Posted by: Erin | May 24, 2017

Great Canadian Birdathon 2017

Once again, I will start off with the donation link, click the pic below to donate to Bird Studies Canada and the Pelee Island Bird Observatory (donations greater than $10 receive a tax receipt!)

Great Canadian Birdathon

So the 2017 Birdathon day was May 19th! We had rented a cottage for the week near Point Pelee (right across the road from Birdie’s Perch, in fact… oh those perch po’boys are sooooo good) and after careful consideration of the weather forecast, we decided that Friday was going to be the day. The alarm went off super early and our count officially started at 5:45am. The first bird of the day: an American Robin singing its heart out just outside the cottage. We listened and watched around the cottage for a while, picking up 15 species before heading off to Point Pelee National Park.

We arrived in the Park around 6:40. We pulled off the road briefly at the Sanctuary parking area to have a look around. Another 14 species were added to the list before we decided that there were too many mosquitoes and it was time to move on!

birdathon 2017 selfie

Ready to go! Got the t-shirt and everything!

We started on the Woodland Trail a few minutes after 7am. The forest was not super active, but there were some nice birds around. It was really great to see the Prothonotary Warblers in the swampy areas. This was the first time I’d seen this bird outside of Pelee Island. This species is classified as Endangered in Ontario so it’s wonderful to find them nesting! We arrived at the tram stop shortly after 9am, having added another 22 species to the list, bringing our total to 51 so far.

At the tip, of course the first bird we saw there was a Barn Swallow! I love those guys. They nest under the pavilion there and are always swooping all over, right past your head.

birdathon 2017 barn swallow

Barn Swallow

Some highlights from the Tip include Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo that was very nearly impossible to spot. There were no shorebirds or gulls at the Tip because… there was no Tip! The water level in the lake was so high that there was no spit to be seen.

We arrived back at the Visitor Centre around 10:40am. We paused for a quick break under the Festival of Birds tents and were entertained by a very bold Red-winged Blackbird looking for a snack. There are signs everywhere saying not to feed the wildlife but I’ll admit, I might have given him a tiny piece of my apple because he was just so damn cute. Heading back to the car, we were treated to the sight of some soaring Turkey Vultures and a rather scruffy-looking Cooper’s Hawk. Species total so far? 64.

We hit up the Tilden Woods trail starting at 11am. There were lots of birds in the woods, but it was getting harder to find NEW species. But there was a beautiful Eastern Bluebird right near the start of the trail, and deeper in the forest we saw an amazing male Scarlet Tanager (even though that was not a new species for the list, we had seen a female earlier in the day near the Tip). We decided to head out of the Park to find some lunch, stopping briefly at the little marsh lookout along the road where we finally found a Blue Heron, bringing the list up to 70 species before lunch. Not bad?

After a big lunch at Freddy’s it was onward to Hillman Marsh, which is THE place to go if you want to find shorebirds. And we wanted to find shorebirds!! We had bought a spotting scope just the day before and were eager to try it out.

birdathon 2017 dunlin


We found lots of great shorebirds at the Marsh, including Whimbrels and a White-rumped Sandpiper which was the subject of much debate among the more experienced birders. The spotting scope was really great, and helped us to actually identify lots of the shorebirds ourselves… our shorebird ID skills are not well-developed, but we’re learning. There were also a pair of American Wigeons and Northern Shovelers.

birdathon 2017 bird nerds

A flock of Bird Nerds at Hillman Marsh

After spending a fair bit of time at Hillman Marsh, our species list was up to 86. We headed back to the cottage for a much-needed beer break, where we were treated to the sight of a pair of Spotted Sandpipers appearing on the lakeside rocks right in front of the cottage!

birdathon 2017 spotted sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

We headed for an early dinner in Leamington, after which it started to rain which really put a damper on our remaining plans. We had wanted to go to the Deslaurier Homestead trail (around sunset, to hopefully find some Woodcocks) and maybe a couple of other places… but as it was, we drove back into the park and quickly visited the Marsh Boardwalk and stood in the miserable cold wet wind for long enough to see a Wood Duck fly overhead. That was, unfortunately, the end of our Birdathon at that point, with a total of 88 species. A new record for us! It’s too bad we didn’t make it to 100, though. If we’d been able to do our rained-out plans AND if we’d found a couple of notable absences (for instance, we tried really hard to find either a Northern Flicker or House Finch but there just wasn’t one around) we might have made it to 100. Maybe next year!!

Here is the entire species list, in order:

  1. American Robin
  2. Mallard
  3. Tree Swallow
  4. Herring Gull
  5. Ring-billed Gull
  6. Red-winged Blackbird
  7. European Starling
  8. House Sparrow
  9. Purple Martin
  10. Common Grackle
  11. Killdeer
  12. Mourning Dove
  13. Brown-headed Cowbird
  14. Northern Cardinal
  15. Canada Goose
  16. Yellow Warbler
  17. Cedar Waxwing
  18. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  19. Common Yellowthroat
  20. Baltimore Oriole
  21. Great Crested Flycatcher
  22. Hermit Thrush
  23. Red-eyed Vireo
  24. Wild Turkey
  25. Warbling Vireo
  26. Blue Jay
  27. Eastern Kingbird
  28. Gray Catbird
  29. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  30. Blackburnian Warbler
  31. House Wren
  32. Veery
  33. American Redstart
  34. Tennessee Warbler
  35. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  36. Swainson’s Thrush
  37. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  38. Prothonotary Warbler
  39. Bay-breasted Warbler
  40. Magnolia Warbler
  41. Canada Warbler
  42. Wilson’s Warbler
  43. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  44. Blackpoll Warbler
  45. American Crow
  46. Downy Woodpecker
  47. Black-throated Green Warbler
  48. Cape May Warbler
  49. Orchard Oriole
  50. Barn Swallow
  51. Chimney Swift
  52. Eastern Phoebe
  53. American Goldfinch
  54. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  55. Willow Flycatcher
  56. Indigo Bunting
  57. Scarlet Tanager
  58. Double-crested Cormorant
  59. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  60. Red-breasted Merganser
  61. Turkey Vulture
  62. Cooper’s Hawk
  63. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  64. Broad-winged Hawk
  65. Eastern Bluebird
  66. Black and White Warbler
  67. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  68. Blue Heron
  69. Song Sparrow
  70. Great Egret
  71. Chipping Sparrow
  72. Dunlin
  73. Black-bellied Plover
  74. American Wigeon
  75. Northern Shoveler
  76. Semipalmated Plover
  77. Ruddy Turnstone
  78. Lesser Yellowlegs
  79. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  80. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  81. Short-billed Dowitcher
  82. Common Tern
  83. Bonaparte’s Gull
  84. White-rumped Sandpiper
  85. Whimbrel
  86. Least Sandpiper
  87. Spotted Sandpiper
  88. Wood Duck
Posted by: Erin | June 1, 2015

Great Canadian Birdathon 2015

Welcome to our Great Canadian Birdathon summary for 2015!

First: the donation link…click the logo to go to my donation page. Help support the good work of Bird Studies Canada and the Pelee Island Bird Observatory.

Great Canadian Birdathon

This year, we did our Birdathon day in conjunction with the Botham Cup “Green” bird race, an annual tradition as part of the Spring Song festival weekend on Pelee Island. I’ve wanted to attend this festival for several years, but theatre commitments have kept me at home. But no TCP show this spring means… let’s go to Pelee Island!!

After what ended up being a very stressful few days of packing, we woke up bright and early on Friday May 8 and hit the highway to Leamington, aiming to catch the 10am ferry. It just wouldn’t be a trip to Pelee without posting the requisite Jiimaan picture, so here it is:

The Jiimaan Arrives

The Jiimaan arrives.

After a blissfully uneventful crossing, we arrived on the Island just in time for the Botham Cup race official kickoff at noon. We were given a checklist, a set of rules (most notable: travel by human power only!!) and 24 hours to see as many bird species as we could.

The first thing we did was drive over to the cottage we had rented for the week: bird races are one thing, but we had a car full of stuff to unpack, and a cooler full of food that needed refrigeration. But to be completely honest and fair, we didn’t officially start counting birds until after we had parked the car at the cottage! After unpacking, the first thing we did was… have some lunch and relax for a few minutes. We’d been up since 5am, and we were tired! It was a wonderful little while of lazy birding, though. Our cottage was in a great birding location, and we picked up our first 20 species or so just by sitting in chairs on the grass, watching the nearby trees.

After a little while, we decided we’d better get going, so we got on the bikes and went looking for more birds. We decided against the obvious first choice destination (Fish Point) for now, thinking there wouldn’t be much bird activity there in the heat of the afternoon. So we headed east along the South Shore Road, and ended up at the Stone Road Alvar, where we had a pleasant walk through a little trail I was quite familiar with from my PIBO days working on the Breeding Bird Census.

After that it was back to the cottage for a bit of dinner and more lazy birding, where we were lucky enough to have a female Summer Tanager come right to US! (We never did see the male, though.) Afterward we got back on the bikes and went out to Fish Point as evening was descending, detouring slightly to check out a lovely Bald Eagle nest on the way. We found things to be fairly quiet in the woods, but as we neared the path exit to the beach, we came across several fellow birders who told us that not only were there a few nice shorebirds at the tip, but there were many songbirds just arriving from across the lake and they were congregating in a large willow tree. What a great find! Lots of warblers, and even a couple of hummingbirds.

We lingered on the beach for a while (long after most of the other birders had left) and walked slowly back through the woods as darkness fell. We had high hopes of finding owls… I tried calling for Screech Owls, but unfortunately we had no response and heard no evidence of any other owl species either. Too bad! We did hear Common Nighthawks calling as we rode back to the cottage, though.

The next morning we woke up bird-nerd early. My poor behind protested loudly at being forced back onto the bike seat, but we made it back to Fish Point where we discovered that the woods were fairly quiet once again… but we did manage to pick up some nice warblers, and a few more interesting shorebirds at the point. (Pro tip: if you’re bad at shorebird ID, just stand around near a group of other birders and eavesdrop.) We left Fish Point in search of second breakfast (pancakes at the Legion, mmm) and then headed across East West Road to hit up a little trail behind the winery property in a last-ditch effort to expand our species list before the noon deadline. We managed a few extra species (Blackburnian Warbler!) and then went back to the Heritage Centre to turn in our checklist.

