Great Canadian Birdathon 2015 Report #1

By George Pond

Download the PDF of this article, which contains many beautiful photos.

“Turn down the next road! Yesterday there was a flock of Black-bellied Plovers in a field and a single Golden Plover with them,” Jeremy Hussell said, as we continued to search for birds on our Great Canadian Birdathon. Surprisingly the flock of about 75 of these beautiful tundra nesting shorebirds was still there and Jeremy soon had the Golden Plover, with its completely black underside, in the telescope for us all to see. The lighter head and white belly region of the Black-bellied Plovers were also easy to pick out. These birds were in the same plumage as when I photographed them in the High Arctic last July.

  Bruce and Ann Falls, Steve Wilcox, Jeremy Hussell and I, were doing our annual Birdathon to raise money for Bird Studies Canada and other related conservation projects. Four of us have been doing this for years. Jeremy was our rookie, but by no means a rookie birder; his young ears, sharp eyes and great ability to identify birds was a tremendous asset as he and our expert Steve found bird after bird that the rest of us could well have missed.

   Because of other commitments we had picked May 26 and 27 to do our 24 hour Birdathon, knowing that it was a late date for migrating songbirds but still hoping for a good smattering of late arrivals. We would be disappointed this year and by the time we left the Long Point Peninsula we had only tallied a couple of migrants instead of the usual 20 or 30 – but that’s birding.

   With the lack of migrants we were forced to concentrate on breeding birds and under Steve’s great leadership were able to come up with a very respectable group list of 130 birds.

That first day we travelled much the same route as other years starting at 10am and covering the Long Point Old Cut “Banding” area, the Old Long Point Provincial Park, The Long Point Causeway viewing stand, the Front Road west of Port Rowan, the Bird Studies Canada headquarters property, the restored wetlands at the old Port Rowan lagoons, the Jackson Gunn old growth forest, bird feeders at Diane Salter’s home, the Townsend lagoons, Port Ryerse waterfront, Avalon Park, Port Dover and Nanticoke harbours, the Nanticoke Creek near Cheapside, back to Long Point, the St. Williams forest and home for 4 hours of sleep.

At 4 AM the following morning we headed for the Backus woods and the dawn chorus, checked a couple of feeders and back to the Old Cut banding area hoping, but to no avail, for some migrants.

  Although Steve and Jeremy had no trouble walking, the rest of us are hampered, by age, and are only able to walk short distances; fortunately Steve had planned well and most of our birding was within a couple hundred metres of the car, a real blessing.

   Highlights in Backus Woods, my favourite forest, included Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Cerulean Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Northern Waterthrush.
   The Old Growth forest was good for Red-headed Woodpeckers which are now hard to find in our area. Jeremy knew of a Least Bittern nest in the Bird Studies Canada wetlands.

Although we had missed most of the migration of songbirds, we were still within the window of shorebird migration and we always like to search the lakeshore for Whimbrel and from a high overlook at Avalon Park we found a flock of about forty birds. Whimbrel pass through Southern Ontario from about May 19 to May 27 each year and flocks of 5 to 200 can sometimes be found resting for a few minutes or hours before continuing their long journey to the Arctic tundra. There were about 15 Ruddy Turnstones with the flock at Avalon.  

Thanks again for all your great support and know that the money is all used for bird related research, important natural area land acquisitions and other bird related conservation projects. I like to think that we are helping to make this world a little better, not just for ourselves but for our children, grand children and all future generations. I hate to think of a world without birds, not just for their beauty but for the good they do.

Thanks again!

George Pond


I had set a goal of $6,000 for this year’s Birdathon, but hoped to match last year’s of over $8,000 and with any luck we (You and I ) will do just that. So far we are over $7,000 and I still have a number of usual sponsors to hear from. If you haven’t sponsored me yet and would like to just make your cheque out to Bird Studies Canada and mail it to me at: George Pond 411 Queensway W, Simcoe, On. N3Y 2N4 or: Google the Great Canadian Birdathon, “Sponsor a Participant” and donate online. It’s easy.
   I haven’t given you a blow by blow description of our adventure like I sometimes do as some people have asked for more pictures of pretty birds identified. I hope you enjoy them.
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