20 years ago,we had our first birding trip abroad, and it was to Point Pelee and surrounding South-west Ontario. The trip was impeccable, not so much for the fact it was our first, but that we were ridiculously lucky, and chanced upon one of the best migrations for years, with one day in the week seeing a spectacular reverse migration. As a consequence, we had seen most of the migratory species that are generally seen (and one or two that aren't - Varied Thrush and Swainson's Warbler). So with 2015 being 20 years since that visit, we looked to go back and relax and enjoy what was on offer, as well as concentrate on taking video and photographs. In addition, we had heard at the time of the worth of visiting Algonquin to the North-east of Toronto, so wanted to include that as well. The trip was as good as our first, and probably as good as any other since. Algonquin was a great way to start the week, and in stark contrast to the birding around Point Pelee. According to many of the regulars, the passage through Pelee was below average, and their view was that present day migration is nowhere nearly as good as a couple of decades ago, but because of the reasons above, we were able to enjoy fully the birds on offer. No day was a letdown, and we regularly saw good movements of migrants, including a decent reverse migration on our first morning at the tip, and small waves of wood warblers on a couple of the evenings. Due to the large distance between Algonquin and Point Pelee, we broke this with a day around the Carden Plain, another location worth visiting, this time for a flavour of grassland type of specialities.
The timing of a visit is usually between mid April and the end of May. The exact time between these is a matter if choosing the mix of species that are likely to occur, since some pass earlier than others. A time around Mother's Day weekend, which is early to mid May, is best for a variety of species, although the down side is that it is hectic over the two days. Despite this, we did visit then, and made it to the park early to get to The Tip first, yet there seemed many times more visitors than during the weekdays. A good alternative if these two days are to be avoided is a jaunt along to Rondeau, and is highly recommended - also potentially very good birds, and a lot fewer people. We were also ready for weather of any type, and very nearly got it bar snow. Temperatures varied between 0° early morning in Algonquin, and 32° during the journey from Carden Plain to Point Pelee. We didn't get too wet, perhaps just a bit of drizzle at times, but a tornado was forecast one evening, and though we were disappointed not to see a twister, the rain that fell (while we were driving) was torrential.
Accommodation and transport were booked well ahead. The former in particular should ideally be booked as far ahead as possible, since not only are there many regulars who book their favourite lodgings for the following year while staying in the current one, but other rooms go quickly. Leamington is the ideal location, being only a 15 minutes drive from the park gate, and with restaurants on tap - we booked up later in 1995 and could only find somewhere 40 minutes drive away. Our hotel, the Sunparlor, was more than adequate, with air conditioning and plenty of electrical sockets for charging camera batteries, and this for only £60 per night. We also booked the car before we left - always cheaper than when you arrive, and plumped for a 4x4 SUV. When we were shown what was on offer, the standard of the vehicles was excellent, apart from the lack of a package tray. Not a great feature when suitcases and optics need to be hidden away at times. So for the same cost they gave us a Ford Taurus 4x4, which had a clearance under the chassis not much lower than the SUV on offer. This is only potentially really needed in Algonquin and the Carden Plain, where heavy rain may make the tracks less suitable for a normal saloon car. The roads and byways around Point Pelee and the South-west are generally in very good condition.