Wild Northerner Magazine Spring 2018 - Page 48

Birding and Banding with Boreal Bruce

BY BRUCE MURPHY

For Wild Northerner

Northerners always look forward to winter, and birders in the north are no exception because winter means the return of winter finches.

Last year, birders near the Quebec border were dazzled by the number of evening grosbeaks. This year the birds that everyone is talking about are pine grosbeaks and common redpolls.

Many of the birds that we enjoy in the boreal forest breed in the north and will stay north unless they come south across the boreal looking for food, and this winter at the Hilliardton marsh the pine grosbeaks have been putting on a show. They have been so abundant that we have recorded a record number of banded pine grosbeaks crushing our old record of 65 established in 2014. This year as of Feb. 27, we have banded a whopping 188 birds. This is due more to the number of birds at our site than the effort we have put into banding them, although we have varied our techniques due to the sheer number of birds.

We have been delighted at the marsh to host birders travelling north to come and see the pine grosbeaks. These birders tend to have impressive camera equipment and they come with great enthusiasm and with needs for lodging, gas and restaurants.

Many of you may be familiar with the term eco-tourism, a new term that is being used more and more is avi-tourism, which essentially means bird tourism. The boreal forest is host to all sorts of species that either only reside in the boreal or breed in the boreal, either way, birders are starting to flock north in an attempt to photograph elusive rarities.

Many birders from Southern Ontario have been doing a vast loop that takes them to Hearst and Cochrane, checking out large burn sites hoping to find black backed woodpeckers that feed on larvae that can only be found in the bark of trees that have been seared by forest fire. The marsh benefits from this loop, as depending on the direction, birders have been stopping at the marsh to see what can be found.

Birders do not just want to see a bird and submit a checklist to Ebird, they also want to photograph the bird, which often means a commitment of time, which may land them in a local hotel. It is more than the migration of birds that the north should prepare for, and business from birders is predicted to grow at an exponential rate as the baby boomers are looking north for adventure.

Crushing records at Hilliardton