In the wetland at dawn, there's a sudden beat of wings and enthusiastic calls as scores of birds stream out to their feeding grounds. As many as 20,000 geese, ducks and swans blanket the 242-hectare wetland at the St. Clair Wildlife Area.
With an extended warm climate and protected parklands featuring Carolinian habitat that attracts rare southern birds including the Carolina Wren (traveling no farther north), Chatham-Kent provides great opportunities for birding, one of North America's fastest growing trends.
Land that juts into shallow waters, inland creeks, marshes and lush forests render this area a popular stop for numerous species that fly along the migratory corridor. Birding hotspots, Rondeau and Wheatley Provincial Parks and the St. Clair Wildlife Area, offer up-close views and room to leisurely explore the tranquil surroundings.
Conversely, picture yourself heading out before dawn to a blind for a morning's hunt, the swish and gurgle of paddles, the only sound betraying the canoe as it glides along the velvet strip of water between rustling walls of dark cattails. Decoys slapped onto the pond cause echoes across the water. The silent vigil begins, awaiting the first traces of dawns creeping across the eastern sky. A quick whistle of wings across the black-velvet of the western sky hints at a flight of teal winging across the marsh. So begins a morning of migratory bird hunting in the marshes of Lake Erie.
The coastal wetlands of Rondeau attract shorebirds and marsh birds and a unique assortment of waterfowl. Warblers and cuckoos enjoy the rich deciduous Carolinian forest. Rondeau's dunes along Lake Erie invite bluebirds, swallows, shore birds and purple martens. The openness of Oak Savannah draws orioles and woodpeckers. An extensive trail system winds through the park providing space for leisure viewing.
With access to trophy-size musky, Chatham-Kent also is considered a premier fishing destination. Lake St. Clair, one of few musky lakes in existence, is a popular choice for professional and recreational anglers around the world. Mitchell's Bay feeds out to Lake St. Clair, and within the lake there are several tributaries with excellent spots to cast a line. Whether your preference is musky, smallmouth bass, pickerel or steelhead (Salmon) fresh-water fishing is exceptional on either shore Lake St. Clair or Lake Erie in Chatham-Kent. To fish in a more protected area, Sydenham and Thames Rivers are good for catching pickerel, pike, bass and catfish.
Fishing is a year-round sport with walleye prevalent in Lake Erie in early spring and summer, and perch prolific in July and August. Pan fish and perch are plentiful in Lake St. Clair in spring; bass, musky and pike available year-round. An abundant supply of perch during winter provides good ice fishing on Mitchells Bay. With an abundance of small pan fish, this area is the perfect place to introduce a young child to the sport of fishing. My young grandson loves to fish, and after several hours in the boat, must be talked into quitting.
Finally, if you yearn to explore sunken shipwrecks, this area boasts 20 intact wrecks from the late 1800s to early 1900s near the shoreline, offering scuba enthusiasts easy viewing opportunities. Thanks to zebra mussels, Lake Erie offers improved visibility as you sink slowly down through crystalline water, light diminishing as you descend. From the depths, suddenly there appears a brass bell, engine and boiler. You've discovered the wreck of the Colonial, an 1882 wooden steamer, resting in its watery grave, one of many wrecks located just offshore in Erie's waters.
Wrens, wrecks, walleye & whistlers: Chatham Kent is the place to celebrate outdoor sport and recreation!
Gene Chambers is author of three secondary school textbooks on computer studies in data processing, a hunter and fisherman, and a travel writer.
Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/