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181. Luther Marsh WMA, Grand Valley, Ontario

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.

181. Luther Marsh WMA, Grand Valley, Ontario

Directions

Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area protects a reservoir 75 miles (120 km) northwest of Toronto. From the city, take Hwy. 10 to Orangeville and go west on County Rd. 109. Drive to Rt. 25, turn right, travel five miles (8.2 km) to a gravel road, Concession 6/7, and turn left. At Sideroad 21/22, turn right, and drive two miles (3.2 km) to the entrance.

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At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
43°57’42.74″N 80°23’58.34″W

Habitat

Lake, wetlands, forest, meadow.

Terrain

Flat. Trails uneven. Main entrance provides some wheelchair access.

Birds

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.

Amenities

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.

Access

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.

Tips

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

Luther Marsh Wildlife Management Area, (519) 928-2832.
Wellington County birding email hotline, sign up by writing to wellbirds@bellnet.ca.

Sites nearby

Dundas Marsh
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.

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