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Local Residents Ignoring Our Point Pelee

Very few of these birders are from Prince Edward County

The Birding Festival is over, or nearly so, at time of writing. Not one of the most successful years in its 15 year history, due to the weather earlier in the week. In fact, during one of my 8:00 a.m. guided walks, I had only three people – me and myself and I ! However, as we drew closer to the end of the week, the skies opened up, not with rain, but with thousands of migrants warblers, hanging off the trees and bushes as they exploited  the bountiful insect crop. And then the people came. 

 A few surprises along the way – a white-eyed vireo and a yellow-throated vireo, likely overshoots as these two species are normally seen south of us. Today, it was an olive-sided flycatcher that sat on a dead limb for all to see – not rare by any means, but special in that this species migrates through the area rather quickly as it speeds onto more northern areas. Last year, in almost the same spot, it was a southern summer tanager. It happens a lot at this famous bird migration spot that is giving Point Pelee a run for its money. 

The money that birders drop into the local economy can be phenomenal  ($4.2 million at Point Pelee) and yet this County doesn’t seem to understand this, as this pastime could be an important source of revenue during the shoulder seasons. We have pushed, we have promoted, we have sung the praises of Prince Edward Point for more than  a decade, and it seems to fall on deaf ears. Certainly the numbers of local residents who attended could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Yet, there were avid birders there this year from Quebec, Buffalo, Ottawa, New Jersey, Hamilton, Toronto, Peterborough……..not just a handful, but hundreds of birders, all spending money here, and all seeking local accommodation here. During the official opening of this year’s festival, the press was conspicuous by its absence, so was County Council who had been invited. Only councillor Alec Lunn, whose presence we anticipated, bothered to attend. It is sad, for we have such a jewel here. We don’t wish to see Prince Edward Point become commercialized like Point Pelee, but it seems to me we could do much better in recognizing what a gold mine we have here, and nourish this growing enterprise that is waiting to bring some revenue into this county.

 Bruce DiLabio was there from Ottawa with a group tour; so was Tony Beck from Ottawa with his tour group, but local bird enthusiasts missed out this year on the radiant scarlet tanagers, and the sky blue of indigo buntings and the flashes of brilliant colour from over 25 species of warblers that had migrated from Central America and had decided to dine out at our very own Point Pelee of eastern Ontario. Maybe next year, things will change, but – we have been saying that now for more than a decade.

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is

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  1. Terry Sprague says:

    Thanks, Gary, for your query. My tours, as you know, are destinations, geared to occupy a full day, or the better part of it. Except for Prince Edward Point and Sandbanks, there are few destinations in the county that will lend themselves to a full day natural history guided walk for the numbers of people (30+) that these often attract. It may be a very natural trend that “my people” are showing interest in areas such as Algonquin, Ferris Park, Frontenac Park and other natural areas of interest that offer interpretive opportunities, not available in Prince Edward County. However, there has been a disturbing number of comments from clients saying that they are losing some interest in the County because of the current climate of unrest due to the turbine issues, and do not feel as comfortable as they once did, and simply prefer to go elsewhere where these issues don’t exist. At the end of the day, it’s about leading them where THEY want to go, and not where I would prefer to take them.

  2. Gary Mooney says:

    Terry, could you explain further your comments about your business declining in the County and about the upheaval in the County?

    I presume tht you’re referencing the wind turbines issue, but with none yet installed I wouldn’t have expected birding tourism to be affected yet.

  3. Pamela Stagg says:

    Terry, I spent some great days at the Birding Festival this year and was astounded by the variety of warblers, vireos and other birds out in the woods. As you say, people come from all over for the festival– I chatted with groups from New Jersey, Quebec, Toronto and even a birder from Wales. And this was an affluent group, as one could tell by the $3,000 binoculars and the even more expensive spotting scopes and camera equipment — easily $10,000 in all. What an opportunity for local businesses!

    I fielded requests for restaurant and winery recommendations from birders, and I wished there had been Birding Festival supplements in local papers that I could have handed them.

  4. Terry says:

    Well, Doris – I try not to worry too much about it. What will be, will be, I guess. However, I am seeing a real drop in my business in the county, and my tour business and tourist dollars from it, are both gradually moving out of the county, and I have no choice but to follow it where it goes. These days, due to the upheaval here in the County, my clients are increasingly asking for tours to Presqu’ile, and beyond, and that is sad when we have so much to offer right here. We have the attractions, the accommodations, the spectacular birding, and a potential for a lot of revenue. However, in the eyes of a minority, we are not big spenders, but rather, little old ladies of both sexes tiptoeing through the toadstools and trilliums. The phenomenal revenue at Point Pelee would beg to disagree.

  5. Doris Lane says:

    Once we get the turbines at Ostrander Point Rd there will be less people coming to see the birds as they stay away from turbine areas and they will have to see them on the road to Prince Edward Point
    Maybe there should be signage pointing to Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory as far back as the 401

  6. Killashandra Ree says:

    Thanks Terry, we do have a jewel here in The County in so many ways.

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