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Birding the HSA Articles

The following is the slightly modified (February 2000) full text of an article on Hamilton area birding spots which first appeared in the American Birding Association’s ‘Winging It’ newsletter in July 1991. Extensive directions to Hamilton Birding Area locations named are given at the end.

ONTARIO’S BEST KEPT BIRDING SECRET

Waterbirds, Raptors, Shorebirds, Warblers – Hamilton has it all!

Copyright © 2000 – Hamilton Naturalists’ Club

by Mike Street

If asked, most Canadians would say that Hamilton is known for its steel plants and the usually rough and tough Tiger Cat football team. In reply to the same question, a knowledgeable birder’s eyes would probably light up.

Hamilton’s geographic location is almost unique among North American birding hotspots. Situated in a transitional area between the Carolinian and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence zones at the extreme south-west end of Lake Ontario, the city is 50 miles west of Niagara Falls and 40 miles north of Lake Erie. The two large bodies of water, the Niagara Escarpment literally running through the city, several very large conservation areas plus the extensive properties managed by the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the more temperate climate of the adjacent Niagara Peninsula, all contribute to the fact that the local species list stands at 375 and growing. Unusual birds turn up every year. In one year alone the area recorded a Wilson’s Plover, 5 Ruffs, a Lark Bunting and an immature Swainson’s Hawk. On December 1, 1990 local birders going to the Niagara River for winter gulls were able to see three King Eiders and then a Rufous Hummingbird on the way!

The following is a sampler of the good birding available in the Hamilton area at all times of the year. Directions to specific locations are given at the end of the article.

AUGUST-NOVEMBER

Photo: Glenn Barrett

Photo: Glenn Barrett

SHOREBIRDS: Windermere Basin, rural sewage lagoons and, if water levels are right, Dundas Marsh are the places to look for returning shorebirds. Semipalmated Plover, Wilson’s Phalarope, plus Baird’s, Semipalmated and Pectoral Sandpipers usually arrive in the first part of August. White-rumped Sandpipers, Long-billed Dowitchers and Dunlin arrive several weeks later. In late August Windermere Basin and the sod farms along and near Highway 6 on the mountain south of the city are prime spots for Buff-breasted Sandpiper, as well as Black-bellied and Lesser Golden Plover. Through the period, it is possible to see almost 30 species of shorebirds. Western Sandpiper and Red-necked Phalarope are uncommon but regular visitors.