McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

BIRDATHON 2008

The 2008 MBO Birdathon Team (Marie-Anne Hudson, Samuel Denault, Richard and Jean Gregson, Mike Mayerhofer, Stacey Jarema, Rodger Titman, David Bird, Barbara MacDuff, André Pelletier, Sophie Cauchon, Helen Leroux, Jean Demers, Clémence Soulard, Sarah Marteinson, Bob Edwards, and Penny and Morgan Letchuk) accumulated 98 species on Saturday May 24.  It was absolutely beautiful all day, despite some rather high winds, which – we admit it – incited a bit of grumbling.  Overall though we’re ecstatic at our effort, an almost entirely carbon-free outing.  We say almost because our participants had to arrive on site, and had to leave as well.  This completely local Birdathon (similar to a BIGBY) was a natural extension of our effort to focus our efforts closer to home in 2007, and we were shocked at how many species we were able to find 1) mostly in one area, and 2) without access to a large wetland. The reason the BIGBY buzz has spread so quickly across the country (and the US), is that more and more birders want to focus on local birding, thereby reducing their impact on their environment, and increasing the amount of the time spent really learning and appreciating the species that are in their immediate environment.  We are very lucky to have such fantastic habitat at MBO -- both for migratory species using it as a stop-over site, and for those that remain to breed -- we’re very happy to share that with our Birdathon team this year!  A big thank you to our sponsors as well: you should know that the funds you provided incited us to walk for over 7 hours almost non-stop!

Most of the MBO Birdathon Team posing for a mid-day photo at Blossom Corner in the Morgan Arboretum.  It turned out that this would be the only photo taken by Marie-Anne all day, as she was too busy birding to remember that pictures really spruce the birdathon report up… Luckily others have better memories!  From left to right: Samuel Denault, Richard Gregson, Mike Mayerhofer, Jean Gregson, Barbara MacDufff, Jean Demers, Helen Leroux, Clémence Soulard, Bob Edwards, Rodger Titman, Dave Bird, Sophie Cauchon, and Andre Pelletier. (Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson)

Highlights:
We had a wonderful time walking around, soaking up the sun that thankfully shone down (it’s been quite cold over the past week), and catching up with folks we haven’t see in a while.  We also enjoyed discovering the Morgan Arboretum, the largest arboretum of its kind in Canada at 245 ha, a site that’s known more for its dog-walking trails than for its birding (a big mistake if we may add our two cents).  Truth be told this year the Birdathon was more about hearing birds than seeing them, but among the most memorable bird sightings/hearings of the day:

  • Hearing a Sedge Wren tinkling its little heart out in the field by the MBO cabin.  As far as we know, this is pretty much the only place on the island of Montreal where you can spot them, and we’re doing our darndest to protect them and their nesting habitat by working with McGill
  • Identifying the giant rusty blur that zoomed in front of us as we trekked down the census trail as a Brown Thrasher, which then decided to regale us with an incredible mix of songs and cackles
  • Getting excited at having not one, but three Canada Warblers singing away along the census trail.  As the Canada Warbler is now listed as threatened in Quebec, we’re paying particular attention to their numbers this season
  • Spotting/hearing 22 warbler species!
  • Seeing three baby Common Ravens looking curiously out from their nest located on the bridge in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.  We were stunned at how easily this particular pair of ravens have adapted to the hustle and bustle of downtown Ste-Anne’s

   In some more detail, here is how the day unfolded at our two main stops:

 

This satellite map indicates our multiple paths through the Morgan Arboretum. We’d like to thank Richard Gregson (father of the BIGBY) who not only biked to MBO to really make it a carbon-free outing, but also designed the route to maximize our likelihood of finding lots of species.  Our list is testament to his great job!  (Photo by Richard Gregson)

McGill Bird Observatory (MBO):
As tradition dictates, we started the day at MBO with the daily census.  And just like last year, MBO contributed the most warblers to our daily total, with 12 species jotted down before we left for the seed farm. Our walk of the census loop produced a whopping 50 species, including a new one for the year: Black-billed Cuckoo.  After regrouping at the MBO cabin (we were so many we split into two groups, with one doing the ‘official’ census, and the other doing the census backwards).  This method netted us (pardon the pun) an additional eight species that we otherwise didn’t have on the ‘official’ census.  Granted they still don’t appear on the census because we have to follow the standardized protocol, but those eight species were certainly added to Birdathon list!  We then headed towards the seed farm (the fields to the east of MBO) with our list hovering around 60 species.  The seed farm added a few more species to our list, most notably a swallow-chasing Merlin.  A quick stop back at the cars at MBO produced another new species for the year, an American Pipit, pipitting its way over our heads.

