Sunday, July 8, 2018

Great Canadian Birdathon - 2018

This year, Mike and I committed to doing another Great Canadian Birdathon.  Some of you may better remember it as being called the "Baillie Birdathon".  This is the oldest sponsored bird count in North America, established back in 1976 as a national fundraiser that has continued to this day! 

Funds that have been raised for this event benefit a wide variety of organizations that participate in avian research and conservation across Canada including: Bird Studies Canada, nature clubs, bird observatories, and the Baillie Memorial fund - a research grant providing young researchers with money towards their avian research.

This year, we joined the team "The Raven Lunatics"!  This was a team that had originally begun in Manitoba, but this year has tried to go Canada-wide.  Both of us were excited to not only be on a team with a bunch of fantastic people (all of whom I met on Twitter), but to represent the province of Ontario on the team!

Our Day:

Mike and I started off the morning in the backyard of our current rental unit in Carling, Ontario.  We heard a number of our more familiar backyard birds, along with two pairs of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks who were new that week to our backyard and enjoying the bird feeders (which...we had left up WAY too late in the season).

We then made our way towards Simms Lake for some warblers and woodpeckers! This area has a wide assortment of trails that are used by locals and fun fact: this is the property where the famous Avro Arrow was built!

Me looking over Simms Lake
We then began our drive down Nobel Road towards Parry Sound where we were hoping (but failed) to catch some Chimney Swifts. We did manage to capture both Barn and Tree swallow!

The Waterfront Trail in Parry Sound gave us three new species (Cormorant - Rock Pigeon), but seemed to provide more views than species!  Unfortunately, this is the location where I came across my first (of what felt like a bajillion) black flies this spring.

We then drove our way towards Mactier, Ontario.  Here we decided that, while we were birding, to try and test out at least part of my Breeding Bird Survey route that was to come.  We got through stop 1-16, before needing to head out to the local dump to hopeful catch some gulls, hawks, and Bald Eagle (Tip: Make sure you know what time the dump closes....or else you stand foolishly at the gates like I did this day...).

One of the locations along my BBS Route
One of the funniest parts of the day was, quite honestly, watching Mike.  Being a reptile guy, he was really great at spotting birds and took a lot of pride in being the "first one" to see it!  During a few point throughout the day Mike would excitedly exclaim "THERE'S SOMETHING!!!!  I DID IT!  I FOUND ONE!"  And sure enough it would be a chicken in the forest (no...not a grouse.  Literally a domestic chicken in the forest) or a domestic goose in a wetland. His frustration would just lead me into a fit of giggles - that's what your significant other is for isn't it?

After a fairly quiet afternoon of birding (and mostly hearing frogs) we went back to the Carling area to check out some local hotspots, including a field and a few wetlands.   We were pretty surprised to see some Eastern Bluebirds and American Wigeon here.  Unfortunately we dipped on Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark. 

Brown Thrasher in the bushes
Further down the street we hit one of our favourite spots to bird, the Provincially Significant Wetland out behind Killbear Park Mall.  The last few years we have received permission to hike and bird behind the property and it didn't disappoint!  We picked up Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Heron, and also a very vocal American Bittern, who was not camera shy!  Sorry for the camera shakes, it was super zoomed in and there were buttloads of blackflies all over me! 

We ended our day at a friend's property to pick up a few of the more nocturnal species!  The past few days they had heard a Whip-poor-will for a few minutes per night, so we made sure that we got to their house promptly to hear it.  We picked up (by hear) Sandhill Cranes, Woodcock, and Barred Owl, however the Whip-poor-will made no call for us.  However apparently they could hear it back at the house!!  So we much have just missed it. 

We ended the day with a total of 65 species and a really awesome day full of birds!  After a busy winter and spring, it was nice to finally put aside the day to enjoy nature.  

Our 2018 Great Canadian Birdathon List: 

Blue Jay
1. Blue Jay
2. White-breasted Nuthatch
3. White-crowned Sparrow
4. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
5. Chipping Sparrow
6. Black-capped Chickadee
7. White-throated Sparrow

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

8. Northern Flicker
9. European Starling
10. American Robin
11. Common Raven
12. Common Grackle
13. Common Loon
14. Nashville Warbler
15. Common Yellowthroat
16. Ovenbird
17. Ruffed Grouse
18. Pileated Woodpecker
19. Belted KIngfisher
20. Yellow-rumped Warbler
21. American Goldfinch
22. Hermit Thrush
23. Song Sparrow
24. Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

