The signs of spring always catch our attention.
We are excited about the arrival of the familiar birds, butterflies and fish that we see every summer. Maybe it’s simply because we long for the end of winter. Or maybe it’s the feeling that a good friend has returned from a long vacation in the south.
However, what we sometimes overlook is the beauty of his departure.
Take a moment this fall to stop and appreciate the wonder of fall migrations, how they repeat year after year, like clockwork.
Head to a park to witness this phenomenon; It will expose you to an incredible variety of wildlife.
Seeing black and orange wings fluttering can only mean one thing: the fall season is almost here. Monarch Butterflies are here.
Monarch females lay, on average, 700 eggs in August. Each egg is about the size of the head of a pin and is laid on the underside of common milkweed plants. After hatching, they spend 10 to 14 days as larvae and grow up to 3,000 times their weight.
The next step is the pupal stage, where they spend another 10 to 14 days in a chrysalis. Near the end, the chrysalis changes from a bright green to a light color through which the orange and black of the adult’s wings are visible.
The Monarch butterflies that hatch in late August will fly 3,000 kilometers to central Mexico to escape the Canadian winter, and the cycle begins again.
The rivers that flow into Ontario’s Great Lakes are ideal habitat for migratory fish, including many species of salmon and trout. Chinook, Coho and pink salmon, as well as rainbow trout, swim in these rivers each fall.
Ontario salmon lay their eggs in streams in the fall, which do not hatch until spring. The hatchlings typically remain in these streams for months before beginning their migration to the Great Lakes. The adults remain there for about four years, before returning to streams and rivers to spawn and then die.
Sauble Falls Provincial Park is the perfect place to try your hand at fall fishing. There are great opportunities to fish for salmon and steelhead late in the season (and you can watch them try to jump the waterfall). It is possible to fish from the shore, dive into the water or even cast a rod from your campsite in certain areas.
Lake Superior Provincial Park is another great place to fish, a little further north in Ontario. Chinook, Coho and Pink Salmon run throughout the park’s largest streams. Brook trout is also a popular catch. The general rule is that the farther you fish from park access points, the better the fishing will be.
You can use Fish ON-Line to explore opportunities. Remember: a fishing license is required!
Billions of birds fly south to escape the freezing winters of the north. Many travel along migration superhighways: strips of forest that connect natural areas to each other and help animals migrate.
Many Ontario parks are rest stops for immigrants. Several are classified as IBAs, or Important Bird Areas. They are key places to protect Ontario’s biodiversity (and for bird watching).
Many small birds, such as vireos, warblers, and thrushes, begin moving south in mid-August and continue to do so until October. Shorebirds are best seen in September. And of course, there’s the ever-ubiquitous Canada Goose, which runs from September to November.
Many provincial parks offer good opportunities for bird watching. Rondeau Provincial Park is located in an area of overlap of the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways. More than 360 bird species have been identified, including rarities such as Townsend’s solitaire, yellow-throated warbler and painted bunting.
More than 80% of all shorebird species breeding in North America have been found in Presqu’ile Provincial Park.
Songbirds such as warblers, thrushes, flycatchers and sparrows use it as a resting point when crossing the large lakes. It is also important for larger birds, such as seagulls, herons, cormorants and ducks.
Located on the Huron Fringe, MacGregor Point Provincial Park sits in the middle of a migration corridor.
Many migrators are songbirds, including nearly 20 species of warblers that nest in or around the park. In fact, more than 170 different species have been observed within the park boundaries throughout the history of the annual Huron Fringe Birding Festival.
Other migration hotspots include:
Come see the immigrants
There is a lot to love about fall. Sweater weather. The vast views of colorful leaves. The sounds of crickets and the start of school (parents rejoice!).
And now, hopefully, fall migrations are also on your mind.
Come see them. They are a sight to behold.