Archive for May 2014
“…we just bird … and do so to the extreme.” (Mark Wiercinski)
On Monday May 19, at 2:00 AM, Ethan Meleg, Mark Wiercinski and John Haselmayer left Wiarton to begin their 10th Annual Bruce Peninsula Birdathon. Nineteen hours, 380 kilometres and 167 species later (their third best total) they made it to Tobermory, bleary-eyed, sleep deprived, but happy.
According to Ethan, “Mark, John and I are recovering.”
Ethan then commented on a major accomplishment of their day, “We ate relatively healthier on this birdathon than ever, but still included gallons of coffee, Twinkies, pepperoni, chocolate covered almonds and licorice sticks in our high performance birder diet. Cholesterol levels should subside by the time we do this again next year.”
On a more ‘birdathon-centric note he went on to say, “Calm conditions were ideal to hear the expected nocturnal species. Morning at MacGregor Point Provincial Park was chilly, but once it started warming up bird activity came alive and remained good throughout most of the cool day, as we worked our way north to finish at 9:00 PM in Bruce Peninsula National Park.”
• Whip-poor-wills: calling at many locations, notably the Duck’s Unlimited (DU)
Pond at MacGregor Point Provincial Park (MPPP).
• Least Bittern and Common Moorhen: great views at the DU Pond @ MPPP
• Piping Plover: at Sauble Beach
• Brewer’s Blackbird and Upland Sandpiper (local specialties) in the
agricultural lands around Ferndale
• Red-necked Grebes and Horned Grebes in Dyers Bay
• 25 warbler species (ties our best warbler tally)
• Low diversity of diving ducks (we didn’t find a single scoter) and
“Overall, we found the diversity of migrant songbirds to be good, including a mix of early and later species. Early breeding birds were well established on territories, but the later arrivals were either not on territory yet or simply not active. This could have been due in part to the cool temperatures. Our most embarrassing misses included Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Hermit Thrush (all local breeders).”
If anyone wants an Excel copy of their Bruce Big Day Bird Count with a summary of results you can contact them with your request.
Ethan Meleg email: email@example.com
Mark Wiercinski email: Mark.Wiercinski@forces.gc.ca
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY DON WILKES. PHOTOS ARE FOR BLOG ONLY. NO OTHER USE IS PERMITTED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER.
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Matt Cunliffe is Natural Heritage Education Leader at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. If you’re registered for any Huron Fringe event you’ll no doubt see him and his team doing everything they can to make your visit and event as enjoyable as possible. He is leading Wonders of the Wetland on Day One of the Festival…but sadly its full. Nonetheless you’ll get a good idea of Matt’s personality in the field when you read the following. We asked him how he came to think like a raccoon and this is his story.
Even as a kid my ‘playground’ was the outdoors. My mom ran a daycare centre in Kincardine and to escape the noise I would often play in the backyard. On top of that I grew up in the cottage community, Point Clark. There weren’t many children there, and being the eldest of three boys living in a cottage that makes the Visitor Centre look spacious, I spent most of my time exploring the shoreline and small-forested areas around me. I have always been interested in animal behaviour, as a child, often spending hours sitting in an area making notes on what critters I saw and what they seemed to be doing.
I didn’t realize it growing up, but I was also conducting informal pond studies with my brothers. We would go for long hikes along the shoreline often stopping to turn over rocks to see what was hiding underneath in the water. We would each make predictions before turning over a rock, with the victor gaining bragging rights until the next stone. I was desperate for a job after my first year of University and thinking I would try my hand at food service industry, when a friend of mine mentioned MacGregor Point Park. He had spent the year before building bikes for the Park Store’s (then) new bike rental program and had gotten to know some of the student interpretive aides who worked out of the Visitor Centre (VC). He said something along the lines of “Every time we’re out on a trail, you’re going off about some plant that does this or some animal that does that; if you worked at the VC you’d have people actually listening to your trivia!” A friendly jab at the time, but it did get me thinking, what a fun, different type of summer job this could be.
At the time I was determined to become an elementary school teacher, which only made applying make more sense. In no time I had my resume into the park and began to check in (maybe a little too regularly) to see if they had scheduled interviews yet. After weeks of anxious waiting, and the strangest interview questions I had heard for a job yet, I received a phone call asking when I could start. I started working for MacGregor Point Provincial Park late spring of 200, and after 8 fantastic years – I have yet to look back.