25. Pine Warbler
26. Canada Goose
27. Pine Siskin
28. Broad-winged Hawk
29. Hairy Woodpecker
30. Barn Swallow
31. Tree Swallow
32. Hooded Merganser
33. Double-crested Cormorant
34. Gray Catbird
35. Rock Pigeon
36. Turkey Vulture
37. Great Crested Flycatcher
38. Yellow Warbler
39. Red-winged Blackbird
40. Yellow-throated Vireo
41. Red-breasted Nuthatch
42. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
43. Purple Finch
44. Herring Gull
45. Killdeer 
46. American Crow
47. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
48. American Wigeon
49. Indigo Bunting
50. Eastern Bluebird
51. Common Merganser
52. Mourning Warbler
53. Wood Duck

Wood Duck

54. Mallard
55. Pied-billed Grebe
56. Great Blue Heron
57. American Bittern
58. Brown Thrasher
59. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
60. Winter Wren
61. Brown-headed Cowbird
62. Ring-billed Gull
63. Sandhill Crane
64. American Woodcock
65. Barred Owl

Thank you to everyone who followed along that day on Twitter or supported!

Checking out Blind Bay before the sun sets

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Breeding Bird Surveys - 2018

Having been working on bats and reptiles for the last year in the eastern Georgian Bay area, I've been aching to get back into some bird work.  A Breeding Bird Survey route in the area recently popped up, so what better way to get back into it.

My route starts close to Mactier, Ontario, and heads through to Orrville and then up the 518 HWY. This year, I did a practice route to learn where the stops are and what birds I should be able to expect (and which to brush up on before heading out on the actual day) and then a second survey, which was the actual one I've submitted data for. Both of these I did with one of my awesome birdy friends!

During our practice survey, we got a total of 52 species, while on the actual breeding bird survey date we observed a total of 70 species! Of course every once in a while we would also find a few non-bird species such as deer, a few turtles crossing the roads, and the ever so loud amphibians (primarily grey tree frogs).  Another common sight was always questionable road signs....

Surveys started at 4:58 am, which means I had to leave my house in Carling around 4am.  I was SOOOOOO not used to getting up that early anymore, so coffee was a must (about 4 cups of it...whoops!).  But it made me remember why I used to love being a morning person, so much bird song and gorgeous sunrises. 
early morning start
The biggest downside to the survey day would have been the the wind, not necessarily because of the early morning, but because of the mass amount of pollen that was blowing off of all the pine trees!


Some of our birding highlights included:

Alder Flycatchers!  I was so surprised with how many of them there were along the route!

How many Chestnut-sided Warblers there were!  Being able to hear Chestnut-sided Warblers right alongside Yellow Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers all day really helped solidify in my brain (once and for all!) what they sound like.  You know, until you hear an "odd" one.

Two Black-billed Cuckoos were singing away at one of our stops!  It has been a number of years since I had heard one.

All along the route there was some AMAZING scenery - the wetlands, fields, forests.  In fact there were a few places with some of the most gorgeous wetlands that i've seen in the area.  It was a real treat to be able to stop and listen at them.

Other photos from the day:

Northern Flicker

To put a cherry on top to our days, the Orrville bakery was at the (almost) end of our route, which means we got to stop in for a coffee and a treat on our way home!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Barnacle Goose - March 2018

Part 1 in Tianna trying to catch up on blogs features:  The Barnacle Goose! 

Back in March I was heading to Newmarket for a doctors appointment.  I had heard through some friends, facebook birding groups, etc about a Barnacle Goose that had been spotted only a short distance from there.  So, I decided to head down early and check it out!

This Barnacle Goose was a vagrant, meaning that it has strayed from its usual migratory route or range.  Often times this will happen when there are severe weather events. The Barnacle Goose traditionally is found nesting along the Arctic coasts from northeastern Greenland to Siberia.  Sometimes, vagrants from the Greenland population can be found in North America. 


The first stop was at the local Schomberg sewage lagoons. Here there was mostly geese and waterfowl, no sign of the famous goose! Just as I was leaving another car pulled in, and it happened to be two old coworkers of mine (Hi Ross and Christian!) who had just seen the goose in a neighbourhood a few concessions over.  So off I went on another search.
Two cars parked on the side of the road, signalled to me where to stop!  Then the search began to figure out where the goose was located.  I was given the tip that it was through some trees, but I was surprised to see that THIS (photo below) was going to actually be the view!

After a little bit of searching through my scope, I was able to spot it through all the branches with a flock of Canada Geese.