Our full Birdathon/Botham Cup species list:

  1. Horned Grebe
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Great Blue Heron
  4. Great Egret
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Wood Duck
  7. Mallard
  8. American Wigeon
  9. Red-breasted Merganser
  10. Bald Eagle
  11. Wild Turkey
  12. Killdeer
  13. Willet
  14. Ruddy Turnstone
  15. Dunlin
  16. Ring-billed Gull
  17. Herring Gull
  18. Greater Black-backed Gull
  19. Mourning Dove
  20. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  21. Common Nighthawk
  22. Chimney Swift
  23. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  24. Red-headed Woodpecker
  25. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  26. Downy Woodpecker
  27. Northern Flicker
  28. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  29. Willow Flycatcher
  30. Great Crested Flycatcher
  31. Eastern Kingbird
  32. Warbling Vireo
  33. Red-eyed Vireo
  34. Blue Jay
  35. Purple Martin
  36. Tree Swallow
  37. Barn Swallow
  38. Black-capped Chickadee
  39. House Wren
  40. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  41. American Robin
  42. Swainson’s Thrush
  43. Gray Catbird
  44. European Starling
  45. Cedar Waxwing
  46. Northern Parula
  47. Tennessee Warbler
  48. Nashville Warbler
  49. Yellow Warbler
  50. Magnolia Warbler
  51. Cape May Warbler
  52. Blackburnian Warbler
  53. Black-throated Green Warbler
  54. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  55. Palm Warbler
  56. Bay-breasted Warbler
  57. Black-and-white Warbler
  58. Common Yellowthroat
  59. Scarlet Tanager
  60. Summer Tanager
  61. Northern Cardinal
  62. Indigo Bunting
  63. Chipping Sparrow
  64. Field Sparrow
  65. Song Sparrow
  66. White-crowned Sparrow
  67. Baltimore Oriole
  68. Red-winged Blackbird
  69. Common Grackle
  70. Brown-headed Cowbird
  71. American Goldfinch
  72. House Sparrow

A paltry 72 species! Although I guess not bad when you consider that we took a kind of lazy approach to it. But the winning Botham Cup team saw 123 species. We are just not that hard core. 🙂

It was certainly a challenge only being able to travel by bike. Pelee Island isn’t a very big place, but it’s big enough that for someone who was on their bike for the first time this season (ie. me) it was pretty much impossible to make it up to the north end of the Island, or check out the fields along the central roads. We certainly would have been able to add many more species to our list if we were able to be more mobile!

Tired birder after Birdathon!

Tired birder after Birdathon!

After the Spring Song weekend was over, we remained on the Island until the following Friday, enjoying a lovely vacation and eventually bringing our species total up to 95. Highlights included watching a Prothonotary Warbler engaging in nesting activity, visiting our friends at the Pelee Island Bird Observatory banding station, and a particularly lovely evening drive up the Centre Dyke Road past fields full of wild turkeys and various plovers.

Yellow Warbler

A just-banded Yellow Warbler at the PIBO banding station.

For interest’s sake, here is the list of the additional species that we saw after the Birdathon was over:

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  3. Common Loon
  4. Least Sandpiper
  5. Common Tern
  6. Green Heron
  7. American Crow
  8. Blue-winged Teal
  9. Sanderling
  10. Bonaparte’s Gull
  11. Northern Waterthrush
  12. House Finch
  13. Prothonotary Warbler
  14. Ring-necked Pheasant
  15. Horned Lark
  16. Black-bellied Plover
  17. American Golden Plover
  18. Semipalmated Plover
  19. Brown Thrasher
  20. Savannah Sparrow
  21. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  22. Ovenbird
  23. Blackpoll Warbler

If you enjoyed reading this, please consider donating to our Birdathon! The donation link is at the top of this post! Help support Bird Studies Canada and the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. It’s all for the birds!

Posted by: Erin | May 28, 2014

Baillie Birdathon 2014

Official species list at the end of the post!

Again: a request for donations! Please CLICK HERE to visit my personal donation page to help support Bird Studies Canada.

This year’s trip was a little different! Time-constrained by theatre commitments and weather, we had only a very short two-day window in which to complete the Birdathon. I was also accompanied by my lovely husband Chris! So last Wednesday, we packed up the car and drove south…

Goofy Pre-Trip Car Selfie

Goofy Pre-Trip Car Selfie

We stayed at Wheatley Provincial Park again. Birdathon Day dawned bright and early. We commenced counting a half-hour before dawn, and the Red-winged Blackbird was able to defend its title from 2013 as “first bird of the Birdathon”!! So many Redwings. So. Many.

Bird Nerd Breakfast

Bird nerds eat breakfast in the dark.

After counting birds over breakfast for about an hour, we packed up and headed for Point Pelee National Park. Saw several more species on the way to the park, bringing the total for the day so far to 34.

We hit the Woodland Trail by the Visitor’s Centre first thing. Lots of lovely orioles (both Baltimore and Orchard), Blackburnian Warblers and a surprising number of Scarlet Tanagers gave the forest greenery bright splashes of red and orange. Also lots of Black-billed Cuckoos! After about two hours on the trail we had brought our species count up to 49.

Canada Warbler

Canada Warbler

We returned to the Visitor’s Centre for a brief break where we were treated to the sight of a Cooper’s Hawk above the parking lot. We climbed onto the tram and headed to the Tip, where we picked up several more species (including a lone Solitary Sandpiper in with the gulls…how appropriate) to bring the total up to 66.

