Thursday, 11 May 2017

We're doing a Big Day on May 13!

This year I was asked by the Ontario Field Ornithologists if I would be their guest birder and take part in the Great Canadian Birdathon to raise money for bird conservation. I enlisted the help of two good friends of mine, Dan Riley and Jeremy Bensette, and together, we are excited to raise money for a good cause by spending an entire day birding!

From left to right - Dan Riley, Josh Vandermeulen, Jeremy Bensette

The Great Canadian Birdathon, (formerly, the Baillie Birdathon) is the oldest sponsored bird count in North America. Hundreds of teams of birders across Canada participate each year, with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for bird conservation in the process. The proceeds support Bird Studies Canada, various bird observatories and monitoring programs. It also supports the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund which provides grants primarily to amateur field ornithology researchers. A portion of all donations pledged towards our team will be returned to OFO and will be specifically earmarked to the OFO Young Birders Program.

Dan, Jeremy and I are planning our Big Day within the Point Pelee circle, a standard Christmas Bird Count circle with a 25 km diameter that including not only Point Pelee National Park, but also Leamington, Hillman Marsh, the "onion fields' and Wheatley harbour.

Point Pelee Birding Area

Doing a Big Day at Point Pelee is a little different than a Big Day attempt that spans a larger area. The Point Pelee circle has relatively few breeding species compared to a larger area with a greater diversity of habitats, meaning that our final species total will be more dependent on the diversity of migrant species we can encounter. There is just more variability in the probability of outcomes - if we pick a poor day it may be a struggle to find 100 species, while if the birding is excellent, 150 species or higher may be possible. I am not sure what the record is for the Point Pelee circle, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is 170 or higher; clearly, exceptional conditions have to come together to enable a record-breaking attempt. Personally, I am hoping to reach 140 species for the day.

Pledges to our team can be made at this link on the Great Canadian Birdathon page. While our Big Day is scheduled for May 13, donations can be made until the end of July. Thanks to those of you who have already donated - it is greatly appreciated!

Hopefully the birding gods are smiling down on us on May 13. I will be providing periodic updates on my blog during the Big Day attempt - stay tuned.


  1. I'm doing my Birdathon down in Point Pelee on the 13th as well! I'll probably see you down there (and maybe you guys can find us some good birds)! Good birding!