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Holiday Beach / Big Creek Conservation Area (ON034)

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Holiday Beach / Big Creek Conservation Area (ON034)

Windsor, Ontario

Latitude 42.043°N
Longitude 83.052°W
Altitude 174 - 180m
Area 14.26km²

Site Description

Holiday Beach and Big Creek Marsh Conservation Area are located near the western end of Lake Erie, just east of where the Detroit River empties into Lake Erie. Geographically, this site is located at the bottom-end of the migratory funnel created by the lower Great Lakes (Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair). Birds migrating along the northern shore of Lake Erie have only a short flight across the Detroit River before they are then able to fan out in a broader southern movement. In addition, to acting as concentration site for raptors and other species, the site also includes a large shallow marsh with mostly open water that is interspersed by stands of cattails. It is the largest wetland in the immediate area, and has areas of swamp forest and thicket communities. Several islands and parts of the shoreline support moisture-tolerant forests and vegetation. The adjacent Holiday Beach Conservation Area (formerly a provincial park) contains drier Hackberry and oak dominated forest.

Birds

Casual observers have noted hawks at this site since the 1950s, with more systematic counts beginning in the 1970s. Since 1974, volunteer observers have worked towards full coverage during daylight hours throughout the fall migration period. Peak daily counts and highest ever annual totals for the more commonly observed hawks include: Turkey Vulture (daily 3,200, annual 19,645); Sharp-shinned Hawk (daily 2,130, annual 18,604); Broad-winged Hawk (daily 95,499, annual 110,221); and American Kestrel (daily 1,105, annual 5,747).

Each fall observers tally between 600,000 and 750,000 migrant birds of which 300,000 may be Blue Jays. Peak daily counts for Blue Jays exceed 50,000, with a peak day in September 1994 of 65,400. Other daily peaks include Ruby-throated Hummingbird (200), Eastern Bluebird (825) and Great Egret (195). Annual totals are quite high for some species, such as American Goldfinch (25,000). During the breeding season of 2000, three to five pairs of Prothonotary Warblers (nationally endangered) were recorded at this site, up from the usual one pair.

Big Creek Marsh, and the adjacent waters of Lake Erie, occasionally support large numbers of staging waterfowl: Canvasback (850 October 1996); Redhead (1,275 October 1996), and Red-breasted Merganser (an astounding estimate of 195,000 in November 1992). Such large numbers of mergansers do not concentrate at this site on a regular basis.

Conservation Issues

In general, there are no significant threats affecting the raptors that migrate through this site. However, the magnitude of this migratory movement does need to be recognized and land uses, such as the establishment of transmission or telecommunication towers, or airplane flight corridors, need to be avoided.

Holiday Beach and Big Creek Conservation Areas are run and owned by the Essex Region Conservation Authority. Much of the remaining marsh is a privately owned U.S. hunt club. Runoff entering the marsh from the adjacent agricultural areas is enriched with nutrients and possibly contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. This enrichment leads to increased phytoplankton growth, and this along with bottom-feeding Carp that stir up the mud, result in very turbid water conditions that limit light penetration and growth of macrophytes that sustain staging waterfowl.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Red-breasted Merganser
Number Year Season
195,0001992Fall
Broad-winged Hawk
Number Year Season
21,446 - 36,3482014Fall
48,6292013Fall
6,0552012Fall
23,480 - 43,4312011Fall
16,3172010Fall
17,1182009Fall
8,9532008Fall
18,4002007Fall
7,7302006Fall
7,9652005Fall
27,8432004Fall
7,0092003Fall
4,8872002Fall
44,3102001Fall
17,2402000Fall
60,8041999Fall
40,0001998Fall
108,4801996Fall
22,431 - 40,0001995Fall
50,8201994Fall
72,4431993Fall
95,4991985Fall
110,2211984Fall
36,9041983Fall
Turkey Vulture
Number Year Season
48,4542014Fall
41,7272013Fall
31,8882012Fall
33,7032011Fall
38,1782010Fall
43,8272009Fall
21,1822008Fall
31,3392007Fall
35,6652006Fall
41,5432005Fall
14,7522004Fall
24,5792003Fall
21,8102002Fall
2,1862001Fall
18,2492000Fall
18,3841999Fall
19,6451996Fall
16,4711995Fall
19,4071994Fall
14,2271993Fall
3,2001985Fall
6,9101983Fall
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Number Year Season
7,7812014Fall
6,5782013Fall
5,5462012Fall
13,0732011Fall
9,5102010Fall
9,3582009Fall
3,5332008Fall
12,3892007Fall
9,8142006Fall
9,5282005Fall
5,5062004Fall
9,7052003Fall
7,6582002Fall
14,2802001Fall
9,7862000Fall
14,2161999Fall
10,9641996Fall
15,3761995Fall
10,3751994Fall
13,9331993Fall
18,6041987Fall
2,1301985Fall
13,6501983Fall
Rusty Blackbird
Number Year Season
150 - 2082016Fall
205 - 2602015Fall
32 - 602014Fall
35 - 1102013Fall
150 - 2802011Fall
252010Fall
3002005Fall
Chimney Swift
Number Year Season
36 - 642016Fall
45 - 772015Fall
24 - 362014Fall
26 - 482013Fall
522012Fall
34 - 6142011Fall
2002010Fall
30 - 402005Fall
2431992Fall
Peregrine Falcon
Number Year Season
552014Fall
432013Fall
522012Fall
11 - 812011Fall
492010Fall
1082009Fall
302008Fall
952007Fall
1142006Fall
572005Fall
152004Fall
592003Fall
612002Fall
352001Fall
352000Fall
631999Fall
561996Fall
831995Fall
551994Fall
501993Fall
111985Fall
181983Fall
Prothonotary Warbler
Number Year Season
2 - 32016Summer
12016Spring
12013Spring
12012Summer
12009Spring
21997Summer
Acadian Flycatcher
Number Year Season
12016Fall
Waterbirds
Number Year Season
195,0001992Fall