by Tim Tiner
Long before the autumn equinox occurs and the leaves begin changing colour, fall migration is well underway among Ontario’s birds. In fact, the first restless, Arctic-nesting shorebirds usually pass south through Ontario in the latter half of June. Unlike the northward race to nesting grounds in spring, the parade of return migrants is much more drawn out, stretching into December. Though a large portion of avian travellers have drab plumage in the autumn and no longer sing their distinctive mating song, many birders consider the season a challenging opportunity to hone their identification skills.
Fall migrants fan out across much of Ontario, but certain choice spots, particularly along lakeshores, tend to attract or funnel the greatest numbers and diversity. The chart below provides a sampling of when and where to see many common species from September onward. The dates are approximate, based on averages, and most birds may be present in smaller numbers for weeks or even months before and after the peak times given. The timing can also be affected by weather, and the presence of shorebirds depends on changing water levels in many locations.
For a more complete listing of the fall migration in Ontario, visit the ON Nature section of Ontario Nature’s website, www.ontarionature.org.