Bird Project

Matt Holder Environmental Research Fund
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Birds Of Thickson’s Woods

Thickson’s Woods has always been about the birds and a remarkable 323 species have been recorded, approximately two-thirds of all the birds recorded in Ontario.

In April or May, any early morning reports of fog along the Lake Ontario shoreline send me hotfoot to Thickson’s Woods. The tall pines in the woods, visible for kilometers, are a landmark for northbound migrants crossing the lake, and exhausted birds may drop down into the shelter of the woods in huge numbers if confronted by a fogbank, thunderstorms, or sudden harsh north winds. It doesn’t happen every spring, but when it does it’s unforgettable.

Ron Tozer remembers a major fall-out on May 6, 1991, with 92 species packed into Thickson’s Woods, including over 1000 White-throated Sparrows and a very vocal Yellow-breasted Chat. My diaries show that May 11, 1995, was also such a day. There had been thunderstorms overnight and in the morning heavy fog blanketed the lakeshore. Birds were everywhere. Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks covered tree branches like Christmas ornaments, there were vireos, flycatchers, thrushes, and the many warbler species included a handsome male Hooded Warbler. Ruby-crowned Kinglets were uncountable, Lincoln’s Sparrows, usually so shy, were foraging in the open, and the birders lucky enough to be there had huge, indelible smiles on their faces.

There seem to be fewer of these fallouts than there used to be. Perhaps it’s partly the way we remember “the good old days”, or perhaps we’re more jaded now and expect more than when we were beginning birders, or perhaps there really are fewer birds nowadays – I certainly hope not. But it’s still worth following the weather forecasts in late April and all through May, and if there’s the mention of lakeshore fog, drop everything and make for Thickson’s Woods.

Margaret Bain.

Related Pages: Warbler Project