Brothers Mike and Ken Burrell’s just-released book, Best Places to Bird in Ontario, is a tremendous resource in which they share two lifetimes of insider knowledge of provincial bird watching hot spots.
Do you need a spruce grouse for your life list? Has it been too long since you’ve seen tufted titmice? Before heading out to see the brilliant breeding birds of Backus Woods in Norfolk County, should you know that the mosquitoes there are some of the most ferocious these well-travelled authors ever have encountered? If all you know about Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit is that it’s an excellent destination for birders, you might end up hiking right by the West Woods and The Bowl, while distracted by waterfowl. Or worse still, you could show up with your binoculars on a Wednesday. This book is helpful.
In it, thirty top places to bird across the province are highlighted. Fourteen of these are in Southwestern Ontario. I particularly like the detailed “birding strategy” section for each area.
Even though I have birded around Southwestern Ontario all my life, the insights shared in this book are valuable.
For example, I am reassured that the Burrells say I should always check the Wheatley harbour since there can be excellent sightings here, but I shouldn’t have misgivings about cutting my losses if it’s quiet. This location is characterized as hit-or-miss and time might be better spent scanning the scrubby fields on the south side of Highway 3 immediately east of Campers Cove Rd. for dickcissels and other grassland species. I did exactly that while birding in Essex County on Monday.
Long-time birders may know of Clive Goodwin’s A Bird-Finding Guide to Ontario. The Burrells’ new entry is a fresh update for the next generation of the province’s birders. It reflects the always-shifting populations of our birds and it is also well grounded with eBird data.
This book also will be of interest to bird photographers and videographers. For example, photographers learn that while the species diversity along the Niagara River can be tremendous, the birds often are well out from shore. Scopes are recommended highly.
With various local and regional where-to-bird guides already in play, it’s fair to ask, “Do we need another?” The Burrells’ book answers this question with an emphatic “Yes.” Best Places to Bird in Ontario will be a useful and inspiring addition to your reference book collection. It is available directly from Greystone Books or other booksellers now.
The Burrells acknowledge in Best Places to Bird in Ontario that there still is an important place for similar publications that have a localized geographic scope. For example Nature London’s fifth edition of the Guide to the Natural Areas of London and Region and Ron Ridout’s A Birding Guide to the Long Point Area offer more granular information about more birding locations in Middlesex and Norfolk Counties respectively.
- On Monday, May 13, at 6:30 p.m. the public can join in a guided spring wildflower hike at Meadowlily Woods in southeast London. On Wednesday, May 15, at 6:30 p.m., Nature London also will be leading a guided bird-watching hike through the Sifton Bog environmentally significant area. Exact locations and other details about these free events are on the Nature London events calendar at naturelondon.com.
- The provincial government has created a stir with a proposed “More Homes, More Choices Act.” Many significant changes to our existing Endangered Species Act are included in the omnibus Bill 108. These changes include a weakening of the classification criteria for species at risk, a move away from science-based decisions about species at risk, and an introduction of ministerial discretion to defer or limit environmental protections. Environmental organizations have expressed grave concern. The government’s bill can be reviewed online at ola.org as can the concerns of the environmental organizations. Ontario Nature for example includes what they call “pay to slay” in their list of top concerns. In related news, a United Nations report earlier this week confirmed that species extinctions are accelerating at an alarming rate due to the loss of biodiversity which in turn is directly linked to human activity.