Birds Canada Logo

Black-backed Woodpecker Photo: Mark Duchene 

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

This edition of the Atlas-3 newsletter will cover:

  • Introduction
  • Northern Trips: Ogoki 2022 report by Christian Renault
  • Big Atlas Weekend results
  • An Interview with Regan and David Goodyear – Ontario’s Big Atlas Weekend Most Valuable Atlassers
  • Atlas field crews; report by Scott Da Rocha
  • Square Bashes: a great success
  • Atlas Swag
  • Monthly challenge for September
  • Volunteer feedback needed

Introduction

Two down and only 3 glorious years of atlassing left to go. The phrase, known as the curse of the Atlas Coordinator, keeps coming to mind: “so much Ontario and so little time”.

Nevertheless, 2022, the second year of Atlas-3, leaves us optimistic. Data are still coming in at the time of writing (late August), so it’s hard to be too specific, but over 200 new atlassers took part in 2022, and the number of point counts is already higher than the 2021 total. And, there are probably lots of point counts and other data yet to be entered. Speaking of which….

Please aim to get your data in by the end of August. Having the data in by then helps us summarize and map progress to date, identify gaps in coverage, and helps us plan for 2023 and beyond. If you can’t make the end of August deadline, we still want your data, so please be sure to get them in as soon as possible.

Be sure that your records are properly documented, including pin-pointing locations of Significant Species. If you’re not sure how to do this, see the instructional video.

Northern Trips: Ogoki 2022

In 2022, we were able to start canoe-atlassing trips in the remote north, with 5 trips getting underway. It’s wonderful to see the data coming in from these exciting and often challenging expeditions, starting to fill in the huge gap at the north end of the province. We’ll be working hard to increase the number of trips in the north each year to ensure that we get adequate coverage. 

Here’s a write-up from one of the 2022 trips, from Christian Renault. When he’s not paddling the mighty Ogoki River, Christian is the Atlas RC for Region 26, Pembroke. Many thanks to Christian for his write-up, to the rest of his 4-person crew, and to all 5 of the intrepid crews that got us going in 2022.

Ogoki Trip Report – June 14-27 2022

Christian Renault

Nakina air base on Lake Cordingley was the meeting place. We flew off at 11:15 for about 35 minutes, our 2 canoes tied on the pontoons, and were dropped off at the mouth of the Dusey River, on the Ogoki River. Water level was high, so the current was strong. We paddled a short distance to a rocky point to settle for the night and plan for tomorrow.

The first 6 days were in the Canadian Shield, with rocky shorelines and several rapids. We had to portage a few for 30-70 m for safety. The crux was Eby Falls. We never found its portage, likely overgrown with dense young trees in this burn area with a lot of fallen trees. It was very difficult to portage, but Conor saved us time and effort by solo canoeing down to the last 70m, and then scaling the 50° slope of the shore.

Christain Renault and Alex Stone enjoy a moment along the Ogoki River.

Most of the area had fires in the recent past: a lot of black trees, some standing, some fallen, with new growth that made walking difficult. A lot of the forest is dense and has wetlands, with a lot of willows, alders, and dogwood in the way, plus black spruce branches in the face, and slippery fallen trees. Biting insects are always abundant, and at times, we had to use DEET to avoid insects between reading glasses and eyes, and while using the GPS units. We all have dried mosquitoes in our notebook pages, without trying.

The weather varied a lot, being a major factor on whether or not we could bird. It held us up 2 and a half days. We had several thunderstorms, many windy days (20+km/h), many showers, and temperatures that were often around 7°C early in the morning, one minimum of 3°C at night, but maximums varying from 11°C to 31°C in the day. The river was above 12°C and swimmable when we were hot.

Some bird highlights: Black-billed Cuckoo, Golden Eagle, Spruce Grouse, a Great Gray Owl flying in front of our canoes carrying food, a Northern Hawk-Owl perched on top of a dead tree, harassed by 2 Tree Swallows and a Robin. Some common species: Black-backed Woodpecker, Cape May Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Connecticut Warbler, Canada Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Red Crossbill, both kinglets. Not so common: Canada Jay, Boreal Chickadee.

