Wild Northerner Magazine Summer 2017 - Page 42

Birding in northern Ontario is wild.

My hope is that this column will be informative and help connect birders across the north.

My knowledge of Northern birds has been gleaned from where I have made so many bird discoveries. I am the research and education coordinator of the Hilliardton Marsh Research and Education Centre.

The marsh is located about 20-km from both New Liskeard and Englehart, so if you know these two beautiful towns you will be able to find the Hilliardton Marsh.

At the marsh, we are dedicated to teaching people and school groups about birds, while at the same time conducting migration monitoring through the use of capturing birds in mist nets and placing small Canadian Wildlife service bands on them. Banding allows us to track their movement and to attempt to gain insight into the relative numbers of birds and their movements. We have been banding birds at the marsh since 1996 and are close to putting our 100,000th band on a bird. We have banded 147 different species at the marsh, and celebrate the fact that there are so many bird species that travel all the way from Central and South America to return to the boreal forest to breed.

The marsh is a wonderful place to start learning about birds and to develop an interest in birds.

This column, like the marsh, will be a place to talk about birds, bird watching, citizen science, and a host of other things that are related to birds in the north.

There are so many amazing birds to discover in the north, either at a feeder or in a forest or field that I hardly know where to start, but I want to give a few highlights of birds that we could capture this year at the marsh.

We were able to band our very first indigo bunting, a bird that is more common in the south, and our very first Connecticut warbler, a bird that is more common in the west, as is the yellow headed blackbird that we banded. I was excited to hear today that a female violet green swallow has shown up at a birdhouse outside of the marina in Thunder Bay and is trying to breed with a male tree swallow. This is an exceptional sighting and it is yet another western bird that has been discovered in northern Ontario; strong westerly winds were kind to birders in the north. It is worth noting that the word about the violet green swallow caused birders across Ontario and beyond to flock to Thunder Bay hoping to see the bird.

My biggest tip for new birders is to try and share your experiences and to get a photo of what you see so it can be validated. You never know when something rare is going to find its way to your feeder or nearby perch. The ability to get a photo and document what you have seen is a rewarding aspect of bird watching. In this era of cameras on phones and wonderful, relatively inexpensive digital cameras, catching an image and passing it along is often a few clicks away. It is also getting easier to find and connect with birders across the north. If you do not know of any, please get in touch with me and I will happily help you with an identification of your photo or try and connect you to someone in your area. It does not have to be a rare bird. Chances are, if you do not know what it is then it is rare to you, and that is the only way you can learn. I envy people that are learning their birds as there are so many discoveries waiting down any trail or up any tree.

My number one tip is to share what you discover and enjoy what you are seeing. Who knows, it may be something incredibly rare and could cause a stir in the birding world. A friend always tells me that birds do not read the bird guides and you never know what the wind may blow into your yard.

That is all the room I have for this time. Hopefully this column will be welcomed by some. Your feedback will help shape this column, so let me know how I did and what you might like to learn, and please send your photo’s questions and ideas to birdboy@eastlink.ca . You can also check out www.thehilliardtonmarsh.com and hopefully I can meet you at the marsh someday.

Bird is the word.

Discover what flies

the Northern skies

BY BRUCE MURPHY

Birding and Banding with Boreal Bruce