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Canatara Park ranks among world’s best places to bird watch

By July 19, 2019 No Comments
Family walking under trees down to the beach in Canatara Park

Pam Wright – The Sarnia Journal, July 19, 2019

Sarnia is for the birds — and for those who love to watch them.

In fact, a new Ontario bird watching guide has devoted an entire chapter to the area’s avian wonders with the focus on Canatara Park .

Published this month by Greystone Books, “Best Places to Bird in Ontario” is a two-year labour of love for brothers Mike and Ken Burrell.

Introduced to the pastime by their nature-loving parents when children, both men now work as biologists in the Kitchener area.

In a telephone interview, Ken Burrell said Canatara is “literally one of the best places in the world” to observe birds — with between 320 to 330 species recorded.

The place where Lake Huron empties into the St. Clair River is an ideal spot for sighting water birds, including 19 species of gulls, Burrell said. Even “extremely rare” Arctic species like the Siberian Ross’s Gull and the Ivory Gull have been sighted by area birders.

The number of species drops to 250 to 280 as you head inland, he said.

Burrell said 90 percent of the birds here migrate, and the peak times to observe are May and September.

Best Places to Bird in Ontario came about when Greystone approached the brothers, and asked them to share their combined knowledge.

“We always thought it would be a great way to give back,” Burrell explained, adding the family has been coming to birdwatch in Sarnia and Lambton County the past 20 years.

The book gives explicit details on where to look locally, and includes information for other area parks and wetlands, including Pinery Provincial Park.

Burrell, who does bird surveys for “work and fun,” did his Master’s degree at the University of Waterloo on bird migration and the impact of climate change.

Most of his research was conducted on Pelee Island, his favourite place to watch birds. But it’s something you can do anywhere, he said.

“It’s a great way to travel and all you need are binoculars and a field guide,” he said, adding you can always take photos and send them to various websites for identification.

Serious birders are committed to the pastime, with some driving hundreds of miles to see a particular bird, he said.

And there are plenty of free resources to help you get started, he added.

Two of the best are eBird — for which he volunteers — and bird studies at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The sites — which have millions of users — provide an enormous global database that is freely shared.

There’s also an app, Burrell noted.

“The mobile app makes it easy. You can watch birds while walking to work.”

‘Best Places to Bird in Ontario’ can be purchased at bookstores, Amazon and the Greystone website.