Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Spring-Summer 2022 Timmins Area Highlights

Here are a few highlights from the last few months all packed into one blog post: Part 1: a fun-filled month of May busy with various bird hikes. Part 2: an amazing June where we had the opportunity to go out a few times to collect data for the 3rd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. 

Part 1: MAY 2022

May started with an online session with the Timmins Public Library where I had a lot of fun chatting with local bird enthusiasts about spring bird migration in the Timmins area. We also continued the local tradition of gathering 'first-of-year' sightings; a fun way to gather arrival dates for migrating birds in the area: this spring was the 6th year and we now have many people participating! 

Spring migration always brings amazing birds in the area, and this year was no exception; 4 days after the library session, a Willet showed up at White Waterfront Conservation Area. This was the 193rd species documented at Porcupine Lake in the past decade. It stayed for 2-3 days and many birders had a chance to admire it!

Porcupine Lake's first documented Willet
White Waterfront beach
Porcupine Lake (8 May 2022)

 Willet feeding on crayfish
Porcupine Lake (8 May 2022)

Lesser Yellowlegs (L) Willet (Middle) and Greater Yellowlegs (R)
Porcupine Lake (8 May 2022)

FPRW World Migratory Bird Day Walk 2022: 

On May 14, 2022, I had the opportunity to lead a guided WMBD walk at Porcupine Lake. This walk was organized by the Friends of the Porcupine River Watershed to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day and to highlight the role Porcupine Lake plays in providing various habitat for migrating and breeding bird species. 

Listening to warblers on the Prospector Trail
World Migratory Bird Day walk with FPRW
Porcupine Lake (14 May 2022)

We walked the Prospector trail to watch and listen to various migrating songbirds. It was an unusually hot day but we had a lot of fun exploring the variety of habitats along the Prospector Trail. We observed waterfowl feeding on the lake, Savannah and Song Sparrows singing in tall grass and shrubs, Sora singing from a marsh and various colourful migrating warblers singing their unique songs along the forested part of the trail. 

Magnolia Warbler along the Prospector Trail
World Migratory Bird Day Walk with FPRW
Porcupine Lake (14 May 2022)
Photo: © Swapnil Dhandhukia

May 22, 2022 - South Porcupine's first OFO field trip. 

After 2 years of cancellation, we were finally able to host South Porcupine's very first OFO field trip. We were 4 participants and we had a great day! I hope more local people will join us next year - looking for birds together is a lot of fun and we get to learn so much! Here is the full account of how the day went: 

The day started at 7 am under an overcast sky and a wet 4°C at Porcupine Lake's White Waterfront Conservation Area, with Lisa, who had travelled far and was ready to brave the rain and cold in search of birds. We were immediately greeted by a Surf Scoter, an uncommon species for Porcupine Lake and getting great looks at this splendid unique bird was a great start to a wonderful day.

Surf Scoter - Porcupine Lake 
OFO Field Trip (22 May 2022)

The wires and sky were filled with Bank, Tree, and Cliff Swallows, all feeding and calling in impressive large flocks low over the water, as they often do on cold migration mornings. After admiring the Surf Scoter with its Lesser and Greater Scaups and Common Goldeneye companions, we started down the Prospector trail and came across 3 Trumpeter Swans feeding beside a pair of Gadwall near shore. The rest of the walk happened under light rain and to the intermittent mystical sound of the Common Loon calling from the lake, and gave us decent views of many warbler species, Savannah and Lincoln Sparrows, and a very cooperative Clay Coloured Sparrow, who hopped on the trail right in front of us.

Clay-coloured Sparrow - Porcupine Lake
OFO Field Trip - (22 May 2022)

After walking the Prospector Trail, Lisa and I met two more participants, Swapnil and Gary, who had avoided the morning rain. Swapnil got a good look through the scope at his first Surf Scoter before following the rapid high pitched 'tsi-tsi-tsi-tsi-tsi-tsi' back to his first Blackpoll Warbler; Porcupine Lake never disappoints during the 3rd week of May! From there, we visited the Bannerman Park section of the lakefront where we watched a Common Loon diving and an adult Bald Eagle soaring over us. We all crossed the road to another favourite spot in Porcupine when we heard a mimicking song repeating admirable imitations of American Robin, Tufted Titmouse and Killdeer. We finally managed to spot the talented Northern Mockingbird perched on the other side of the road! 

