Essex Region – Bird enthusiasts from around the world visit Leamington, Ontario as one of their bucket list destinations each May, and Hillman Marsh Conservation Area is ready to greet these guests from May 1 – 21 at the Shorebird Celebration.
The shorebird habitat at Hillman Marsh is unique in North America. The managed wetland cell creates the perfect combination of mudflats to provide nutrition and a resting area for migrating shorebirds. The marsh is managed annually to produce the desired habitat, and water levels are reduced so mud flats appear in preparation for shorebird arrival. The birds are often very close to the shoreline which makes for exceptional viewing, and a large bird blind is open for visitors to photograph and study the birds.
This year, several special hikes will be offered as part of the celebration. Jean Iron, renowned Shorebird expert, will host a Shorebird Identification Hike on Sunday, May 7 from 3pm – 5pm. While the hike is included in the cost of admission, pre-registration is required.
Local birding expert Nicole Shanghai will also host guided Shorebird Identification Hikes on Friday, May 12, Saturday, May 13 and Saturday, May 20 from 3 – 5pm. Local and handcrafted goods will be available for sale on Saturday, May 13 at a pop-up gift shop.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 3pm – 5pm, volunteers from the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) will help guests identify shorebirds from the Shorebird Viewing Blind.
“We are thankful for our longstanding partnership with OFO who generously provide tips on how to identify these stunning shorebirds, and we are so happy to welcome them back,” explains Danielle Breault Stuebing, ERCA’s Director of Communications and Outreach Services. There are also bird identification signs at the shelter highlighting distinguishing characteristics.
“Combined with Point Pelee National Park’s Festival of Birds, the birding opportunities in the Pelee/Hillman region during spring migration are unparalleled, and visitors travel here from around the world,” Breault Stuebing adds. “Local outdoor enthusiasts can also celebrate these world-class natural places right in our own backyard.”
Entrance fees are $10 per vehicle, or special spring birding passes are available. For your best value, consider a seasonal pass, which provides unlimited access to conservation areas and events throughout the year. More information about the Shorebird Celebration is available at https://essexregionconservation.ca/shorebird.
The Essex Region Conservation Authority is a public sector organization established by the Province of Ontario and governed by local municipalities. For 50 years, it has delivered programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario.
Photo: A Marbled Godwit is just one of the many species that you may see at Hillman Marsh this May. Photo courtesy of Jean Iron.