The last 6 days were on the Albany River, from Ogoki to Stonebasket Island. It was hard to find a landing shore, and most of the shoreline had banks over 45° slope. We could find tent space between fallen logs. Gradually, the forest became less dense and opened up to flat land with sparse small trees, but everywhere soggy with sphagnum moss, and abundant biting insects. Physically, it was not as hard as the first week, but walking several km in soggy sphagnum was still exhausting. The current was also stronger: we could hardly paddle upstream (“Ogoki Treadmill”), or stay in place if we went swimming .

Point counts were done on 6 mornings: typically, we woke up at 0430, left after 0500 to go birding, and, depending on the terrain and distance covered, came back between 0900 and 1100.

General atlassing was done constantly, at the campsites, portaging, at any stops along the way, and while paddling, most often one canoe along one shore, the other, on the opposite shore. We also recorded most of the birds that were heard and saw as we walked to the point counts. This way, the great majority of the birds we detected became statistics.

Some highlights: One night, we were woken up at 4:28 by a Boreal Owl singing amidst our tents. Ducklings and their mothers. A few Sandhill Cranes. Several nice Warblers: Canada, Connecticut, Bay-breasted, Tennessee. A Spruce Grouse on the shore while we paddled close by. On the last 2 days, we got a few species that had eluded us: Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Orange-crowned Warbler, another Great Gray Owl and Northern Hawk-Owl. On the last night, we counted all the species we saw and heard: 105. We rejoiced with the results, and some of the lifers we heard or saw.

We were happy to jump back in the plane, relieved that we all made it safely, healthy, and uninjured. The weather was nice, and from the air, we could see the boreal forest, the moss plains, the small rivers, beaver ponds, the “ice road” leading to Ogoki that is hard to walk on in the summer, being full of bush and moss. We were happy to go back home, but we all enjoyed the birding experience, despite the weather, the almost continuous soggy wetlands, difficult rapids, and the myriads of insects who “liked” us.

Two of us got to Nakina 2 days earlier to do general atlassing and point counts in the Lake Cordingley square. We were glad to do that, as it acquainted us with less familiar bird songs from the Boreal Forest, and with some new camping equipment. Also, to develop methods of preparing food despite abundant insects, and getting in and out of our tents without having too many insects following us.

Final remarks: We formed a great team, and got along very well. Filtered water was certainly easier and faster to produce than using pills or boiling it, and we all drank a lot because of the wind, sometimes the heat, and the sweat while walking or canoeing. We didn’t see bear. All food was in sealed containers to avoid diffusing smells, mostly in 30L barrels, protected from rodents. Meals were cooked ahead and dehydrated, or prepared  with dry food. Fresh ingredients that lasted long: peppers, onions, apples, carrots. Most food was cooked on wood fire, and sometimes with liquid combustible. Spruce or cedar tea provided vitamin C. Several pairs of dry socks essential.

What brought us to this challenging landscape , and travel on canoes with strangers for 12 days? Passion for the birds, and the outdoors. Also, the motivation of acquiring data for Atlas-3 energized us to overcome the insects, being wet, and cold several times.

  • Team Members: Stéphane Menu, Conor Mihell, Christian Renault, Alex Stone.

Big Atlas Weekend

This year, the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas joined Newfoundland, New York, Maine, Maryland and DC, and North Carolina for an exciting annual event – the Big Atlas Weekend! This event was a fun way for birders to document breeding birds and come together as a birding community that crossed borders. Although Ontario didn’t claim bragging rights for winning the Big Atlas Weekend trophy (we’ll get it next year!), we collected a lot of important data for the project:

An impressive 287 Atlassers participated in the event over the June 24-26 weekend. These Atlassers submitted 1,590 checklists (totalling 886 hours of data collection) which took place over 463 squares. Thanks to these efforts, 16,967 breeding evidence records were reported for 197 species!
Over the course of the Big Atlas Weekend, there were prize opportunities for atlassers of all skill levels, ranging from first-timers to veterans: 
  • Donna Ferguson won the challenge to submit a complete Atlas checklist, with breeding evidence, in a new-to-user square. 
  • Jay Solanki recorded a Willow Flycatcher in square 17TNJ25, which crowned him the winner for the challenge to submit species with breeding evidence that were not reported with breeding evidence in that square before the Big Atlas Weekend
  • Dave Worthington won the challenge to submit a complete atlas checklist with at least one species with Confirmed breeding evidence by recording an American Robin with the breeding evidence code FY (Recently Fledged Young or downy young incapable of sustained flight)
  • Sue Deadman did some atlassing in the evening time, and won the challenge to submit a complete Atlas checklist with nocturnal effort
  • Samantha McFarlane won the challenge to submit a complete Atlas checklist in a square with less than 20 hours of atlassing in the peak season
  • Joseph Bloom recorded a Bobolink, and won the challenge to submit a complete Atlas checklist with at least one significant species (with breeding evidence)
  • Regan and David Goodyear won the Most Valuable Atlassers for submitting the most records for each challenge category. Read more about our Big Atlas Weekend MVAs below! 

