Birding Marathon!

Yes, it happened again.  I was compelled.  Yesterday I went out and did a birding “big day.”   This is a marathon of sorts, without the running, where I go out and try to find as many different species of birds as I can in a 24 hour period.

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Common Yellowthroat

Why?  Well it’s spring.  The world has come back alive again with colour and sound.  So many birds are migrating through on their way to the boreal forest, or setting up nesting territories here and getting ready to stay for the summer and raise some young.    But whether they are staying or just passing through, all the birds are in brilliant breeding plumage, and most importantly, they are SINGING their hearts out.

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Marsh Wren

Over the years when I heard a bird song that I didn’t recognize, I have always been curious to find out what type of bird is singing.    So through cassette tapes, then CDs, and now the Sibley Bird App on my iPhone, I have been able to learn who is singing around me, even if I can’t see it.  So fun!  Especially because at this time of year, it changes every day.   It’s a way to be tuned into the changes in nature that go along with the changing seasons.

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The Gray Catbird – mimics other bird’s songs and fools me all the time!

So let’s get this big bird day going.

I got up at 4:20, brewed up some coffee for my travel mug and wrapped up warmly for my walk down the street.  By 4:45 I was out listening for the night birds.  At 6 degrees Celsius it was quite chilly, and there was a bit of glow right at the horizon.   A Whip-poor-will was the first bird of the day for me- their call is unmistakable as they just say their own name over and over faster and faster until they sound like they are going to short circuit!   Another real treat so early in the morning was hearing the baby barred owls in the woods near my house screeching for food from their nest.   Until then I didn’t know they had hatched!  Fun times ahead.

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Gorgeous blue winged warbler

The sun came up on a beautiful clear spring day, and by wandering around the fields and forests near my house, and watching my feeder birds while I ate my breakfast, I was able to identify over 50 species of birds before heading out in the car to continue my quest.

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Canada goose goslings

My first stop was the Brighton Constructed Wetlands, which is a virtual nursery for waterfowl and a great place to find shorebirds.   The visit there started out well enough, with cute downy little goslings and ducklings, and innumerable red winged blackbirds flying around.

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Wood duck family

Baby world!

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Look who’s coming…

Things went south a bit when a Mute Swan decided it didn’t want anyone near its nest, and took repeated flying lunges towards the Canada Geese that were in the path in front of me.

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Time to move

I stayed well out of the way of this drama, and when the coast was clear continued on my way.

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Mute swan on nest

I guess these little cuties are worth protecting, right?

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Willet

It was fun finding a few shorebirds, some of them unexpected for this time and place.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

My next stop was Presqu’ile Provincial Park, a sure bet for birding this time of year.

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Jobes Woods Trail

I spent the rest of the day at the park, exploring the different trails and looking and listening for birds.    I had some help along the way, from people who pointed out birds in their spotting scopes that I would never otherwise see, or who helped me with sounds that I was unsure of.

Last year when I did my first “big day”, I found 92 species of birds in one day.   So you know of course what my goal was this year: 100.   And once I told people about my goal for the day, and that a dollar for each bird identified would go to Bird Studies Canada, they were more than willing to lend a hand.

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Off the beaten track

Just so you know I don’t always go sneaking around in the woods and swamps by myself.

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Chestnut Sided Warbler

Back to the birds.   Warblers!   So many kinds!   So many songs!    Presqu’ile in the morning by the lakeshore is just magic for finding these flying jewels.   The midges (little insects) hatch at just the right time, perfect for these little birds who have just crossed over  the vast expanse of Lake Ontario.     I am still learning my warbler songs.   There are about 25 warbler species that are pretty common to find in our area and they have songs that are different, but all high and fast and often hard to tell apart in the moment.     So this is where my camera helps.    I can always review later.

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Yellow Warbler. Got it.

As the day went on I had such a wonderful time exploring the trails of the park and the different habitats like beaches, forests, and fields.   I had some idea of how many species I had found, but I knew it was by no means accurate.   I may have double counted something, or conversely, left it off the list.   There were also some species I needed to check photos of to be sure.    So as the day passed and my little book began to get fuller and fuller, I felt I was probably on the right track. However, new birds come far more slowly at the end of the day, as all the “easy” or common birds- like Robins and Chickadees- have already been accounted for. But there are always happy surprises.

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Piping Plover!!!

Such good news- Endangered Piping Plovers have arrived at the beach at the park, and two of them have mated and may be starting to nest.   Piping Plovers have not nested there for years, so this is extremely good news.   Park staff have put up a rope barrier around their nesting territory so people will not walk through and destroy the nest by mistake.   The nests are just little scrapes in the sand with a few tiny items from the beach inside, so are very easy to miss.

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2016 Ontario Park Pass

This is this year’s annual park pass.   Let’s hope it is a sign of great things to come!

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American Bittern

One of my last birds of the day was an American Bittern in the marsh.   These birds make a very loud and strange pumping sound, but this particular individual was just sitting quietly, trying to look like the grass and cattails.  By 7:30 I was home, and went on one last walk under an almost-full moon to listen for night birds.

