Our Big Year of Birding in 2015

We are far from completing a ‘Big Year’ in the sense that many birders undertake, traveling great distances to grow their North American list, however, it did have its own meaning for us this year. During the past calendar year, Trevor and I logged all our sightings on eBird for the first time, to determine our total number of species of birds seen in Niagara, and to help inform bird research worldwide.

Birding in the Niagara Region

The Snowy Owl has been our most elusive bird this year and was not yet logged on our 2015 list. In previous years we were lucky enough to have some lengthy photo opportunities with our legs buried in the snow observing this majestic white raptor.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl in St. Catharines – Dec 31, 2015

Today, I received a phone call from Trevor that he had spotted a Snowy Owl while he was out walking with our dog, Rudy. I met him at the location (Port Weller East) and ventured out so I could include him on my personal birding list. Imagine that, a Snowy Owl sighting in the last few hours of daylight on the last day of the year. I felt much like Kenny Bostick spotting his most coveted species as his bird year came to a close.

Snowy Owl in Port Weller

Throughout this past year, we were lucky enough to participate in some group birding excursions in May and October for the Buffalo Ornithological Society (BOS) bird count for Southeastern Ontario.

This was a significant contributing factor to the number of species that were a part of our Niagara list for this year as we are among some of the most experienced birders who wilfully share their knowledge with us.

This is a great learning opportunity, as these excursions test our bird watching skills. Forcing us to ditch our cameras for binoculars, we are challenged to recognize a variety of bird calls.

Bird Watching

A Record Year of Birding

This year marks the highest number of recorded bird sightings since we began birding, and it seems to grow exponentially each year. Trevor takes the trophy for the two of us, finishing 5th for the top 100 birders in the Niagara region with 128 species, and myself finishing a close 7th, with a total of 117. Not bad for a young couple who still have a lot to learn.

A few notable species to highlight that we were able to photograph for our Niagara list this year were Tufted Titmouse, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur and catching a glimpse of a Common Nighthawk, Sora and Pine Siskin.

Winter Birds

Beyond Niagara: Point Pelee National Park

Beyond the Niagara region, we made our third visit to Point Pelee National Park for the festival of birds in early May. This is always an exciting time for us as we take off midweek in hopes of seeing some great (new) species and improving on photos we have taken in previous years.

Point Pelee

For 3 days we woke up at the crack of dawn, bursting with excitement and taking the first tram of the day down to the tip to see what the migration brought in. After 15 hour days, we would head back to our site to upload and edit our photos and plan for the next day. This is where our friends would talk about how nerdy we are, getting excited about a trip like this.

Hooded warbler

As a successful birding year comes to a close, we begin 2016 with an exotic trip down to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico to see some different birds of a feather. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you in 2016. Thank you for the amazing support from the birding communities on Flickr, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Happy New Year!

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