One of Canada's Premier Birding and Nature Festivals

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Mention the name ‘James Turland’ to local birders and you’ll be greeted by a smile of recognition. He’s well known and well respected because he knows where the birds are. And if you asked James Turland when and where he likes to bird, he just might say ‘always and everywhere’. His philosophy is simple, “There are birds in all landscapes one just has to look”. This birder from Kincardine has some specific thoughts on birding:


The average person seems to think the best places for birds are remote and pristine, and they can be, but often these places are costly to get to. More realistically birders look for their feathered friends close to home. A birders yard is often an oasis of plants and feeders specially placed to lure birds closer. Birding doesn’t get better than finding a rarity right in your own backyard. Birders have a knack for looking at landscapes and seeing the beauty in the birds. A landfill site is not just a pile of garbage but also a mecca for gulls and other scavenging birds. Sewage lagoons are sanctuaries for shorebirds and waterfowl. Some urban parks are bird magnets and havens. I believe with a little urban planning these places could be enriched and turned into truly scenic wildlife habitats. For now we just have to keep up wind and dream a little.

When visiting Bruce County farmland I try to imagine a pristine prairie. Hidden within this idyllic sea of grass are specialized creatures waiting to be discovered. Because of a lack of perches some grassland birds have evolved to sing while flying and also incorporate aerial displays. Even if blindfolded the babblings of Bobolinks conjure images of fields and meadows. The amazing ‘woo woos’ of the Snipe as it dips and dives way above its chosen territory is not easily forgot. Yet other songs are cleverly devised to misrepresentation. The Grasshopper Sparrows high-pitched trill could easily be mistaken for a Six Legged Hopper. Birds don’t get much more secretive than the Henslow’s Sparrow. It’s weak chip is usually only heard from the tall grass at night. An Upland Sandpipers presence signifies short grass and that probably means grazers are nearby. Other grassland signature birds we hope to see are Eastern Meadow Lark, Clay-Coloured Sparrow, Northern Harrier and Sedge Wrens.  

Most recently as pasture decreases and the land is subjected to more intensive farming practices the grasslands and all its inhabitants are in jeopardy. There are solutions and we all can play a part.


A4 6:30 am KINCARDINE LAGOONS – Hike the trails of this premier birding hotspot, locally known as “Pelee North”. If you missed seeing birds at Pelee, chances are you’ll find them here.

A16 6:30 am BIRDING THE 4 CORNERS OF MacGREGOR – Visit wetlands, shorelines, forests and fields along the margins of MacGregor Park. You will enjoy James’ relaxed style and his ability to locate the birds.

B3 6:30 am BIRDING KINCARDINE & AREA – Hike the trails of Kincardine’s premier birding hotspot, locally known as “Pelee North”. You will see a variety of warblers, ducks and other migrants.

B11 6:30 am BIRDING THE 4 CORNERS OF MacGREGOR – Visit wetlands, shorelines, forests and fields along the margins of MacGregor Park. You will enjoy James’ relaxed style and his ability to locate the birds.

B19 7:00 am BIRDING THE HURON FRINGE – A visit to Inverhuron Provincial Park and the Lake Huron shoreline will provide dune grassland as well as edge and shoreline habitats.


Huron Fringe Birding Festival Registration

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Matt Cunliffe is Natural Heritage Education Leader at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. If you’re registered for any Huron Fringe event you’ll no doubt see him and his team doing everything they can to make your visit and event as enjoyable as possible. He is leading Wonders of the Wetland on Day One of the Festival…but sadly its full. Nonetheless you’ll get a good idea of Matt’s personality in the field when you read the following. We asked him how he came to think like a raccoon and this is his story.

MattEven as a kid my ‘playground’ was the outdoors. My mom ran a daycare centre in Kincardine and to escape the noise I would often play in the backyard. On top of that I grew up in the cottage community, Point Clark. There weren’t many children there, and being the eldest of three boys living in a cottage that makes the Visitor Centre look spacious, I spent most of my time exploring the shoreline and small-forested areas around me. I have always been interested in animal behaviour, as a child, often spending hours sitting in an area making notes on what critters I saw and what they seemed to be doing.

