Today’s post comes from Brad Steinberg, our Natural Heritage Education and Learning Coordinator. An avid birder, Brad identifies several “migration superhighways” and the role provincial parks play in protecting Canada’s Important Bird Areas.
Being stuck in traffic sucks. Especially with young kids.
This sentiment recently ran through my head while mired in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto, Ontario. (My conclusion was reinforced when my son loudly announced his urgent need for a bio-break.)
But as frustrating as highways can be; they are vitally important to us, providing a reliable route from one place to another.
Today’s post is from Justin Peter, who was a Natural Heritage Education Specialist at Algonquin Provincial Park from 2006 through 2013. Now a professional travel planner, Justin is a keen local and worldwide explorer, and looks for birds everywhere he ventures.
It’s tempting to say that winter’s not the best time to look at birds in our Ontario Parks. Many species have migrated south. We’re hesitant to venture into the chilly weather.
But the quieter (and leafless) atmosphere of our parks during winter provides an excellent and unique challenge for our sense of environmental awareness.
Up for the challenge? Here’s a selection of birds (and bird signs) you can look for this winter:
How do birds cope with our increasingly noisy world?
The world is a noisy place, and that can pose problems for animals that depend on hearing each other’s sounds to find out about food, predators, and mates. Many species of mammals, birds, fish, and frogs produce louder, longer, or higher-pitch calls in noisy places, to be heard above the noise. But those altered sounds may not be good enough – they may not travel as far or convey the same information as normal songs.
Get out your binoculars, cameras, smart phones and pack a baggie full of bread, cheese and raisins. The fascinating world of the winter Gray Jay breeding season is underway at Algonquin Park. And if you’re lucky (as most Gray Jan fans are), these delightfully social birds will feed right off your hand.
“Gray Jays are a fascinating bird,” says retired Algonquin Park naturalist Dan Strickland. “They are very confiding and quickly learn that people can be a source of food and so they come to people, rather than the other way around. They are often tame and will land on your hands.”
Christmas bird counts have been a tradition that has been taking place for the past 114 years. In 1900, A single man set out to count the number of different bird species and now these counts take place in over 2000 localities in Canada, US, Latin America and the Caribbean. Bird Studies Canada now coordinates with all the local organizers to help make these counts possible. This year, all counts must take place between December 14 and January 5. Birds are counted in a 24km diameter circle; the same area is then used every year.
Who knew that Frontenac Provincial Park is one of the hottest spots for viewing some of the most beautiful and endangered species of birds in all of Ontario? Some 12 bird species at risk, including the rarely seen cerulean warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, and golden-winged warbler, call Frontenac Provincial Park and the surrounding area their home.
If you visit this southeastern Ontario park, situated in the middle of the Frontenac Arch (the billion-year-old foundation of eastern North America and a unique ridge of ancient granite that joins the Adirondack Mountains to the iconic Canadian Shield in southeastern Ontario), you’ll be treated to “a vital habitat corridor for migration and a critical nursery for many of Ontario’s disappearing flora and fauna,” says Dan Derbyshire, head of Frontenac Bird Studies (FBS) at the Migration Research Foundation.
Thousands of migratory birds set to delight during Warblers and Whimbrels 2014
As sure as the sun rises, Presqu’ile Provincial Park is once again playing host to thousands of tired, hungry songbirds and shorebirds as they pass through the Brighton area on their way towards their forest and Arctic summer homes via the welcoming peninsulas and treelines of one of Ontario’s best migratory hot spots.
Although some birds will trickle through Presqu’ile after the waterfowl arrive in March, the second big wave of migration happens in May. Presqu’ile celebrates this event with its annual Warblers and Whimbrels Festival. The festival, which takes place during the May long weekend every year, is one of the coolest things about spring in this part of the province.
“Presqu’ile is a bit of a magnet for these migratory birds because of the geography, the habitat and the way the park sticks out into Lake Ontario,” says David Bree, park naturalist at Presqu’ile. “These birds are on a very long journey and crossing the Great Lakes is very difficult for the smaller songbirds, depending on the winds, so they love to stop and feed and rest in these little points that jut out into the water. Shorebirds on the other hand are incredible flyers and come here to feed and rest during their long journey to the Arctic.”