Story by Nicole Keck
Vacay.ca Family Travel Columnist
MORPETH, ONTARIO —The Prothonotary Warbler is 13 centimetres tall, which is one of the reasons birders consider it a big find. The warbler, a rare and endangered species, spends its winters in Latin America and come spring, it enjoys Canada; specifically, Rondeau Provincial Park, a unique biosphere that juts out into Lake Erie. Less than 40 Prothonotary Warblers are usually seen in Rondeau in a given year, but if you’re going to catch a glimpse of one, now is the time.
Rondeau, established in 1894, is the second-oldest provincial park in Canada, after Algonquin in central Ontario. It is located 120 kilometres east of Windsor and 115 km southwest of London, and sits on one of three peninsulas leading south into Lake Erie. Rondeau is a Cuspate Sandspit that extends almost eight km into Lake Erie and is continually changing in shape and size. Those conditions allow for many different animal habitats in one location. It is also on the northern flight path of many songbirds; 323 species of birds have been recorded at Rondeau, 124 species have nested in the park, including the Prothonotary Warbler. For all of these reasons and more, professional and beginner birders alike will be flocking to Rondeau from May 3-21 for the Festival of Flight.
There will be many special activities taking place, including the 24-hour Big Birding Day Competition on May 11-12. Visitors to Rondeau can also take part in the Guided Wildflower Hikes offered on Wednesdays (May 9, 16 and 23) at 10:30 am and Saturdays (May 5, 12 and 19) at 1 pm.
If you are unable to be in Rondeau for the Festival of Flight, there is plenty of fun to be had at other times of the year, including camping, boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, swimming and extensive sand beaches. It’s another one of Canada’s many parks to put on your summer to-do list.
MORE ABOUT THE FESTIVAL OF FLIGHT
Hours: In May, the Visitor Centre will be open daily from 7 am-5 pm. Telephone: 519-674-1768.
Food: Monday through Friday breakfast and lunch will be offered at the Visitor Centre from 7 am-2 pm during the Festival of Flight.
Tours: Two guided hikes are offered daily; the cost is $5 per person (all proceeds go to supporting the Friends of Rondeau).
Each hike is limited to 20 people and you should meet at the Visitor Centre. You may want to register ahead of time with the Visitor Centre, where you can check for more information about hikes led by expert birder Steve LaForest. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday hikes start at 7:30 am and 1 pm. Tuesday and Friday hikes are at 7:30 am and 7 pm.
Birding Beginners: Hikes are offered for absolute beginning birders; “The ABC’s of Birding” guided by Rick McArthur, Saturdays at 10 am.
Directions: Rondeau Provincial Park (see map below) is about 3 hours, 30 minutes southwest of Toronto. Take Highway 401 West to Highway 403 West, and take the County Road 17 Exit and follow the signs toward the park.
View Larger Map