I don’t really need more excuses to go out birding, but I’ll take them as they come regardless. Last weekend, from Feb 12 to 15, was the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a worldwide citizen science project that tries to capture an ‘annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds’. Contrary to it’s name, the GBBC does not require one to bird in a backyard (great news for us apartment dwellers).
I focused my efforts on Wellington county, my new home turf, and was able to find some new birding spots. For the second GBBC in a row the temperature was frigid, but that didn’t keep the birds at bay. Over the course of the count, I found 28 species including some highlights; Snow Buntings, Purple Finches, and a Merlin!
In honour of World Wetlands Day, I thought I would contribute a collage of my experiences in various wetlands. Wetlands (bogs, fens, marshes, swamps, and shallow open water) filter our water, prevent flooding, provide habitat for various wildlife, and add to the beauty of our natural world, amongst other ecological services. I am glad that spending time in wetlands is a part of my life.
The green spaces in Fredericton are bubbling with bird song. With spring migration continuing, and the start of the breeding season upon us, it is not unlikely to hear at least half a dozen warbler species and endless other song bird species calling to mates and proclaiming their territories in any of the large urban parks. As a relatively new birder, I started learning about birds through visual identification, and my ear has had to catch up with my eyes. Last spring I took a bird songs course with the Ottawa Bird Count that helped me tremendously. In continuing my education, the best tool I know of to study bird song identification (outside of the field) is Dendroica, a program available on the website Nature Instruct. As part of my internship field work this summer, I will be surveying for Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Bobolink, all ranked by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as threatened. I hope that with all my field and home study, I will be able to put my best ear forward for the conservation of these species.
Last week I moved to New Brunswick for a summer internship. I had a few days to spare before I started work, so after I got my place set up I was free to get out and do some Maritime birding. As of yet, I don’t have a bike, so I’m limited in the places I can go. Luckily for me there is a large urban park in Fredericton, Odell Park, that is accessible from anywhere in the city. I have been three times so far, and I can already tell that it will become one of my regular haunts. The park contains mixed forest, a pond, streams, the Fredericton Botanical Gardens, over 16 km of walking trails, and most importantly (to me), lots of birds. Here is just a sample of the ones I’ve seen so far:
Emberizidae and Cardinalidae – While at the Lake Conestee Nature Park, my partner and I were lucky to witness a very quick flyby of a male Indigo Bunting. Neither of us have very much experience with these birds, so we were quite thrilled to see the flash of blue. We were even more excited when on our last day, another male Indigo Bunting perched and sang in wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve as we were watching the Solitary Sandpipers and Green Heron.
Fringillidae – I did not expect to see Pine Siskins on this trip, and eBird confirmed my surprise at their presence when it made me verify my report due to their rarity at this time of year. South Carolina is firmly within the Pine Siskin winter range and it would be expected that by late April the vast majority of individuals would have left for their summer range. The stragglers my partner and I saw were in a mixed flock with American Goldfinch, feeding on vegetation in shallow pools in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve.
Parulidae – There seemed to be a yellow-brown-grey theme with the warblers we saw visiting both of the natural areas. The only warbler I did not manage to photograph was a Hooded Warbler, a life bird along with the Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird. The Yellow-rumped Warbers were the most abundant in the forested areas we visited, and the Palm Warblers were most common in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve. Apparently, my partner and I missed a big push of warblers into the area about one or two weeks before our arrival. Perhaps these birds had carried on in their migration and are now joining us further north in Canada. It is also possible I just missed them completely. My ear is rusty from the winter, and I still have a lot to learn when it comes to bird song.