Bird Locally

Eastern Pheobe
photo by Ian Sturdee
As an avid birder, every spring people ask if I am going to Point Pelee or Long Point during the spring migration. More and more often my response is; a special trip to these wonderful birding areas may be on the agenda but a lot of time during spring is spent in my neighbourhood observing birds that stop by on their way north. Fortunately, my backyard is Heart Lake CA but it could be anywhere habitat such as trees, shrubs, brush, water or a wild meadow are present. If you are patient and observant you will be richly rewarded for staying close to home.

Etobicoke and Mimico Creeks provide opportunities for observing migration locally. Colonel Sam Smith Park located at Kipling Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard, is a stop-over for a wide variety of migrant birds and a great place to obtain help from experienced birders who are sure to be where "the action is." On the other hand, you don't have to travel down to the shores of Lake Ontario to view migratory birds. There are plenty of spots along creeks to view these migrants as they travel north. Etobicoke Creek north of Burnamthorpe is one good spot and the Etobicoke Trail provides easy access to this area. Some additional hot-spots are:

The creek valley between Kennedy Road and the 410, Loafer's Lake to north of Mayfield Road, and even in the heart of Brampton you can see warblers and other migrants along the valley north of Church Street. Golf courses also provide opportunities for birders, especially if your game isn't going too well. Peel Village and Markland Woods have a variety of birds, as these areas provide habitat necessary for migration rest spots. Professor's Lake and Heart Lake are great areas to view water birds like the Horned Grebe in the picture. Heart Lake is a particularly good location for songbirds and species such as the American Bittern.

No matter where you choose to view birds, there are a few things to keep in mind and help you be prepared. Wear comfortable shoes, bring binoculars, and have a camera to take pictures and small notebook to write down key features. If you are unable to identify a particular bird, having a description or image will allow you to consult a field guide or ask an experienced birder to help determine species. The best time to observe is early in the morning or later in the evening. Birds are most active during these times making them easier to view. Pay attention to forest edges and low vegetation as in many cases, birds will be feeding lower to the ground making them easier to spot. Don't forget to use your ears and eyes to find them. Even if you can't identify birds by their songs, if you hear a call that is unfamiliar it should help you find the performer. You should also keep an eye out for Chickadees feeding in the lower branches of shrubs and trees. Many times they will be part of a mixed group of migrants that could include many different species of warblers, vireos and other songbirds. If you are fortunate enough to be witness to one of these large flocks, identification can be challenging. If it becomes overwhelming, simply stand back and enjoy the spectacle.

So don't worry if you can't get to one of Ontario's hotspots to see the birds. You can stay close to home, view this wonderful event and get to know your own backyard the way the birds do. The thing that makes me happy staying local is that I get to be surprised by what I do see rather than by what I've missed.

Written by: Bob Noble, Brampton Resident, Etobicoke-Mimico Watersheds Coalition member
Apr 11, 2014

see more at: Etobicoke Mimico Creek Watersheds Creektime Newsletter