As we turn the corner toward the Labor Day weekend, migration is on the top of most birders minds. As birds begin to prepare for their winter migrations, it is a great time of year to get out and track certain species and their migration patterns.
Raptors are no exception, and with the numerous sites across Ontario to catch a glimpse of vultures, ospreys, hawks, kits falcons and eagles during their magnificent journey. Southern Ontario, in particular, offers specific vantage points for yearly hawk migrations, where visitors are treated to a spectacle of hundreds of hawks filling the skies above.
When to Watch For Hawks
In these Southern Ontario hotspots, located along Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the fall migration begins to kick into gear around mid-August with the height of activity occurring in September and October for most species. The migration will carry on all the way into December, ending gradually about midway through the month.
Where to See Hawks
Southern Ontario is the place to be for hawk migration, offering the greatest number of birds, and an impressive amount of available watches for spectators to view them from. Generally speaking, the best-watching sites are situated along the Great Lakes, as most hawks will exit Ontario across the Detroit River just south of Windsor.
Here is a list of some of the best sites to catch a glimpse of the hawk migration in Southern Ontario according to the Ontario Field Ornithologists:
Cranberry Marsh: Situated in Lynde Shores Conservation Area in Whitby about 40 km east of Toronto. From Toronto exit Highway 401 at Salem Road, go right (south) about one km to Bayly Road, turn left (east) and go about 3 km to just past Lakeridge Road. Take Halls Road (dirt) on the right, go 1. 6 km and park on the roadside. Walk east on a narrow trail about 100 metres to the south platform overlooking Cranberry Marsh. From the east, exit 401 at Brock Street in Whitby, go south (left) 0.5 km to Victoria, then go west (right) 3.3 km to Halls Road on your left just past the main entrance to Lynde Shores Conservation Area.
High Park: This fabulous site in Toronto’s famed High Park is in the city’s west end between the Gardiner Expressway and Bloor Street. Go to the parking lot of Grenadier Restaurant from Bloor Street via West Road or take the east entrance off Parkside. Note: On Sundays and holidays from I May to 1 October, vehicle entrance to High Park is from Bloor only. Hawks are viewed from the small knoll known as Hawk Hill just to the north of the restaurant. High Park offers excellent birding throughout the year. See Bob Yukich’s (1995) site guide to Toronto’s High Park in OFO News 13(3):2‐3.
Iroquois Shoreline Hawkwatch: Situated in Heber Down Conservation Area in north Whitby near Brooklin on an old shoreline of former glacial Lake Iroquois. Directions: From Highway 401 in Whitby take Brock Street exit to Highway 12. Go north through Whitby past Taunton Road and turn left on Winchester Rd W, then left (south) on Ashburn Road. Park by the gate on right and take the path through the cedars, then take the path on right to the platform.
Rosetta McClain Gardens Raptor Watch: Situated on the Scarborough Bluffs in east Toronto. Directions: Going east from Birchmount Road on Kingston Road, turn right at first traffic light into the parking lot. Walk a short distance to the edge of the bluff overlooking Lake Ontario.
Port Burwell: Located on Lake Erie midway between Port Stanley (Hawk Cliff) and Long Point. This new site has comparable numbers to Hawk Cliff. From Highway 401, exit south at Ingersoll to Tillsonburg on Highway 19 and proceed to Port Burwell Provincial Park. There is a small fee to enter. Go to the westernmost parking lot of the day use area, which has a great view to the north and east. Another spot is the flats along both sides of the mouth of Otter Creek with lots of parking and open views to the west, north, and east. See Martin (1998).
Please visit the OFO website for more information at www.ofo.ca