One of Canada's Premier Birding and Nature Festivals

Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’s top 100 festivals

Wiercinski’s Ramblings

leave a comment »

Mark Wiercinski is an original (in more ways than one). He has been leading HFBF events every year with the same passion and enthusiasm as he did on his very first hike…but with more (or less) gray hair. If you’re one of the diligent (and lucky) ones to have signed up for any of Mark’s instantly sold out events…here is a primer on what to expect as you try to keep up with his rambling humour in the field.


MARK AND THE ZEN OF BIRDING: We’re off at 600 AM. ‘Really?’ you say. ‘Seriously!’ I say. That is NOT early. Any earlier and none of you would show up and there I would be talking to myself and the birds. Hmm, I guess I do that already. I will try to socialize more. I know I whine about this every year. Earlier is better if we really want to catch the cool stuff and get overwhelmed with the bird song. I like early hikes. They are the best for finding birds. Beware! ‘Cause this is when I’m really on my game. Coffee not required. But it helps. In spite of the craziness, I’ll regurgitate many helpful tips on bird identification through sound, behaviour and habitat. Fledgling or full-fledged birder I always try to inspire and entertain…I’m full of information from birds to plant-life to wildlife and everything in between.

I’m doing a hike on Sex & The Single Warbler. “It’s all about the sex, baby.” Why? Because, I am a Biologist! That is the dominant theme of it all for me. I love the biology and ecology of the birds and the habitat and the bigger picture around birds. And yes, biology and ecology are two different things. I will explain on the hike; or you may just “get it” on your own. Being a biologist means I have about twenty different words (or maybe more) for poop. I do pay attention to the bigger picture around the birds and I try my best to fill in loads of information on the environment and how it all fits. I like that part. In fact it is often more fun to spend time and watch and learn something new on the most common of species out there. Chickadees have brains that grow or shrink depending on the time of year or the emphasis of what they are doing. Cool! And yes it is all about the sex baby…really it is! Biology is the study of life and wildlife biology is a study of that whole process. Don’t forget to ask me about chickadee brains … food in the winter…sex in the spring. Take a guess which season requires the bigger brain? Did I talk about this already?”

Bird song dominates. I always hope it is warm enough to get them singing and keep them going until the hike is winding down. The more they sing the less I have to talk. The forest, pond and marsh habitats will be mixed enough to make it all worthwhile. If the weather sucks, I try to tell lots of stories…anyway…since way too many of you have been on my hikes before I have to keep looking for new material and new one liners! Besides, trying to figure out my humour and keep up to the hyper little birds…that’s the real challenge.

I will do my best to find the cool stuff though.

WRESTLING WITH WARBLERS” Cool a new title – I like it. So we honestly don’t fight with these birds…but it is a fight to figure them all out at times so the word ‘fight’ fits well. Warblers are hyper little critters that seem to conveniently hide behind a twig or leaf just as you spot them. They really are annoying little critters that just don’t sit still. Song is important to this one…warblers are best to learn songs. We always find at least a dozen or so species. Seeing those birds is the goal…but remember I am a song guy and so I hear more than I see. So we cover lots of song identification. If the singing is not happening then we have to really dig in and find them in the trees and if that is not happening them I just make up stuff and fly by the seat of my pants! There are always plants and they conveniently don’t fly away.

I do try to focus on warblers though…we even should get the protected species. Did I say I was a biologist? Yeah I am…so Species At Risk is a big thing for me. And we can see a few if we get lucky! We almost always get the Blue-Winged Warbler or the Golden-Winged Warbler…or both…or the cross over variation between the two. Yeah there are genetics lessons in there too.”

We should track down at least a dozen or so warblers. We will have plenty of Redstarts too, the poster bird for the festival.

Remember, I am a biologist so there is lots to learn! I know learning! Wwwhhhaaaat! This is supposed to be fun! Don’t fret…it will be fun. I can always find a way to bring it back to humour…or sex…or something. And remember I am a Triple A Personality and often get way ahead of myself in topics and side trips…so we won’t be talking just about warblers. It will just be the theme that ties it all together.

Bognor MarshBirding ‘n Botany at Bognor Marsh. No description officially yet so I can say whatever I want! Woohoo! Field, wetland, forest even a bit of escarpment…Bognor will be fun…a learning experience for me as much as whoever comes along for the trip. It is a big swamp – one of the biggest wetland complexes in Grey County – with a good variety of habitat and decent trails as far as I remember. I will try to get there ahead of time and get familiar with it…but I am such a hair brain I will likely forget and just fake it on the day…ha!

But, seriously folks – the best thing is the wetlands. The fun part here will be extra wildlife along the way…snakes and turtles and other stuff. I will always be happy to talk about whatever else presents itself along the hike…hawks, ducks, herons, hawks, plants, turtles, hawks…and well did I say hawks yet? I like to fit it all in and like to put them all into perspective in the ecosystem. I did promise the organizers I would keep it fit for public consumption though and will do my best to stay focussed. Maybe.


For an up-close look at the what you can expect to experience at this year’s Huron Fringe Birding Festival click on:

Recognized as One of Ontario's Top 100 Festivals

Recognized as One of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals







leave a comment »

 If you asked James Turland when and where he likes to bird, he just might say ‘always and everywhere’. His philosophy is simple, “There are birds in all landscapes one just has to look”. Here, in his own words, are his thoughts on birding:

James and Feathered Friend

James and Feathered Friend

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 Sandpipers presence signifies short grass and that probably means grazers are nearby. 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. There are solutions and we all can play a part. Like the movie Field of Dreams tells us, ‘Build It And They Will Come’. 


7 OPENINGS – 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.

9 OPENINGS – 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.

ONLY 4 OPENINGS – 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)

ONLY 3 OPENINGS – B21 – 8:00 am – BIRDING MacGREGOR – OLD FIELDS & TRAILS – James Turland.  A morning walk through varied habitats along the Deer Run and Rotary Way trails in the northeast corner of the Park. These are infrequently birded areas.