An Interview with Regan and David Goodyear – Ontario’s Big Atlas Weekend Most Valuable Atlassers

By: Alyssa Sandford

On June 24-26, 2022 the Atlasses from Ontario, Newfoundland, Maine, New York, North Carolina and Maryland/D.C. participated in the Big Atlas Weekend. Ontario came in 3rd, and we are proud of the contributions and efforts all our atlassers made. Two of our atlassers, however, went “above and beyond” that weekend. Regan and David Goodyear have been avid birders, community scientists and adventurers for over 35 years, and are two of the Regional Coordinators in Muskoka (Region 18).

Regan and David Goodyear, Ontario’s Most Valuable Atlassers for the 2022 Big Atlas Weekend

They have already spent hundreds of hours helping with the coordination, running and reviewing of records in the Muskoka region, and have even taken on 7 squares themselves. The Big Atlas Weekend sounded like fun and was a great way to work on some of their squares, so they joined in with gusto. Some of their notable highlights on that weekend included 49 checklists in squares with less than 20 hours of peak-season atlassing, and 219 records of species with breeding evidence that were not recorded prior to that weekend. They also had 22 records of confirmed breeding, and documented 7 significant species with breeding evidence.

To learn more about their Atlas work and their Big Atlas Weekend efforts, I sat down with them virtually for an interview.

Do you always birdwatch together?

Yes, a lot of people say that we are lucky to have a spouse who enjoys birding.

What do you enjoy most about atlassing?

It’s changed the way we bird. We were always avid listers, but atlassing makes you ask a lot more questions about the bird; what are those two Cardinals doing? Is it a pair? Oh, look, they are mate feeding. Then you might notice the Mourning Doves are preening each other and the House Wrens are investigating nest boxes. It takes you so much further into birding than just ticking a list. So yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve learned a lot.

We’ve gone to places in the Muskoka Atlas Region that we didn’t know existed or would otherwise never have visited. A lot of back roads, strange places, a lot of hydro cuts and backwoods trails. Places like those squares up in Parry Sound, in the north corner of our Region. We don’t think we’d have gone up there if we hadn’t been going up to Atlas. We’ve found some amazing, beautiful places. We also got kayaks when the Atlas started, so that we could go paddle-birding. In Muskoka, if you don’t own property on a lake, it’s very difficult to access shorelines. With the kayaks we’ve paddled over 250 km, and we can now go up all these creeks and into marshes and up the rivers. It’s just opened up so much more of Muskoka. It’s been really fun.

The other really cool thing about atlassing is all the people. We were going to say people we have met, but we actually haven’t met them. We haven’t physically met them yet because of COVID-19, but we’ve spent a lot of time emailing atlassers, answering questions and chatting. We’ve had a few online meetings with atlassers, and we’re hoping that next year we will be able to get together in person and do some square bashing with the people that we’ve met. We have a great crew of committed atlassers here.

Where did you focus your efforts for the big Atlas weekend?

The Atlas office had suggested atlassing in squares you hadn’t birded, so we looked at the coverage map and we found some squares that needed hours. We stayed in the Muskoka Atlas Region, and we looked for squares that didn’t have many hours in them. A couple of them may have had zero hours.

Another thing we did was plan ahead. When we’re going to do point counts in a square, we go and we pre-bird the point counts. We go up a week before, and we spend 15 minutes to half an hour in the area so that when we go back to do the point count a week later, any bird that we re-record during the point counts can be counted as being on Territory from the week before, which bumps them up to Probable breeding evidence [the Territory code is Presumed Territory based on the presence of an adult bird (usually singing, but not necessarily so), in the same suitable nesting habitat patch on at least two visits, one week or more apart, during the species’ breeding season]. So, on that Big Atlas Weekend we had pre-birded some of the squares the week before, ensuring that we were able to upgrade many species’ breeding evidence to “T”. Some of our northern squares take over an hour to get to, so we can’t bird them every day. We’ve got to be a little more strategic about getting to those squares and upgrading breeding evidence.