Goofy Tram Selfie

Goofy tram selfie. Chris isn’t paying attention!

We arrived back at the Visitor’s Centre where we ate lunch, then headed for the Tilden Woods trail. We spent another hour in the woods there, but only managed to get TWO new species for the list! Memorable ones, though. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird buzzed past us at one point, looking for flowers. I love seeing hummingbirds “in the wild” like that, ie. not at someone’s backyard feeder! A little later on, after having seen our umpteenth Red-eyed Vireo, Chris asked me about what kinds of other vireos there were, so I showed him the pictures in the field guide. Just a couple of minutes later, I looked up into a nearby tree to see…a Blue-headed Vireo! After that, Chris wondered what other birds he should ask about… 🙂

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

We were feeling a little stuck on forest species, so we decided to switch habitats and head for the Marsh Boardwalk. It was a lovely day on the water, but only three new species for the list…Black Terns, Swamp Sparrows and a pair of Wood Ducks. I’d been hoping to see Mallards and maybe a heron here, but…nothing! We were feeling a little frustrated so we climbed into the car and headed out of the Park in search of ice cream. Happily, while waiting at Birdie’s Perch, we saw Purple Martins and a Great Blue Heron flying overhead. Species total is now sitting at 73! We ducked into Pelee Wings Nature Store to check out some nice binoculars before heading back into the Park. (I think I’m going to be upgrading my binoculars in the fall…I love my old Nikon Monarchs but poor Chris is using a pair of really crappy Bushnells and if I upgrade my set, he can have my old Nikons and then we’ll both be much happier bird nerds.)

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

We decided to take a stab at the Deslaurier Homestead trail before stopping for dinner, hoping that another habitat switch would net us some different birdies. Unfortunately, we only got ONE new bird for the list. I’ve never been so excited to see a White-crowned Sparrow! We also saw a Five-lined Skink, which is not a bird of course but was still pretty cool, since they are listed as endangered. They are also pretty cute! So, at the dinner break, our species count is 74.

Common Grackle

Common Grackle at Birdie’s Perch

Over dinner, we discussed what our options were for the rest of the day. I’d been hoping to be at the Deslaurier Homestead parking lot around dusk to see American Woodcock doing their courtship display, but given the lateness of the season I didn’t have much confidence that we would actually see any. So, we decided instead to head back to Wheatley Provincial Park, where perhaps we could find some strangely elusive species that we just weren’t seeing at Pelee.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird contortions

On the drive back to Wheatley, we FINALLY saw a lone Mallard duck, and also some Chimney Swifts as we were driving through the town. Back at the park, I managed to find a Bank Swallow and Chris tracked down a Northern Flicker. Only 78 species?? I knew there was a Great Egret in the wetland by the day use area, since we’d seen it the day before. It wasn’t immediately visible though, and I decided that I needed to find it! I had to walk all the way to the opposite end of the day use area (a little farther than I’d wanted to be walking after being on my poor feet all day already) but I found it!

Great Egret and Canada Geese

Great Egret and Canada Geese

So, that brought our species list to 79. The sun was down by this point, so we headed back to the campsite for the night. We had high hopes of hearing an owl (we were pretty sure we’d heard a Screech Owl the previous night) but alas, we didn’t hear anything at all overnight, even after trying to call for one.

Overall impressions: So many Scarlet Tanagers! Wow! And it’s definitely better to do this a little earlier in May. There were quite a number of migrants that we completely missed due to the lateness of the trip. And I think next year (assuming we do it at Point Pelee again) we need to make a point of leaving the Park in order to find more waterfowl and shorebirds.

Thanks to Chris for the bird photos. 🙂

Edit: after typing out the list below, I realized that I had Song Sparrow on there twice. So actually we only saw 78 species.

Here is the species list, in order!

  1. Red-winged Blackbird
  2. Least Flycatcher
  3. Wild Turkey
  4. Canada Goose
  5. Common Grackle
  6. Northern Cardinal
  7. Black-capped Chickadee
  8. Great Crested Flycatcher
  9. American Crow
  10. Tree Swallow
  11. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  12. American Robin
  13. Gray Catbird
  14. Ovenbird
  15. Eastern Wood Pewee
  16. Blue Jay
  17. Mourning Dove
  18. Wood Thrush
  19. Brown-headed Cowbird
  20. European Starling
  21. Downy Woodpecker
  22. Eastern Kingbird
  23. Red-eyed Vireo
  24. Yellow Warbler
  25. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  26. House Wren
  27. Chipping Sparrow
  28. Barn Swallow
  29. House Sparrow
  30. Killdeer
  31. Indigo Bunting
  32. Turkey Vulture
  33. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  34. Song Sparrow
  35. Baltimore Oriole
  36. Orchard Oriole
  37. Blackburnian Warbler
  38. Scarlet Tanager
  39. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  40. Warbling Vireo
  41. American Redstart
  42. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  43. Magnolia Warbler
  44. Black-billed Cuckoo
  45. Canada Warbler
  46. Black-throated Green Warbler
  47. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  48. Black and White Warbler
  49. Double-crested Cormorant
  50. Cooper’s Hawk
  51. American Goldfinch
  52. Eastern Towhee
  53. Savannah Sparrow
  54. Connecticut Warbler
  55. Nashville Warbler
  56. Bay-breasted Warbler
  57. Willow Flycatcher
  58. Common Yellowthroat
  59. Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
  60. Ring-billed Gull
  61. Swainson’s Thrush
  62. Solitary Sandpiper
  63. Herring Gull
  64. Common Tern
  65. Wilson’s Warbler
  66. Blue-headed Vireo
  67. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  68. Black Tern
  69. Swamp Sparrow
  70. Wood Duck
  71. Purple Martin
  72. Great Blue Heron
  73. White-crowned Sparrow
  74. Mallard
  75. Chimney Swift
  76. Bank Swallow
  77. Northern Flicker
  78. Great Egret
Posted by: Erin | April 1, 2014