 

The Morgan Arboretum delivered eight warbler species seen/heard nowhere else.  Five seconds after this photo was taken, we were entralled by the song of a Bay-breasted Warbler, which remained well-hidden amongst the tree tops.
(Photo by Richard Gregson)

Morgan Arboretum (MA):
From MBO we walked over to our neighbour to the West, the Morgan Arboretum. We made a pit-stop at Rudy’s ponds just south of the Arboretum, netting us four new species.  From there we decided to skirt the edge of the southern Arboretum instead of sticking to the road.  This got us closer to the forest, and allowed us to hear the ‘teacher-teacher-teacher!’ of our first Ovenbird.  The Arboretum was scoured in three successively smaller loops to cover it as thoroughly as possible, and to hit all the habitats.  We hoped for pine specialists and mature forest birds, and, just like last year, certainly weren’t disappointed!  We added 18 new species to our list, including a few Scarlet Tanagers that refused to show themselves; several buzzy Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers; two Blackburnian Warblers that were kind enough to illustrate both song-types, and, of course, a Pine Warbler that sang kindly enough just as we were heading back to MBO. Now this is where our Birdathon differs from last year’s:  in 2007 we left the Arboretum with 81 species and headed up to Ile Bizard, and then to the Lachine Rapids.  There’s no doubt that these sites had much great visual appeal, since the bulk of the birds were sitting out in the open marsh or along the shoreline in Lachine.  However, instead of being disappointed at not seeing a lot of these waterbirds, we are thrilled that we were still able to glean 89 species this year, all on foot.

 

Not to be deterred, we braved slippery slopes to find our interior-forest birds.
  (Photo by Richard Gregson)

 

What a day!  Barbara MacDuff, André Pelletier and Sophie Cauchon take a load off during one of our leg-breaks.
(Photo by Helen Leroux)

MBO ... Ste-Anne's ... and MBO yet again::
Before calling it a day (and boy we were itching to after seven hours of walking), we took one last look around MBO and grabbed another species, a high-flying Red-tailed Hawk.  Getting this close to 100 species, the four remaining birdathoners decided to head to Ste-Anne’s to see if the waterfront would yield any missed species.  It certainly did, with Common Raven, Chimney Swift, Bank Swallow and Common Tern easily added to the list over some well-deserved ice cream, and a group of 35 White-winged Scoter added from a comfortable deck on the water.  A few species were also added by birdathoners who had to leave early and kept their eyes peeled as they walked back towards their cars.  Finally, since we only started the Birdathon at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, we technically had until 6:00 a.m. on Sunday to find additional species, so the first hour of Sunday's banding session was fair game.  As we opened the nets the loose trill of a Palm Warbler hit our ears, quickly followed by two Common Loons yodeling to each other in flight, and then the cherry on top, a singing Mourning Warbler right outside the banding cabin – a new species for the year.  The total now stands at an incredible 98 species, all found within 2.5 km of MBO.

 

Our very last species for this year’s Birdathon: Mourning Warbler.  We were lucky enough to hear it sing before 6am, and then poof!  It appeared in our nets.  (Photo by Marie-Anne Hudson)

The list below includes all of the species seen and/or heard during our Birdathon, broken up into rough taxonomic groups.  We did terribly with waterfowl (5 species) and shorebirds (3 species), but that’s to be expected without access to a large wetland. No matter!  We did extremely well with the warblers (22 species) and passerines on the whole (69 species).  We’re already looking forward to even greater results in 2009, when we – and this is just an idea – might bike up to Ile Bizard to get our waterbird fix with a clean conscience!

Complete list of species observed: 
(Locations:  MBO - McGill Bird Observatory; MA – Morgan Arboretum; STEA – from MBO to Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue)

Common Loon / Plongeon huard (MBO)
Double-crested Cormorant / Cormoran à aigrettes (MBO)
Great Blue Heron / Grand héron (MBO)
Green Heron / Héron vert (MBO)

Canada Goose / Bernache du Canada (MBO)
Wood Duck / Canard branchu (MBO)
Gadwall / Canard chipeau (MBO)
Mallard / Canard colvert (MBO)
White-winged Scoter / Macreuse brune (STEA)

Turkey Vulture / Urubu à tête rouge (MA)
Cooper’s Hawk / Epervier de Cooper (MA)
Red-shouldered Hawk / Buse à épaulettes (MA)
Red-tailed Hawk / Buse à queue rousse (MBO)
Merlin / Faucon émerillion (Seed farm)

Killdeer / Pluvier kildir (STEA)
Solitary Sandpiper / Chevalier solitaire (MBO)
Spotted Sandpiper / Chevalier grivelé (MBO)

Ring-billed Gull / Goéland à bec cerclé (MBO, Seed farm)
Common Tern / Sterne pierregarin (STEA)

Rock Pigeon / Pigeon biset (MBO)
Mourning Dove / Tourterelle triste (MA)

