2023-05-13 Ontario’s Bronte Harbour & Long Point

Our tour started and ended in Oakville (top of the map), and we traveled counter-clockwise on the route shown.
Red-Necked Grebe - Podiceps grisegena
Near to the home of my Canadian friend Judy, and along the shore of Lake Ontario, is a park and marina called Bronte Harbour, where Red-Necked Grebes have nested for over 15 years in floating tires provided by thoughtful local citizens.

While visiting with my friend Judy in Ontario Canada, she offered to escort me to a few of her favorite birding destinations, and Saturday we spent the day on the road, driving for about 250 miles. We began the day driving west, toward the northern shore of Lake Erie. Our target was called Long Point, where a wetland peninsula juts into the lake extending in a south easterly direction. Such land structures seem to attract migrating birds, and are sometimes called ‘traps’ because once the birds find themselves there, they tend to linger.

Our route to Long Point included a slight detour through the nearby town of Aylmer, where we explored briefly for birds. Eager to reach Long Point, we didn’t spend much time in Aylmer. Once we reached Long Point, we drove to a location called Old Cut, where birds and birders congregated. We spent most of our time in a grove of tall trees, risking neck strain; a condition birders call ‘warbler-neck’. There was no shortage of migrating songbirds in the grove, and sometimes they would pop out from the deep shade and provide a photo-op for those of us with cameras. After several rewarding hours in the grove, we resumed our tour of the region.

Niagara Falls is not much of a birding destination, but given its storied past and the renown spectacle of the falling water, folks here convinced me to include a ‘brief’ stop there. Being it was Mother’s Day weekend, we found ourselves trapped by an overwhelming crush of possibly a million tourists. There was a “Coney Island’ vibe to the area, complete with roller coasters and carney rides. While we navigated the tourist laden streets to find our way to the falls, I found my stress levels elevated. I love traveling where nature’s influences are strongest, and here I was immersed in a situation that was the polar opposite. While I was glad to catch a glimpse of the legendary falls, I was not tempted to waltz out to the falls and suffer the crush of the crowd to take a picture.

We departed Niagara Falls and drove back to the town of Oakville, where Judy’s home is, and there was still some light left in the day. After enjoying breakfast at a local diner last Thursday, we visited Bronte Harbour. Judy wanted to show me the nesting Red-Necked Grebes at the marina. Fifteen or twenty years ago, the grebes showed up in the harbor. Some thoughtful and creative folks had the brilliant idea to anchor some truck tires in the marina’s sheltered waters and the grebes soon adopted them as a foundation to build their nests, and they have returned every year since. I believe there are several pairs nesting in the harbor. When we arrived on Saturday, the sun was low in the western sky, but we took pictures until we lost the sun.

My time here in Ontario is not over. I’ve been invited to spend some time at a country cottage about an hour and a half north of Oakville. It holds the possibility of more fun bird encounters. My visit there promises to be the next story I will be sharing here.

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