First Attempt at Spring Birding

It was such a lovely day yesterday…sunny and warm (well, relatively warm, single-digit temperatures, woo!) that I decided to take some time in the morning and go birding! I headed up to Columbia Lake in Waterloo, since I’d heard that there was a Wood Duck pair hanging out there. I found several lovely birds, including the Wood Duck (only the male, I didn’t see the female). My first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year! I also heard a House Wren singing, which seems to have caused much consternation among local birders. It’s extremely early for House Wrens to be in this area, they usually do not arrive until closer to the END of April. It’s possible I could have been mistaken, but…I don’t know. I heard what I heard! Here is the eBird checklist. Anyway, have some photos…

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Wood Duck and Mallards

Wood Duck and Mallards

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Black-capped Chickadees

Black-capped Chickadees

Also I must note that this morning, we caught sight of a Golden-crowned Kinglet in our backyard! Spring migration is underway!!

Posted by: Erin | May 16, 2013

Baillie Birdathon 2013 Wrap-Up!

(Note: the official species list is at the end of the post, so just hit that scroll bar if you don’t care about all the details!)

Before I begin, I will start with another request for donations! Please CLICK HERE to go to my donation page! This trip was all for the birds, so please help support Bird Studies Canada.

My performance with TCP’s Fiddler on the Roof orchestra wrapped up this past Sunday, leaving me free to think about when I would do my Baillie Birdathon trip. After agonizing for a couple of days over destinations and weather forecasts, I finally threw the camping gear in the car and headed out the door on Tuesday afternoon, pointing the car southwest. I was headed to a place I’d never been before: Point Pelee National Park, a birding mecca. What better place to try to see as many species as possible? Well, maybe Pelee Island, where I’ve spent a LOT of time birding…but staying on the mainland and not having to factor the ferry travel into the trip schedule made the destination choice a little easier.

My first stop was Wheatley Provincial Park, which would be my home base for the next two nights. It’s about half an hour from Point Pelee, which isn’t too bad. There were other, private campgrounds closer to the park where I could have stayed, but I really like Ontario’s provincial parks. They’re like Tim Horton’s. Always the same no matter where in the province you are. No wondering if the camp sites will be nice, or if the washrooms will be horrible. You know what you’re going to get, and that is important to me!

I arrived just before dinnertime, set up my tent, then drove into bustling downtown Wheatley to find some dinner. Picked up a sub at Subway and took it back to the park, and shared my picnic table with a very large, very fast wolf spider while I ate it. After I was done, I grabbed my binocs and headed toward the lake shore and the park’s only hiking trail. I decided to do sort of a “practice run” for the next day, and record how many bird species I would see! Over the course of an hour and a half (from 6 – 7:30pm) I was able to record 32 species. I won’t list them here, but notables were the pair of Great Egrets in the pond, a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk being harassed by several blackbirds, and the lovely Blackburnian Warbler that visited my camp site. After I got back to camp, I enjoyed a little camp fire for a while and then headed for bed nice and early to be well-rested for the next day.

The next morning, I woke up at 5am to a chorus of singing birds! Let’s get this show on the road!

Bird Nerd Breakfast

Bird Nerd Breakfast

Sunrise was scheduled for 6:11am, so I officially started my 24-hour count period at 5:40am. I sat at my picnic table for an hour, listening and watching as I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee. I picked up 18 species without having to move an inch. The first bird of the day was a Red-winged Blackbird. (I had been thinking the night before about what the first bird was most likely to be, and I couldn’t decide if it would be a Redwing, or a robin. Both had been singing since well before I got out of bed, but the Redwing was what I heard first when I started the count! Mr. Robin came in second. Third place was a cardinal!)

I was in the car and on my way to Point Pelee by 7am. Recorded four more species en route, bringing me to 22.

I arrived at Point Pelee around 7:30am. After parking the car and briefly checking out the Visitor’s Centre, I hit the Woodlands Trail to look for some birds! From 7:55am until 10:10am I wandered the trail, and found 19 species of birds. Notables included a Brown Thrasher, Scarlet Tanager, another Blackburnian Warbler, and a couple of Wild Turkeys that wandered by as I was watching a White-tailed Deer nibbling on some leaves. The woods were crawling with orioles! Black and orange everywhere you looked. I was a little disappointed at the general lack of warblers, though. Back at the Visitor’s Centre I saw a Killdeer and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, bringing my species total up to 43 so far.

