The Southern-most tip of mainland Canada is a flurry of activity during the month of May. With bird migration season in full effect, birders and photographers come from afar to appreciate the wonders of Mother Nature.
While I went during the end of bird migration season in late May, the park was still filled with singing birds and budding photographers hoping to get that perfect shot. It was my first time at Point Pelee National Park and after returning from my trip I wondered why it took me so long to go there in the first place.
As a bonus, I tested Nikon’s Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S PF lens to see how I would like a prime lens at this super telephoto range. I am very much a zoom person as I appreciate the flexibility it provides me with in terms of composition while out shooting for clients, so I wanted to see how I would fare with this prime lens.
TDLR: It’s a fantastic lens for those who can use the extra reach at 800mm. It’s sharp throughout, lightweight, and at CAD$8500 (as of this writing), the price point can’t be beat. Your needs for the lens will depend on what you shoot with it. I would imagine it would come in handy for sporting events where you are stuck on the sidelines. For wildlife photographers it would depend on what type of wildlife photography you enjoy doing, and what size the wildlife you photograph are. To see what I mean by this, see my chart below.
|At 20ft Away on a|
(Birds, Water fowl, etc.)
(Deer, Wolves, etc.)
(Elephants, Giraffes, etc.)
|Detailed||Y with crop||Y with crop||Y|
|Environmental||Y for smaller birds||X||X|
In the above chart, the first column refers to my way of organizing different types of images in terms of composition.
- Detailed refers to getting up-close and personal with the wildlife to see the intimate details such as its feathers, head, eyes, etc.
- Middle-ground is a wider perspective where we may see the entire wildlife in the frame in addition to a little bit of its surroundings so we get an idea of where the wildlife was photographed in.
- Environmental refers to a wide landscape image where the wildlife is only a small portion of the overall image.
Someone joked at me saying that I may be the only one taking landscape images at Point Pelee National Park during migration season. They may have been right, but I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to talk about Point Pelee National Park without a view of the marsh area at sunrise.
I went to the marsh boardwalk at sunrise hoping to capture the brilliant colours of the sunrise. With thick overcast clouds covering any rays of sun that morning, it wasn’t looking promising upon arrival. However after seeing some brilliant colours off to the side, I thought my luck had changed.
I was a little confused at first since the sun wasn’t supposed to rise from that direction. Nonetheless, this was a cause for further inspection. I took this photo from the North West Beach with my iPhone.
The colours were amazing to see, however, I later found out that they are created from the nearby greenhouses. The overcast weather that morning really brought out a special reflection of colours that were bleeding out of the greenhouses on the ground.
As pretty as these lights may be, they are a cause for concern for local residents as light pollution can be disruptive and may even have adverse behaviour for wildlife. Read this CBC News article here.
Click the images to enlarge.
The southern-most tip of mainland Canada is pictured above, where the sandy shores are a favourite amongst many shorebirds who fly up from the South. There were cormorants, gulls, ruddy turnstones, and more as the winds pounded the shores from either side. Nikon Z 7ii with Z 24-120mm f/4 at f/11, 1/320sec., ISO80
Four ruddy turnstones perched on top of a rock were mesmerized by something out in the distance. Nikon Z 9 with Z 800mm f/6.3 at f/6.3, 1/1250sec., ISO160
There were many birds to be found, even at the end of May. While there’s too many photos to include in this one blog post, I’ve included some of my favourite shots.
This female “mystery bird” as many people often call them, can be seen in abundance in various parks in Ontario. Its look is so different from their male counterpart that people often don’t relate the two together.
Birds often tilt their heads at you in curiosity, so when they do, you can’t help but take a photo of this endearing moment. The eastern kingbird liked to sit tall up high on treetops so it was great to be able to capture this one so close to me.
The common yellowthroats were abundant on the marsh boardwalk route. They darted so fast from tall grass to tall grass to down below on the ground, it was a fun challenge to get them in an interesting pose.
The first time I saw these colourful birds they were within a mere few feet away from me. They caught me by surprise as I had just gotten out of my car on the side of the road! I was happy to be able to get a nice shot of them looking for their next meal.
I was excited to hear one morning that there were sightings of several pelicans at the tip. While on my way to go there a passerby had told me about a whip-poor-will (named after its calling) sighting she saw on the woodland trails by the visitor centre. With sightings of two unique birds in two completely different areas of the park, I had to choose wisely. I ended up going to see the whip-poor-will because of its uniqueness and the fact that I wasn’t sure the pelicans would be there by the time I got to the tip.
When I found the whip-poor-will, he was sleeping quietly up high on a branch. He was woken up briefly by passerbys, at which point I grabbed a video of him turning around on the branch. What a sight that was! He never made a sound, so I couldn’t confirm if he really did make a call like “whip-poor-will”!
With so many yellow birds flying around, if you didn’t recognize the type of one of them, it would have been a safe bet to assume it was a yellow warbler. While they were abundant throughout all of the trails that we were on, I was super happy to find one building her nest right by a pathway. She was so close to the pathway that I could barely get her and the nest in one frame with the 800mm. She kept flying away to find more material to lay inside her nest and on occasion would land on this branch to look around the area. Here I caught her looking up at her nest as if to ponder on the quality of her build.
I’ll end this blog post with the prothonotary warbler, which is apparently a rare bird to the area. However many people at the park mentioned that there were a lot more of this type than in previous years, which is always great to hear. With its small beady eyes, this warbler has a smaller tail than others warblers, and jumps from one branch to another in great speed. Luckily its bright yellow plumage really stands out amongst the lush green surroundings so it was easier to spot from afar.
Point Pelee National Park is a beautiful park with several woodland trails to enjoy. Bird migration season can start as early as late April but peak time seems to fall around the second week of May. Their annual Festival of Birds draws crowds from afar, and is worth going to take advantage of the many expert bird guides in the park, the more frequent shuttle schedule from the visitor’s centre to the tip, and of course to meet the other photographers who are more than happy to help you locate that one bird you’ve always wanted to photograph.
Have you visited Point Pelee National Park before? Let me know what kind of birds you saw when you went!
Pin the image on the left!