While I wasn't able to get the BEST look at it, it was such a stunning bird to see and well worth the trip!

Hope that everyone has had a fantastic 2018 so far!!

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Reflection and New Year Hope

Well, it seems as if 2017 has come and gone just like that.  Unlike the last few years, I seem to have fallen way behind on blogging, birding, up-keeping my yearly bird list...and instead I have been adjusting to life outside of school.  This year I took a position with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve and it's been absolutely wonderful! 

Sunsets at Killbear
 I have begun the process of learning to say "no" and also creating a work-life balance. I have been working hard at exploring this amazing place that I have gotten to call home.  In fact,  this is the first time in YEARS, I've turned my computer off past 5pm most nights!

It's been a year of learning how to re-charge, live in the moment, and enjoy the people & experiences around me. Normally I do an end of the year bird list, however since I didn't keep one up, it wasn't exactly possible to do!  A fellow Twitter friend posted on her blog a wonderful list of year-end highlights and next year goals....and well, I loved it.  So this year, I have a different kind of list....a personal one that is full of highs, lows, and hope for 2018. 

2017 Highlights

-       Successfully defended my M.Sc degree!!
-       Moved to Parry Sound
-       Got a new job at the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve and LOVE it.
     Got a new set of eyes! (Laser eye surgery) 
-       Gained a new community in Parry Sound Area through work and the gym
-       Got Engaged!

-       Co-founded an international natural history oriented book club on Twitter (Check it out at:
-       Had 3 book reviews published to the Canadian Field Naturalist 
-     Wrote and published guest blogs for Dispatches In The Field and Nature Canada’s Cats and Birds blog.

-       Spend the fall learning to care for myself, began going to the gym, setting a bedtime, and having hobbies.
-       Began interning for a taxidermist
-       Made my own reusable Christmas wrap

Taxidermy project - Mallard Duck Drake 
Low points:

-       Had my insomnia relapse
-       Major battles with imposter syndrome and burn out
-       Left friends in Peterborough and the community I had there.
-       Pushed blog to the side, no update since July...whoops!
-       Learning I had dietary restrictions and figuring out how to deal with them
-       Not getting to go home for Christmas
-    Didn't get out camping at all!


Goals for 2018

-       Write one blog per month
-       Submit two publications from my Masters Research by March
-       Volunteer for something non-environment related
-       Create a full CV for myself
-       Update personal website and keep it updated
-       Write a grant for a work-related project.
-       Complete one taxidermy mount every 2 months. 
-       Complete 4 sewing projects

Home made gift bags I made this Christmas, my first ever sewing project!

-       Send homemade cards to friends and family for birthdays.
-     Practice calling people out on being rude/mean when I normally would shy away
-       Give one presentation
-       Host something on Twitter
-       Read 10 books
-       Go Cross-Country skiing and snowshoeing at least 5x each
-       Go on two camping trips
-       Say “No” to five things I would normally say "yes" to.
-       Work from home once every 2 weeks
-       Visit my mom and dad in Chatham 4 times
-       Shoot my first buck
-       Continue going to the gym minimum 2x week
-       Have basic wedding plans (Venue, date, etc)
-       Submit photos into 3 photo contests

Parry Sound harbour in December

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Day Trip around Powassan

A day trip to North Bay the other weekend gave me the chance to do some more interior grassland birding! Our main stop was in and around Powassan where we took detours along some of the side roads to see what species we could find!  
Common Yellowthroat
We first stopped along a hedgerow, and were thrilled to see some breeding birds, none of them new for the year, but they are always a delight to see.  These included Chipping Sparrows, Common Yellowthroat, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Grey Catbird and Brown Thrasher! We were also able to hear an Indigo Bunting somewhere in the distance.

Chipping Sparrow

Common Yellowthroat
Chestnut-sided Warbler

We carried on a little ways, away from the hedge row and more towards grassland/pasture, and found a number of other species!  In the distance we could still hear the Indigo Bunting and a family of Eastern Meadowlarks, Turkey Vultures, and a Flicker calling from the yard of a nearby house. I always feel like I am going to be able to see more in grasslands, but birds are so nicely tucked away that most of my birding has always been by ear. I was lucky to have Bobolinks perching on a nearby fence and also some very curious Savannah Sparrows!



Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

On our way home we ended up stopping for a number of turtles crossing the road, a common sight in the Georgian Bay area and especially common on roads that have no reptile fencing. If you see a turtle on the road, and it is safe to stop, please consider stopping and moving it across the road. It is important to move it in the direction that it is heading when you found it.   If you come across fencing that has been broken and needs repair, take GPS coordinates and call the township to report it. 

