Your Guide to the Spring Birding Festival🐦
Close your eyes, slowly take three deep breaths and listen to all that is going on around you.
Were you overwhelmed by swiftly passing cars, blaring horns, loud conversations or the dinging of your phone? Wouldn’t you rather replace all of those things with the sweet trilling of birdsong?!
Written by: Gaby Cole [ May 9, 2019]
If you are lucky enough to be in Prince Edward County from May 11-20, your trip will be incredibly rewarding if you add the Spring Birding Festival to your itinerary.
The southern tip of The County is a very special place. A haven for a diverse collection of birds, the eastern tip of the South Shore is a designated Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. Its unique habitat offers a significant number of birds respite during their spring and fall migration. After travelling through the night, birds arrive in the morning to enjoy the clouds of insects drawn to the shoreline.
The third and fourth week of May is a period of intense migration for these birds and the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (aka PEPtBO) invites nature lovers and bird enthusiasts of all ages to visit them at the Observatory for free daily walks and tours. With a fabulous roster of guides with impressive credentials, these tours are guaranteed to be packed with passion, education and new adventures.
So get outside and go exploring! During part of the festival – called the Big Week (May 12 – 19th) – be sure to download or pick up a checklist and map of all potential species sightings. Prizes will be awarded for those who can find and identify 75, 100 and 125+ species!
For the enthusiast. PEPtBO offers Guided Birding Trips within some of the special habitats of The County, including Beaver Meadow, Traverse Woods and Lighthall Wetlands. Join expert guides who will focus on finding birds and exploring woods, grasslands and marshes. These trips are a bit more intensive, lasting 2-4 hours and may require boots. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.
For the curious. Local Field Naturalists will take you birding through significant natural areas in The County, including Sandbanks Park, Point Petre, the Millennium Trail, and the Hudgin-Rose Property. PEPtBO encourages all ages and interest levels to try out birding and learn about local habitats . To pre-register for free events, visit here.
For the reader. Two book launches will also take place during the festival.
Visit the Picton Branch of the Public Library (208 Main Street) on May 11th at 3 p.m. for the launch of For the Birds, a collection of original poetry selected from a contest held last year. The collection features 17 poets, and photography by Ian Dickinson and Hélène Tremblay. The launch will include readings by two winning poets, coffee and snacks.
On May 18th, join expert birder Mike Burrell as he celebrates the publication of the Best Places to Bird in Ontario. A book signing will take place at the Observatory at 11 a.m.
Before you head to the Observatory. Plan to spend two to four hours here, especially if you’re planning to take part in one of the tours. Pack a picnic and your reusable water bottle so you can take your time and fully enjoy everything the South Shore has to offer. While there are public washrooms, there is no drinking water on site.
Don’t be afraid of a bit of drizzle. The birds are more active in slightly inclement weather. Regardless of the weather in town, make sure to wear layers, as it is cooler by the lake. The water levels have been high, so consider bringing rubber boots!
Remember your binoculars and a camera. The trees are not yet in full foliage, allowing for some wonderful shots of birds resting in tree branches. For those who do not have binoculars handy, there are a few pairs available for loan at the Observatory.
One of the reasons the birds choose this location is because it is rich in food sources, including mosquitoes. Wonderful for the birds, sometimes itchy for us. If you are using insect repellent, please avoid using it near collecting nets or the banding lab. A tick check after your walk is also recommended.
As a designated wildlife area, it closes at dusk and while on-leash dogs are welcome, PEPtBO asks that given the number of visitors during Spring Birding Festival, to please leave pets at home.
At the Observatory. When you arrive, you will see marked trails and free day-use parking areas. There are no big parking lots but you can park along the road if the festival is busy. The weekends are busier as there are more opportunities for guided walks, however there are walks happening daily (and the birds are always around.)
During festival weekends, a hospitality tent will greet visitors with snacks and coffee. Bird banding takes place from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Visitors are welcome to observe how volunteers record the birds for research purposes.
The walk to the Point Traverse Lighthouse is family friendly and accessible for strollers. It is set at a slow pace along a level gravel road and is approximately 2-km round trip.
Take in The County. Make the trip to and from the Observatory part of your adventure.
The birds are most active in the morning and many of the tours are offered early in the day to take advantage of this (there are also some evening tours.) Get to the conservation area early and delight in swooping, feeding birds and their glorious morning songs. Then, on your way back, stop by at some of these great spots:
Along County Road 13, you can take in some more nature by stopping at Little Bluff Conservation Area or find out about our maritime heritage at Mariners Park Museum. The museum opens May 18th and admission is by donation. County Road 13 is also home to Half Moon Bay Winery.
During the last weekend of the festival, on May 18th and 19th, there are added festivities in the South Shore! The Black River Spring Festival includes more than a dozen venues along Morrison Point Road. Vicki’s Veggies will be hosting their famous Heirloom Tomato Seedling Sale. This family friendly event includes puppet making by Small Pond Arts, wood-fired pizza, coffee and fresh lemonade. Black River Cheese Company also offers food and those squeaky pieces of heaven: cheese curds.
The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is located at 6056 Long Point Road (County Road 13). PEPtBO is a volunteer-run, registered charity.
Entry to the festival is free.
Check out the full listing of events, some require pre-registration.
Guided Birding Trips are $40, $20 with a PEPtBO membership.