Now, that one question that really floored me, the one that I thought my answer had lost me the employment opportunity was, “if you were to choose one animal to represent your personality, what would it be and why?”
I froze. I laughed nervously. I meekly asked for some time to collect my thoughts. I know now that this wasn’t a graded question. (Thank goodness).
It was just Norah Toth trying to gain some insight into the natural heritage knowledge of the interviewee…that would be me.
No, I didn’t mention a unique/rare species of the park, nor the Redstart the ‘flag-bird’ for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival. For a moment I drew a blank Knowing I had to answer, I felt being honest would be the best action. “A raccoon I suppose…” was all I could say.
After some light chuckling I was asked why. “Well,” I answered. “To start, I am certain you have them here.” No laughter… now I was nervous (for those of you that know me well, my humour is always funny to me, but it fades in and out with everyone else). “… I, um… They work well in teams, yet are great problem solvers as individuals, they are constantly on some task, or will actively find one, and ah… if you leave any food out, odds are I will eat it.” I guess Norah found my final comment humorous after all.
Throughout my eight seasons at the Park I have worked in a number of roles. Year one I was a Natural Heritage Education (NHE) Aide working for the Friends of MacGregor Point Park. I assisted with programs for the public and eventually lead my own by the end of my first season. Year two I was hired by both the Friends and the Park as a Campfire Program Leader with Rye Witter which lead to an almost ‘stand-up comedy’ routine that we would weave into our interpretive programming. If people weren’t in stiches learning about animal defences or the bazar insects of the park then we felt we weren’t doing our job properly. I mean, campfire are supposed to be fun!
My third year truly set me on my current path though. I was asked if I’d be interested in acting as the NHE supervisor for a season to gain more responsibility and better hone my leadership skills. I accepted graciously and immediately knew this is what I wanted to do.
Year four I was successful in the competition for the Supervisor role and I thought this is it.
Year six my supervisor and mentor, Norah Toth, retired and I was again asked to act (or back-fill) a position. I jumped at the opportunity and have been working in that capacity since.
I’ve spent most of my life close to Bruce County. I’m onto my ninth year at the Park.
For an up-close look at the what you can expect to experience at this year’s Huron Fringe Birding Festival click on:
CHECK OUT THE EVENTS THAT ARE STILL OPEN: http://www.friendsofmacgregor.org
HURON FRINGE BIRDING FESTIVAL – MAY 23 to MAY 26 – MAY 29 to JUNE 1 -2014
MacGREGOR POINT PROVINCIAL PARK – PORT ELGIN, ONTARIO
Below is a list of the Huron Fringe Birding Festival events that still have openings as of this posting. Have a look.
THEN WATCH OUR VIDEO: http://youtu.be/0_vvcLJdE74
That should inspire you to rush to register your choice on our website: friendsofmacgregor.org.
Sign up today.
FRIDAY MAY 23
A2 – 8:00 am – ROCK STARS OF THE CITY – Peter Middleton. Fifty species of fern are found in Grey/Bruce and many of them can be seen in and around Owen Sound. With Peter as your guide, you will be certain to meet a good number of these “rock stars”.
A4 – 6:30 am – BIRDING MacGREGOR’S SOUTHERN BOUNDARY – James Turland. This road trip explores the forest, wetlands and abandoned farms along the park’s southern boundary. A walk to Ducks Unlimited pond includes visits to the viewing tower and bird blind.
A5 – 7:00 am – BIRDING MacGREGOR – Marilyn Ohler. Learn more about birding and MacGregor Point Provincial Park by joining festival veteran, Marilyn Ohler, on a morning walk in the park.
A7 – 1:30 pm – TREE IDENTIFICATION USING LEAVES & NEEDLES – Jim Coles. We will identify conifers and hardwoods in the vicinity of the Visitor Centre by leaf and needle characteristics. The use of botanical keys will differentiate between species.