What was the most memorable moment for you during the Big Atlas Weekend?

It was probably the Seguin Trail – it’s an amazing trail. We walked up the trail, and when we looked on our Avenza maps, we realized it ran through two squares. We walked further than planned so that we could get into the next square and get some birds for that square, as well. We found 4 Virginia Rails in one square, and then another one called back from the other square. It was pretty cool, 5 Virginia Rails and a couple of Soras. They were completely unexpected. That was also the day we found the Eastern Kingbird nest. There was a birch stump sticking up about five feet above the water. The Kingbirds were nesting right on the top of it, completely exposed. No attempt to protect the nest from the elements. The adults were flying back and forth, feeding the young in the nest. We could see the young in our scope and every time the parents came close, all the little mouths came up. It was great.

Eastern Kingbird with young (Photo: Regan and David Goodyear)

Did you do the northern squares because you hadn’t been there or because there wasn’t any data?

The first two squares we did because we hadn’t been there yet, and the other two because they had minimal coverage. We did point counts in one of the squares so that we can go up for a Square Bash next year. The point counts will be done, and we can get people to go up and bash through the hours which will help us get the squares finished!

We’re kind of sad though, we can’t believe there are two seasons gone already. Noooo!

Atlas Field Crew Report

Each year, the Atlas hires a crew of early career birders to help fill in gaps in Atlas coverage – usually in Central Ontario. This year, Birds Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service and Ontario Nature joined forces to hire two crews of 4 people that set about filling in empty squares in the part of the province from Algonquin Park to the Hearst area.. Scott Da Rocha was a member of the “Southern” crew, employed by Birds Canada. He wrote the following report on his summer’s work. 

My Atlas Experience 

Scott Da Rocha, 2022 Atlas Wildlife Technician

Scott Da Rocha conducting fieldwork for Atlas-3

Ever since I started my academic career 6 years ago and saw my first Red-tailed Hawk snatch a snake from a field, I have been fascinated by birds and their behaviours. When I joined Birds Canada and the Ontario Atlas team in May, I was thrilled, and knew it was going to be an experience I would not forget. From the training week in Killbear Provincial Park, where we refined our bird ID skills and learned about atlassing techniques, to the final days at our campsite, every moment was exciting and meaningful. 

As part of the Atlas’ “Southern Crew”, we were tasked with surveying in Central Ontario, which took us to many interesting spots around Sudbury and Algonquin. One of the most memorable of these spots was the northern portion of Algonquin, and Driftwood, the provincial park we stayed at for that week. Our time spent in this section of Algonquin was truly magical. Wildlife was plentiful in this area, especially bears. We even started calling one of the logging roads Bear Road, as we would see at least 5 bears a day on this road! Of course, I can’t talk about the Atlas without mentioning the many bird species we encountered. We saw American Woodcocks during their flight displays and even Common Nighthawks performing their boom display, which I had never seen in person. Algonquin also revealed to us many warbler species, like Bay-breasted and Cape May warblers, which were a treat to see. We also had the pleasure of hearing Barred Owls and Eastern Whip-poor-wills back at the Driftwood campsites!

Our time in the field took us to many more special areas, where we witnessed countless breeding evidence. We observed many recently fledged young, adults entering nests with food, and adults protecting their young with distraction displays. Although all these observations were a sight to see, it did not come without sacrifice. We would wake up at 4 AM and battle the hordes of mosquitoes and deer flies daily, not to mention the harsh roads we drove through and difficult terrain that we hiked. Despite these obstacles, it was worth it all. I am thankful that I got to witness these unique habitats and “celebrity” birds that, some of which I had only seen in pictures.

Thank you again to the Atlas team! I am very grateful to be a part of bird conservation.

  • Scott

(Special thanks to all field staff: Karl Heide, Abbey Lewis, Mark Duchene, Justin Kreller, Tim Lucas, Dana Latour, Sarahanne Thompson, and Scott Da Rocha for their hard work this summer)

Square-bashes: a great success!

