Hawks soar over Holiday Beach during annual ERCA festival

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

Birders from all across Essex County made their way to the Holiday Beach Conservation Area last weekend, even as the threat of rain and gloomy weather lingered in the forecast.

The Essex Region Conservation Authority held the first weekend of their annual Festival of Hawks Sept. 10-11. The event coincides with the yearly mass migration of hawks and raptors throughout Ontario.

A pair of owls entertains crowds during the Festival of Hawks at Holiday Beach Conservation Area on Sept. 10. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

A pair of owls entertains crowds during the Festival of Hawks at Holiday Beach Conservation Area on Sept. 10. Photo by Adam D’Andrea

“Naturally we have raptors and hawks that are coming from the north and going to their winter homes in the south,” said ERCA events planner Alex Denonville. “So they’re coming through Southwestern Ontario and geographically this is the perfect place for them to go before they cross over the lakes.”

The weekend featured a display of live owls and raptors courtesy of Kingsport Environmental, free workshops hosted by local bird experts, local artist Robert Bishop whose work focuses on birds and natural landscapes and bird banding and adoptions by the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory.

“They’re kind of the scientific side of the event. They’re banding birds,” said Denonville. “So they capture them, measure them, weigh them and then put a band on them. If they’re caught somewhere else they can basically say ‘this bird has travelled this far in this much time.’”

A raptor strikes a pose during the Festival of Hawks at Holiday Beach Conservation Area on Sept. 10. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

A raptor strikes a pose during the Festival of Hawks at Holiday Beach Conservation Area on Sept. 10. Photo by: Adam D’Andrea

Jody Allair of Bird Studies Canada was also on hand during the weekend to teach an “Intro to Birding” class. This workshop was a new feature for this year’s Festival of Hawks.

According to Denonville, there are a number of things ERCA want attendees to get out of the festival.

“First of all, enjoying Holiday Beach. I believe it’s one of the region’s hidden gems. It’s a great place to enjoy nature, so just getting people out there to realize the trails and everything that’s going on here,” he said. “We also want to encourage people to learn, so we’re engaging them in educational programs.”

The Festival of Hawks will continue Sept. 17-18 with a fee of $15 per vehicle to enter Holiday Beach. For a full schedule of events and workshops visit www.erca.org/birding.

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