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Pine Siskin – my last bird of the day

Once my official tally was finished- reporting only the birds I am positive about the ID, I had my species total for 2016:   101.   Just think- all those different kinds of birds were out there yesterday, in an area between my house and the tip of Presqu’ile Park, which is only a 20 minute drive away.  Sure, my phone tells me I walked 18 kilometres yesterday.   But you don’t have to bird all day and night and walk any huge distance to enjoy the flow of nature right through your own backyard.   If you hear a new bird you haven’t heard before, go out and find what it is.     There are all kinds of apps for phones now that make birding ID much easier than it used to be.   Or ask a friend to go birding with you.   Then at least you can lurk around in the woods together.

Here’s my official list from yesterday.     Thanks for visiting my blog!    Leslie

Summary
May 20 May 21 May 22 May 23 May 24 May 25 May 26
Number of Species 101
Number of Individuals 798
Number of Checklists 4

 

Highest Count for a Species   (sample size) Hide Sample Size
Species Name May 20 May 21 May 22 May 23 May 24 May 25 May 26
Canada Goose 40
(3)
Mute Swan 12
(2)
Wood Duck 6
(2)
Mallard 6
(3)
Blue-winged Teal 3
(1)
Northern Shoveler 20
(1)
Canvasback 2
(1)
Ruffed Grouse 1
(1)
Wild Turkey 1
(1)
Double-crested Cormorant X
(1)
American Bittern 2
(2)
Great Blue Heron 1
(1)
Green Heron 1
(1)
Turkey Vulture 1
(1)
Common Gallinule 40
(1)
Semipalmated Plover 8
(1)
Piping Plover 2
(1)
Killdeer 4
(3)
Spotted Sandpiper 1
(1)
Willet 1
(1)
Lesser Yellowlegs 2
(1)
Whimbrel 1
(1)
Least Sandpiper 4
(1)
Short-billed Dowitcher 3
(1)
American Woodcock 2
(1)
Ring-billed Gull 8
(3)
Herring Gull X
(1)
Caspian Tern 4
(1)
Common Tern 6
(1)
Rock Pigeon 4
(1)
Mourning Dove 6
(3)
Barred Owl 2
(1)
Eastern Whip-poor-will 1
(1)
Chimney Swift 8
(1)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
(1)
Belted Kingfisher 1
(1)
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
(1)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2
(2)
Downy Woodpecker 2
(1)
Hairy Woodpecker 2
(1)
Northern Flicker 2
(1)
Pileated Woodpecker 2
(1)
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
(1)
Least Flycatcher 4
(2)
Eastern Phoebe 4
(2)
Great Crested Flycatcher 8
(2)
Eastern Kingbird 20
(2)
Warbling Vireo 8
(2)
Red-eyed Vireo 3
(1)
Blue Jay 24
(2)
American Crow 5
(2)
Common Raven 2
(1)
Purple Martin 18
(1)
Tree Swallow 6
(3)
Barn Swallow 4
(1)
Cliff Swallow 10
(1)
Black-capped Chickadee 4
(2)
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
(2)
Brown Creeper 3
(1)
House Wren 4
(2)
Marsh Wren 10
(2)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 2
(1)
Veery 2
(2)
Wood Thrush 2
(2)
American Robin 25
(3)
Gray Catbird 12
(3)
Brown Thrasher 1
(1)
European Starling 10
(2)
Ovenbird 1
(1)
Northern Waterthrush 2
(1)
Blue-winged Warbler 1
(1)
Black-and-white Warbler 3
(2)
Tennessee Warbler 2
(1)
Nashville Warbler 1
(1)
Common Yellowthroat 8
(2)
American Redstart 4
(1)
Magnolia Warbler 1
(1)
Yellow Warbler 20
(3)
Chestnut-sided Warbler 4
(1)
Blackpoll Warbler 3
(1)
Palm Warbler 1
(1)
Pine Warbler 2
(1)
Yellow-rumped Warbler 12
(1)
Black-throated Green Warbler 4
(1)
Chipping Sparrow 2
(2)
Field Sparrow 1
(2)
Savannah Sparrow 2
(1)
Song Sparrow 6
(2)
Swamp Sparrow 2
(1)
Eastern Towhee 2
(1)
Northern Cardinal 4
(2)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 8
(3)
Indigo Bunting 2
(1)
Red-winged Blackbird 30
(3)
Common Grackle 25
(3)
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
(1)
Baltimore Oriole 12
(3)
Purple Finch 4
(1)
Pine Siskin 2
(1)
American Goldfinch 14
(3)
House Sparrow 2
(1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments:

  1. Yeah! What a busy day and successful too. Brava Leslie, I loved your pictures of the sweet goslings but you have so many wonderful photos to enjoy it really is difficult to chose. Instead I’ll enjoy them all and thank you for them.

  2. Maureen Baraniecki

    Leslie! Your pics are just beautiful! They make me want to sign up for your bird count marathon next year! Thank you for sharing. Stunning photos.

    • Hi Maureen! If you are here next year, let’s do it! We can take turns buying coffee (it takes a lot…)

  3. You are quite amazing. Such wonderful pictures, such wealth of knowledge enhanced by your willingness to share it all. Thank you so much.

  4. Nice job Leslie. Most interesting.

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