Square-bashes got underway in 2022 to great effect, and a good time was had by all. A big thanks to Anna Sheppard of Ontario Parks who helped a lot in arranging the events, which were all based out of Provincial Parks. Anna was also a significant participant in two of the events, and wrote an article for the Ontario Parks blog that provides a nice overview of the events and why you should be signing up next year. Here’s her article: Square bashes with the Breeding Bird Atlas (ontarioparks.com)

Anna Sheppard (steering) and Alison Lake of Ontario Parks paddle back in from an evening’s square-bashing in Grundy Lake Provincial Park – to a chorus of serenading Hermit Thrushes! (Photo: Mike Cadman) 

Thanks too, to Emily Rondel and Mark Peck who arranged a Square-bash out of Halfway Lake Provincial Park, northwest of Sudbury. Here’s their report:

Halfway Lake Square Bash – 10 -14 June, 2022

Mark Peck and Emily Rondel

Emily and I are Regional Coordinators (RCs) for Toronto (Region 12). It is one of the smallest regions with 16 squares, 3 RCs, plenty of volunteers and lots of visiting atlassers. In comparison, Sudbury West (Region 32) has 60 squares, 1 RC, fewer volunteers and only the occasional atlasser entering in birds they can easily identify as the drive along Highway 144 on the way to Timmins. Life is not fair. So, when Mike Cadman asked us if we would run a square bash in Sudbury West we happily agreed. It had been a long two years dealing with COVID and it would be fun to be out birding with a group of people again. The original plan was to bring a group from the Toronto Ornithological Club north for a June weekend, camp in Halfway Lake Provincial Park and atlas as many nearby squares as we could. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan and as June approached it was clear the Toronto team was going to be very small, in fact, just the two of us. However, things were still moving forward, and the volunteer numbers were growing. Darryl Edwards, the RC for Sudbury West was atlassing in other parts of the region but would join us for Saturday. Ed Morris, the Northeast Ecologist for Ontario Parks had sent us an email with important park information and valuable suggestions and was going to help as well. Rebecca Rogue, a Resource Steward from Ontario Parks was also going to join us for the weekend. In addition, Bruce and Monica Gates, birders from nearby Dowling were coming as were Lindsay and Peter Bryan, annual seasonal campers at Halfway Lake. Gwen and Gerry Binsfeld had also agreed to come in from Manitoulin and give us a hand for a couple of days. Gerry and I had been on 4 northern trips together during the 2nd Atlas so I was looking forward to spending atlas time with him again. And finally, Alexandria Bludgell, one of the atlas fieldworkers hired in 2021 emailed us to let us know she was excited to join us and would even bring a friend, Imene Niali to help. Things were looking up. Thanks to the generosity and efforts of Ontario Parks, Anna Sheppard, Erika Poupore and the Atlas office, 5 campsites, close to the washrooms and electrical hookups had been reserved for us, free of charge, for the length of our stay.

We arrived on Friday afternoon, set up the tent and then took a drive around the area to get a feel for the habitat. It would be an interesting 4 days. Most of the roads leading off Highway 144 were logging roads, some traveling long distances through a variety of boreal habitats, some pristine, some recently logged. By the time we were back at the campsite Alexandria and Imene had arrived, set up a large, beautiful tent, which put ours to shame, and were already busy getting organized. Gerry and Gwen had opted to stay in a hotel 20 minutes south of the park and had driven up to check in. The rest of our team dropped by throughout the afternoon, and by dinner time we had a plan in place. Our focus would be point counts from 5 until 10 each morning and then we would continue with general atlassing the rest of the day or until we were tired, whichever came first. Darryl, Rebecca and Ed, knew the area better and would take on the more challenging and difficult to access locations while the rest of us would conduct point counts closer to Halfway Lake. 

