One of Canada's Premier Birding and Nature Festivals

Archive for February 17th, 2013


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James and Feathered Friend

James and Feathered Friend

If you asked James when and where he likes to bird, he might well say always and everywhere. His philosophy is simple, “There are birds in all landscapes one just has to look”. James just dabbled in birds until his son turned twelve. It was then Simon found a Northern Waterthrush in the backyard. That sighting opened a door James didn’t know existed. He knew the common birds – but had no idea 200 plus species visited his yard. For James birding is not just about the numbers and rarities. It is cherishing memories of Orioles and Warblers close up, a spring morning chorus and even a Chickadee on your hand. He has led hikes for the HFBF for many years and enjoys the opportunity to show attendees some of Bruce counties Birding Hotspots. The festival is timed so spring migration is in full swing and birds are easy to find in their full singing splendor. He is an active e-birder and believes this is an excellent way to record observations for all to see almost instantly. He is also an active member of the Bruce Birding Club and compiler of the Kincardine Christmas Bird Count. James welcomes you to step through the door on his hikes Into the Bruce.

 A Trip to the Grasslands – A Birders Perspective – Saturday, May 25 – 7:00 AM

When asked where the best places to bird are, I am sometimes reluctant to answer. Not because I am trying to keep the sites secret but because I am embarrassed. The average person seems to think the best places for birds are remote and pristine, and they can be, but often these places are costly to get to. More realistically birders look for their feathered friends close to home. A birders yard is often an oasis of plants and feeders specially placed to lure birds closer. Birding doesn’t get better than finding a rarity right in your own backyard. Birders have a knack for looking at landscapes and seeing the beauty in the birds. A landfill site is not just a pile of garbage but also a mecca for gulls and other scavenging birds. Sewage lagoons are sanctuaries for shorebirds and waterfowl. Some urban parks are bird magnets and havens. I believe with a little urban planning these places could be enriched and turned into truly scenic wildlife habitats. For now we just have to keep up wind and dream a little.

When visiting Bruce County farmland I try to imagine a pristine prairie. Hidden within this idyllic sea of grass are specialized creatures waiting to be discovered. Because of a lack of perches some grassland birds have evolved to sing while flying and also incorporate aerial displays. Even if blindfolded the babblings of Bobolinks conjure images of fields and meadows. The amazing woo woos of the Snipe as it dips and dives way above its chosen territory is not easily forgot. Yet other songs are cleverly devised to misrepresentation. The Grasshopper Sparrows high-pitched trill could easily be mistaken for a Six Legged Hopper. Birds don’t get much more secretive than the Henslow’s Sparrow. It’s weak chip is usually only heard from the tall grass at night. An Upland Sandpiper’s presence signifies short grass and that probably means grazers are nearby.

Uplands Sandpiper - one of the few in its family that doesn't frequent the shore habitat.

Uplands Sandpiper – one of the few in its family that doesn’t frequent the shore habitat.

Other grassland signature birds we hope to see are Eastern Meadow Lark, Clay-Coloured Sparrow, Northern Harrier and Sedge Wrens.  

When Europeans first contacted North America, Ontario was nearly completely forested except for the occasional beaver meadow. By 1900 only 10% of the forest remained. Pockets of grassland species initially benefited and expanded into the newly created habitat. Most recently as pasture decreases and the land is subjected to more intensive farming practices the grasslands and all its inhabitants are in jeopardy. Severe bird declines in the prairies brings more significance to these eastern populations. There are solutions and we all can play a part.

Like the movie Field of Dreams tells us, ‘Build It And They Will Come’. For now, by suspending our belief, we can see the beauty in the present farmland. Hopefully evolving farm practices will allow future generations to enjoy managed pristine grasslands to which The Birds will Come.”




Some events are already full

Brochures are available at MacGregor Point Provincial Park plus a number of other locations


MAY 24 – MAY 27 & MAY 30 – JUNE 2


(Festival Headquarters)


Written by huronfringefest

February 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm