2012 Camaro SS Convertible: Bird watching from a ?chick magnet?

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

Close to 500 different species of birds have been recorded in Ontario and I wondered, “How many can we see in a couple of days?”

Point Pelee National Park, about 50 km southeast of Windsor, has a reputation as a birding paradise and, because seeing birds is best done without the encumbrance of a roof, a Camaro SS convertible seemed to fit the bill (no pun intended).

The $48,405 Camaro SS ragtop (built in my hometown of Oshawa) stays true to the original car I lusted over in high school. A honking 6.2-litre V8 pushrod engine pumping out 426 horsepower guaranteed we’d get to wherever the birds were fairly quickly.

The six-speed manual box with Hurst shifter is a bit notchy, but the throws are short and precise. The overall gearing is quite tall, and 100 km/h in sixth is a very relaxed 1,400 rpm.

The first tank I put through the SS returned a shocking 15.2 L/100 km. Of course, I was fully (and frequently) enjoying the dragster-like thrust whenever the right pedal was deployed. Stifling my exuberance a bit, fuel consumption improved and one tank of mostly highway cruising netted 9.6 L/100 km.

The black leather front seats with red inserts are extremely comfortable, easily accommodating my six-foot, three-inch frame. Two adults can be incarcerated in the back for short distances, but they won’t be happy.

With the top up, you feel like one of Rommel’s Afrika Korps tank commanders peering through the gunports, but the view to the side and even the back isn’t overly compromised.

The smallish trunk gets even smaller with the top retracted. There’s no way my hockey bag would fit and it barely accepted one carry-on bag and a couple of gym bags for our trip.

Birdwatching isn’t just “watching birds.” Serious birders maintain a roster of every species they’ve ever seen, called a life list. Some keep a year list, a month list and a day list.

The Holy Grail for birders is documenting 100 different species in one day ??called a “century.” The morning of our quest, I sat on our deck and recorded more than 20 of the more common species. Then, driving past the local marsh, we tallied another 15 or so, including an American coot (which counts) and an old coot (which doesn’t). Thirty-eight so far.

Burbling west on the 401 towards Toronto, we realized that Ontario is lousy with birds. Turkey vultures circled overhead, red-tailed hawks perched in trees next to the highway, and harriers hovered over stubble fields. We were pecking away at our list?? 41 and we hadn’t even crossed the city yet.

Near Woodstock, we stopped for a coffee, put the top down and took two-lane roads the rest of the way, enjoying the glorious sunshine. Once the top is down, you have to manually fit the tonneau cover, which is a bit of a pain but worth it. As good as the Camaro looks with the top up; it’s simply stunning in full convertible mode.

Running up through the gears, the music from the twin chromed exhaust tips is sweeter than a Clapton guitar solo. Through some of the bumpier secondary roads, the chassis was tight, solid and rattle-free. Along the Lake Erie shoreline, we were surprised by the number of huge, electricity-generating windmills. Not many of those where we live.

Point Pelee is the southernmost point in mainland Canada, extending 7 km into Lake Erie. During their spring and fall migrations, thousands of birds make this area one of their resting stops. Several walking trails throughout the park cover different types of habitat, including forest, open meadows, marshland and beaches.

Five minutes into the park, a huge wild turkey went into full strut while letting loose thunderous gobbles right in front of us. Maybe he thought the Camaro was a threat to his womenfolk, since it is quite the chick magnet. Several times, ladies in their mid-20s smiled and waved. Cherie said, “Yes, they’re cute when they’re that age and no, you can’t take one home.”

We started at the farthest point, where several people were fussing over what appeared to be regular beach chickens. Eavesdropping, I heard, “Bonaparte’s gull, Herring gull, Caspian tern, black tern and a ruddy turnstone.”


Most of the small, furtive birds require more knowledge and patience than I have and even when consulting a bird book, it’s difficult to tell a song sparrow from a Lincoln’s sparrow — they just don’t sit still long enough.

The trick is sidle up to the hardcore types, festooned with Tilley hats, vests and enough optics for a Force Recon mission, and look where they look.

“Oh, a Blackburnian warbler.”

“Yep,” I nodded. “That’s what I thought.” Fifty-four.

Birders are a friendly lot and one group took us under their wing, showing us mockingbird, catbird, wood thrush, redstarts and the following warblers ??Blackpoll, Tennessee, Wilson’s, Hooded, Chestnut sided, Bay breasted, Prothonotary and Black-throated green. That made 70 and we called it a day.

It was a fun and educational day and, because we didn’t see any white, heron-like birds, we had no egrets.

So get a bird book, grab your binoculars and go for a walk in the woods. You may even see the rare, drop-top Camaro.

Steve Bond reviews vehicles for Wheels. He can be contacted by email at

2012 Camaro SS Convertible

PRICE: base, $48,405; as tested, $52,395

ENGINE: 6.2 L, pushrod V8

POWER/TORQUE: 426 hp, 420 lb.-ft.

FUEL CONSUMPTION: Average 10.0 L/100 km

COMPETITION: Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger

WHAT’S BEST: Power, comfort, looks, let the sun in

WHAT’S WORST: Small trunk, limited visibility with top up

WHAT’S INTERESTING: Faithful to the original Camaro

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