This installment of our 2017 IBA in Provincial Parks blog series, presented by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada, focuses on spring migrations in two of our southwestern parks.
On my recent trip to Rondeau Provincial Park/IBA for the Wings of Spring festival and the IBA Port Franks Forested Dunes (near Pinery Provincial Park), one thing became clear…
…tundra swans make a big impression.
The beautiful migratory “songs” of the swans sound like a joyous party in the distance, while their arrival signifies for many the first signs of spring.
People happily swap stories about the annual return of the swans and share their favorite place to see them.
Swans mate for life, honoring the symbol of romance we have given them. They associate between the ages of two and three, feeding and resting together throughout the year.
In southwestern Ontario, significant numbers of tundra swans depend on six IBAs. Two of them overlap with provincial parks (plus one adjacent), providing protection for valuable swan habitat.
Tundra swans use these areas as a migratory stopover. They gather in flocks and replenish important fat reserves during their long journey from wintering grounds on the east coast of the United States to breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
In 2013, southwestern Ontario IBAs supported at least 9.5% of the world’s population or 15% of the North American population of tundra swans during spring migration (wow!). This occurs only on peak days, so the seasonal count of passing swans would be a much higher percentage of the population.
Tundra swan populations are also divided into east and west, with the Fish and Wildlife Service estimating 117,100 in the eastern population and 56,300 in the western population. This means that up to 25% of the eastern tundra swan population depends on these IBAs for their habitat.
In March, the main activity in both parks is swan watching, but just around the corner in May, the spring migration of songbirds begins.
In both Rondeau and Pinery Provincial Parks, there is important habitat for migratory and breeding songbirds. Rondeau remains a reliable place to observe the federally endangered prothonotary warbler.
Pinery Provincial Park also has habitat for at-risk species such as the Acadian flycatcher and red-headed woodpecker, and has had up to 18 species of wood warblers breeding in the park.
So if you’re looking for some good spring birding opportunities, these IBAs/provincial parks have you covered with their variety of trails and bird diversity.
Rondeau and Pinery host spring birding festivals – why not flutter away? Note: 2021 events are cancelled.
Bird Studies Canada thanks the Ontario Trillium Foundation for generously supporting the Ontario IBA Program. To stay up to date with these monthly blogs, subscribe to the Ontario IBA newsletter.