When it gets hot, we flock to the beach to swim, suntan and socialize. Most people’s idea of birding at the beach involves chasing away hungry gulls. But there are many bird species that rely on beach habitat for nesting, migration, and even ...
When it gets hot, we flock to the beach to swim, suntan and socialize. Most people’s idea of birding at the beach involves chasing away hungry gulls. But there are many bird species that rely on beach habitat for nesting, migration, and even wintering habitat. Blue Flag beaches can be especially great places for birds, because the criteria require the beach’s natural environment to be protected.
Manitoba’s Grand Beach is located in Grand Beach Provincial Park
, which is bursting with boreal songbirds. Take the Wild Wings Trail through the adjacent marsh, which meanders through cattails and willows to viewing platforms. This area is especially good for fall migration.
In Ontario, Scarborough’s Bluffer’s Park Beach has majestic sandy cliffs that are dotted with hundreds of Bank Swallow nests. During the summer these tiny birds can be seen darting in and out of their cavities and swopping down to the sand as they forage. The surrounding marsh is full of Yellow Warblers, Red-winged Blackbirds, and other nesting songbirds. Toronto Island is excellent during migration, as all four of the Blue Flag beaches there are surrounded by dense vegetation. On the mainland, Woodbine Beach and Cherry Beach are hotspots for waterfowl and gulls during the winter. For more information about birding around Toronto, check out the Toronto Ornithological Club
Beaches are also home to a particular group of birds referred to as shorebirds, which make their nests in the sand and forage for insects and crustaceans along the water’s edge. One notable species is the endangered Piping Plover, which is once again nesting at Sauble Beach
and Wasaga Beach
in Ontario, and Grand Beach in Manitoba
. Dune restoration linked to Blue Flag has encouraged this beautiful species to return. If you are at one of these spots, take the time to speak with a Piping Plover Guardian, one of the many dedicated volunteers who monitor these birds on a daily basis and educate the public about their ecology.
So next time you are headed to the beach, bring a pair of binoculars. Blue Flag beaches aren’t just for people – they’re for the birds!