I hopped on the tram to head for the Tip, arriving at about 10:30. While walking along the trail to the Tip, I saw a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Palm Warbler (among others) and took a long, hard look at a lone duck out on the water, which I determined to be a Lesser Scaup. Once I got to the actual Tip, I was treated to the sight of many gulls, terns and a few shorebirds. This is where my birding weakness lies! My ID skills on gulls and shorebirds are so weak. I stared at the birds for a long time, and was able to pick out Common Terns, Bonaparte’s Gulls, both Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls, a Solitary Sandpiper and a Caspian Tern. I missed a few potential species here, though, because I couldn’t positively ID them. Oh well! I think the strangest sight of the day happened out here at the Tip: I saw a tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbird buzzing around amongst the gulls, out over the water at the Tip! Not sure what it was doing there, but this is not the first time I’ve seen this kind of behaviour from a hummingbird. I recall seeing one doing this exact same thing at the end of Fish Point on Pelee Island.

After returning to the Visitor’s Centre at about 11:40am, my species total was up to 58. I hung around the Centre to eat some lunch and wait for the afternoon guided hike to start. The hike started at 1pm, and would take us around the Woodlands Trail again, the same trail I hiked in the morning. I was a little worried that maybe I should have done a different trail in the morning instead of hiking the same one twice, but as it turns out, it was alright! In the heat of the afternoon, there were many, many warblers in the woods. Highlights of the early afternoon were a Blue-winged Warbler, a Worm-eating Warbler and a Yellow-throated Vireo, all of which were birds I had never seen before. I also caught sight of a flying squirrel high up in a tree, which is a little unusual since it was bright daytime. There had been reports of a Prothonotary Warbler hanging out on this trail, but we didn’t find it.

Back at the Visitor’s Centre by 3:30, my species count was 76. I had been hearing reports of a very rare Kirtland’s Warbler near the entrance to the Northwest Beach parking lot, so I decided to get in the car and head up that way to see if it was still there. Arriving at the parking lot entrance, I found a HUGE crowd of birders all trying to catch a glimpse of this little bird! I stood with them for about twenty minutes, and we saw many OTHER birds, but there was no sign of the Kirtland’s. I was tired and hungry so I gave up, left the park around 4pm in search of somewhere to get some dinner.

After refuelling with a delicious dinner of fried perch at “Paula’s Fish Place” just down the road, I came back to the park and started on the Marsh Boardwalk trail around 5:20pm. The reeds were swarming with Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats, but here I was only able to pick up four “new” species for my list. It was lots of fun watching a small flock of Black Terns flying around over the water! Lots of frogs and turtles, too. I was done by about 6:10pm, my species count sitting at 81.

I was scheduled to attend the “twilight hike” at the Delaurier Trail, which was supposed to start at 7pm. I headed straight for the parking lot and relaxed in my car for a little while, since I was pretty tired from walking all day! While I waited, I pulled out the camera and took the ONLY photos I took all day (other than the breakfast photo) of some super-cute Chipping Sparrows that were foraging in the parking lot quite close to the car.

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

I was looking forward to this evening hike, since I was hoping to get into some slightly different habitat than the forest-type places I’d been in for most of the day. Maybe find some grassland/savannah birds, and there was a chance of seeing a Yellow-breasted Chat! However, we started along the trail, and things were very quiet, so the guide decided to change locations and take us up to the Northwest Beach parking lot to look for that Kirtland’s Warbler. We all piled into cars and headed up the road. I was disappointed at missing out on the grassland habitat but…WE FOUND THE KIRTLAND’S WARBLER!!! So that was pretty cool. We also saw LOTS of other types of warblers while we were there (unfortunately nothing “new” for my list though, other than the Kirtland’s and a lone Tennessee Warbler.) Eventually we headed back to the Deslaurier Trail parking lot, where we found a Common Nighthawk flying overhead. Then, around 9pm, we were able to see the courtship display of some American Woodcock! I’ve seen Woodcock before, but I’ve never actually seen their display. They are just the cutest things. To look at them, you’d wonder how they can even fly at all.

It was the end of the day, and I was EXHAUSTED. Species count: 86. Maybe I could have had 100 if I’d tried harder to visit more diverse habitats, who knows? But I was still pretty happy with my birds. I left Point Pelee and headed back to Wheatley, and I only made one wrong turn in the darkness, hahah.

I had been thinking about maybe doing some owl-prowling during the night, but I decided against it. The park’s only hiking trail didn’t seem like it was in an area where I’d have a good chance of success, and I didn’t want to just wander around the campgrounds in the dark. Also, I was really tired. Like, really really tired. But as it turned out, the owl came to me! As I was getting ready for bed, I heard an Eastern Screech Owl calling not too far away. Their call is fairly easy to imitate, so I had a nice little chat with the owl before falling into my sleeping bag for the night.

So, final species tally: 87. Here is the full list, in the order in which I saw/heard them!

