Far out at land’s end, beyond the wineries and the eateries and the galleries of Picton and Wellington, is a magical place where true outdoor adventurers migrate each spring, just like the yellowthroats and the yellow rails and the yellow-shafted flickers they hope to see.
Until recently it was a little-known fact that Prince Edward Point, aka Point Traverse aka Long Point, is the eighth wonder of the world for seeing migrating warblers in the spring. There are annual arrivals of other species including 800 blue jays counted in one day and as many as 1,500 saw-whet owls through the month of October.
You don’t have to be a birder to enjoy birding (which means birdwatching to you non-birdwatchers).
Since the 2020 pandemic turned hordes of urbanites into outdoors people, and since GPS tagging shows location of Internet photos, the Point has been discovered. It became so popular that the nature centre was shut down for fear of becoming a Covid super-spreader.
The growing interest in visiting this unique conservation preserve during the month of May has triggered both private and public funding to improve trail signage and the bird-banding infrastructure without compromising the wild experience on this large tract of the national wildlife area. School groups have learned about nature through Nature Canada’s NatureHood program and groups like the Field Naturalists and the Land Stewardship Council bring together caring volunteers and donors to maintain and expand the protected zone.
The local nature and tourism organizations are actively spreading the word about the Birding Festival (May 14-23) that offers organized guided hikes and an interpretive program as a fund-raiser plus sales of fair trade coffee, snacks and merch. Everyone should drop a 20 into the donation box to support PEPtBO, the Bird Observatory with the memorable capital and small-case acronym!
For birds it’s a place to congregate after a strenuous flight across some 50 km of open water of Lake Ontario and to refuel on the abundance of midges, the tiny black insects swarming the trees. For conservationists and nature lovers, it is also a meeting place. And a place to see camouflaged photographers lugging cameras with telescopic lenses as big as their thighs.
This is truly one of Prince Edward County’s most authentic heritage areas, and thanks to Marc Seguin’s book, the Point lighthouse has been restored.
A decade ago I started the “Photography and Fitness” outings group. Our hardy band of County Photographers enjoyed many trips to Prince Edward Point in all seasons for wildlife and landscape photography. We often took the long walk past the abandoned fishing village to the lighthouse. Nests of barn swallows were stuck all around its eaves and long-legged herons waded in the bay.
When I was asked to give a fund-raiser slide presentation on bird photography I revised the title to include “Bird and Nature Photography.” Every naturalist knows that birds are just the gateway drug to a full-blown addiction to Nature.
Even if the multitude of colourful birds is your main objective, you can’t help but to swing your gaze to the forest floor where delicate ephemeral wildflowers like Dutchmen’s breeches and bloodroot bloom before the canopy leaves create shade.
And watch your step for another reason. If your camera leads you out to the blue-green seascape panorama, you’re stepping awfully close to cliff’s edge with a long vertical drop to rocks and crashing waves. This raw nature scenery has the makings of great artworks, and selfies, and to think that it’s only a half-hour drive from the Picton Gazette office!
PEC’s summertime claim to fame as a natural wonder and tourist recreation draw has always been Sandbanks. But the wild shores of the South Shore claim that fame in spring and fall as the flocks of birders arrive to see the flocks of birds. During the coming years, the challenge will be to minimize the impacts of humans by purchasing properties to expand the protected area and preventing the construction of paved parking lots, campgrounds and permanent park facilities.
For more: www.countyphotographer.com