I didn’t realize it growing up, but I was also conducting informal pond studies with my brothers. We would go for long hikes along the shoreline often stopping to turn over rocks to see what was hiding underneath in the water. We would each make predictions before turning over a rock, with the victor gaining bragging rights until the next stone. I was desperate for a job after my first year of University and thinking I would try my hand at food service industry, when a friend of mine mentioned MacGregor Point Park. He had spent the year before building bikes for the Park Store’s (then) new bike rental program and had gotten to know some of the student interpretive aides who worked out of the Visitor Centre (VC). He said something along the lines of “Every time we’re out on a trail, you’re going off about some plant that does this or some animal that does that; if you worked at the VC you’d have people actually listening to your trivia!” A friendly jab at the time, but it did get me thinking, what a fun, different type of summer job this could be.

At the time I was determined to become an elementary school teacher, which only made applying make more sense. In no time I had my resume into the park and began to check in (maybe a little too regularly) to see if they had scheduled interviews yet. After weeks of anxious waiting, and the strangest interview questions I had heard for a job yet, I received a phone call asking when I could start. I started working for MacGregor Point Provincial Park late spring of 200, and after 8 fantastic years – I have yet to look back.

Now, that one question that really floored me, the one that I thought my answer had lost me the employment opportunity was, “if you were to choose one animal to represent your personality, what would it be and why?”

I froze. I laughed nervously. I meekly asked for some time to collect my thoughts. I know now that this wasn’t a graded question. (Thank goodness).

It was just Norah Toth trying to gain some insight into the natural heritage knowledge of the interviewee…that would be me.

No, I didn’t mention a unique/rare species of the park, nor the Redstart the ‘flag-bird’ for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival. For a moment I drew a blank Knowing I had to answer, I felt being honest would be the best action.  “A raccoon I suppose…” was all I could say.

After some light chuckling I was asked why. “Well,” I answered. “To start, I am certain you have them here.” No laughter… now I was nervous (for those of you that know me well, my humour is always funny to me, but it fades in and out with everyone else). “… I, um… They work well in teams, yet are great problem solvers as individuals, they are constantly on some task, or will actively find one, and ah… if you leave any food out, odds are I will eat it.” I guess Norah found my final comment humorous after all.

Throughout my eight seasons at the Park I have worked in a number of roles. Year one I was a Natural Heritage Education (NHE) Aide working for the Friends of MacGregor Point Park. I assisted with programs for the public and eventually lead my own by the end of my first season. Year two I was hired by both the Friends and the Park as a Campfire Program Leader with Rye Witter which lead to an almost ‘stand-up comedy’ routine that we would weave into our interpretive programming. If people weren’t in stiches learning about animal defences or the bazar insects of the park then we felt we weren’t doing our job properly. I mean, campfire are supposed to be fun!

My third year truly set me on my current path though. I was asked if I’d be interested in acting as the NHE supervisor for a season to gain more responsibility and better hone my leadership skills. I accepted graciously and immediately knew this is what I wanted to do.

Year four I was successful in the competition for the Supervisor role and I thought this is it.

Year six my supervisor and mentor, Norah Toth, retired and I was again asked to act (or back-fill) a position. I jumped at the opportunity and have been working in that capacity since.

I’ve spent most of my life close to Bruce County. I’m onto my ninth year at the Park.

For an up-close look at the what you can expect to experience at this year’s Huron Fringe Birding Festival click on:

Recognized as One of Ontario's Top 100 Festivals

Recognized as One of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals





The Intrepid James Turland

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 Recently, James Turland led members of The Bruce Birding Club through some trying early spring weather in search of some good looks. It wasn’t a nice day, but James and Birders like him are a tough lot. Here’s Fred Jazvac’s account of the day.

James Turland

James Turland

“I would like to thank James Turland for his great effort in today’s bird hike. He led us to some excellent birds. The only flaw in his well-scouted plan was the weather. Arriving in Kincardine in the morning was like entering a different world. It appeared that winter was still at its peak.

Jamers and BBC die-hards

Jamers and BBC die-hards

Snow covered highways, high winds, squalls and snow everywhere.  For those of us who came from other areas, it was a surprise to discover what was happening in Kincardine. As the morning progressed the snow stopped and except for the high winds the world appeared normal again.”  

