Scenic Port Stanley, Ontario has always been a favourite destination of mine for
The village of Port Stanley, Ontario located on the north shore of Lake Erie has
always held a special place in my heart. As a kid, I spent many weekends there fishing,
waterskiing, celebrating holidays, and exploring nature with my Dad. As an adult,
I find myself returning to the port often to enjoy the incredible birding opportunities
I discovered at such a young age.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird photographed at Hawk Cliff just outside the village of
Regardless of the season, there is always a multitude of birds to be seen across
the various habitats encompassing the village. September and October are two of
my favourite months to visit because not only is fall migration in full swing, the
post-Labour Day crowds are much smaller and it often feels like I have the entire
village to myself.
Turkey Vulture doing its part to help keep the village clean.
On a recent trip, I birded at three of my favourite locations around the village
and was rewarded with some nice views of several species. I started my day at the
pier and main beach area on the west side of Kettle Creek. With fog still in the
air, I saw a large group of Turkey Vultures feeding on a dead Ring-billed Gull in
the municipal parking lot. While it didn’t provide the most appetizing view it did
remind me of the importance of these large scavengers to our ecosystem. By consuming
carcasses that would otherwise be left to decompose, vultures are extremely beneficial
in preventing the spread of disease. For this reason, I have always had a fascination
and special appreciation for these birds.
Making my way out on the pier two Double-crested Cormorants were observed. An adult
bird was rather successful catching several small fish on repeated dives against
the concrete structure. An immature bird was busy preening on the rocks abutting
the pier. Closer to the lighthouse, a single Red-breasted Merganser swam along as
it periodically ruffled its feathers. In front of the main beach Ring-billed, Herring,
and Bonaparte’s Gulls could be seen at the water’s edge.
This flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls was observed from the main beach in the village of
After leaving the beach area I made my way to Hawk Cliff. As the name suggests,
this is a great location to observe migrating birds of prey. It is not uncommon
to see hundreds even thousands of raptors on a given day. On this day as the wind
picked up from the northwest and the fog cleared a decent flight was seen. Broad-winged
and Sharp-shinned Hawks were the most abundant with American Kestrels also being
observed in good numbers.
Many of the wooded habitats around the village are home to a variety of birds like
this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher photographed on my most recent visit.
Despite being situated on a Great Lake, there is far more to see than just waterbirds
when visiting Port Stanley. On my last visit, Red-eyed Vireos and other songbirds
Along the roadway and within Hawk Cliff Woods many songbirds were observed. On this
visit, I enjoyed great views of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they perched in the
sumacs while taking a break from feeding on the plenitude of jewelweed lining the
road. Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, various warblers, and Carolina Wrens
were all seen and heard to name a few. Large flocks of blue jays totaling hundreds
of birds were also observed overhead as they too were migrating.
Late blooming jewelweed lining the road at Hawk Cliff always attracts Ruby-throated
Hummingbirds during fall migration.
Hawk Cliff is also a great location to observe Monarch Butterflies as they migrate
along the shoreline. Several Monarchs were observed stopping briefly to nectar on
the New England Aster and Goldenrod as they too were taking advantage of the northwest
Monarch Butterfly nectaring on New England Aster at Hawk Cliff.
For me, no visit to Port Stanley is complete without a stop at the sewage lagoons.
Located on Scotch Line there is always something to see from the two viewing stands
overlooking the four cells. Water levels varied by cell with Wood Ducks, Northern
Shovellers, and Canada Geese observed in the deepest and Lesser Yellowlegs being
observed along the muddy edges of the shallowest.
Fall migration is one of the best times to observe Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in
On top of great birding, the village is filled with unique shops and restaurants
that add to any visit. Mackies on the main beach has some of the best fries around
and the pralines and cream in a waffle cone from Brodericks' Ice Cream Parlour on
Bridge Street is absolutely delicious. Great birding opportunities exist throughout
the fall and into the winter months. I enjoy birding here regardless of the season
due to the variety of species present throughout the year. If you’ve never birded
in the village of Port Stanley, I highly recommend planning a trip in the near future.
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