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by Paul Roedding
Port Stanley

Scenic Port Stanley, Ontario has always been a favourite destination of mine for birding.

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

Ruby-throated Hummingbird photographed at Hawk Cliff just outside the village of Port Stanley.

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

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.

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

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.

Bonaparte's Gulls

This flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls was observed from the main beach in the village of Port Stanley.

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.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

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.

Red-eyed Vireos

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 were abundant.

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.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

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 wind.

Monarch Butterfly

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.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

Fall migration is one of the best times to observe Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the area.

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.

Good birding,
Paul Roedding

*My 2019 calendars have arrived and are now available for purchase. For more information including the images featured and how to purchase, please follow this link provided.*

Last Updated: Wednesday, 03 October 2018 13:54:54 PM EST

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