hides and boardwalks, we will search for American and Least Bitterns, Great Blue and Green-backed Herons, Red-winged Blackbird, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Pied-billed Grebe and Sora Rail. A nearby lake can be excellent for watching magnificent Bald Eagles catch fish to feed their growing young. We will also visit Rondeau Provincial Park, yet another good migration watch point where several interesting breeding species such as Prothonotary Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker and Eastern Bluebird occur. Great Horned Owls can sometimes be found and both White-tailed Deer and Racoons are common.
The superb Hillman’s Marsh will be particularly good for views of waders, with flocks consisting of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted, Solitary, and Least Sandpipers, Wilson’s Phalarope, and Short-billed Dowitcher. The surrounding trees attract smaller birds including such gems as Hooded, Cerulean, Kentucky and Mourning Warblers, American Redstart and,if we are lucky, both Yellow and Black-billed Cuckoo.
Our hotel is in the town of Leamington, close to Point Pelee National Park. This enables us to thoroughly explore this wonderful site at a very relaxed pace. The species passing through change day by day so we will search out new birds and any others previously missed, such as Yellow-breasted Chat, Brown Thrasher, the huge Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Indigo Bunting, Veery, Swainson’s, Hermit and Wood Thrushes and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. One of the most difficult families is the `empidonax’ flycatchers, with Least, Willow, Alder, Acadian and Yellow-bellied all testing our identification skills.
Meanwhile a whole selection of different sparrows is possible, including White-crowned, White-throated, Grasshopper, Savannah, Chipping, Lincoln’s, Song, Swamp, Field and Vesper. Raptors on our list should by now include Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged, Sharp-shinned, Coopers and Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey and American Kestrel. You will be amazed by the beautiful little Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and with luck we could find a roosting Eastern Screech Owl or Whip-poor-Will, and both displaying American Woodcock and Common Nighthawk. We will also hope for a rarity or two, and on our previous visit we managed to see Harris's Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, the rare Kirtland's Warbler and a Yellow-throated Warbler - you just never know what will turn up here!
DAY 11 Point Pelee - Toronto - UK - 17th May
Depending on flight times we may be able to visit some nearby sites for a few hours birding this morning before heading to the airport and our flight back to the UK and conclusion of a very special tour.
Leader: Nick Bray.
Ground Price: £1450.00 – Toronto/Toronto
Airfare: £550 - £620 (approx) - UK/UK
Single supplement: £350.00
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 5 and maximum 10 with 2 leaders.
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms en-suite, transport throughout, continental-style breakfast in some motels, all park entrance fees, and services of leaders.
Not included: International airfare, insurance, meals, visa (ESTA) fee, drinks, tips and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: The motels we use are all of a reasonable/good standard and are en-suite.
Tour Code: This is a fairly easy tour and walking is of an easy nature on flat, well worn trails or roads, although we could walk between 3 and maybe 5 kilometres on some days. On other days we may spend hours in one area waiting to see what migrants arrive, or seawatching, or twitching one particular rarity that has just arrived, or spend a lot of time watching new arrivals of shorebirds. We will repeatedly walk many of the same trails at Rondeau and Point Pelee on successive days, as tired migrants can arrive at any time and the species composition changes day by day. As it is spring, expect unsettled weather (much better for large falls of migrants!) ranging from cold, wet & windy to warm and sunny. Opportunities for photography are excellent! Meals are not included in the tour price but are relatively inexpensive and you should budget for £20 - £30 per day depending on your requirements.
See more photos from our last visit - click here.
2013 Tour Report - click here.
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