The BLT Birders team for 2021 consisted of Audrey Heagy and David Okines. This was their second Birdathon in support of the LPBLT and again took place under a stay-at-home order.
For this year’s effort, Audrey decided that rather than try to maximize the number of species seen they would maximize the number of Land Trust properties visited. Since the Land Trust had just recently acquired two new properties the aim was to visit all 12 properties within a 24-hour period. While the focus would be on compiling a list of birds seen or heard at each property, additional species observed between stops would also be tallied.
Spring 2021 was exceptional on many fronts, including bird migration patterns. Birdathons are done in May as that is the height of the spring migration period. But in 2021 migration seemed to have stalled for the first few weeks due to northerly winds and cool temperatures. After the 12th, temperatures started to creep upward and the winds finally shifted to southerlies. However, the much-anticipated influx of colourful warblers and other neotropical migrants wasn’t evident. Local breeding birds were showing up on their breeding grounds on schedule but it seemed like the favourable weather conditions meant that most migrants were flying over rather than stopping to feed and rest.
Rather than trying to time our Birdathon to coincide with peak migration we ended birding over the long weekend, starting at noon on Saturday and ending at noon on Sunday. The weather was hot and mostly sunny. The birding was not so hot – in fact, it was amazingly quiet was a noticeable dearth of migrants.
Our first stop was the new Hemlock Slough property near Port Dover where we encountered the only Northern Waterthrush (and lots of mosquitoes). Working west we then visited the Strongman-Guiler property near Fishers Glen where we tallied 35 species in 55 minutes. Stop 3 was the Pond property where we heard a Tufted Titmouse and saw an Eastern Bluebird carrying food into a nest in a rotting tree stump (this species commonly uses artificial nest boxes but will use natural nesting cavities).
After a short dinner break, we headed north. As we neared the Trout Creek property we encountered a local rain shower so decided to continue on to the Delhi Wetland property. I think the birds were taking a break too as the woods there were almost silent. Moving on to Teeterville, we saw a few ducks on the pond and heard Belted Kingfisher. The skies were clearing as we headed back to Trout Creek. We spent almost 2 hours there and encountered several species we didn’t find elsewhere including Common Nighthawks (presumably migrants) and Eastern Whip-poor-wills (local breeders).
Sunday morning, we headed out to the other new property and were fortunate to see some Wild Turkeys displaying nearby. Stop 8 was at Spring Arbour Farms where we heard a Pileated Woodpecker. We arrived at the Langford Nature Reserve by 7:30 am but it was already getting uncomfortably warm in the sun. A walk along the trails through the old fields and woods there yielded 35 species, tying with the Guiler-Strongman for most species on a property. Next stop Jackson-Gunn Old Growth Forest, where we were delighted to see a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers. After a short but pleasant visit to the Stead Family Scientific Reserve, we decided we had time to visit a few spots along the waterfront near Port Rowan as before going to the Robinson property. A highlight of this detour was seeing a flock of about 100 Black-bellied Plovers – many in full breeding plumage – in a cornfield along Lakeshore Drive. Arriving at the Robinson property at 11:35 we headed quickly into the woods where with just minutes to spare we had another highlight – two singing Brown Creepers that likely had nest under the peeling bark of dead standing ash trees.
Over the 24-hour period, we encountered 81 species while birding at the Land Trust reserves (including 10 Species at Risk), and an additional 35 species elsewhere. Although we would have likely seen more warblers we were happy with the overall experience. Visiting all 12 properties back-to-back really highlighted the many different habitats that are being protected by LPBLT.
Our fund-raising efforts this year were very subdued as the Land Trust had just completed a successful land acquisition campaign. However, if anyone does wish to sponsor our efforts they can do so anytime by donating to the BLT Birders team. Birdathon supports Birds Canada’s bird conservation efforts and a portion (25%) of the proceeds of the BLT Birders Birdathon will be sent to the Land Trust.