Spring wildflowers

10 signs of spring at Ontario Parks

Spring has sprung at Ontario Parks!

The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the days of snow and sleet are (hopefully!) behind us. As the snow melts, enjoy the sensory delights of spring in our provincial parks as we see and hear signs of warm weather to come.

You know it’s spring in Ontario Parks when…

You see moose 

Moose collage

Moose are salt-depleted by the end of winter. Early spring runoff and salt from winter highway maintenance form mineral pools in roadside ditches, which moose love to feed in.

One of the best parks to spy moose in early spring is Algonquin Provincial Park along Highway 60.  Please ensure you drive with care and don’t stop on the highway to view the moose.

You hear owls 

Owl collage

By mid-March, Great Horned Owls have hatched their young, and Eastern Screech Owls are breeding. The call of the great horned may be familiar to anyone who has camped in Ontario Parks – ho hoo hoo-hoo. The eastern screech call is different – more like a high-pitched rolling of the R’s with the tip of your tongue.

You see Mourning Cloak Butterflies 

Butterflies collage

Even before the snow melts, large velvety black butterflies with pale yellow wing margins race through Ontario forests on sunny days. These are known as  Mourning Cloak Butterflies. The butterflies overwinter as adults inside dead trees. In spring, the butterflies emerge on mild days in search of sap to drink.

You spot Spring Tails

Spring tails collage

Spring Tails are wee insects filled with a natural anti-freeze that give them a strange, sticky belly button, and an ability to catapult their bodies away from danger. In early spring they swarm and look like black powder on patches of snow and downed wood.

You hear spring peepers

Spring peepers collage
Photo: Joe Crowley

Listen for spring peepers on warmer April evenings. These tiny frogs are the only ones in Ontario that have a darker X -shaped marking on their backs. Here’s what a chorus of them sounds like.

You see sap flow

Child at sap bucket

Sugar maple trees get their name from the sweet sap they produce. At Bronte Creek Provincial Park‘s annual Maple Syrup Festival, costumed staff show how maple syrup, maple candy, and taffy-in-the-snow are traditionally made. The festival takes place on March weekends and during March Break.

You hear chickadees sing

Chickadee collage

Singing is a sure sign that Black-capped Chickadees are starting to establish territories, and pair up for their breeding season in early to mid-April (conditions permitting).  This spring call is not the familiar chicka-dee-dee song.  Listen to chickadee songs here.

You see the tundra swans returning

Tundra swans collage

Migrating tundra swans make stops in provincial parks along Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. One of the most impressive sights is Thedford Bog beside Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron. Every March, 80,000 tundra swans rest here enroute to their Arctic breeding grounds.

You see the trees bud

Trees budding collage

You can’t help but notice new tree buds on a spring hike. Buds get big and fat before opening into leaves. Ash buds look like chocolate chips! Yellow birches have pretty two-toned buds, beech buds are long and elegant, and bitter hickory buds are noted for their distinctive sulfur-colour.

You see ice-out adventurers

Ice out photo
Photo: Algonquin Outfitters

Experienced paddlers on an ice-out adventure are an early spring tradition in Ontario Parks. While water safety is paramount, especially in spring, higher water levels allow experienced paddlers to explore park areas not accessible by canoe or kayak in summer months. Countless outfitters across Ontario add spring ice out alerts to their web sites so paddlers know when to head out.

Have you seen any of these signs of spring! Send us photos on social media