Gerry and Gwen Binsfeld navigating a flooded road in support of the Atlas (Photo: Mark Peck)

We would join Gerry and Gwen and take one of the longer roadside routes and leapfrog each other, alternating point counts. It was a good plan except for one problem. Nearly all our point counts were on old logging roads and although most of the roads were in great shape, the first one we visited wasn’t. The first flooded area we went through was difficult but passable and we thought we were in the clear. However, 500 m farther along the flooding was even deeper and it was obvious we were not going any farther. Our first fifteen planned point counts were now inaccessible. Fortunately, the Avenza Map app on our phones came to the rescue. We had downloaded the Atlas square maps before coming north so it was just a matter of turning around and driving to point counts 21 through 35 which were on another, nearby road. Despite being outside of internet service all the apps and technology were working flawlessly. Avenza directed us to the point counts, NatureCounts was storing all the data, and we were using Merlin in the background to double check our counts. The Merlin audio app is by no means perfect, but it did help with some hard to recognize songs like Philadelphia Vireo and some of the high-pitched warbler songs. Rebecca, Alexandria and Imene were recording their point counts with the Zoom units which would be analysed later. For safety reasons we were working in pairs as much as possible with one person being responsible for point counts while the other person would focus on general atlassing. We all returned to camp in the afternoon, had an early dinner and then met up to go through the day’s events. Even though most of us were in tents the electrical hookups were handy to have and allowed us to recharge our phones at the end of each day. We had also brought a couple of battery packs that could be used in the field if our phones ran out of power. It had been a good day. Several Olive-sided Flycatchers had been heard and seen, often in areas that had been logged and replanted with jack pines. A good diversity of boreal warblers had been found and both species of kinglets were singing in the campgrounds. It was great to be out birding in a new area of Ontario again.

Emily Rondel conducting a roadside point count. (Photo: Mark Peck)

The next 3 days were similar. Wake up at 4:30, a quick breakfast and then off to a new square. At one point I went off with Alexandria and Imene to conduct an off-road point count and Alexandria gave me a quick, in the field workshop on the Avenza app and the Zoom recorders. She had been using both extensively last year, knew them well, and was able to teach me some valuable short cuts. Each habitat we visited was different and had a different suite of birds. Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were common in the spruce forests, and a few Philadelphia Vireos in the aspen groves. Gwen had seen a Spruce Grouse on one of jack pine trail walks and Emily and I found an Eastern Bluebird in an open wetland. Back at the campsite, Lindsay and Peter had been visited by a Black-backed Woodpecker and Bruce and Monica had set up a hummingbird feeder alongside their trailer and already had a ruby-throated visiting.

Most of our team were only able to stay for a day or two but by the time we left after finishing our point counts on Tuesday morning our group had been able to complete point counts, both on-road and off-road, for 4 squares. We had also done a lot of general atlassing hours and had a very enjoyable time with a lot of great people. The staff at Halfway Lake Provincial Park had been very helpful and we are already looking forward to working with Darryl Edwards next year to further support Sudbury West. If you haven’t tried atlassing in northern Ontario I hope you will consider joining in a square bash in the remaining 3 years. Great birds, beautiful country and the bugs are not as bad as you might think.

Atlas Swag

You can now purchase almost anything (T-shirts, caps, mugs, tote bags, stickers, etc.) with the Atlas logo on it. To view the merchandise and make your purchases, click here. Looking forward to seeing you stylishly sporting your Atlas gear!

Monthly Challenge

The Atlas runs a monthly challenge to help encourage atlassers and thank them for their efforts. Each month, a bird-related prize is sent to a lucky atlasser who met that month’s challenge. For the month of September, Atlassers who submit a photo of people atlassing with a sentence or two describing the atlassing adventure will be entered for a chance to win a one year subscription to Birds Canada’s quarterly magazine, BirdWatch! We want to see and share what everyone has been up to this season! Submit photos here: www.birdsontario.org/media-submission/  The September challenge ends on September 30th. 

Volunteer feedback needed 

The Atlas-3 team is pleased to pass along this message from a group of researchers who are investigating how volunteer experiences in atlassing contribute to conservation outcomes. They welcome feedback from Atlas participants:

The Engaging Communities in Conversation Outcomes or ECCO project wants to learn about how community engagement through citizen science contributes to conservation outcomes. Your experience and expertise as a citizen scientist is key to this learning. If you are interested and willing to share your experience working on the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, we want to talk to you. 

For more information or to set up a conversation, contact Kayla.Wiens[at]alumni.unbc.ca or go to: eccoproject.squarespace.com

 

Until next time!

