This Year’s Birdathon Was Hugely Successful
Many thanks to all our sponsors and to our six expert birders
The first birder to cover a property was John Urquhart at “Jack’s Marsh” – the Jack van Nostrand Nature Reserve, on May 9. This was early enough in the season that from the Lake Ontario shoreline John was able to pick up several species that would be seen nowhere else. These included Common Merganser, Bufflehead, and even a Common Loon. In the marsh John found Least Bittern, and in the nearby field was the birdathon’s only Eastern Meadowlark. John’s total was 57 species, including 14 seen on no other property.
May 22 was a very popular birdathon day, and Margaret Bain chose this date to visit the Laurie Lawson Outdoor Education centre, accompanied by Maureen Riggs. Heavy fog interfered with the identification of many of the warblers that were streaming through the treetops, but Margaret says that her sighting of a Cerulean Warbler was her “bird of the day.”
This was only one of 17 warbler species recorded, and Brown Creeper and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher were also good finds. Margaret’s final count was 63 species, of which 4 were unique to this property.
Also on May 22, Roger Frost spent the day at the Leckey Nature Reserve. It was a good warbler day here as well; Roger managed to find 18 species, including the threatened Canada Warbler. He also did well with raptors, seeing 4 species including Great Horned Owl and Northern Goshawk. With grassland, various forest types, some swampy territory and a beaver pond, this property has a wide variety of habitats. Roger took full advantage of this to record 84 species, including 9 not found elsewhere.
And finally on May 22, Ben Walters covered the McEwen Nature Reserve. His Blue-winged Warbler (a new species for this property) and Grasshopper Sparrow were not seen anywhere else. Other interesting sightings included Whip-poor-will (a threatened species both provincially and federally), Wild Turkey, Least Flycatcher, and Eastern Bluebird (at least three pairs of which made use of our nest boxes). Ben’s total count for the day was 65 species.
Doug McRae and John Geale spent 5 hours on May 26 at the Chub Point NR. The woods themselves could best be described as flooded, so most of the time was spent around the periphery. The highlights included a displaying American Woodcock, and several Veerys and Northern Waterthrushes singing enthusiastically, A Lincoln’s Sparrow singing near the railway track was the most surprising bird, but the find of the day was a Ruffed Grouse nest with 13 eggs (photo to right) near the very centre of the property. Doug’s species count was 46, very good for a small property with little habitat variation.
David Geale returned and recovered from an exhaustive birding tour of southern Ontario with some Taiwanese clients in time to complete our birdathon on May 30. Tom Jackman went with him in the morning, and their “bird of the day” was not even a true species, but a “Brewster’s” Warbler, a hybrid between Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers. They were the only birders to find a cuckoo; they heard it sing but were unable to spot it, and since our two cuckoo species sometimes sing each others’ songs it could not be positively identified. David’s species count was 56, beating last year’s early May total by 5.
And now to the overall results, which broke records in three categories!
We had a record 36 sponsors, some of whom sponsored all six birders. The addition of the Jack van Nostrand Nature Reserve produced several species that could not reasonably be expected elsewhere, and our grand species total was 118, beating 2016 by 12. And our sponsors were, as always, very generous, donating a total of $3,315.45, about 50% more than ever before. The winner of the contest to guess this total was Torontonian David Moore (who owns a property south of Bewdley); he came up with the exactly correct number! The more local winner was Tracy Parker, whose guess was 120. It is worth noting that this event is not only about raising money. It also gives our members and other folks a chance to be actively involved in our activities and to see our properties, and over time we will learn much more about all the bird species that breed on or migrate through the Nature Reserves.
At the July meeting of the Board of Directors, a motion was passed to present Norma Wallace with a life membership in the Northumberland Land Trust. Later that month Bill Crowley and John Geale visited Norma and made the presentation to thank her for her many years of support; Norma was very grateful for this recognition. We were also able to thank her daughter, Susan Laing, who has been a great help to Norma and the Wallace Birdathon in recent years.