Find Feathered Friends
Winter bird watching in Muskoka gives a sense of peace, quiet and lets you reconnect with the nature. The perfect activity to do if you are looking to slow down and take a beat from the hustle and bustle of every day life.
Enjoy a laid-back afternoon of birdwatching with friends, family or the grandparents. There’s nothing more serene than a quiet day spent in the nearby Muskoka wilderness. How many different birds will you find?
Introduction to Birdwatching
Birdwatching is just as it sounds – watching for different species of birds in their natural habitats. Birders challenge themselves to see how many different types of birds they can locate or to spot a rare species that tend to be very shy. Most birders keep records of the numbers and types of birds they have found, which you can do too with a notebook. There are also many mobile apps that have been designed specifically to help birders track their finds. As you may have guessed, birding requires a healthy dose of patience, and strong observational skills. Besides simply looking for birds, you’ll also want to keep listen for their different calls.
Here in Muskoka, there are several common bird species that you may encounter as a birdwatcher. One bird you’ll likely see is the Black-capped Chickadee, a tiny, plump bird identified by the black hat it wears and the chickadee-dee-dee call it makes.
Another common bird is the well-known Blue Jay that, just as the name suggests, is a bright blue, medium-sized bird. Blue Jays tend to frequent backyard bird feeders.
Although harder to spot, the Pileated Woodpecker should also be included on your list of birds to try and spot. About the size of a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker inhabits hardwood forests and has a black coat, white wings, and a fiery spot of red on the top of its head.
Before heading out onto your birding adventure, be sure to stop in at Algonquin Outfitters to pick up any necessary gear. Now offering a terrific online storefront and the option for curbside pickup, Algonquin Outfitters is a must-stop this winter for any items you may need to get started with birdwatching. As this is an outdoor activity, you’ll want to bundle up with some of their winter gear and clothing. Pro tip: rent or buy a pair of snowshoes to make navigating through snow easier!
Algonquin Outfitters offers several guidebooks to wildlife observation in the Muskoka area, which will definitely help to identify different bird species. And, you won’t want to leave home without a good pair of binoculars to spot those hard-to-see birds, which can also be found at Algonquin Outfitters. Call the store’s Huntsville location for assistance in finding these items at (705) 787-0262.
Places to Birdwatch
Luckily, if you’re fortunate enough to live in Muskoka, there are so many different trails and natural areas that are perfect for birdwatching and are available just outside of your front door. While you have a good chance at spotting birds at most trails in Muskoka, these are some of the top places in the region to find a few of our feathered friends.
Located in Huntsville, the Hunter’s Bay Trail is a multi-use 3.8 km trail that runs through the town and various parks. A portion of the trail is made up of a floating boardwalk that crosses Hunter’s Bay and is a good place to watch for birds, especially during the warmer months. Find parking for the trail at Avery Beach and Orchard Park. After that, visit Canvas Brewing Company in town for some tasty beers! Check out their taproom to see what events are going on and plan your birding adventure around it.
Another good place for birding is the Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve, found just off of Southwood Rd, south of Bala. At almost 5000 acres in size, and quite rural, you’ll have a high chance of spotting a bird or two. Choose from the 3 km, 5 km, or 6 km trail lengths, and watch for metal trail markers.
Afterwards head to Clear Lake Brewing for a craft beer and a warm meal! Try the Abby’s Mac & Cheese, a feature item on the menu. Don’t forget to bring some brews home with you to enjoy later.
In Gravenhurst, the Peninsula Trail, located on the Muskoka Wharf, is a good choice for birders. This 2.8 km trail winds along the shores of Lake Muskoka and includes sections of rocky terrain and stroller-friendly boardwalk. Find parking at the trailheads near the marina.
Don’t forget to stop by Sawdust City in downtown Gravenhurst after visiting the Wharf. Dine in and indulge in one of their warm, delicious meals and pair it with a craft brew. If you find a beer you can’t get enough of, bring some home by purchasing at their retail store inside the brewery.
Birdwatching at home
Looking to go even further with birdwatching? Bring home your own birdfeeder and fill it with birdseed to continue your birding adventures right in your own backyard – literally!
The Lake of Bays Garden Centre is a must-stop for birdfeeders. Choose from one of their many different birdfeeder styles to welcome these feathered friends into your yard. Browse their online store and place an order for curbside pick-up at their retail location in Dwight or stop in. They also offer a variety of birdseed, including suet cakes, logs, peanuts, and specialty mixes that birds will be sure to love.
Insider tip: peanuts are a favourite snack among birds. Order some peanut pickouts from the Lake of Bays Garden Centre to attract Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, and Cardinals to your backyard feeders.