Holiday Beach Conservation Area

Festival of Hawks returns to Holiday Beach Conservation Area

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

All eyes will be on the skies this September as local birders and nature lovers take in one of North America’s greatest migrations.

These watchers will call the Holiday Beach Conservation Area home as they take in a grand spectacle: tens of thousands of hawks and raptors flying overhead on their annual journey to nesting grounds in the south.

In recognition of the amazing sight, Essex Region Conservation, in partnership with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO), will host the 2018 Festival of Hawks. The festival, which takes place over the weekends of September 15-16 and 22-23, features a range of free educational activities and nature-themed programming.

HBMO experts will be on-site conducting hawk banding and adoptions. Event goers will get up close and personal to a variety of raptors as experts measure, tag, and then release these birds back into the wild. Visitors will also be in awe at the live raptor display of Kingsport Environmental, a local organization that rescues and rehabilitates raptors and promotes falconry through education programs.

The Festival of Hawks returns to Holiday Beach Conservation Area Sept. 15-16 and 22-23.

Free educational programs will complement the ongoing banding and live hawk display throughout both weekends. Local experts will be on-site to teach on a wide range of birding and nature-related topics. These programs include:

  • HBMO’s Bob Pettit will be on hand to provide expertise on identifying hawks in flight.
  • Ted Kloske, of Henry’s Windsor and Maple Grove Studios, and Glenn Gervais, of Southshore Outdoor Photography, will help budding photographers get their best nature shot.
  • Jeremy Bensette will share stories of his travels across Ontario in 2017 while breaking the current ‘Ontario Big Year’ record, locating and documenting 346 bird species.
  • HBMO’s Jeremy Hatt will share his tips and tricks on using mobile applications like iNaturalist
  • ERCA’s Gina Pannunzio will host an interactive workshop focusing on the mystery of one of our local iconic species, the Monarch Butterfly.

“Holiday Beach Conservation Area has been identified as one of the 10 best sites in all of North America to experience the raptor migration,” notes Danielle Breault Stuebing, ERCA’s director of communications and outreach.  “Whether an expert birder or nature-loving family, there’s something for everyone at the annual Festival of Hawks.”

The Festival runs from 9am to 3pm on September 15-16 and 22-23. Visitors can also enjoy lunch provided by the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Blue Kestrel Café or HBMO’s BBQ Booth.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. The final list of programs is available at https://essexregionconservation.ca/education-and-events/festival-of-hawks/.

The best raptor viewing time is from 9 a.m. until 12 noon when the hawks fly low. The Holiday Beach Conservation Area is located on County Road 50, on Lake Erie near Malden Centre approximately 15km southeast of historic Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, a half hour drive from Highway 401 and only 40 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge for those coming from Detroit.

Festival of Hawks draws hundreds to Holiday Beach Conservation Area

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

The Festival of Hawks is Essex Region Conservation Authority’s annual celebration of the great migration.

Described as one of the hidden gems of the Essex Region, Holiday Beach is home to one of the most spectacular animal migrations in the natural world. With the cooperation of the timing and weather, thousands of hawks soar overhead. Members of The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory are on the hawk tower from September to early November and the festival is designed to add some more family friendly elements.

Bob Hall-Brooks with The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory speaks to a crowd of birders at the Festival of Hawks Saturday about the birds they have recently caught and banded.

Events planner for the Essex Region Conservation Authority, Alex Denonville explained this is his third year being involved with the festival. He said his favorite part is seeing the families who come out and experience the event.

“One of the first families that was here this morning, they were here at 8:45, they came from South-East Michigan and we had the bander, Bob Hall-Brooks, capture a hummingbird, something they had never seen in their lives,” said Denonville. “To be able to experience that up close and personal, and for me to be a part of that and kind of facilitate that interaction, that’s the more rewarding part. When I see little kids just in awe of that, I know it’s making a difference and it’s getting them to think about it and hopefully when they grow up they will want to protect that.”

Hall-Brooks said the organization was started in 1974, when a group found Holiday Beach to be the best place to watch the fall migration. The tower itself, he said was set up in 1987, and he came along just two years later. At the time however, he was not a birder.

Cindy Cartwright member of Holiday Beach, founder and lead researcher for hummingbirds Canada looks for hawks on the hawk tower at Holiday Beach during the Festival of Hawks Saturday. Cartwright is one of the official counters of the hawks. She was on location Saturday and Sunday answering questions.

“I used to laugh at birders but my wife and I were driving around the county and we found Holiday Beach conservation authority, came in, saw the sign that said Hawk Tower,” said Hall-Brooks. “We climbed up and this was about mid-October and the fella up on the tower showed us, and shared with us, four different species of hawk flying about 20 feet over my head. I was doing a high-stress job at the time … and it just seemed to be a nice place to come and de-stress. Looking out at the marsh, looking up and counting the hawks, so that’s how I started.”

From there, he came out every Sunday to watch the hawks. He began helping with the counts two years later, and continued with that for 15 years before taking over the songbird banding. Hall-Brooks is one of only three people in all of Ontario who is able to band a hummingbird.

Elaine Guitar van Loo works with sepia ink during the Festival of Hawks, doing an ink study of the trail.

“I’ve been coming here for the past 10 years with my kids,” said event attendee Emma Poirier. “We love nature and I just like to bring them here so they can experience nature and experience the birds and learn about whatever the Essex Region Conservation Authority has to offer. It’s just a good way for them to learn all kinds of things about nature and interact and ask questions. This was the first time that they saw the birds of prey up close, so that was really exciting. They really love birds of prey and we actually saw some hummingbirds on the way here too.”

