IBAs of Ontario Parks: tundra swans and spring songbirds

This installment of our 2017 blog series IBAs in provincial parks — brought to you by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada —focuses on the spring migrations at two of our southwestern parks.

On my recent trip to Rondeau Provincial Park / IBA for the Wings of Spring festival and the Port Franks Forested Dunes IBA (close to Pinery Provincial Park), one thing was clear…

…tundra swans make a big impression.

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Introducing…IBAs in Ontario Parks!

We’re jazzed to introduce a new series for 2017 — IBAs in provincial parks — brought to you by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada. If you love birds, you won’t want to miss these monthly features.

Wondering what an IBA is? The acronym stands for “Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas.”

The IBA program aims to identify, monitor and protect the world’s most important sites for birds and biodiversity.

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The secret flight of birds at night

Today’s post comes from Park Biologist Erica Barkley.

As a kid, I always pictured bird migration as Canada Geese flying south in a “V” during the day.

But that changed one calm, clear September evening. A park naturalist pointed out dozens of tiny “peep” noises over our heads. “Those are songbirds,” he said.

“No way!” I said. “Thousands of birds are migrating at night?!”

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Billions travel Ontario’s migration superhighways

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.

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5 ways to spice up your spring birdwatching

Think birdwatching is limited to sitting silently in the woods for hours on end?

Think again.

From waterway adventures to birding safaris, Canada’s South Coast Birding Trail serves up innovative opportunities to get up-close and personal with more than 250 migrating species.

This spring, follow the feathers to Canada’s migration hotspot and experience birding in a whole new way!

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Birding for beginners – 5 tips for new birders

We’re fast approaching one the best times of the year for Ontario bird-watching. As we move into fall, birds start migrating to their winter homes. Birds to watch for include shorebirds and raptors.

If you’re an aspiring birder — and want to learn more about our feathered friends — here are some tips from Ontario Parks naturalists David Bree (Presqui’ile Provincial Park) and Pilar Manorome (Rondeau Provincial Park) to get you started.
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Noise annoys

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.

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Soundscapes from across Ontario

 One of my favourite signs is from a lookout over the Grand Canyon.  It simply says,

ONE MINUTE.
DON’T READ.
DON’T TALK.
NO PHOTOS.
JUST LOOK…..AND SEE.
It is something that I hope you will do often when you visit our parks or other natural areas in Ontario.  But how about this variation?

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Gray jays at Algonquin: winter breeding phenom is underway

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.”

“This visitor to Algonquin Park is delighted to have a wild Gray Jay calmly land on her video camera. Gray Jays in Algonquin are the subject of one of the world’s longest running field studies, part of which involves giving each bird a unique combination of coloured leg bands. These permit it to be individually recognized, even from a distance, as it goes about its business on its large year-round territory in patches of boreal forest.” CREDIT: Gord Belyea

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