Avocet Tours offers guided birding vacations to the best bird watching locations in North America

Point Pelee & Upper Michigan Migration

May 10 - 17, 2013
  • Upwards of 30 species of colorful warblers
  • Great numbers of migrant birds flooding ‘migrant traps’ along N. shore of Lake Erie.
  • Large flocks of migrant shorebirds, gulls and terns at Hillman Marsh.
  • Foray into Michigan for elusive Henslow’s Sparrow and endangered Kirtland’s Warbler.

Point Pelee marsh Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager, Chris Charlesworth

Point Pelee and adjacent parks on the N. shore of Lake Erie, attract a staggering number of migrant birds in spring migration. We’ll visit Long Point, Rondeau Provincial Park and the world-famous Point Pelee National Park on this week-long tour.

You’ll be dazzled by colourful warblers such as Blackburnian Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Black-throated Blue, Golden-winged, Mourning and the federally endangered Cerulean Warbler. The woods will be alive with migrants such as Yellow-throated and Philadelphia vireos, Great Crested Flycatchers, Black-billed Cuckoo, Orchard and Baltimore orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Northern Cardinals and more!

We’ll study shorebirds, terns and gulls at marshes close to Point Pelee. Amongst large groups of Black-bellied Plovers we can often pick out one or two American Golden-Plovers here, while mixed in with numerous Bonaparte’s Gulls we have found both Little Gull and Black-headed Gull on past tours.

You will get to visit one of Canada’s rarest habitats, the Carolinian Forest, with dozens of hardwood tree species flooded with spring melt water. Amongst these flooded forests we may find Pileated Woodpeckers, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Carolina Wren, Rusty Blackbird and more.

As an added bonus to the excellent birding along Lake Ontario, we’ll make a two day foray into Michigan State for two rare species; Kirtland’s Warbler and Henslow’s Sparrow.

Whether you’re a beginning birder or a seasoned veteran of the hobby, you’ll get all sorts of enjoyment out of this trip!


Day 1 – May 10 Group to arrive in Toronto, where we’ll meet at a nearby hotel. Night in Toronto.

Day 2 – May 11 We’ll depart early and make our way S. towards Lake Ontario and the famous migration hotspots along its northern coast. We’ll spend the afternoon birding the Long Point area, where woodlands hold all sorts of exciting migrants including a long list of warblers, vireos, flycatchers and more. We’ll explore a large marsh at Long Point where Black Terns, American Black Ducks, and Sandhill Cranes, to name a few species, can be found. A small pond near the Bird Studies Canada HQ often has shorebirds and rails. The woods around this pond are excellent for Orchard Orioles, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and many other migrant species. With luck we’ll see the rare Blanding’s Turtle here, with its bright yellow underparts. Night at Simcoe.

Day 3 – May 12 We’ll start our day off at Backus Woods where with luck we’ll add some more warblers to our lists. Perhaps we’ll find the lovely Blue-winged Warbler or the stunning Prothonotary Warbler. Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles are also common here.

We’ll then make our way S.W. to another of Southern Ontario’s great birding locations, Rondeau Provincial Park. We’ll spend the rest of the day exploring the park where, along trails we’ll track down such gems as Cerulean, Blackburnian, Mourning, and perhaps the uncommon Worm-eating Warbler! Golden-winged Warbler may be found mixed in with a flock of migrants. The beauty of Rondeau, Pelee and Long Point is that you never know what you’re going to find! RondeauPark HQ has a nice selection of feeders where we will see Blue Jays, Tufted Titmouse, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, White-crowned Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker and Eastern Towhee. Once we’re satisfied with our day we’ll make our way towards Leamington where we’ll spend the night.

Day 4 – May 13 This morning we’ll start out early as we make our way to Point Pelee National Park. We’ll catch the tram down to the tip of the jetty and then work our way back towards park headquarters, picking up migrants as we go along. Any of up to 25 species of warblers could be present on any given day. Cape May, Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Palm, Black-throated Green and Tennessee warblers are all included in that list. With luck we’ll see the fairly rare Hooded Warbler and perhaps a Kentucky Warbler creeping about on the forest floor. Black-billed and Yellow-billed cuckoos are both possible here at this time as are White-eyed and Yellow-throated vireos. Raptors migration is also exciting at Pelee. We should see good numbers of Broad-winged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles and perhaps even a stray Black Vulture. Gulls, terns and ducks by the thousands congregate on the waters off the point. Included will be Great Black-backed Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Forster’s, Common and Caspian terns, Red-breasted Mergansers, Double-crested Cormorants and perhaps a rarity or two. In the afternoon we’ll explore more forested areas near the base of the point where many of the migrants congregate. Night in Leamington.

Point Pelee marsh Scarlet Tanager
Cape May Warbler, Chris Charlesworth

Day 5 – May 14 With high hopes of more avian gems waiting to be discovered we’ll return to Point Pelee this morning. With a little luck we’ll spot Summer Tanager, Eastern Screech-Owl, and Great Crested Flycatcher today perhaps? Later on in the day we’ll visit Hillman Marsh, a fantastic place for shorebirds, gulls, terns and ducks. Amongst the hundreds of Black-bellied Plovers are often a few American Golden-Plovers. Stilt Sandpipers feed alongside Short-billed Dowitchers and Ruddy Turnstones. Semipalmated and Least sandpipers jockey for positions on the muddy shores. Amongst hundreds of Bonaparte’s Gulls we’ll scan for the rare Little Gull, almost annual here. Ducks should include American Black Duck, Ruddy Duck, Blue-winged and Green-winged teal, Northern Shoveler and more. Night in Leamington.

Day 6 – May 15 Today we’ll cross the border into Michigan State and make our way to Mio, where we’ll spend the night. Enroute we’ll search for Henslow’s Sparrow, an inhabitant of grasslands of Michigan.

Day 7 – May 16 This morning we’ll go out in search of one of North America’s rarest birds, the Kirtland’s Warbler. We will join up with a forestry group for a tour of the sensitive habitat where the Kirtland’s Warbler breeds. Once we’ve seen the warbler we’ll make our way back towards the Canadian border, stopping again for Henslow’s Sparrow if we haven’t already seen it. After we cross back into Canuck territory, we’ll head for Chatham where we’ll spend the night.

Day 8 – May 17 Our final day of birding should be a good one, with another visit to Rondeau Provincial Park. By early afternoon we’ll begin making our way to Toronto where the tour will wind up this evening.

Point Pelee marsh boardwalk - iStockPhoto
Marsh boardwalk at Point Pelee National Park


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