Peterborough just experienced what it is almost certainly its warmest winter on record.

Peterborough Examiner  – March 22, 2024 – by Drew Monkman  

Many people no doubt enjoyed the balmy weather of our winter “that never was”.  This is understandable, just as long as we keep in mind that the terribly abnormal temperatures we witnessed are also very worrisome. Like Toronto, Peterborough has just experienced what is almost certainly its warmest winter on record. In fact, January and February were the warmest ever for the planet as a whole, just like every other month going back to last June.    

The last four months in Peterborough have all been more than 5 C warmer than the 1971-2000 normal. “Unprecedented” doesn’t come close to describing this kind of departure from the norm. December was 5.7 C warmer than average; January was 5.2 C warmer; February was 5.3 C above normal; and, as of March 19, this month has been about 5.7 C warmer.

The impacts on nature are hard to ignore. In our neighbourhood, Snowdrops and some crocuses are already in bloom – a full two or three weeks ahead of schedule. Many spring migrants like Song Sparrows and Common Grackles birds have returned ahead of schedule and local naturalists have already been reporting the first butterflies. While it’s nice to see these species once again, it’s also unsettling. With earlier springs, ticks are thriving and moving northward; mosquitoes – another disease carrier – are coming out earlier and breeding more often; and migration times for some birds are shifting, meaning they may arrive before – or even after – their food sources emerge, putting their survival and nesting success at risk.

We shouldn’t, of course, be surprised by the climate disruption we’re seeing. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (425.74 parts per million as of March 16) is at record levels and continues to rise unabated. We can therefore expect new global temperature records and more devastating consequences. This is why it’s so reckless of federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and Ontario Premier Doug Ford to be calling for “axing the carbon tax” without offering any robust policy to replace it. Are they not drawing any connections between the shocking global heating and wildfires of the past year and the need for drastic climate action? It’s all very depressing and bodes tragically for the future. At the very least, Poilievre should be expressing his support for Canada’s comprehensive and diverse array of industrial carbon pricing systems (output-based pricing) as well as implementing direct investments in net-zero manufacturing, clean technology investment tax credits, support for renewable and nuclear power, climate-resilient agriculture programs, enhanced methane regulations, an oil sector emissions cap, and more.

            Despite the nerve-wracking changes we’re seeing in the climate and how nature is responding, it’s more important than ever to get out and enjoy the natural world. It’s the best way to get a sense of all we stand to lose by delaying aggressive climate action. Below, you’ll find some of the highlights of spring in the Kawarthas as well as some recommendations on where to go to take in the show. Keep in mind, however, that you can enjoy these events just about anywhere there’s appropriate habitat. The key is to get out often and try different locations.  


  • With ice-free lakes and mild temperatures, a large variety of waterfowl are already migrating through our area. At least 17 species of ducks, geese and swans have been seen in recent days including Redheads, American Wigeon and, most surprising of all – hundreds of Tundra Swans on lower Chemong and Pigeon Lakes! Migration usually lasts through early April. Locations to try: Edenderry Line on Pigeon Lake, Herkimer Road at Hiawatha, Lakefield Sewage Lagoons    


  • The courtship flight of the American Woodcock provides nightly entertainment in forest openings and old fields bordering woodlands. Starting just after sunset, listen for this plump shorebird’s buzzy “peent” calls and the twittering of the wings as the male flies high overhead. Locations to try: Trent University Nature Areas, Mervin and Moncrief Lines near the Peterborough Airport, Lang-Hastings Rail Trail   
  • Hepaticas and Bloodroot are usually the first woodland wildflowers to bloom in the spring. The flowers of Hepatica can be pink, white or bluish in colour. Locations to try: Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park, South Drumlin Nature Area at Trent University, Kawartha Land Trust’s Stoney Lake Trails near Viamede Resort
  • Watch for early butterflies such as the Mourning Cloak, Eastern Comma and the dainty, all-blue Spring Azure. Locations to try: Lang-Hastings Rail Trail, Stoney Lake Trails
  • The frog chorus is at its best this month with Spring Peepers, Northern Leopard Frogs, Wood Frogs and Chorus Frogs all calling. Locations to try: Selwyn Centre Line (County Road 24) between County Roads 18 and 20, Rotary Greenway Trailfrom TrentUniversity to Douro 9th Line, Trans-Canada Trail between Lily Lake and Ackison Road
  • On April 26 and 27, the City of Peterborough is hosting a community bio-blitz to record the diversity and abundance of local wildlife in Ecology Park and nearby Beavermead and Farmcrest Parks. Anyone can participate. Come to Ecology Park to join a guided walks with local experts. The times and starting points will be announced in April. Residents are also invited to participate in the four-dayCity Nature Challenge from April 26 to 29. For more information, go to


  • Calling both day and night in long, monotone trills lasting up to 30 seconds, the American Toad provides one of the most characteristic sounds of early May. Later in the month, Gray Treefrogs serenade us with their slow, bird-like vocalizations. Locations to try: Same as April
  • Mid-May is the peak of songbird migration with the greatest numbers of warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, and flycatchers arriving back or simply passing through. Locations to try: Meadowvale Park, Beavermead Park, Trent University Nature Areas, the Lang-Hastings Trail   
  • Deciduous woodlots offer up a profusion of spring ephemeral wildflowers in mid-May. Trilliums and Trout lilies are among the most conspicuous. Locations to try: In addition to April’s locations, try Bass Lake and Tully’s Road north of County Road 36, just east of Bobcaygeon.
  • Wild Columbine and both Pink and Yellow Lady’s-slippers brighten trails and sometimes even roadsides. Locations to try: For Pink Lady’s-slippers, try the Nanabush Trail at Petroglyphs Provincial Park and Kawartha Highlands Signature Park on County Road 36, just north of Buckhorn. For Yellow Lady’s-slippers, Warsaw Caves Conservation Area is a reliable spot. Herkimer Point Road at Hiawatha is usually a great spot for Wild Columbine.


  • Birds are nesting and singing their hearts out. Some of the most interesting species you can see in the city include Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Gray Catbirds and Warbling Vireos. Locations to try: Although these birds are common along nearly all our rail-trails, a consistently good spot is the Rotary-Greenway Trail and Meadowvale Park near Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School. Use the free Merlin Bird ID to help with identification by sound. Playing their songs will often draw the birds in close.
  • Don’t miss the mid-May to late August show of Chimney Swifts flying over downtown Peterborough. As Chris Risley explained in his Examiner article of March 5, if you go in the evening you can see the birds enter their main roost chimney near the corner of George and Charlotte Streets. Location: About 15 minutes before official sunset, go to the top of the King Street parking garage and look north. Peak entry into the chimney is a few minutes after sunset.
  • The Summer Solstice occurs on June 20. The sun will rise and set farther north than on any other day of the year. Location: Armour Hill is a great spot to witness sunrise on or near the solstice which happens at about 5:29 am. Return for sunrise on the first day of the other seasons as well. The difference in where the sun rises is quite remarkable from one season to the next. 
  • Butterfly-watching is usually at its most productive in late spring and early summer since the greatest number of species is flying at this time. Locations to try: Lang-Hastings Rail Trail, Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Charlie Allen Road west of County Road 507, Sandy Lake Road east of County Road 46 north of Havelock

Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.