“Our journey started at Kincardine birding the sewage lagoons, the waterfront from Point Clarke to Kincardine and the harbor. Lunch was at the Erie Belle and from there to the southern boundary of Inverhuron Park, finishing at Baie Du Dor. In spite of the weather, James provided an enjoyable day for us. Thank you again, James and especially for filling in for Judith who broke a bone in her foot on a Caribbean Holiday. Our best wishes go to Judith on her operation tomorrow in Owen Sound.” 

BBC scopes scoping things out

BBC scopes scoping things out

“Fourteen of us got to share some nice surprises. The winds and the cold provided an atmosphere that made our highlights of the day even more enjoyable when we saw the birds coping with the weather. The delights included the Fox Sparrows who gave us good looks at the lagoons, our first Eastern Phoebe of the year struggling while foraging in a stream and the Killdeer, who near the waterfront, also struggled. Many Great Black-Backed Gulls and the Golden- Crowned KInglets were the few birds that didn’t seem to mind the conditions.” 

“The weather varied from snow squalls in the early morning, to overcast, to mixed sun and cloud. The winds were high varying from 20 to 40 K. The temperatures ranged from minus 5 to minus 1 C.” 

“We saw 47 species of birds* and surprisingly, the wind and the cold made our laughs even more enjoyable.” (Fred Jazvac)

Fred Jazvac Jim Punnett, Kincardine Lagoons

Fred Jazvac Jim Punnett, Kincardine Lagoons

 Throughout the Huron Fringe James’ reputation as a Birder extraordinaire is well known and respected. His hikes are always fun, funny, productive and memorable. James will be leading five events at this year’s Huron Fringe Birding Festival. They are:

• A3 – Birding the MacGregor Boundary. • A14 – The J/I Line – A Grassland Drive. • A35 – Birding MacGregor (Bruce/Saugeen Town line plus Viewing Tower and Bird Blind). • B11 – Birding MacGregor (South end of the Park). • B31- Birding South Bruce – Kincardine and Point Clark.

If you looking for a positive birding experience – James is your man. Check our website to sign yourself:

American Coot Kincardine Harbour

Killdeer – Kincardine

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

All photographs courtesy of Doug Pedwell 

 *Number of species seen – 47        

• Double-crested Cormorant (DCCO)

• American Coot (AMCO)

• Wild Turkey (WITU)

• Mute Swan (MUSW)

• Tundra Swan (TUSW)

• Canada Goose -(CANG)

• Mallard (MALL)

• American Black Duck (ABDU)

• American Wigeon (AMWI)

• Northern Shoveler (NOSH)

• Greater Scaup (GRSC)

• Lesser Scaup (LESC)

• Ring-necked Duck (RNDU)

• Bufflehead (BUFF)

• Common Goldeneye (COGO)

• Hooded Merganser (HOME)

• Common Merganser (COME)

• Red-breasted Merganser (RBME)

• Turkey Vulture (TUVU)

• Sharp-shinned Hawk (SSHA)

• Red-tailed Hawk (RTHA)

• Bald Eagle (BAEA)

• American Kestrel (AMKE)

• Mourning Dove (MODO)

• Rock Pigeon (ROPI)

• Killdeer (KILL)

• Ring-billed Gull (RBGU)

• Herring Gull (HEGU)

• Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG)

• Downy Woodpecker (DOWO)

• Hairy Woodpecker (HAWO)

• Blue Jay (BLJA)

• American Crow (AMCR)

• Eastern Phoebe (EAPH)

• Black-capped Chickadee (BCCH)

• Red-breasted Nuthatch (RBNU)

• White-breasted Nuthatch (WBNU)

• Golden-crowned Kinglet (GCKI)

• Dark-eyed Junco (DEJU)

• White-throated Sparrow (WTSP)

• Fox Sparrow (FOSP)

• Song Sparrow (SOSP)

• House Sparrow (HOSP)

• Northern Cardinal (NOCA)

• European Starling (EUST)

• Red-winged Blackbird (RWBL)

• Common Grackle (COGR)