  1. Red-winged Blackbird
  2. American Robin
  3. Northern Cardinal
  4. Black-capped Chickadee
  5. European Starling
  6. Common Grackle
  7. Wild Turkey
  8. American Crow
  9. Least Flycatcher
  10. Great Crested Flycatcher
  11. Blue Jay
  12. Veery
  13. Northern Waterthrush
  14. Ovenbird
  15. Downy Woodpecker
  16. Canada Goose
  17. Tree Swallow
  18. Mourning Dove
  19. Baltimore Oriole
  20. Eastern Kingbird
  21. Yellow Warbler
  22. Chipping Sparrow
  23. Red-eyed Vireo
  24. Brown Thrasher
  25. Orchard Oriole
  26. Scarlet Tanager
  27. Nashville Warbler
  28. White-crowned Sparrow
  29. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  30. Gray Catbird
  31. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  32. Eastern Wood Pewee
  33. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  34. Great Blue Heron
  35. Traill’s Flycatcher
  36. House Wren
  37. Pine Siskin
  38. Pine Warbler
  39. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  40. American Redstart
  41. Blackburnian Warbler
  42. Killdeer
  43. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  44. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  45. Warbling Vireo
  46. Palm Warbler
  47. Lesser Scaup
  48. Double-crested Cormorant
  49. Herring Gull
  50. Ring-billed Gull
  51. Common Tern
  52. Bonaparte’s Gull
  53. Solitary Sandpiper
  54. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  55. Barn Swallow
  56. Caspian Tern
  57. Yellow-shafted Flicker
  58. American Goldfinch
  59. Cooper’s Hawk
  60. House Finch
  61. Blue-winged Warbler
  62. Black & White Warbler
  63. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  64. Northern Parula
  65. Cape May Warbler
  66. Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
  67. Common Yellowthroat
  68. Magnolia Warbler
  69. Worm-eating Warbler
  70. Carolina Wren
  71. Black-throated Green Warbler
  72. Yellow-throated Vireo
  73. Blue-headed Vireo
  74. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  75. Northern Harrier
  76. Red-tailed Hawk
  77. Eastern Towhee
  78. Swamp Sparrow
  79. Bank Swallow
  80. Black Tern
  81. Mallard
  82. Eastern Bluebird
  83. Kirtland’s Warbler
  84. Tennessee Warbler
  85. Common Nighthawk
  86. American Woodcock
  87. Eastern Screech Owl

Birds I am surprised I did NOT see: Brown-headed Cowbird, Song Sparrow, House Sparrow

Birds I am disappointed I didn’t see, but not surprised: Cerulean Warbler (there had been reports of one near the Visitor’s Centre), Prothonotary Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker (also had been several near the VC in previous days)

Things I learned:

  • I really quite enjoy camping alone.
  • I don’t fit in with most of the types of “serious” birders I saw at the park. (At least I have a Tilley hat, although even my Tilley is weird, since it’s one of the brown hemp ones instead of the typical beige.)
  • Point Pelee is super awesome but you couldn’t PAY me to go there on a weekend during migration. As it was, during the week, the people very nearly outnumbered the birds.
  • I’m really glad I’m not a bird and/or nature photographer, because those massive lenses and tripods look really heavy. Some people had CARTS they were pushing around the trails, to carry all their gear!
  • I can find and identify songbirds really well. In fact, I think I annoyed the evening hike’s guide a little bit by finding, ID’ing and pointing out all the warblers for the group faster than he was. Oops.
  • Having said that, I am completely hopeless at anything that’s not a songbird. I need to get better.

Overall: that was a super fun trip but I’ve never birded so hard for such an extended period of time before! I’ll be very happy to go back to my casual, non-list-keeping style of birding.

Thanks for reading, and once again here’s a link to my donation page!

Posted by: Erin | May 6, 2013

Week Two of Spring Banding!

Second weekend of spring banding is done! Saturday was an interesting day, we did an officially-sponsored public banding demonstration. I think around 20 people showed up, but we caught only 12 or 13 birds, and about half of those came BEFORE the people showed up for the demonstration.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler, being shown to the people gathered for the demonstration.

Despite not catching many birds, I still managed to get two new species for my “birds banded” list: a Lincoln’s Sparrow, and Brown-Headed Cowbird.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

I had to leave a little early to head to New Hamburg, since I was already late for the 9am rehearsal for Fiddler!

Sunday was another lovely-weather day, which didn’t bode well for catching migrants. I arrived just a tiny bit too late to go on the net-opening round, so I listened to the birds in the pre-dawn as I sat at the table and waited. Loved the sound of wild turkeys gobblin’ it up somewhere in the distance, and admired the small herd of deer that passed close by. Lots of birds were singing, but I was actually able to identify all the songs I heard, which means that none of the singers were migrating warblers!

Once the nets were open, each round brought in just a few birds. We caught a White-Crowned Sparrow, which was another new bird for my species list, so that’s nice. Near the end of the morning, we witnessed the most adorably cute bit of Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher drama: we caught a female in the net, and what was obviously her mate was hanging around having a little freakout in the nearby trees. Totally heartbreaking! But they were happily reunited later on, the female with a nice new bit of bling. 🙂 We also heard an Orchard Oriole singing (and some other folks spotted him, and got some nice photos) as well as a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. There was also an Eastern Kingbird hanging around. Nice to see them back for the spring!

Things I learned: I despair of ever being able to actually learn to age these birds. Especially sparrows. It’s so hard. And Red-Winged Blackbirds can bite hard enough to draw blood. Also, getting up at 4:45am on Saturday and Sunday while still trying to live a normal life during the rest of the week (and weekend) which includes the run-up to production week for a major show is hard. Next weekend (which is actually show weekend) should be…interesting. Heh.

After we closed up the empty nets for the morning, we got down to the serious business of the day: beer sampling.

The Beer Selection

The morning’s beer selection.

I brought some Garbage Pail Ale from Mount Breithaupt Brewery for people to try, and they seemed to like it. Hopefully some of Banquo’s Pilsner is properly carbonated by next weekend. Hopefully the weather is a bit better for bird-catching next weekend too!