If Snapping Turtles make you a bit nervous, or if one is too large for you to carry, I suggest using a car mat.  You can pretty easily convince a Snapping Turtle onto it and then slide it across the road!
Painted Turtle

Snapping Turtle

It seems like warm weather is finally here to stay this summer! Happy Naturing!

American Goldfinches

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Killbear Bioblitz

May ended up being a very intense month. I finished my thesis and defended (officially an M.Sc!), continued working full-time with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. I know I've said this many times before, but hopefully blogs will be a bit more consistent now!

The last few weeks I've been helping to prepare a Bioblitz, part of Bioblitz Canada 150, at Killbear Provincial Park. 
Morning of the Bioblitz at Killbear
Now, what is a Bioblitz?  

A bioblitz is an event that brings together naturalists and taxonomic scientists to inventory as many species (mammals, plants, herpetofauna, fungi, insects, etc) that they can over a 24 hour period, within a set area.

The #Bioblitz150 event was created in partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and these events are happening across Canada.  To learn more and to find other events visit:


So with this in mind we set out into Killbear Provincial Park and made this a community-wide event.  On June 10th, we hosted a variety of guided hikes that included plants, insects, birds, herpetofauna, fish, benthic invertebrates, and also led two night events that included owls and moths!  

My day started off at 6:30am where I woke up to start leading my first bird hike of the day (I did 4 in total).  Over the course of the day we ended up with 40 species, which is pretty good for this area!  These included American Redstarts (many!), Common Yellowthroat, Great Creasted Flycatchers, House Wrens, etc.  Many of the breeding birds that we had more or less expected to see.

Common Yellowthroat

Great Crested Flycatcher

Nesting Great Blue Herons

American Redstart
Our best find during our hikes was out in the old Maple Sugar Bush!  We were so excited to come across two Sandhill Cranes! We were also excited to have found (or at least heard) the Red-headed Woodpecker that has come into the campgrounds at Killbear the last few years.

Even thought the weather wasn't too "reptile friendly", groups on the reptile hike were able to see a small number of snakes including a Massasauga Rattlesnake that found its way onto Day Use Beach!  This snake was captured by park staff, processed (which includes pit tag reading, measuring weight and length) and then released!  You can see in the photo below that the rattle has multiple colours on it and each of these colours represent the different years that this particular snake has been seen and processed.  Research like this helps the park to understand population levels, snake home ranges, etc!

Park NHE Specialist, Kenton Otterbein, catching a Massasuaga Rattlesnake
Massasauga Rattlesnake
While I wasn't able to get out on a plant hike, lead by the amazing Dr. Gerard Courtin, I did get to spot some of my favourite plants throughout the habitats during bird hikes.  Some of these included: 

Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
Squawroot (Conopholis americana)
Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

These were only some of the plants I had the chance to take a snap of on this busy day! We then took a pause for a few hours during our Bioblitz event to wait for the sun to set.  If you've ever been to Georgian Bay, you know that the sunsets here are worth not only waiting for but taking the time to sit back and relax.

Once the sky was dark, participants wandered over to the amphitheatre and we got ready for some owls and moths!   I started off our owl prowl by giving a quick introduction into the different types of owls in the area, the calls that they make, and what features make an owl such an amazing predator.  As we were calling them in for this educational experience, I also wanted to make sure I emphasized the use of calls and some proper etiquette when it comes to using them.  We started playing Barred Owl territory calls, to no avail. I then showed the crowed what a pair call sounds like, hoping that this might intrigue a pair to fly in....also to no avail!  After apologizing to the crowd we invited anyone to come up and try out their own owl call using their voice.  We had one person interested in trying his out, and what happens immediately after?  A pair of owls fly in and begin calling back! Both owls flew directly over the crows (where of course we witnessed their silent flight) and the gasps and "WOAHS" filled the air. It was SUCH a neat experience and I really hope that those attending talk about it for years to come.  

The owls kept calling as Mike Kent took the stage to do some mothing.  We set up a white sheet with some black lights and managed to attract a large number of moths to the area!  It was so much fun seeing the variety and trying to ID them.  I took a few photos but unfortunately haven't had a chance to identify them just yet (and of course I didn't write down what they were the day of!).  So hopefully as I go through my photos and ID some of the species, I'll be able to update the captions on them here!  As always, if you have an idea of what species they may be, please feel free to comment!