A9 – 1:30 pm – GETTING INTIMATE WITH NATURE: RE-DISCOVER NATURE THROUGH VIDEOS – Kerry Jarvis. Living in a “YouTube” generation creates exciting opportunities for naturalists to capture and preserve their experiences through video. In this new workshop, Kerry will share nature video vignettes that he has created from outings and from his gardens. (Indoors)
SATURDAY MAY 24
A11 – 6:30 am – SOUTH SHORELINE TOUR – Marshall Byle. Marshall will follow the Lake Huron shoreline and include stops at varied habitats between MacGregor Point and Inverhuron. Species may include Common Moorhen and Orchard Orioles.
A13 – 8:30 am – UNIQUE HABITATS ALONG THE LAKE HURON SHORELINE – Judith Jones. Judith is an expert on dune ecology and many local species at risk. Your morning will be spent learning about the plants along the sand dunes at Inverhuron; in the afternoon you will check out the near-shoreline and forest habitats at MacGregor Point.
A16 – 7:00 am – BIRDING THE TOWER TRAIL – Richard Tofflemire. Campground areas, dune habitat and the Lake Huron shoreline will be featured on this morning hike.
A17 -7:30 AM- THE TALE OF THE PIPING PLOVER – Stewart Nutt. Piping Plover behaviours including: courtship, feeding, life history, territorial displays and fierce protection will be observed and/or explained during your time with these birds. Become a ‘Plover Lover’.
A20 -1:30 pm – MAKE YOUR SIGHTINGS COUNT – Mike Burrell. The Citizen Science project eBird is a comprehensive online bird database that is revolutionizing how birders go about their business. Contributing is simple. Other Citizen Science projects will also be discussed.
A22 – 1:30 PM – TIPS & TECHNIQUES ON SUCCESSFULLY PHOTOGRAPHING TREES – Kerry Jarvis. Trees are often seen as a backdrop to a scene. Join Kerry in this new photography workshop hike, as he explores and inspires photographers to look at trees differently. (Moderate) Intermediate to experienced DSLR camera users. (Bring Tripod & zoom/close-up lenses.)
A23 – 4:30 pm – SOCIAL. 5:30 pm – BANQUET & PRESENTATION – BIRDS & SOME OF THEIR MYSTERIES – David Lamble. David is no ordinary bird lover. He will talk about bird intelligence – bird vision and his passion, bird banding, and how they all contribute to our understanding of birds. (St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, Port Elgin, Chicken Buffet, Harrigan’s Catering) (Early bird price – $35 extra per person; after April 15 or for banquet/presentation only – $45 extra per person) Casual. Bar available. Pre-registration required. Silent auction. Contact registrar by May 1 with dietary restrictions.
SUNDAY MAY 25
A25 – 7:00 am – HIDDEN TREASURES OF THE HURON COAST – Peter Middleton. This outing will explore Lake Huron coastlines, both present and past, north of Sauble Falls. You will visit Ontario Nature’s oldest reserve, Petrel Point, and their newest, Sauble Dunes. (Moderate, car-pool, bring lunch, sturdy footwear)
A31 – 1:30 pm – NATURE RAMBLE – OLD SHORE ROAD TRAIL – John Reaume. A leisurely walk along the Old Shore Road Trail near the Visitor Centre. Plants, flowers, dragonflies, birds – let’s see what we find.
A34 – 7:15 pm – THE PLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE – Sheila Colla. Come learn about the status of Canadian bumblebees and what you can do to help wild populations of these important native pollinators. Tools for identification to species level and a new Citizen Science project will also be discussed. (Indoors)
MONDAY MAY 26
A37 – 1:30 pm – BOTANY & BIRDING IN SOUTH BRUCE PENINSULA – Doug Pedwell. We will be observing a variety of ecosystems including forest, escarpment, rocky shorelines, marshes, lakes, sandy shorelines, and pasturelands. (Bring lunch, snacks and water. This all day event returns by 8:45 pm.)
A38 – 6:30 am – BIRDING THE PERIPHERY OF THE PARK – Mike Burrell. Grab your binoculars AND notebooks! While we are out enjoying the birds we will also be contributing to one of the biggest Citizen Science projects ever – eBird. After the hike we’ll have a quick demo of how simple it is to really make your observations count.
A39 – 7:00 am – BIRDING THE TOWER TRAIL – James Turland. Walk the Tower Trail from the park road to the Ducks Unlimited pond. Habitat is a mixture of wetlands and hardwood forests.
