My 2015 Great Canadian Birdathon

Due to unforeseen circumstances, it has come to happen that I did my Great Canadian Birdathon in Long Point. Great, right? Not so much. Birding an important day in unfamiliar territory, with unfamiliar birds and bird songs and not knowing where to go first was not as easy as I would have liked. This was the most unusual Birdathon I have ever done. In terms of species numbers, it was not as good as last year, but in terms of lifers and rarities, it was the best Birdathon ever!

We started at 6:00 am, with a Baltimore Oriole, and finished at 8:10 pm, with a Sandhill Crane. At the Front Porch B&B (which I highly recommend, should you ever be in the Long Point area), we got the starting 6 species, then continued to a variety of short stops, the highlights of which include: Common and Forster’s Terns, Mute Swan and Pied-billed Grebe.

After these roadside ponds, we made our way to the first big stop of the day, at what is called the New Provincial Park, one of the places we had not previously been. In one hour and five minutes, we picked up a grand total of 25 species. I’m sure that the extra five minutes made all the difference.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, at the New PP.

Our next stop was at the Long Point Bird Observatory, where  we found Warblers, Vultures, Orioles, Blackbirds and more. The five species that stand out the most are (a lifer) Cape May Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Hooded Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Least Flycatcher.

It seemed to be a very casual Birdathon, as we took a longish break for lunch, and to take my siblings and mother to the beach, which was, fortunately, right beside the Old Provincial Park, a magnificent place for birding. On the way, we picked up a Caspian Tern, and a Indigo Bunting. At the Old PP, we observed 29 species, 8 of which were warblers. Many were darting around in the thick foliage, and photographing them was hard. Black-throated Blue Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Brown Thrashers, Carolina Wrens and Belted Kingfishers mixed among the Warbling Vireos, Hermit Thrush, Eastern Towhees and Chipping Sparrows.

Indigo Bunting
Brown Thrasher, Old PP

Port Rowan Wetlands yielded 2 Bobolinks, 6 Redhead, 6 Bufflehead and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, among others.

Bobolink, Port Rowan Wetlands
Lesser Yellowlegs, Port Rowan Wetlands
2 Barn Swallows and 1 Bank Swallow, Port Rowan Wetlands

Backus Woods is a very special place. There nests one of only 20 breeding pairs of Prothonotary Warblers in Canada. For the first kilometre, we scouted out little but a White-breasted Nuthatch. And then we struck gold. A small swampy area proved it’s worth, showing Yellow-throated Vireos, a Pine Warbler, Canada Geese, a Brewer’s Blackbird, and, yes, a Prothonotary Warbler! Typically, it was 50 meters away and through vegetation which, though sparse, prevented photos (what was it with warblers and not getting photos that day?), but it was a Prothonotary Warbler!

Pine Warbler, Backus Woods – It’s not a great photo, but I needed to get at least one photo out of a Warbler!

In 20 minutes at Port Royal, we found American Redstarts, 2 Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, a Turkey Vulture, and a Spotted Sandpiper. It was there that we got our first Rock Pigeons of the day!

On the way to a second check of the Old PP, we halted for a small pond filled with Canada Geese. As we were about to pull away, I called out “Ibis!”
“Yeah, right,” replied my Dad “You’re pulling my leg.”
“No, really,” I exclaimed. He still didn’t believe me. “Ethan,” said he, “This is no time for jokes!”
“Just look,” I replied, exasperated. There indeed, poking around in the long grass, were a pair of White-faced Ibis.

White-faced Ibis, a road in Ontario
White-faced Ibis and Canada Geese, a road in Ontario

The second visit to the Old PP proved nothing more then what we’d already seen, a Scarlet Tanager, and the unusual treat of a Baltimore Oriole building its nest!

Baltimore Oriole, building it's nest, Old PP
Baltimore Oriole, building its nest, Old PP
Scarlet Tanager, Old PP
Scarlet Tanager, Old PP

Hoping to catch a Woodcock, we made what was supposed to be our last stop – at LPBO. Although our search for the Woodcock drew a blank, the trip itself proved fruitful. We found 20 species there, including my favourite Warbler, the Blue-winged Warbler. And so ended my 2015 Great Canadian Birdathon!

Baltimore Oriole, hiding it’s head, LPBO

OK, hang on. I said at the start that it was Baltimore Oriole to Sandhill Crane, right?
On the drive back to the B&B, we drove down the causeway again. Suddenly, the car screeched to a halt. “What is it?” I asked.
“I’m not sure…” My dad answered, unsure.
We backed up anyway. Scanning the water, my eyes settled finally on a long, slim neck of a bird squatted in the reeds. The slightest turn of a head confirmed my hopes –  a Sandhill Crane!

That was the rather brief summery of my 2015 birdathon. I tried to keep it short, as I know that long paragraphs and few photos can be tedious. Please keep in mind that you can still donate to this important cause, either by typing in your browser, or clicking here. Also, for anybody who would like the complete species list, I have it here.

Thank You to all who have donated, your donation is greatly appreciated both by me, and by Canada’s birds!

11 thoughts on “My 2015 Great Canadian Birdathon”

  1. Ethan, I just saw this in my news feed today. Have you heard of this?

    Supposedly it does a great job of identifying birds from a photo. You can identify birds from an artistic representation in a clay pot but this is what all of us normal mortals need!

    1. Yes, I actually got an email from Cornell about it. It is a very interesting tool, and I may use it, however, I do like to try to ID birds myself if I can, so it will only be used if needed. Furthermore, it identifies only common species, so if there is a rarity, it may not be correct on the diagnosis.

      Haha! They were very good carvings. 😀


  2. Great description of a beautiful day!
    I don’t know what it is about warblers and not being very photogenic, but, honestly, what is it about the lack of ibis trust between fathers and Bird Boys? Tsk tsk….

  3. Did the car REALLY come screeching to a halt?? 😉
    Sounds like a great bird count. It’s always good to experience something you do regularly in a different place from time to time. It keeps you on your toes, and it keeps you appreciating not only what’s out there, but what you have at home, too!
    By the way, I like the long writeup and all the photos. I’d love to see more!

  4. William, that’s funny – we were initially more excited because we thought that we were seeing Glossy Ibis, which we’ve never seen. WF Ibis are regular summer residents at Frank Lake, south of Calgary, so we’ve seen them a few times. Still, they’re wonderful birds.

    I guess the grass is always greener…

  5. Sooooo jealous of the White-faced Ibis’s!!!!!!! We saw a Glossy Ibis in U.S 7 or so yeaaars ago, but not a White-faced! Did you see any other Manitoba birds on your flight out? 😛

        1. I got Barn Swallow, Red-winged Blackbird, and Ring-billed Gull, and there was the House Sparrow you saw, but I’m not counting that.

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