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  • Writer's pictureMary Asselstine

2018 Birdathon

To say I was excited to get up at 4:45 am would be an exaggeration but I thought it would be a good idea to hear the dawn chorus. After breakfast in the dark (need my energy) I slipped out to the backyard to be greeted by all the eager early birds. To my disappointment the dawn chorus was a dud. Only the usual suspects were singing and even that was thin. This was a fore-shadowing of my whole day. I cannot remember the last time I had to work so hard for so few birds.


I could always count on Robins. They had been singing since 4:00 am. And the Grackles had already claimed their territory by the feeders making the Chickadees, Nuthatches, Mourning Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds wait their turn. I didn’t spend long in the yard but made my way along the ridge north of the Dufferin Marsh. I was greeted by a plethora of Yellow Warblers and Catbirds. A Swamp Sparrow was singing in the same place it does every year and I was lucky to see it up close, head tilted back and “chipping” with abandon. My husband Gary used to say it sounds like a Singer Sewing Machine. Does anyone remember what that sounds like? There were lots of Swallows diving over the marsh and one of them was a Roughed-winged Swallow. That was a satisfying bird.


I made my way over to the trail behind the homes on Roselena. I had seen a number of Warblers there last year and was hopeful. Rounding the bend at the west end I stop dead in my tracks because the call of a Wood Thrush was echoing through the woodlot. It only called for a minute or two so I was lucky to hear it. The Wood Thrush has this haunting call that sounds like a reed instrument. When you hear it you will never forget it. There were a couple of Warblers singing in the tree tops at the same location. One was a Blackpoll Warbler and the other was a Northern Parula Warbler. My ability to distinguish Warblers by their call is limited to just a handful so it took some neck-crinking time to find them but I had a good look at both. I may remember the Parula’s call next time. It is very distinctive (however I am getting older and who knows when I will see one again).


Next stop was the Trisan Centre pond. Were the Swans still there? What about the Barnacle Goose? No such luck. But I did visit the storm pond to the south of the parking lot and saw Barn Swallows, a Red-tailed Hawk and 3 Least Sandpipers.


It was time to look for field birds. My favourite place for that is just east of Kettleby on the Kettleby Road, mostly because I know there is a chance to see Bluebirds there. Sure enough I identified Meadowlark, Bobolink, and Savanah Sparrow and I was just thinking that I should see a Bluebird when one came over to check me out. A productive meeting.


I don’t know if you have ever been to the wetland where the Oak Ridges Trail crosses the 10th Concession? It is on the Groombridge property. It is a fabulous spot any time of the year. That was where my adventure took me next. I was hoping for a few different ducks – maybe a Wood Duck or a Hooded Merganser but what I was greeted by was a lively woodland chorus. I identified Least Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo and Chestnut-sided Warbler.


The late afternoon brought me to Happy Valley. It always seems quiet to me there and this time was no exception. There were a couple of tree-top Warblers but I could not identify them. There was one though that played hide-and–seek with me for about ½ hour. I would get it in my sights and it would move into the path of the sun. This is not great for your eyes. I decided to try to call it down but as soon as I did it stopped calling. Resigned, I started walking away down the path. Next thing I know it is calling from the other side of the path right in front of me – a Black-throated Blue Warbler. I am not sure who won that game.


After dinner I decided to re-visit a few sights in Schomberg. I was really hoping for a Woodcock. I didn’t find a Woodcock but the Dufferin Marsh delivered a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron and 2 pair of courting Wood Ducks.


During the late afternoon I went to Grackle Coffee for a coffee and a bit of a rest. Someone there asked me what my favourite birds was. Without hesitation I said it was the one I was looking at.


Here is my bird list in order of sighting. I identified 58 species.

  • American Robin

  • Northern Cardinal

  • Black-capped Chickadee

  • Mourning Dove

  • Canada Goose

  • White-breasted Nuthatch

  • Common Grackle

  • European Starling

  • American Goldfinch

  • Red-winged Blackbird

  • Chipping Sparrow

  • Song Sparrow

  • Brown-headed Cowbird

  • Yellow Warbler

  • Blue Jay

  • Gray Catbird

  • Northern Flicker

  • Rock Dove

  • Tree Swallow

  • House Sparrow

  • Common Yellowthroat

  • Mallard

  • Rough-winged Swallow

  • Killdeer

  • Swamp Sparrow

  • Chimney Swift

  • Downy Woodpecker

  • Warbling Vireo

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak

  • Baltimore Oriole

  • House Wren

  • Common Crow

  • Cedar Waxwing

  • Field Sparrow

  • Wood Thrush

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

  • Great-crested Flycatcher

  • Hairy Woodpecker

  • Blackpoll Warbler

  • Northern Parula Warbler

  • Spotted Sandpiper

  • Barn Swallow

  • Red-tailed Hawk

  • Least Sandpiper

  • Turkey Vulture

  • Bobolink

  • Savanah Sparrow

  • Eastern Meadowlark

  • Eastern Bluebird

  • Lest Flycatcher

  • Red-eyed Vireo

  • Chestnut-sided Warbler

  • Belted Kingfisher

  • Pileated Woodpecker

  • Black-throated Blue Warbler

  • Great Blue Heron

  • Wood Duck

  • Green Heron

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