BEST PLACES TO BIRD IN ONTARIO with Mike Burrell October 2/19

The Orillia Naturalists’ Club was treated to a summary of a book co-authored by the presenter, Mike Burrell, at the recent Club monthly meeting.
Mike hails from Waterloo, Ontario and has a very busy life in the birding community with such activities as being Zoologist for the Ontario Natural Heritage Center, co-ordinator for ebird in Ontario, and reviewing all the Ontario Christmas Bird counts.
However, it is his very solid experience in birding, beginning as a child in a birding family, that led him (together with his younger brother Ken) to write a book on the 30 best places to bird in Ontario. He freely admits that there are thousands of wonderful places in Ontario to bird – but his choices of “best” were decided for their closeness to birders, as well as being some of his “fav’s”. Thus most of the 30 are in Southern Ontario. The nearest to Orillia is the Carden Alvar.
Mike opened his talk with a slide showing multiple bird migration paths, pointing out that Ontario lies under a large number of these paths, as much due to the presence of the Grea
t Lakes, and just the sheer size of the province.
Mike and Ken were reared in the Long Point area – so Mike chose that as one of his specific areas to talk about in his presentation. Using a slide with a map of the Long Point area, (which is included in the chapter) he described a strategy for visiting the area, starting with visiting the “Old Cut” bird banding station at the base (entry) to the Long Point area. There in a brief conversation with a volunteer, a birder could quickly learn what birds to keep an eye out for on that day, before setting out to see the publicly available parts of Long Point. The chapter in the book goes on to lay out the best viewing points, what might show up at each point, and what the differences seasonally might bring.
Perhaps the most unknown (to southern and central Ontarians) is Rainy River. Here is the confluence of multiple migration paths, and the close proximity to the prairies to the west, the Cambrian Shield to the north, “a region dominated by agriculture and speckled by stands of regenerating aspen and low-lying peat-lands. The shores of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River are bordered by fairly rich deciduous forest, dominated in areas by Bur Oak. As a result of the varied habitats, the area provides birders a chance to see species found reliably nowhere else in the province, alongside a huge selection of other species.” The species here include – western birds such as American White Pelicans (95% of the nesting birds in Ontario are here), Marbled Godwits, Black-billed Magpie, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Yellow-headed Blackbird; northern birds such as Great Grey Owls, Canada Jay; and many southern species, such as Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Purple Martin. It sounds like Rainy River is a “must” for serious birders of Ontario.

Mike closed his presentation with a description of birding opportunities in the Moosonee and James Bay area. There are many “Important Bird Areas” along the coastal area of James Bay, but getting there is probably not what most birders would do. Moosonee however is accessed through the Polar Bear Express, a journey that affords the passenger a great view of northern country and species along the way. Moosonee is in the heart of breeding country for many northern species, such as Northern Hawk Owl, but it is perhaps most important for its shorebirds and waterbirds. Mosquitoes in large numbers support the birds, and visits to this area are best in late summer, early fall.
Many enthused club members stayed behind to chat with Mike, who graciously autographed copies of his book on sale.

Thanks to Carole Strickland for the summary, and to Tanya Clark for the photos.
  President Denis Paccagnella with the speaker  
Fern Splichal is reminding us that the Xmas Bird Count is coming and there will be the sign up sheet next meeting.   Carole Strickland, as secretary,took the minutes. She also summarized the meeting and thanked the speaker.


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