Posted | filed under Weekly Reports.

On May 15, Team Tanager the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory ran our Birdathon fundraiser and were able to find 102 species – a great total, but none of them were exceptional observations. Our other fundraising team also recently ran their traveling Birdathon and long-time readers may recognize this ‘voice’.

Greetings from Sherwood Park! Some of you may remember the days when I wrote these articles and I (Nicole Krikun) am happy to be back for a guest article. This interruption in your regular scheduled lab updates was prompted by the Great Canadian Birdathon. The Birdathon is an annual fundraiser put on by Birds Canada. Teams and individuals sign-up, pick a 24-hour period in May, and collect pledges towards their challenge to find as many species of bird as possible.

Above: Nicole (left) and Richard Krikun (right) of Birder’s in the Park.

Richard and I have been participating since 2009 making this our 16th consecutive Birdathon. When we first started doing it, we followed a set pattern as we were working at the Observatory: watch birds all morning at the lab, hit all the ponds and wetlands between the lab and Canyon Creek, and hang out in Wayne Bowles’ backyard to pick up the feeder birds. This was fun and it worked – our best year of 124 species was a lab year.

Since moving to Sherwood Park, though, we’ve had the opportunity to switch up our game. We still direct our donations to support the LSLBO, and coordinate our efforts with Team Tanager, but as we are no longer tied to one place for the morning, we’ve had the liberty to plan our Birdathons around target species or biomes. This year we traveled to the west coast in search of several western species only found on that side of the Rockies.

We ran our Birdathon from noon May 8 to noon May 9 and traveled between the town of Comox and Cortes Island. On our first half-day, we hiked around Seal Bay Nature Park, a wet, older forest covered in moss and ferns and the Comox Dam Provincial Rec Area, a younger, drier, more upland forest. We also hit up a couple wetland and coastal parks within the town. After our first 8 hours, we had seen 70 species, including all 6 of our target species (Hutton’s and Cassin’s vireos, western and Hammond’s flycatchers, black-throated grey and MacGillivray’s warblers) that were lifers for both of us, plus a bonus lifer (Virginia Rail)! On our second half-day, we traveled north and hit the coast looking for shore and seabirds. We picked up many of the birds we expected, plus lucked out on some Caspian terns. We ended our Birdathon on the 40-minute ferry crossing to Cortes. We had hoped to chance upon some pelagic species, but we didn’t see anything we hadn’t already seen from shore except a large group of western grebes which was pretty neat to see out on the ocean.

Above: A few highlights from Birders in the Park’s Birdathon.

All-in-all, we saw more lifers than any other Birdathon (7), but we had our lowest count (89). I will let you all in on a secret, though, the challenge of the Birdathon is to find as many species as possible, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is to have fun, raise money for conservation and appreciate nature. For me, the quest to find as many species as possible in 24 hours makes me pay more attention to their songs, chips and movements. In every whistle and flutter,  I am reminded how magical birds are and how lucky we are to have them. It isn’t all about the totals, it is about the journey and about the people you can share your passion with. I challenge you all to get out there and try a big day, whether you do it to raise money or just to remind yourself of the wonder and diversity that surrounds us.

For the full list of what we saw, check out our trip report on eBird:
If you would like to donate:

By Nicole Krikun, Team Birders in the Parks and Retired LSLBO Bander

Team Tanager’s 2024 Birdathon list:

Canada Goose Common Raven
Trumpeter Swan American Crow
Gadwall Tree Swallow
American Wigeon Bank Swallow
Mallard Cliff Swallow
Blue-winged Teal Barn Swallow
Northern Shoveler Black-capped Chickadee
Green-winged Teal Red-breasted Nuthatch
Canvasback White-breasted Nuthatch
Ring-necked Duck Winter Wren
Surf Scoter Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Long-tailed Duck Swainson’s Thrush
Bufflehead American Robin
Common Goldeneye Gray Catbird
Common Merganser European Starling
Red-breasted Merganser American Pipit
Ruffed Grouse Lapland Longspur
Sharp-tailed Grouse Ovenbird
Common Loon Northern Waterthrush
Red-necked Grebe Black-and-white Warbler
Bald Eagle Tennessee Warbler
Northern Harrier Orange-crowned Warbler
Sharp-shinned Hawk Common Yellowthroat
Sora American Redstart
Killdeer Magnolia Warbler
Sandhill Crane Bay-breasted Warbler
Spotted Sandpiper Yellow Warbler
Solitary Sandpiper Blackpoll Warbler
Greater Yellowlegs “Western” Palm Warbler
Lesser Yellowlegs “Myrtle” Warbler
Long-billed Dowitcher Chipping Sparrow
Wilson’s Snipe Clay-coloured Sparrow
Franklin’s Gull Vesper Sparrow
Ring-billed Gull Savannah Sparrow
Common Tern LeConte’s Sparrow
Forster’s Tern Song Sparrow
Belted Kingfisher Lincoln’s Sparrow
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Swamp Sparrow
Downy Woodpecker White-throated Sparrow
Hairy Woodpecker “Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow
“Yellow-shafted” Flicker Western Tanager
Pileated Woodpecker Rose-breasted Grosbeak
American Kestrel Red-winged Blackbird
Merlin Brewer’s Blackbird
Western Wood-Pewee Common Grackle
Least Flycatcher Brown-headed Cowbird
Eastern Phoebe Baltimore Oriole
Eastern Kingbird Purple Finch
Blue-headed Vireo Pine Siskin
Blue Jay Evening Grosbeak
Black-billed Magpie House Sparrow