Birding

Bird watching is the fastest growing hobby in the world. It’s one of the few activities people can do more of as they get older, it is inexpensive and available to everyone. The beauty of birding is that an amateur has just as good a chance at making that rare bird sighting as a professional and it’s a great way to get kids interested in nature.  To get you started here are some great tips for beginner bird watchers.

The western end of Lake Ontario (Cootes to Escarpment Park System) which includes Burlington, offers a variety of habitats enabling birders to see over 300 bird species.

Birding Trails

Bald Eagles at their Cootes Paradise Nest cropped

Bald Eagles at RBG Cootes Paradise

Bald eagles, all but locally extinct in the 1980’s, are now making a comeback. Several Bald Eagles have overwintered in Cootes Paradise at Royal Botanical Gardens in the last few years and have established nests on the north shore of Cootes Paradise west of the Marshwalk observation platform.

The west end of Lake Ontario is a perfect fall and spring stopover area for water birds including Loons, Tundra Swans and even the occasional Pelican.  The presence of zebra mussels on the bottom of Lake Ontario provides an abundant supply of food for hundreds of thousands of Arctic ducks who winter over along our lakeshore.  Trumpeter Swans, the largest waterfowl in North America had vanished from Ontario in 1886. With the help of volunteers they have been brought back to south-central Ontario and 200 swans flock to the shores of LaSalle Park in Burlington to winter over, arriving in November and returning in April to their nesting grounds in the north.

Burlington is home to species that only recently have become established in Ontario including: Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, and Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls are quite common, although rarely seen.

Bird feeders attract many small birds that are easy prey for Coopers Hawks and Sharp Shinned Hawks which are found all year round in Burlington.  Several bird species have become so numerous they present a problem for humans by damaging habitat.  Double Crested Cormorants nest in colonies on trees close to water and their waste is poisonous to the trees.  The Canada Goose has become a pest, fouling many parks and beaches.

Osprey at Mountsberg

Osprey at Mountsberg

Waterfront – To see Waterbirds and Gulls in all seasons, follow the shoreline starting at the RBG/Cootes Paradise and stopping at Woodland Cemetery, RBG, LaSalle Park Marina, the Canal/Lift Bridge, Spencer Smith Park, Sioux Lookout, Paletta Lakefront Park, Burloak Park and continue on into Oakville, stopping at Bronte and Oakville Harbours.

Escarpment – Great locations for Raptors including Turkey Vultures. Stop at Mount Nemo, Rattlesnake Point, Kelso Conservation Areas and Kerncliff Park.

Bruce Trail – Hiking the Bruce Trail offers many opportunities to see forest and farmland birds.  In spring and summer watch for migrating Raptors and Vultures. The cliffs create updrafts which these birds use to gain height to speed their migration. The Bruce Trail follows the Niagara Escarpment and is your connection to some of the best birding experiences in the Burlington area, travelling through Crawford Lake, Hilton Falls, Kelso, Mount Nemo, and Rattlesnake Point Conservation Areas, Kerncliff Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Prime Birding Locations