Northern Mockingbird in South Porcupine - uncommon for the area
OFO field trip (22 May 2022)

We then walked towards the water treatment pond where the impressive variety of warblers more than made up for the absence of ducks; we had amazing views of Wilson, Tennessee, Cape May, Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts and a Philadelphia Vireo while listening to a Virginia Rail calling from the marsh nearby. 

Wilson Warbler photo by Gary Dowe
OFO Field Trip in South Porcupine (22 May 2022) 

Lisa, myself and Swapnil during the OFO Field Trip
South Porcupine (22 May 2022) photo by Gary Dowe
It was a chilly day!

Philadelphia Vireo - South Porcupine
OFO Field Trip (22 May 2022)

We went to visit two more quiet spots where we watched a Red-tailed Hawk soaring, and listened to Ruby and Golden Crowned Kinglet, Chipping Sparrows and Brown Creeper singing away in the rain. We finished the day with a quick glimpse at a medium sized black bear and fresh moose tracks. The weather wasn't the greatest, but we still had a wonderful day!

More info on OFO here - make sure you join us for the next few northeastern Ontario field trips this fall and next spring! All are welcome, from complete beginners to experts! 

Wintergreen Spring Bird Walks 2022

During the last 2 weeks of May, four more spring bird hikes took place at Gillies Lake; they were organized by the Wintergreen Fund for Conservation and MRCA. Gillies Lake offers a great opportunity for an accessible, easy 2km loop with lots of interesting habitat for resident and migrating birds. These walks took place from 8am-10am on Wednesdays and Saturdays and they were a lot of fun! MRCA and Wintergreen offer bird hikes during various seasons - contact them of follow their Facebook page to learn about these.

Sora (18 May 2022)
Wintergreen Spring Bird Walk - Gillies Lake
Solitary Sandpiper
Wintergreen Spring Bird Walk
Gillies Lake - Timmins (18 May 2022)

Part 2: JUNE-JULY 2022

Second year of the 3rd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas 

After a busy spring, June-July also went by in a flash! This summer was the second year of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and Gary and I took the opportunity to do a bit of atlassing around South Porcupine and in a couple of squares south of town, as well as in Moonbeam while visiting family and camping at Rene Brunelle Provincial Park. I enjoy atlassing so much I could write 20 pages for each day we were out there but I will spare you! 

Here are a few photos of some of my favourite atlassing moments:

A Moose in a cut at sunrise just before point counts
during an atlassing morning in Region 41 (9 June 2022)

Rusty Blackbird in breeding habitat. 
Region 41 Timiskaming (9 June 2022)

Beaver pond habitat where we observed 2 Rusty Blackbirds
Region 41 Timiskaming (9 June 2022) 

Black Bear during an atlassing outing
Region 41 near Timmins (5 June 2022)

Blackburnian Warbler on breeding territory
Moonbeam (Region 42-Cochrane)
Rene Brunelle Provincial Park (27 June 2022)

Atlassing in northern Ontario is an amazing experience and the next 3 summers is the ideal time to try it! 

When the sun comes up on a chilly northern Ontario morning and awakens the chorus of bird songs, it's such a wonderful moment. So many warbler species nest in the boreal forest; it's a real treat for warbler fans. And from the first song to the last, every bird you enter in NatureCounts that day probably hasn't been documented as a breeding species in that square yet, or very little. Your impact is significant. And the best part about it is you have the opportunity to enjoy every minute with no distraction, no highways, no traffic, no crowds; it's simply a birder's dream. 

Spruce Grouse with young
Timmins Area - Region 41 Timiskaming (4 July 2022)

The whole family joined me one day for a bit of 
atlassing during the Big Atlas Weekend 2022
From L to R: dad, mom, me, sister
Balsam Lake in Moonbeam (26 June 2022)

Greater Yellowlegs in breeding habitat 
Moonbeam (26 June 2022)

If any of you birders would like to help out with the atlassing efforts in northern Ontario during the next few peak breeding seasons (June 2023-25) note that all over northern Ontario from west to east, near many small communities, there are countless squares accessible by vehicle where data is needed and you can contribute no matter your skill level. 

Come up and gather some general observations and do some early morning point counts by ear or digitally (if you aren't ready to identify all the birds you hear- no worries: you can borrow a digital recording unit and do some 5-minute recordings in predetermined GPS locations) These units are really easy to use and provide valuable data for mapping distribution and relative abundance for the province's bird species. 

I am holding a Zoom H2n digital unit used by atlassers to
obtain digital point counts (5-minute recordings of bird songs and calls)
These units are easy to use and provide valuable data (June 2022)

Black-backed Woodpecker at nest
Moonbeam - Region 42 Cochrane (24 June 2022)

Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions! Have a great rest of the summer!