Posted by: Erin | April 28, 2013

A New Season!

I was super excited to head out this morning for my first day of spring bird banding! Well, I wasn’t super excited when my alarm clock went off well before dawn, but once I woke up, things were a little better.

This season I am joining Kevin Grundy (and others) to do some banding on the weekends at the rare Charitable Research Reserve in Blair, near Cambridge. It’s good to be able to be living at home and still do some banding, even if it’s only on the weekends. The weather was co-operating, and it was going to be a lovely day! They had been out yesterday, but I was unable to join them because I was busy with the Bloomin’ Earth show in downtown Kitchener. We didn’t catch very many birds today, but I got to band some American Goldfinches and a couple of Song Sparrows. They had banded an American Woodcock just before I got there! I guess I was a bit too slow. 🙂

House Wren

House Wren

Frosty Morning

Frosty Morning



Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

Ladybug Plays A Game

Ladybug Plays A Game

I’m looking forward to next weekend. Assuming the weather is okay, we’re going to be doing a rare-sponsored bird banding demonstration, so that should be pretty neat.

Posted by: Erin | March 20, 2013

Support this Bird Nerd in the Baillie Birdathon!

So we all know I’m a big Bird Nerd. Well, this year I’ve decided to try to use some of those birding skills to actually raise money to benefit some bird conservation organizations. I’m participating in the 2013 Baillie Birdathon!

Baillie Birdathon Logo

Support me in the 2013 Baillie Birdathon!

Clicking that lovely photo above will take you to my personal donation page at the Bird Studies Canada website, where you can pledge money online. You can pledge a single amount, or you can pledge per-species! (If you want to pledge per-species, please contact me directly – you can still donate online in this case, but your donation will have to be made AFTER I complete the Birdathon in May.)  If you don’t want to donate online, just contact me and you can donate directly! You can email me at ecmoffat at gmail dot com. All donations of $10 or more will receive a charitable donation receipt for income tax purposes.

What is the Baillie Birdathon?

Bird Studies Canada’s (BSC’s) Baillie BIRDATHON is the oldest sponsored bird count in North America. It’s also a great excuse to spend a day birding!

Where does the money go?

Raising money for the Baillie BIRDATHON is a great way to have fun while supporting bird conservation across Canada. The funds raised go to:

  • Bird Studies Canada, to support the many programs that advance the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of wild birds and their habitats.
  • Local conservation organizations. BIRDATHON participants can designate groups such as naturalists’ clubs or Canadian Migration Monitoring Network stations to receive a share of the revenue. In my case, I will be directing this portion of my funds raised to the Haldimand Bird Observatory.
  • The Baillie Fund, which provides funds for conservation projects, with priority to those involving volunteer naturalists. Since its inception in 1976, the Baillie Fund has awarded grants to approximately 500 bird conservation and research projects in Canada.
  • Students at Canadian universities who apply for the annual $1,000 James L. Baillie Student Research Award.
Posted by: Erin | October 26, 2012

Another Bird Nerd Adventure: OWLS!!!

Going to write this up real quick…yesterday afternoon I headed back to Rock Point to (hopefully) take part in some Northern Saw Whet Owl banding. Unfortunately the weather conditions were quite windy all night, and we spent every net round picking millions of leaves out of the nets instead of owls. We did catch ONE little owl, but it was a recapture, so I didn’t get to band one. But I was still happy to be able to handle the bird and see it up close in all its super-cuteness! They really are adorable. Pictures!

Northern Saw Whet Owl, looking so pretty!

Northern Saw Whet Owl, looking SO CUTE!!!!

They’re so soft and fluffy. Except for the talons, they’re pretty pointy. I’ve got some new holes in my thumb that weren’t there before!

I hung around for part of the morning banding session and managed to snag two new species for my list, a Slate Coloured Junco and a Brown Creeper. Here they are!

Brown Creeper

Slate Coloured Junco

And now, because I basically haven’t slept in ~30 hours and have done a ridiculous amount of driving in that time, I’m going to bed.

Posted by: Erin | September 27, 2012

The Adventure Is Over!

This is it. Final post. Time to wrap up! I write this from my office at home, having returned to Kitchener for good yesterday afternoon. It’s been an amazing summer! I learned so much. Mist netting, net extraction, bird handling and banding, bird ID and age/sex determination (fall warblers are still hard!), trailer living, owl prowling! I want to give a big thanks to everyone at the Rock Point Bird Banding Station for having me around and teaching me all they knew. I’ll be back there again sometime, even if it’s just for a short visit. Soon, hopefully…they’ll be banding Saw Whet Owls later in October and I want to get in on some of that action!

So where does a Bird Nerd go from here? For now, I need to change focus and work hard on the pre-Art-Walk and pre-Christmas-on-Etsy prep for my glass art business. I have lots of lost time to make up for! I’ve also got some theatre projects in the works that will keep me VERY busy between now and February. But in the Spring, hopefully I will be doing a bit of banding closer to home. This blog will be pretty quiet until then, but I expect I’ll take it up again later on, even if it’s just to post the occasional picture.

Thanks for following my Bird Nerd Adventures! It’s been fun.

Field guide? Pfft, I don’t need no stupid field guide.
(Unless it’s a shorebird. Or a gull. Or…a wader, or a duck. Or a hawk? Or… )

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