Summer a great chance to do some “deep birding” | Carolinian Canada

Summer a great chance to do some “deep birding”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A lot of people think that bird watching is synonymous with spring migration, and to be sure, everyone can admire the sight of a Blackburnian Warbler or Northern Parula in May. But those in the know understand that there is something special about birding through every month across Southern Ontario.

Through the summer months we have a tremendous chance to do some “deep birding.”

Once the migrants have flown through, we can really get to know some of the more than 180 bird species that nest across Ontario’s Carolinian Zone that stretches from Toronto’s Rouge Valley in the east to Essex County in the west.

I like to key in on a common species that is close to my home and study its progress through the breeding season.

Last year I found the nest of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in one of London’s Environmentally Significant areas. It was incredible to watch the mother over the course of several weeks as she patiently incubated the eggs and then tended to her tiny hatchlings.

This year, a friend and I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak building a nest. We’ve been back many times since and with each visit we have discreetly snapped some photos and observed the birds.

Unlike Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, these Grosbeaks share parenting duties. We watched them spell each other off at the nest and, more recently we saw them feeding the chicks. It was as interesting as it was breathtaking.

I was also curious to see how these birds managed their territory. Although I’ve been bird watching since the 1960s, there is still so much to learn about the birds that others might take for granted.

A deep study of birds can spill into conservation awareness as well. In this spring’s The State of North America’s Birds Report, it was revealed that a third of our bird species need urgent conservation action.

Grassland birds such as Meadowlarks and Bobolinks have been hit hard by habitat loss, so I have a refreshed appreciation of these creatures.

A rare bird report such as the Dickcissel posting in Middlesex County in early June was exciting of course, but the trip to see that rarity also represented a chance to look for some of the Carolinian Zone’s other grassland bird species and learn about their nesting habits and other behaviors.

The vulnerability of some of these birds and some of our forest songbirds such as the Wood Thrush underlines that value of work being done by organizations such as Carolinian Canada Coalition and Bird Studies Canada.

This deep birding has its own obvious and immediate rewards. Fledglings can be every bit as cute as kittens, and it’s fascinating to watch Barn Swallows over the course of a season.

But keying in on our nesting species can also give us an enriched, holistic view of our natural world and the importance of habitat health and biodiversity.

The birds are just outside your doors. Grab your binoculars. Go listen to the stories that they are telling us.

Paul Nicholson writes a weekly bird watching column, The World Outdoors, for The London Free Press and other Postmedia newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @NicholsonNature

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