Bronte Creek Provincial Park Birds seen in the park include Northern Mockingbird,  Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Red-tailed Hawk, several kinds of Sparrows, as well as the occasional Pileated Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriole, Turkey Vulture and both Long-eared and Short-eared Owl.  Birds of particular interest include: Eastern Bluebird and Northern Shrike. PAID ADMISSION
Crawford Lake Conservation Area Look for Belted Kingfishers from the boardwalk around Crawford Lake and various species of woodpeckers, warblers and thrushes in the woodlands. The Nassagaweya Canyon Lookout is a great place to look for Turkey Vultures.  19 km of forest and cliff edge trails, nature/activity centre and a boardwalk that surrounds a rare meromictic lake. PAID ADMISSION
Hilton Falls Conservation Area Hand feeding the chickadees at the waterfall in winter is an enjoyable experience. Excellent location for spring warblers and other woodland species. 16 km of hiking trails on the Niagara Escarpment with spectacular waterfall and beaver meadows. PAID ADMISSION
Kelso Conservation Area Good site for woodland birds and migratory birds of prey. 16 km of cliff edge and forest trails with connections to Bruce Trail. PAID ADMISSION
Kerncliff Park Sora and Scarlet Tanager can be found in spring and summer, it’s also great for amphibians such as frogs, toads and snakes. Part of the Bruce Trail, originally site of a quarry and has been rehabilitated with 1.4 km of trails partially through wetlands and forest. FREE
LaSalle Park/Marina Favorite wintering location for Great Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead and Common Meganser.  Also look for Redhead, Canvasback, Trumpeter and Mute Swans, Mallard and American Coots and other waterfowl.  Nestled on the north shore of Burlington Bay on the waterfront trail in this protected harbour, a great place to check for wintering Bald Eagles. FREE
Mount Nemo Conservation Area Good site for watching turkey vultures and other birds of prey.  5 km of cliff edge and forest trails with interpretive lookout and connections to Bruce Trail. Great vistas and views of surrounding countryside. PAID ADMISSION
Mountsberg Conservation Area Has a raptor centre with presentations and exhibits on birds of prey.  Shorebirds and waterfowl can be seen on the reservoir during spring and fall.  Wood Ducks and other wetland birds are also present.  16 km of forest and lakeshore trails with excellent wildlife viewing. Nature/activity centre and boat launch. PAID ADMISSION
Paletta Lakefront Park Good location to see waterbirds and spring migrants such as warblers.  Carolina Wrens also are frequently found here.  Historic mansion and with 14 acre parkland and trail system along lake and through woodland along creek. FREE
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area Conservation Halton – Five lookouts with great viewing opportunities for migratory birds of prey. 10 km of cliff edge and forest with hiking/nature trails with connections to Bruce Trail and Crawford Lake. PAID ADMISSION
Royal Botanical Gardens Owls, Ospreys, Bald Eagles, shorebirds, waterfowl, spring and fall migrants, the RBG has them all! Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers will often feed from your hand. With over 260 hectares of woods and 30 hectares of wetlands the RBG is a prime area for birds with many trails and observation points to view a variety of waterfowl, migratory and nesting birds.  Report any unusual bird sightings to the Nature Centre. PAID ADMISSION
Sioux Lookout Wintering and migrant ducks.  Small parkette off Lakeshore Rd with sweeping views of lake. FREE
Burlington Lakeshore Includes Beachway Park (including canal & lift bridge), Spencer Smith Park, Sioux Lookout, Paletta Lakefront Park, and Burloak Park.  The entire shoreline provides good birding opportunities throughout the depths of winter.  Look for Long-tailed Duck, Greater and Lesser Scaup, White-winger Scoter and Common Goldeneye by the thousands.  Red-necked Grebes often are seen in early summer and Mallard and Canada Goose at anytime. FREE
The Waterfront  – Beachway Park & Burlington Canal Ducks, grebes, geese, swans and loons all use Lake Ontario, some are year-round residents, other stop over on migration.  Peregrine Falcons can be seen at the lift bridge.  Northern Mockingbirds have established territories along the Beach Strip from Burlington to Hamilton.  Park stretches over several kms. of white beach with seasonal snack bar, outdoor showers, playground and walking trails. FREE
The Waterfront –Spencer Smith Park A good place for wintering ducks, Mute and Trumpeter Swans and Red-necked Grebes in early summer.  Connects with Beachway Park for 3 km of waterfront trails.  Discovery Landing features The Observatory a nice warm, dry place for bird and weather watching that is also a banquet facility.  Visit Spencers restaurant or the Bite snack bar and the Rotary Centennial Pond is used for  skating in winter and model boats in summer.  Great views of Lake and Skyway Bridge. FREE- PAID PARKING
Woodland Cemetery (west end of Aldershot) One of the best birding sites in the area.  You can see large flocks of Tundra Swans in spring and fall and migrating birds include Blue Jays, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Bluebirds, various finches and lots of warblers from September-October.  Ospreys are frequently seen through late summer and fall fishing along the edges of Burlington Bay. Bald Eagles often can be seen during winter months. FREE

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