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

 

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

Wildlife Habitat Canada

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada (Canada Summer Jobs)

Newmont

Parks Canada Agency

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 






Birds Canada Logo

Northern Parula Photo: Scott Leslie 

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

This edition of the Atlas-3 newsletter will cover:

  • Introduction
  • Atlas-2 book makes digital leap, supports Atlas-3 outreach
  • In praise of Zooming – Susan Bryan
  • Profile atlasser – Derek Armstrong, Manitoulin
  • Reminders from Significant Species Committee
  • New eBird information page
  • Avian Flu

Introduction: gearing up for year 2

With the birds now pouring back in, the excitement starts to build. By the end of May, almost every adult bird in the province (except perhaps in the far north!) will be on a breeding site and waiting for you to add it to the Atlas! Don’t disappoint them. Get out there and enjoy the searching, the discoveries, the camaraderie, and the satisfaction of helping fill in gaps in Atlas results.

We had a good first year, and now we build on that. In some ways, it gets a little harder each year because the focus is shifting to finding the missing species and visiting the previously unsurveyed locations. But the enjoyment and satisfaction increases with each new checklist or point count in previously untrammeled Atlas territory, each new species for a square, and every time you increase breeding evidence for a species.

It may require more planning, especially in squares with data from year 1, but don’t shirk. We’re hoping that with fewer COVID restrictions in place, atlassers will be freer to move around the province and able to focus on filling holes in Atlas coverage. See the Coverage Map and talk to your Regional Coordinator, to see how you can help. There are going to be social atlassing events in many atlas regions this summer.

Year-2 Kickoff

The second year of the Atlas got off to a great start with our 2022 Kickoff event! If you missed the online portion of the weekend, you can watch the recordings on our YouTube channel. We had several fun challenges in the weeks leading up to the event, and the results are in:

The Region with the most confirmed breeding evidence was Region 7 (Waterloo) with 17 confirmed records. Brent from Region 7 won the Confirmed Breeding Evidence challenge with the AE code (adult Entering, occupying, or leaving a nest site or whose behavior suggests the presence of an occupied nest) for an American Robin.

The North came out strong, winning two challenges: first, Pierre from Region 41 won our Owl Survey Challenge by conducting a Northern Hawk Owl survey. The Photo Submission Challenge was won by Angie in Region 42, her winning photo can be seen on the right.

Finally, our Sunday trivia prize goes to Elena from Region 24! Excellent work!

Extra incentive

As an extra incentive to encourage you to go atlassing in new or poorly covered squares, we are offering a prize of the hard copy book Atlas of the Breeding Birds Of Ontario 2001-2005 for one lucky atlasser who adds 50 or more species with breeding evidence to a square in 2022. We’ll draw a random name from those who qualify at the end of the summer. Good luck to all!

Square-bashes

Though the Grundy Lake event is full, there is still room for more participants on our Square-bashes at Mikisew and Halfway Lake Provincial Parks, and at the Block Party in northeastern Ontario in June.  These events are a great way to learn more about atlassing, meet and work with some fellow atlassers, and to help fill in coverage in the “central” part of the province where help is much needed. Hoping you will join us – or do your own atlassing in the area. You should also check with your RC to see what local square-bashing events are planned in your region.

Big Atlas Weekend

Mark your calendar. As an additional fun incentive this year, we are joining with the other Atlases underway elsewhere in North America to do a Big Atlas Weekend on June 24-26, 2022. More details on this later, but we have been challenged to see if we can match the atlassing efforts in the other Atlases in the US and Newfoundland over that weekend. Can we show our American friends how it is done? We have a proud history of atlassing in this province – see Gregor’s note below – but the gauntlet has been dropped!

 

Atlas Swag

You can now purchase almost anything (T-shirts, caps, mugs, tote bags, etc.) with an Atlas logo on it. To view the merchandise and make your purchases, click here. Looking forward to seeing you stylishly sporting your Atlas gear!

Atlas stickers

Is your windshield in need of some beautification? Is your travel mug or laptop looking too plain? Well, you can help spruce up these items, identify yourself as an atlasser, and provide some low-key promotion for the Atlas by using Atlas stickers in prominent places such as these. The clear plastic stickers with the Atlas logo, see example to the right, are available from Regional Coordinators

Zoom point counts

We are encouraging atlassers to do point counts this year, both traditional and digital. See Susan Bryan’s note below on her adventures as a Zoomer – we hope you’ll be inspired to try it yourself.