Black-billed Cuckoo / Coulicou à bec noir (MBO)

Chimney Swift / Martinet ramoneur (STEA)

Ruby-throated Hummingbird / Colibri à gorge rubis (MBO)

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker / Pic maculé (MA)
Downy Woodpecker / Pic mineur (MBO)
Hairy Woodpecker / Pic chevelu (MBO, MA)
Northern Flicker / Pic flamboyant (MBO)
Pileated Woodpecker / Grand Pic (MA)

Least Flycatcher / Moucherolle tchébec (MBO)
Eastern Phoebe / Moucherolle phébi (MA)
Great Crested Flycatcher / Tyran huppé (MBO, MA)
Eastern Kingbird / Tyran tritri (MBO)

Tree Swallow / Hirondelle bicolore (MBO, STEA)
Northern Rough-winged Swallow / Hirondelle à ailes hérissées (MBO)
Bank Swallow / Hirondelle de ravage (STEA)
Cliff Swallow / Hirondelle à front blanc (MA)
Barn Swallow / Hirondelle rustique (MBO, Seed farm)

Blue-headed Vireo / Viréo à tête bleue (MBO, MA)
Warbling Vireo / Viréo mélodieux (MBO)
Red-eyed Vireo / Viréo aux yeux rouges (MBO, MA)

Blue Jay / Geai bleu (MBO)
American Crow / Corneille d'Amérique (MBO, MA)
Common Raven / Grand Corbeau (STEA)
Black-capped Chickadee / Mésange à tête noire (MBO, MA)

Red-breasted Nuthatch / Sittelle à poitrine rousse (MA)

House Wren / Trogolodyte familier (MBO, MA)
Sedge Wren / Troglodyte à bec court (MBO)

Eastern Bluebird / Merlebleu de l’Est (MA)
Veery / Grive fauve (MBO, MA)
Swainson’s Thrush / Grive à dos olive (MA)
Wood Thrush / Grive des bois (MA) 
American Robin / Merle d'Amérique (MBO, MA)

Gray Catbird / Moqueur chat (MBO)
Brown Thrasher / Moqueur roux (MBO)

European Starling / Étourneau sansonnet (MA, STEA)

American Pipit / Pipt d’Amérique (Seed, MBO)

Cedar Waxwing / Jaseur d’Amérique (MBO)

Tennessee Warbler / Paruline obscure (MBO)
Nashville Warbler / Paruline à joues grises (MBO, MA)
Northern Parula / Paruline à collier (MA)
Yellow Warbler / Paruline jaune (MBO, MA)
Chestnut-sided Warbler / Paruline à flancs marron (MBO, MA)
Magnolia Warbler / Paruline à tête cendrée (MBO, MA)
Black-throated Blue Warbler / Paruline bleue (MA)
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler / Paruline à croupion jaune (MBO, MA)
Black-throated Green Warbler / Paruline à gorge noire (MA)
Blackburnian Warbler / Paruline à gorge orangée (MA)
Pine Warbler / Paruline des pins (MA)
Palm Warbler / Paruline à couronne rousse (MBO)
Bay-breasted Warbler / Paruline à poitrine baie (MA)
Blackpoll Warbler / Paruline rayée (MBO)
Black-and-white Warbler / Paruline noir et blanc (MA)
American Redstart / Paruline flamboyante (MBO)
Northern Waterthrush / Paruline des ruisseaux (MBO)
Ovenbird / Paruline couronnée (MA)
Mourning Warbler / Paruline triste (MBO)
Common Yellowthroat / Paruline masquée (MBO, MA)
Wilson's Warbler / Paruline à calotte noire (MBO)
Canada Warbler / Paruline du Canada (MBO)

Scarlet Tanager / Tangara écarlate (MA)

Chipping Sparrow / Bruant familier (MBO, MA)
Savannah Sparrow / Bruant des prés (Seed farm)
Song Sparrow / Bruant chanteur (MBO, MA)
Lincoln’s Sparrow / Bruant de Lincoln (MBO)
White-throated Sparrow / Bruant à gorge blanche (MBO)
White-crowned Sparrow / Bruant à couronne blanche (MBO)

Northern Cardinal / Cardinal rouge (MBO)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak / Cardinal à poitrine rose (MBO, MA)
Indigo Bunting / Passerin indigo (MBO, MA)

Bobolink / Goglu des prés (MBO, MA)
Red-winged Blackbird / Carouge à épaulettes (MBO)
Common Grackle / Quiscale bronzé (MBO)
Brown-headed Cowbird / Vacher à tête brune (MBO, MA)
Baltimore Oriole / Oriole de Baltimore (MBO, MA)

Purple Finch / Roselin pourpré (MBO)
American Goldfinch / Chardonerret jaune (MBO, MA)

House Sparrow / Moineau domestique (MA, STEA)
 

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.