A40 – 1:30 pm – NATURE RAMBLE – OLD SHORE ROAD TRAIL – Laura Cook. Laura will take you along one of her favourite trails in MacGregor Point. Wildflowers, insects and birds seen along the route will be highlighted.
A42 – 7:15 pm – IMPORTANT BIRD AREAS – Mike Burrell. Come hear about some of Ontario’s most important sites for bird conservation and how your help can make a difference on a global scale.
A43 – 9:00 pm – AN EVENING OF ASTRONOMY – THE NIGHT SKY – John Hlynialuk & Bluewater Astronomical Society. John will take you on a tour through the deep reaches of the universe. Program will feature astronomical highlights of 2014 as well as Saturn, Mars and more distant objects like nebula, clusters and galaxies. Outdoor viewing through telescopes is weather permitting. (Indoors/outdoors)
THURSDAY MAY 29
B2 – 7:00 am – BIRDING THE HURON FRINGE NORTH – James Turland. Huron Fringe refers to the sand and gravel lowlands adjacent to Lake Huron. This driving tour explores the fringe between MacGregor Point and Sauble Falls to the north. (Bring lunch)
B3 – 7:30 am – TIPS & TECHNIQUES ON PHOTOGRAPHING WATERFALLS – Kerry Jarvis. Participants will get an opportunity to capture several local waterfalls by experimenting with a variety of photographic techniques. (Bring lunch – Intermediate to experienced DSLR camera users. Bring tripod & zoom/close-up lenses.)
B4 – 7:30 am – DOWN & DIRTY – WILDFLOWER PHOTOGRAPHY – Doug Pedwell. Participants will take their cameras and equipment to photograph wildflowers at a variety of locations in the park.
B5 – 1:30 pm – BOTANY OF THE “FRINGE” – Barbara Palmer. Many unique shoreline plants, including Dwarf Lake Iris, are found in MacGregor Point. Barbara will help you learn to identify them.
B6 – 1:30 pm – TREE & SHRUB IDENTIFICATION – Bob Gray. Take a leisurely walk in the interior of the park to identify trees and shrubs and to see how species associate with different site types.
B7 -7:15 pm – ONTARIO’S BIRD SURVEYS – WHAT ARE THEY TELLING US? – Mike Cadman. Citizen scientists provide a wealth of data on the size and trends of Ontario’s bird populations. This presentation will outline surveys, methods and findings. Special attention will be given to the decline of aerial insectivores (swallows, swifts, nightjars). (Indoors)
FRIDAY MAY 30
B8 – 6:00 am – CABOT HEAD/DYER’S BAY – A BIRDING AREA OF IMPORTANCE – Rod Steinacher.
Visit some of the Peninsula’s best-known birding spots, such as Dyer’s Bay, the sparrow fields near Larkwhistle and Crane Lake. You will have the opportunity to observe migration monitoring and bird banding at the Cabot Head Research Station. (Bring lunch)
B10 – 6:45 am – NATURE & LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY IN SOUTH BRUCE PENINSULA – Doug Pedwell. We will photograph some of the unique plants and rugged landscapes that the Niagara Escarpment has created. (Difficult, car-pool, bring lunch. Bring DSLR camera & accessories.)
B11 – 6:00 am – IS IT A BIRD OR YOUR MNEMONIC? – Michael Carlson. A field workshop on how to listen to and identify bird vocalization. Michael will use the Tower Trail where you will listen for orioles, woodpeckers, warblers, flycatchers and waterfowl. (Car-pool, for experienced birders only)
B12 – 7:00 am – BIRDING THE MacGREGOR BOUNDARY – Mike Cadman. Join Mike as he visits some hot spots including the Day Use beach, the Park Office, the old cottage entry road and along the Townline.
B13 – 1:30 pm – WILDFLOWERS: HISTORICAL FACTS & FICTION – Heather Starrs. Legends and superstitions are attached to many common, and not so common, plants found at MacGregor Point. Heather’s walk will introduce you to some plants’ stories. (Easy) (Limit 20)
B14 – 1:30 pm – ROADSIDE BOTANY RAMBLE – Larry Lamb. Explore various roadside habitats in the vicinity of the Visitor Centre. Learn to use identification keys and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (Bring yours along!).
