Great Canadian Birdathon 2018

Great Canadian Birdathon 2018

By George Pond

All Photos by the Author

Photo of a Scarlet Tananger

Scarlet Tananger

Well, another Great Canadian Birdathon is over. As usual, it was another fun, but tiring time. As a group we identified 132 species of birds and ate a cooler filled with chicken and other wraps, courtesy of the Blue Elephant in Simcoe.

For over a quarter of a century I have been doing the Birdathon with Bruce and Ann Falls from Toronto and Steve Wilcox from Port Rowan. This year Bruce and Ann had decided that it was time to retire and Steve was busy with his daughter’s wedding. Fortunately, Ricky Dunn and her son Jeremy Hussel, who had joined us a few years ago were keen to go, and I was able to recruit my friend Rick Dowson from Simcoe to join us. We were delighted when the “birding bug” caught up to Bruce and Ann and with the help of their daughter Catherine, as driver, they were able to join us for the first day.

It was 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 20 when we walked into the woodlot at the Old Cut Banding lab on Long Point.

Photo of a Philadelphia Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo

Two of the first few birds we saw were Scarlet Tanager and Philadelphia Vireo, both good sightings. The woodlot had a respectable number of new migrants and by the time we left we were just shy of 45 species. Things were looking good but we bombed with the expected Brown Thrasher at the Old Provincial Park.

The new wetlands created at the former Port Rowan sewage lagoons was good for a lingering Horned Grebe, Ring-necked duck, Common Gallinule and on a later visit a Virginia Rail. Cliff Swallows cooperated at the Port Royal Bridge as did Orchard Orioles at a feeder near Clear Creek; however, the White-crowned sparrows there a few days previous had apparently left for more northern climes.

Photo of a Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Along the side of Concession A, Rick spotted a very cooperative Wilson’s warbler, a warbler that I needed for my photo collection. I took several shots but when I put them on the computer they were all out of focus—maybe next year. Just down the road we stopped to search for Horned Larks and spotted a distant bird in the middle of a field. Some thought it was a crow, I thought a pigeon but when we got out the scope it turned into a beautiful Peregrine Falcon, only the third time recorded on one of my birdathons.

Driving to Port Dover we stopped at a friend’s house and found the expected bluebirds and Eastern phoebe and some heard a Pileated woodpecker. It was tough going but we were picking up a bird here and there and our list was steadily growing. Ring-billed and Herring gulls and Common terns were on the pier at Port Dover; a few Chimney swifts were flying over the downtown buildings. The Townsend lagoons were good for Northern Shovelers, Least, Semi-palmated sandpipers, dunlin, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Black-bellied plovers, a welcome addition as shorebirds were few and far between.

From the lagoons it was back to Long Point for marsh birds and a few hours’ shut-eye. From the lookout behind Bird Studies Canada we saw a small flock of ducks that contained Lesser scaup, Ruddy ducks, Redheads and an American Wigeon. Next, we stopped at the causeway lookout and heard an American Bittern and the faint “cuck-cuck- cuck-oo” of a Least Bittern. Marsh wrens and swamp sparrows were singing, a Wood duck flew over our heads. Northern Harriers and American coots failed to put in an appearance. At the gate to the new Long Point Provincial Park we heard a Woodcock and stopped to see it. It was tough to hear the bird as cottagers were setting off their holiday fireworks but we finally saw the male displaying to a receptive female. It was neat watching this intimate encounter with bursts of fireworks seeming to proclaim the continuation of the species.

We made one last stop, listening to Whip-poor-wills and saying goodbye to the Falls—then it was off to Ricky and Jeremy’s home for a few hours of sleep.

We were up at 4:30 a.m. and in Backus Woods at 5:00. It was cold and the forest was unusually quiet, but still the magical place that it is. Eastern Wood Pewees were singing; we heard a Yellow-throated vireo; and watched Hairy woodpeckers feeding their young. Great crested Flycatchers sang or called loudly. Wood thrushes were singing and we heard a Veery. A Cerulean warbler sang and Ricky and Jeremy saw it. I failed to see or hear it. Neither Hooded warblers nor a Prothonotary warbler sang or put in an appearance. I’m sure both were on territory, a couple of expected misses.

Photo of an Osprey


We checked out a grassy field where Grasshopper and Vesper sparrows can usually be found—no luck but a Tufted titmouse at a friend’s feeder did show, and on the way back to Long Point, Jeremy spotted an Osprey, an uncommon raptor in our area, but a welcome addition to our list.

Finally, at the Old Cut banding area we checked off a migrant Blackpoll warbler and just like that “Birdathon 2018” was over.

In all we tallied 132 species. Jeremy was the only one that can claim 100% of them but we all did well. I love doing “Birdathon”, but I love more the fact that every dollar raised for bird related conservation efforts helps to make this world a better place, not just for us but for future generations. So far, my usual sponsors and a few new ones have responded with close to $8,000. I’m sure by the time I hear from everyone, we will exceed that amount.

George’s Bird List

Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Dob-crest    Cormorant
Least Bittern
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Turkey Vulture
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
American Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Wood Duck
Red Head Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Canvas Back Duck
Lesser Scaup
Ruddy Duck
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
Peregrine Falcon
Wild Turkey
Sandhill Crane
Virginia Rail
Common Gullinule
Semipalmated Plover
Black-bellied Plover
American Woodcock
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Forster’s Tern
Common Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Black-Billed Cuckoo
Chimney Swift
Ruby-thr. Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bell. Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood Peewee
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Phoebe
Least Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
N. Rough-wing Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
Bank Swallow
Bl.-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-br. Nuthatch
Red-br. Nuthatch
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Long-billed Marsh Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Black & White Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestn-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Bl-thr Green Warbler
Pine Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson’s Warbler
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throat Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Brn-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Total: 132