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Shorebirds flock to Hillman Marsh in May

Essex Region – Bird enthusiasts from around the world visit Leamington, Ontario as one of their bucket list destinations each May, and Hillman Marsh Conservation Area is ready to greet these guests from May 1 – 21 at the Shorebird Celebration.    

The shorebird habitat at Hillman Marsh is unique in North America.  The managed wetland cell creates the perfect combination of mudflats to provide nutrition and a resting area for migrating shorebirds. The marsh is managed annually to produce the desired habitat, and water levels are reduced so mud flats appear in preparation for shorebird arrival. The birds are often very close to the shoreline which makes for exceptional viewing, and a large bird blind is open for visitors to photograph and study the birds.   

This year, several special hikes and activities will be offered as part of the celebration. These activities are included in the price of admission, but pre-registration is required for some.  

On Sunday, May 5 at 10am, attend an engaging and interactive presentation about Bird Names in Anishinaabemowin with Joseph Pitawanakwat.  

Jean Iron, renowned Shorebird expert, will host Shorebird Identification Hikes on Wednesday, May 8 and Sunday, May 11 from 3pm – 5pm.  ERCA Environmental Educator Jess Rose will host ‘Birding for Beginners’ Hikes on Thursday May 9 and Thursday, May 16 at 2:30pm.   

On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 3pm – 5pm, volunteers from the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) will help guests identify shorebirds from the Shorebird Viewing Blind.  

“We are thankful for our longstanding partnership with OFO who generously provide tips on how to identify these stunning shorebirds, and we are so happy to welcome them back,” explains Danielle Breault Stuebing, ERCA’s Director of Communications and Outreach Services. There are also bird identification signs at the shelter highlighting distinguishing characteristics. 

“Combined with Point Pelee National Park’s Festival of Birds, the birding opportunities in the Pelee/Hillman region during spring migration are unparalleled, and visitors travel here from around the world,” Breault Stuebing adds. “Local outdoor enthusiasts can also celebrate these world-class natural places right in our own backyard.”    


Entrance fees are $10 per vehicle, or special spring birding passes are available. Admissions for this event will be collected through the newly introduced HonkMobile using a QR code and your smart phone. For your best value, consider a seasonal pass, which provides unlimited access to conservation areas and events throughout the year. More information about the Shorebird Celebration is available at .  

The Essex Region Conservation Authority is a public sector organization established by the Province of Ontario and governed by local municipalities. For more than 50 years, it has delivered programs and services that further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources in watersheds in Ontario. 

Black-bellied Plovers photo courtesy of Jean Iron

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