Life

Embrace the changing season in Ontario

QMI Agency writer Jim Fox.

By Jim Fox, Special to Postmedia Network

This barn owlet from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy will be on view at RaptorFest. (Photo by Tom Thomas/Special to QMI Agency)

This barn owlet from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy will be on view at RaptorFest. (Photo by Tom Thomas/Special to QMI Agency)

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The raptors are coming home to roost, the fish are biting and the birds are chirping.

So, it’s time to get into the great outdoors and embrace the changing season.

A Raptorfest to watch the migration, perch derby and songbird festival are among the options. 

Lots of screeching and cawing

A spectacle of nature is the migration of thousands of hawks, eagles, vultures and falcons along the Niagara Escarpment.

Learn about these winged wonders at RaptorFest, a free event next Saturday (April 21) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Peach King Centre in Grimsby, Ont.

Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch, which has monitored the migration since 1975, recorded its 500,000th raptor last year.

So far this year, there have been some 8,300 raptors counted including about 2,500 in the first nine days of April at the Beamer Memorial Conservation Area.

“We count from March 1 to May 15, with the best time for seeing birds being the last two weeks of March and last two of April,” said Mike Street of Hawkwatch.

The area offers panoramic views of the escarpment and Lake Ontario with a Lookout Trail and viewing platforms.

Among the 20,368 sightings last year were thousands of red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures and hundreds of red-shouldered and sharp-shinned hawks, along with dozens of Cooper's hawks, bald eagles and osprey.

In some years, thousands of broad-winged hawks are counted in a short period late in April, Street said.

This year’s flyovers include four black vultures, “a southern bird that is rarely seen in this area,” said Rick Quirk, RaptorFest co-founder.

The birds flock to the escarpment seeking the shortest route around large bodies of water with rising air on which to glide to conserve energy en route to breeding territories farther north in Ontario.

New at the event is the Niagara Falls Bird Kingdom with parrots while returning is the Canadian Raptor Conservancy with a golden eagle and other birds of prey, and the Travelling Reptile Show.

The Muskoka Wildlife Centre will have Luna, a rescued saw-whet owl, a ground hog, grey fox, skunk and porcupine.

Carla Carlson, who runs Niagara Nature Tours, will lead a hike on April 22 at the conservation area at no charge and on an accessible trail.

Participants will meet the hawk watchers and learn about and watch the migration and view spring flowers.

Accommodations are available at Carlson’s Bonnybank Bed and Breakfast, set in an owl sanctuary, near Jordan.

Details at: www.raptorfest.ca; www.niagarapeninsulahawkwatch.org; www.niagaranaturetours.ca; 1-888-889-8296. 

Fishy, fishy bite my hook

Thousands of dollars in prizes await anglers at the 31st annual Orillia Perch Festival from next Saturday to May 12.

Open to anglers of all ages, fishing takes place in the cool waters of Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching.

They're casting for the “big ones,” two tagged perch worth $3,100 each from Casino Rama, while grand prizes are boats, barbecues and a $3,100 shopping spree at Walmart.

There are also more than 60 tagged perch worth $500 each in this catch-and-live-release event.

Organized by the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, activities take place from Tudhope Park on Atherley Road.

The Ontario Provincial Police holds Kids Day on May 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with casting and “accuracy sports” along with displays.

Derby entry fee is $20; $5 for children to age 16. www.orillia.com/perchfestival; 1-888-326-4424. 

Chirp, chirp

Point Pelee National Park's Carolinian Forest will be alive with the sounds of migrating critters during the Festival of Birds from May 3 to 21.

Birders can experience the “avian migration phenomenon” from Canada's southernmost mainland in Leamington.

“The first three weeks in May are the prime time to view songbird migration, in particular warblers, vireos, tanagers and orioles,” said Sarah Rupert of Parks Canada.

“Forty-two of the 55 regularly occurring warbler species in North America have been found at Point Pelee,” she added.

The point is part of a peninsula, located at the crossroads of two major migration routes, extending into the western basin of Lake Erie.

It is one of the first points of land spring migrants reach in the pre-dawn hours when crossing Lake Erie at night.

Events include learning birding techniques and identification while guided bird hikes are planned at 8:30a.m., 1 p.m. and in the evening. www.festivalofbirds.ca; 1-888-707-3533


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