A large marsh northwest of Toronto where you can find waterfowl, songbirds, bitterns, cranes, terns, and more.
By Van Waffle | Published: 2/14/2014
A recent memorable birding day for me began at dawn on a day in late May at Luther Marsh. I was participating in Bird Studies Canada’s annual Baillie Birdathon. I wanted to see how many species I could count in 24 hours during breeding season. By 12:30 p.m., I had observed 76 species, including American Bittern, Le Conte’s Sparrow, and Mourning Warbler.
Luther Marsh is one of southern Ontario’s most significant wetlands. It was created in the 1950s by a manmade impoundment on the Grand River, and soon the wetlands attracted waterfowl species usually seen farther west. Naturalists and hunters took notice, leading to the marsh’s designation as a wildlife management area in 1962.
It covers more than 13,000 acres and provides important habitat for waterfowl, herons, rails, and many other birds. At Mallard Pond, near the east edge of the marsh, I saw Black Tern, which is declining in Ontario yet continues to nest at Luther Marsh. The trail leading from the entrance is great for woodland species. On my birdathon day, it produced sparrows, orioles, warblers, grosbeaks, kingfishers, and Sandhill Crane. — Van Waffle
Van Waffle is a freelance journalist based in Guelph, Ontario. An ardent birder since childhood, he participates in the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Lake, wetlands, forest, meadow.
Flat. Trails uneven. Main entrance provides some wheelchair access.
Spring and summer: Waterfowl, Common Loon, Osprey, Great Blue and Green Herons, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Sandhill Crane, American Bittern, Great Egret, Black Tern, Sedge Wren, Northern Shrike, Orchard Oriole, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Phoebe, Bobolink, Le Conte’s and Lincoln’s Sparrows, and warblers. Spring and fall migrants: Trumpeter and Tundra Swans, Snow Goose, Long-tailed Duck, and shorebirds. Recent rarities: American White Pelican, Dickcissel. Winter: Snowy Owl, Rough-legged Hawk.
When to go
Early spring through late summer.
Observation tower and restrooms at main entrance. Trail map at www.grandriver.ca/birding/2008_Birding_Trail_Map.pdf. Food not available; bring lunch. A dyke around Mallard Pond provides good viewing.
Wildlife management area owned and managed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Grand River Conservation Authority. Self-register at the main entrance: $5.50 for adults, $4.75 seniors, $2.75 children. Bring correct change. Canoe permits available after July 31, not required after September 1.
Use the trail map to find access points. Bring a spotting scope to search wetlands. Main trail can be muddy, so wear good boots. Avoid restricted areas. Wind can create dangerous conditions for canoeists.
For more info
90 minutes south of Luther Marsh at Royal Botanical Gardens Nature Centre. Prime woodland and marsh birding adjoining Lake Ontario.
Mountsberg Conservation Area
50 miles southeast of Luther Marsh at 2259 Millburough Line, Campbellville. Forest, wetland, and extensive mudflats.