SATURDAY MAY 31
B17 – 6:00 am – BIG DAY ON THE BRUCE – Michael Carlson. Are you ready for a full day of birding? If so, you won’t want to miss this morning to night birding marathon on the Bruce Peninsula. (Easy, car-pool; bring lunch, snacks and a walking dinner.)
B18 – 7:30 am – SECRETS OF THE GEORGIAN BAY FORMATION – Bob Gray. This daylong excursion will explore several hidden features of the Niagara Escarpment. Bob will share theories about how these features were formed. (Difficult, car-pool, bring lunch.)
B19 – 7:00 am – ROAD BIRDING FOR GRASSLAND BIRDS – Brett Woodman. Tour the local countryside looking for the elusive nesting grassland birds of Saugeen Shores.
B22 – 9:00 am – DYNAMIC DIGITAL CAMERA TIPS – Jennifer O’Reilly. Great for beginner or intermediate photographers. Step by step instruction on how to take award-winning compositions using features on your camera! (Suitable for point-and-shoot or DSLR cameras.)
B23 – 1:30 pm – THE TALE OF THE PIPING PLOVER – Stewart Nutt. Piping Plover behaviours including: courtship, feeding, life history, territorial displays and fierce protection will be observed and/or explained during your time with these birds. Become a ‘Plover Lover’.
B24 – 1:30 pm – WILDFLOWER DIVERSITY WITHIN THE FRINGE – Brett Woodman. Here’s your chance to learn about and appreciate some of MacGregor Point’s varied wildflowers. Brett will show you some of his favourite plants.
B25 – 1:30 pm – PLANT & WILDFLOWER RAMBLE – Larry Lamb. Walk the trails and campground loops from the Day Use area to Pitcher Plant Marl. Learn to use identification keys and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (bring yours along!).
B27 – 1:30 pm – ADVANCED DIGITAL CAMERA TECHNIQUES – Jennifer O’Reilly. This workshop takes you out into the ‘field’ for hands on photography. Learn pro techniques guaranteed to put the ‘wow’ factor into your photographs. (Point-and-shoot or DSLR cameras.)
B28 -5:00 pm to 6:30 pm – BRUCE COUNTY BEEF DINNER – Harrigan’s Catering, Southampton. In MacGregor Point Provincial Park, additional charge of $17. Dinner combined with B29 as a single event $23. Pre-registration required.)
SUNDAY JUNE 1
B30 – 6:00 am – MALCOLM BLUFFS & CAPE CROKER – Alfred Raab. Bird in a variety of habitats within the Cape Croker Peninsula and Malcolm Bluffs Nature Reserve. The cliffs above Colpoy’s Bay shoreline provide spectacular vistas
B32 -6:30 AM – BIRDING THE TOWER TRAIL – Justin Peter. Hike the Tower Trail and check the Ducks Unlimited pond from both the viewing tower and bird blind. Habitat is a mix of wetlands and hardwood forests.
B33 – 7:00 am – BIRDING THE PERIPHERY – James Turland. Woodland, lakeshore, wetlands and abandoned fields are some of the habitats involved. (Easy, car-pool)
B34 – 8:00 am – SEARCHING FOR STRAGGLERS – MacGREGOR’S LATE MIGRANTS – Michael Carlson. Join Michael as he searches select spots in MacGregor for breeding birds as well as late spring migrants, such as Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Gray-cheeked Thrush.
B35 – 1:30 pm – EXPLORING KINGHURST FOREST – Tanya Pulfert & Catherine Jimenea. Kinghurst Forest is a special place and Catherine and Tanya are keen to take you for a walk through this Ontario Nature property. On this general nature walk you will be a Citizen Scientist and report your reptile and amphibian sightings.
B36 – 1:30 pm – FUN, FROG FROLIC AT MacGREGOR POINT – Kerry Jarvis. Join Kerry on this fun frog frolic to listen to, locate and observe several species of frog and the American Toad at MacGregor Point. (If you have them, bring camera and close-up binoculars.)
B37 – 7:15 pm – SUNSET WALK – John Cummings. The Lake Huron shoreline offers some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. What a wonderful way to enjoy a sunset with friends.
REGISTER NOW: friendsofmacgregor.org
HURON FRINGE BIRDING FESTIVAL – MAY 23 to MAY 26 – MAY 29 to JUNE 1 -2014
MacGREGOR POINT PROVINCIAL PARK – PORT ELGIN, ONTARIO