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Spring 2022 Updates/Upcoming Bird Walks in the Timmins Area

At one point during our long winter it didn't look like it was going to happen but spring is here! And the White-throated Sparrows, Fox Sparrows and American Robins are singing as I'm writing this update. We had a close-to-record-breaking snow depth paired with very cold temperatures and even if most local lakes are still frozen today on May 1st, rivers and creeks are open, the sun is shining and around 63 migrating species have already arrived in the area - and the best is yet to come!

A few updates...

Spring Arrivals

I am still compiling arrival dates for migrating birds in the larger Timmins Area. This will be the 6th year and it's been a real community effort! See the following page for more info: Spring Arrival Dates.

Fox Sparrow hiding under the cedar hedge in our backyard
One of my favourite signs of spring
27 April 2022

Spring 2022 - Events and Bird Walks

Timmins Public Library - (Online session) Spring Bird Migration in the Timmins Area

Like last year, the Timmins Public Library will be hosting a session dedicated to spring bird migration in the Timmins area. We'll chat about some of the birds we can look for in spring, good birding spots to visit in the area, some tips on how to learn to identify birds, followed by a discussion/question period. It's always a lot of fun; I hope to see you there!
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, 4 May 2022 at 6pm (on Zoom)
To register, contact: or visit their Facebook page to sign up for the link.

May the 4th be with the birds!

Upcoming Bird Walks in the Timmins/South Porcupine Area

Whether you are an avid birder or just starting to learn about birds, we have some bird walks that you might want to join. Looking for birds together and leaning tricks to identify them is a lot of fun and I hope you will try it out this spring. Here are some opportunities. If you have any questions, about any of these, feel free to contact me.

Wintergreen Spring Migration Bird Walks at Gillies Lake:

  • Walk #1: Wednesday, May 18, 2022 (8-10am) 
  • Walk #2: Wednesday, May 25, 2022 (8-10am)
  • Walk #3: Saturday, May 28, 2022 (8-10am)
Description: Bring your binoculars and join us! We will slowly walk the 2.5 km trail around Gillies Lake while trying to spot various migrating birds. We'll also exchange useful tips on how to identify different species by sight and sounds. Perfect for all skill levels including beginners. 
Space is limited so register early:

Register by calling MRCA: 705-360-2660 or email
Yellow Warbler - one of the warblers we might see 
during the Wintergreen Spring Bird Walk at Gillies Lake

World Migratory Bird Day at Porcupine Lake

  • Saturday, May 14th, 2022 (8:00 am to 10 am) at White Waterfront Conservation Area

Description:  On World Migratory Bird Day, join us to discover some of the migrating birds who stop at Porcupine Lake after their long journey back from the south. We will be walking slowly for approximately 4 km. Bring your binoculars, camera, water, and curiosity. *In the event of heavy rain or wind, the walk will be postponed to Sunday the 15th or later.

Registration: Spaces limited to 15 participants - To sign up, contact

Smooth Rock Falls OFO Field Trip: Saturday, May 21, 2022 in SRF (7:30am to 2pm)
Porcupine Lake OFO Field Trip: Sunday, May 22, 2022 at Porcupine Lake and area (7am to 2pm)

These walks are for members of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) but if you are not yet a member and there is space left, feel free to contact us if you'd like to try it out! Anyone interested in birds can become a member of OFO (see  I have been an OFO member for 10 years now and I love it: we get access to great publications on birds in Ontario, we can join fun and educational members' meetings online, we can attend any OFO Field Trips in the province (there are some really great upcoming OFO walks in Smooth Rock Falls and Cochrane as well!) and there is a new discussion forum for members on Discord where we can chat and learn about all bird-related topics - there is a dedicated channel for northern Ontario too - join us and check it out! 

Find details and registration info for the OFO walks here: OFO Upcoming Field Trip List and Registration

Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3

Last weekend, we kicked off the second year of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. We had some online webinars (available on the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 YouTube Channel) and we had a fun walk at Hersey Lake Conservation Area. To stay updated and learn more about how you can join and help collect data on northern Ontario birds, contact us at timiskaming - at - birdsontario - dot - org (Timmins is in Region 41)

Following Region 41 atlassers Stan and Andrew on the trail
Year-2 Atlas Kickoff walk
At Hersey Lake Conservation Area (24 April 2022)

I hope you all have a wonderful month of May filled with birdsongs!