By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: Every year I plan on visiting Port Stanley for the great bird migration and I always miss it. If you could kindly provide me with details on where I could see the birds and when the dates are, I would greatly appreciate it.

A: Get ready to focus your binoculars. East from the quaint harbortown of Port Stanley off the shores of Lake Erie, stands an historic area known as Hawk Cliff. First discovered by W. E. Saunders one autumn afternoon back in the thirties, the birder returned and in 1931 began recording his observations which led him to link the cliffs with the migration itself.

This tiny pocket about one kilometre along Regional Road 22 south of Regional Road 24 is the hub for hawk buffs. Considered one of the prime fall migration hawk watching destinations in North America, Hawk Cliff attracts hundreds of birders and non-birders from Canada and the United States. On very good days, numbers have been recorded to be as much as 100,000 for the feisty raptors.

Around Hawk Cliff, the fall migration begins in early August and is usually finished by the end of December. Birders can normally expect to observe 15 different raptor species numbering in the several thousands per day. How do know when it's a good day? Naturalists tell me you need good wind, and plenty of rainy days. Once the skies open after a few days of a downpour or a heavy fog, it seems that around the cliffs the birds are able to soar and continue their flight.

Puffy cumulus clouds are another favorite time to view the hawks. Once there, you can also participate in live bird demonstrations by members of the Hawk Cliff Banders association and venture on the cliffs for guided walks.


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