Baillie Birdathon 2013

Many thanks to regular guest blogger Carlos Barbery for the following post.

The Baillie Birdathon is the oldest sponsored bird count in North America.  It raises money for bird research and conservation.  The challenge is to identify as many bird species as possible within a 24-hour period.  I was the featured birder for Innis Point Bird Observatory and chose to do my birdathon on May 19th.

We started our Baillie Birdathon at 4:30am by heading up to Gatineau Park to listen for several target birds we had heard on our Owl survey in April.  We were able to hear not one, but three Barred Owls, as well as an American Woodcock, but did not hear the Wilson’s Snipe we had heard previously.  We hadn’t planned on staying too long in the park, but as it became lighter, birds started calling.  We heard several birds that we didn’t see anywhere else during the day, including a Swamp Sparrow, American Bittern, Veery, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  By 6:30am we were ready to head down to Deschênes in Aylmer.  We had already heard 36 birds that we added to our list.

On the drive from Gatineau Park to Deschênes we added five more species.  The area close to Deschênes rapids is a birding hotspot.  It is right on the Lac Deschênes Important Bird Area and besides having nesting colonies of Double-crested Cormorants, Black-crowned Night Herons and Ring-billed gulls, it has some nice wooded areas, that are great for warblers , and a small marsh. Unfortunately, as I found out , a lot of people dump all kinds of garbage there and it can be dangerous.  As I was trying to get a look at a Blackpoll Warbler  I heard singing, I stepped on  a board with rusty nails sticking out of it and had to go back home to bandage up my foot!  However, while at home I was able to add four more species to my list , including our local Merlins.

Back at Deschênes, we saw some great birds, including a Green Heron, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-crowned Night Heron and two Great Egrets hunting in the marsh.

3- Great Egret

Great Egret

There were several more birds just west of Aylmer  we wanted to add to our list.  We headed up highway 148 to a field where we knew there were Bobolinks, House Wrens, Eastern Meadowlarks and Eastern Bluebirds.  On our way there we were stopped at a red light and Jon Ruddy, a member of our Birdathon team, honked at us to look up…Chimney Swifts!  After the Bobolink field we crossed the highway to see if we could find a Kestrel that we had seen a few weeks back.  We were unable to find the Kestrel but we found more good birds in an area that we didn’t realize was so good.  We saw an early Alder Flycatcher as well as Nashville and Tennesee Warblers and several Indigo Buntings.

Next, we headed over to Innis Point Bird Observatory and were able to hear a Sora, Virginia Rail and Field Sparrow as well as see one of several Ospreys in the area. We also stopped at a snow dump close by, which is a good area for spotting shorebirds.  We saw a pair of Northern Shovelers, a Semipalmated Plover and several species of Sandpipers.

Canard souchet

Northern Shoveler

On our way to Mud Lake we made a quick pit stop to look at the Purple Martins at the Nepean Sailing Club.  We added a few more species of birds that we had somehow missed including Pine Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch and Hairy Woodpecker.  We had hoped to be able to see the Great Horned Owls that had been nesting there but the owlets had fledged and were gone.  We could not locate the Canada Warbler that had been reported, but did hear a similar sounding warbler that we confirmed was a Yellow Warbler.

We decided to stay in the west end of Ottawa instead of heading east to the sewage lagoons.  We headed to the Moodie Drive pit after we read reports of a Eurasion Widgeon.  On the way to the pit we spotted a Northern Harrier and several Wild Turkeys.  The Eurasion Widgeon could not be located, but we did see Gadwall and some Common Merganser.  The sun was going to be setting soon, so we decided to head out to the Data Centre on Heron Road and were lucky to see both the male and female Peregrine falcons at the nest.  Our last trip was back out to the Dunrobin area to see if we could hear any birds we missed and added our last bird of the Baillie Birdathon, a Wilson’s Snipe.

It was close to 10:00 pm and I thought the day was done but my mom had other plans.  We made a stop at the hospital to get a Tetanus shot for me and got home around 12:30am. I was hoping to get 100 species and my first Baillie Birdathon big day ended with 116 species.   Here are two links to the eBird checklists of the species I saw:

Ottawa Checklist
Gatineau Checklist

Photo by Gillian Shields

Photo by Gillian Shields

Carlos Barbery has been watching birds since he was five-years-old. He has been actively involved the past few years in three different Christmas Bird Counts in Ottawa, Dunrobin and Algonquin Park. He participates in several Citizen Science Projects, including Feederwatch, the Great Backyard Bird Count and Nestwatch and actively logs his bird sightings in eBird. He is a member of the Ottawa Field Naturalist’s Macoun Club and has served as its president. In 2012 he was thrilled to be able to receive a scholarship to attend an Art and Nature workshop at the Cornell Lab of Orthithology where he was, amongst other activities, able to view their vast collection of bird specimens and view original artwork by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. He continued to add to his list of volunteer activities last year when he helped with the Spring Migration Monitoring Program and Saw-Whet Owl banding at Innis point Bird Observatory and is looking forward to adding two more activites to his volunteer list this year: Marsh Monitoring and Owl Surveying.