Today’s post was written by Laura Penner, Discovery Leader at Rondeau Provincial Park.
Seeing the world wake up and come back to life after a long winter is something almost everyone looks forward to. While winter has charm and dazzling beauty, the thought of those long, warm days simply changes the pace of outdoor activity.
We are not the only ones who anticipate the change of seasons. In fact, nature has been investing huge amounts of energy to take advantage of this relatively brief burst of heat and the seemingly unlimited supply of food that accompanies it. This is evident in the countless flocks of birds that migrate north each spring.
Have you ever wondered why some birds migrate?
It’s easy for us to understand why they head south in winter: it’s cold! If insects and fruits make up the majority of your diet, it makes sense to go where they are most abundant.
Prothonotary warbler. Photo: Ric McArthur
It’s the return journey that becomes a little harder for humans to understand. Why would birds leave “paradise”? Why would they risk everything to fly thousands of miles on the dangerous journey back north each spring?
This journey is necessary for your survival!
If they stayed south during the summer, competition for resources would be fierce between migratory birds and birds native to the area.
Summer tanager. Photo: Allen Woodcliffe
Additionally, spring northward migration coincides perfectly with the opening of tree leaves, allowing migrating birds to take advantage of a huge increase in insect populations, hatching in time to eat those fresh new leaves.
The days become longer as birds travel north and increasing daylight hours provide more time to collect insects.
Invisible roads in the sky
As birds travel, they follow four main migratory routes—think invisible highways in the sky. These migratory routes typically follow natural features such as coastlines, mountain ranges and river systems and help guide birds back to their nesting areas.
In Ontario, we are fortunate to have two of these major migratory routes that branch off and cross the province, bringing a wide variety of migratory birds through certain areas.
The value of the sand spits of the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes can be a challenge during migration, as many birds must wait for favorable weather to successfully cross. Lake Erie’s three sand spits (Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, and Long Point Provincial Park) provide the perfect place for tired birds to land and refuel as they continue moving north.
The Rondeau Flying Festival
Looking for a new bird watching adventure? Join Rondeau Provincial Park for its annual Festival of Flight from May 6 to 21, 2023.
Twice a day during the festival there will be guided bird walks led by an experienced bird watcher.
From warblers to waterfowl, you’ll be introduced to the wonders of the spring birding season in Rondeau. Call the park at 519-674-1768 for more information.
Visitors can now plan their trip in advance and obtain a daily vehicle permit in advance.
Advance daily vehicle permits are available at 7:00 am, five days prior to arrival date. Reservations can be made online (here’s a tutorial on how to book, including how to use your seasonal permit).