The Festival of Hawks continues next weekend, Sept. 16-17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Holiday Beach Migration Observatory will also be on location for an additional weekend. For more information on the festival, visit http://hbmo.ca/blog/festival-of-hawks-2017. People can also visit http://www.erca.org/birding.

“Festival of Hawks” returns to Holiday Beach this weekend

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

All eyes will be on the skies this September as local birders and nature lovers take in one of North America’s greatest migrations.

These watchers will call the Holiday Beach Conservation Area home as they take in a grand spectacle: tens of thousands of hawks and raptors flying overhead on their annual journey to nesting grounds in the south.

In recognition of the amazing sight, Essex Region Conservation, in partnership with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO), will host the 2017 Festival of Hawks. The festival, which runs the second and third weekends of September, features a range of free educational activities and nature-themed programming.

HBMO experts will be on-site conducting hawk banding and adoptions. Event goers will get up close and personal to a variety of raptors as experts measure, tag, and then release these birds back into the wild. Visitors will also be in awe at the live raptor display of Kingsport Environmental, a local organization that rescues and rehabilitates raptors and promotes falconry through education programs.

Free educational programs will compliment the ongoing banding and live hawk display throughout both weekends. Local experts will be on-site to teach on a wide range of birding and nature-related topics.

A staff member and Titan the Harris Hawk from Kingsport Environmental engage with festival-goers in 2016. The 2017 edition of the Festival of Hawks runs at Holiday Beach Conservation Area Sept. 9-10 and Sept. 16-17.

These programs include:

  • HBMO’s Bob Pettit will share his years of experience on identifying hawks in flights.
  • Ted Kloske, of Henry’s Windsor and Maple Grove Studios, and Glenn Gervais, of Southshore Outdoor Photography, will help budding photographers get their best nature shot.
  • Bird Studies Canada’s own Amanda Bichel will be on-site to discuss the significance of Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas across Ontario
  • HBMO’s Jeremy Hatt will share his tips and tricks on using mobile applications like iNaturalist

“There’s something for everyone at the Festival of Hawks. The programs are designed to be accessible to everyone, from amateur to expert naturalists,” explained ERCA’s Director of Community Outreach Services, Danielle Stuebing. “It’s also a great event for families, as we also host an educational Hawk Fest Scavenger Hunt and offer free face painting for kids.”

The Festival of Hawks runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9-10 and 16-17. Visitors can also enjoy lunch provided by the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Blue Kestrel Café or HBMO’s BBQ Booth.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. The final list of programs is available at www.erca.org/birding

The best raptor viewing time is from 9 a.m. until noon when the hawks fly low. The Holiday Beach Conservation Area is located on County Road 50, on Lake Erie near Malden Centre approximately 15 km southeast of historic Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada, a half hour drive from Highway 401 and only 40 minutes from the Ambassador Bridge for those coming from Detroit.

High lake levels at Holiday Beach eliminate large portion of beach

 

 

By Jolene Perron

“Holiday Beach as lost approximately 50 feet of sandy beach. There are still sandy areas, but it is much more limited now.”

Director of conservation services for Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) Kevin Money said what’s left of the beach is still accessible but there is a short drop off where waves have worn into the shoreline.
“We are not aware of higher lake levels having any effect on bacteria levels,” said Money. “The Health Unit tests regularly and we post our beach accordingly to make sure swimmers are aware of the health risks.”

Currently, they are looking into beach nourishment, which means to import and place more sand on the beach. Additionally, the are looking into shoreline protection, which would involve hardening the shoreline with rock or other designed structure to prevent further erosion, which Tim Byrne, director of watershed management explained is a very large concern based on past history.

“In 1986, those were all-time record high lake levels,” said Byrne. “In 1985/86, we lost several trees, we lost the sand beach and the shoreline eroded and moved landward. As lake levels started to recede, sand came back but the shoreline had receded several meters from its starting point early in 1985. The shoreline stayed relatively stable until 1998 when again, in 1998 we have a briefer high-level period and during that period of time, the beach was lost, some erosion had taken place, we didn’t lose any trees at that point in time.”

During this high lake level period, Byrne explained the lake started to elevate in 2015, increasing over 2016 and now into 2017. Currently, we have lost approximately a meter and a half of shoreline, which is nearing the amount lost in the 1985/86 high lake levels.

Holiday Beach has been impacted by higher lake levels.

Holiday Beach has been impacted by higher lake levels.

Historically, the beach does tend to return according to Byrne. However, the underlying clay and till gets lost and the shoreline overall will move closer. Previously, it took about 12 months after the lake levels were noticeably lowering for the beach level to return to a “normal” state.

“Once you’re at that period of time when lake levels were elevated well above average levels, your coastal process has changed dramatically,” explained Byrne. “There’s something that’s called lateral drift, and that is the capability of the shoreline and the near shore to carry sand and move sand around. Once your area immediately off shore exceeds a meter of depth, that all changes and that’s why the sand kind of disappears, because the waves behave differently. The calmer water periods where you have shallower water is all different, timing is different, and how the lake reacts during storm events is different and it causes sand to be removed, to be pulled out and it causes the underlying soil to erode. When the sand is not there to protect the clay and the till, then the lake actively erodes it.”

Byrne said ERCA doesn’t want to talk all “gloom and doom” because they want people to still come out and enjoy the properties that are available. The beach will return, and ERCA is already putting steps in place to prepare for the beach, which will reestablish itself over time. In the meantime, the remainder of the beach is still open for use, along with their hiking trails, fishing, the hawk tower, and much more.
Holiday Beach is open from dawn until dusk daily.

 

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.