McGILL BIRD OBSERVATORY

BIRDATHON 2010

The 2010 MBO Birdathon Team decided to undertake a "green" Birdathon again this year, limiting ourselves to traveling on foot (albeit after arriving at MBO by car in some cases).  Our total count this year was 64 species, a bit disappointing after the 83 observed last year, let alone the 98 in our first attempt of this sort in 2008, but it was an enjoyable event nonetheless, and we can look forward to improving on our tally next year!  If you would like to support our 2010 Birdathon, click here to make a secure online donation for , or click here to support MBO co-founder Marcel Gahbauer's Birdathon (click here for his report) ... in either case, 75% of the proceeds will directly research at McGill Bird Observatory, while the remainder will go toward funds supporting research by the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (of which MBO is an active member).

At 6:15 MBO's Baillie Birdathon kicked off with seven keen participants (Barbara MacDuff, Chris Murphy, Eric Boodman, Christine Burt, Marie-Melissa Kalamaras, Mike Beaupré, Céline Charette) walking the McGill Bird Observatory's census route. The skies were cloudy and the mosquitoes active ... the theme for the rest of the morning, in fact!

Part of the 2010 Birdathon Team gathered on a trail in the Arboretum
(Photo by Richard Gregson)

We were all thrilled to start the day’s count by seeing and hearing the brilliant blue of an Indigo Bunting as it sang from a nearby tree top as we began our route. The songs of the Veery and Ovenbird added to our delight and a Red-shouldered Hawk was calling almost continuously while we walked the trail. We managed to find 6 warbler species and the song of the Brown Thrasher was a nice way to finish the hour-long census. Happy with 39 species we met with the rest of our party (Richard Gregson, Jean Harwood Gregson, Lise Amarasekera and young Clara) at a little after 7:30. 

The MBO census-takers trustingly subjected themselves to the leadership of the Sparroworkers who had undertaken to guide them through the hidden trails of Canada’s largest arboretum for the rest of the day and bring them out safely with a huge day list to wow their sponsors and ensure that the MBO coffers once again groaned with loot.

The song of a Brown Thrasher was one of the highlights of the MBO census; this photo shows nicely just how wide the beak of a thrasher opens when it is in mid-song (and also provides a glimpse of the slightly forked tip of the tongue).
(Photo by Simon Duval)

Cloudy, warm, occasional sprinkles of drizzle and very little wind - perfect weather for mosquitoes, in fact.  Had it not been for long sleeves and gallons of DEET (“better living through chemistry”) our little band of brothers would have been eaten alive.  The birding followed two routes - to start with a short foray into the seed farm for wall-to-wall Indigo Buntings and then into the arboretum via the pinery (wall-to-wall calling Ovenbirds) and field south of the Conservation Centre that offered up a most unexpected, and undoubtedly disappointed, Bobolink prospecting for a suitable territory.  Past the quarry, through an almost-but-not-quite warbler-free Blossom Corner, beside the sugar shack, along birch-alley lured by the exotic calls of Red-winged Blackbirds in the field at the end we went with innumerable singing Black-throated Green Warblers zee-zee-zee-zooo-zeet-ing all around us. Checked the eastern field for Bobolinks (at least four displaying males) then a swing through the southern end of Pullins Pasture (Chestnut-sided Warbler - there seem to be a lot of these this year - and Brown Thrasher) before heading back to the Conservation Center (Scarlet Tanagers a-plenty along the Yellow trail) for coffee and a breather.

Loop two took us south on the Ecology Trail and then onto the Red Trail to pick up occasional straggler birds, albeit the day was moving along and activity diminishing,   We left the arboretum by crossing into the agricultural fields outside (Savannah Sparrow) and checked out the “pond” astride the gas pipeline (assorted swallows in great number) before enjoying the Barn Swallows around the barn and the Cliff Swallows on the radar tower and finally returning to the MBO around 11:30am where we were met by Simon with news and photographs of a Sora nest with eggs that he had found while we were away.

Total species for the day were 64.  Some 39 were seen in the MBO and 54 in the arboretum so there was considerable overlap.  Good fun, good birding and good company in a good cause.  Birding was not easy, Warbler numbers were definitely down on the week before but we put it all down to the difficulty of getting good visual sightings through the haze of mozzies (though the unusually advanced state of leafout could share some of the blame).  The Red-bellied Woodpecker that had shown so well the week before, and on which we were counting, was studiously absent.

The gang takes a break at a picnic tabe in the Arboretum to check on some birds and update the morning's checklists.
(Photo by Barbara MacDuff)

The list below includes all of the species seen and/or heard during our Birdathon, broken up into rough taxonomic groups.  We did poorly again with waterbirds, but without access to large wetlands we'll always be a bit limited in that area when restricting ourselves to foot travel with MBO as a base location.  Warblers were down considerably from last year (11 species instead of 18), symptomatic of the relatively slow and quiet day overall.  We look forward to improving on the results in 2011!

Complete list of species observed: 
Wood Duck
Mallard
Common Merganser

Common Loon

Great Blue Heron

Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk

Sora
Killdeer
Wilson's Snipe

Ring-billed Gull

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker

Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Great-crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird

Blue-headed Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Blue Jay
American Crow

Tree Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

House Wren

Veery
American Robin

Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher

European Starling
Cedar Waxwing

Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated green Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black and white Warbler
Ovenbird
Common Yellowthroat 

Scarlet Tanager

Chipping Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting

Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

American Goldfinch

House Sparrow

2002- The Migration Research Foundation Inc.