Highlighting atlassers

And, finally, we are starting a new feature highlighting individual atlassers. The first of these, on Manitoulin Island’s Derek Armstrong, is below. Thanks, Derek, for doing this. We’re looking forward to profiling more atlassers in future issues.

Atlas-2 Book Supports Outreach and Engagement Goals for Atlas-3

Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001 – 2005, Makes Digital Leap!

Toward the conclusion of the fieldwork phase of the second Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas project (Atlas-2), the Atlas partners and staff, together with scores of dedicated volunteer contributors, reviewers, editors, and photographers, began work on the book publication which was the culmination of the project. Completed in late fall 2007, and launched officially in early 2008, the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001 – 2005, was extremely well received with a successful print run of 4,500 copies.

The Atlas-2 book spans 728 information-packed pages, with detailed accounts for the 286 bird species documented through the project by 3,417 volunteers, making it the province’s most authoritative resource on birds and bird distribution at the time. The book’s detailed text is supported by more than 900 maps (including both breeding evidence and relative abundance) and over 400 photographs, with additional chapters on topics including changes in bird populations and distribution, results highlights, biogeography, and more.

Margaret Atwood and the late Graeme Gibson called the Atlas publication “a monumental achievement… presented with a remarkable clarity and style. Invaluable for the thoroughness of its science, the Atlas is also a wonderful book to simply browse…. This book is a must for everyone interested in birds, Ontario, and the natural world.” Prof. Daniel Mennill, University of Windsor, writing in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, noted “[the Atlas] is a monumental achievement and sets a new standard for breeding bird atlases.”

Now, 15 years later, the Atlas-2 book is very nearly out of print, marking the successful completion of its print publication – but, the book will continue to contribute to bird conservation in Ontario and will live on in new and exciting ways! The Atlas team always hoped that the project and resulting publication would contribute not only to our understanding of bird biology, populations and conservation, but also serve as a vehicle for outreach, awareness and education. To help further these goals, some remaining copies of the book are being used to support outreach and engagement with Indigenous communities and youth for the Atlas-3 project. In this way, the Atlas-2 book and proceeds from its sale are helping to bridge the two projects and support expanding outreach efforts – a heartening and valuable connection that will benefit birds, conservation, and community.

While a few dozen hard copies of the Atlas-2 book can still be purchased through Ontario Nature, we are very excited to announce that the entire “Atlas of Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005” is now available digitally on the Atlas website. The Atlas has been formatted for easy reading and browsing in digital format and will provide ongoing access to the book for countless new and eager readers.

The linkages and connections from one Atlas to the next, and the opportunity for the Atlas-2 project to support the goals and outcomes for Atlas-3, is a particularly fitting and positive outcome. Whether you continue browsing the Atlas-2 book in hard copy, online, or in both formats, we hope that you enjoy this exciting contribution to the understanding and conservation of birds in Ontario.

Gregor Beck

Senior Strategist, Birds Canada

Management Committee Chair, Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas

 

Atlas-3 discussion board gets a makeover; an Atlas-3 Discord server

After limited uptake in year one, the Atlas has changed direction on the discussion board and replaced it with a space on Discord. A free online service, Discord lets people form their own “servers” as a place where their members can talk and share information. The main benefit of using Discord is that it has a dedicated mobile app so it’s easy to quickly open it up and ask a short question, even when you’re in the field. We hope this is a good tool for atlassers to ask questions, share stories, stay up to date on announcements, learn from and connect with each other.

If you want to just read the Discord discussion, then you can continue viewing it all on the Atlas-3 website. The new discussion board is found under the “Get Involved” menu or by direct link at www.birdsontario.org/discussion

If you’d like to participate, then you’ll have to first create an account with Discord, then you can join the Atlas-3 server using this invite link: https://discord.gg/JCfgfr3egG

We have structured the discussion board with basically the same major subjects (or channels, as they are called in Discord) as we had on “the original” Atlas-3 discussion board, and done our best to copy the discussion board content over to Discord.

For a tutorial on joining the discord server see: https://youtu.be/YPWgY0pXfSs

 

In Praise of Zooming

The word “Zoomer” has two interpretations:

Zoomer  (modern slang) – a member of Generation Z, a person born after 1996 (that makes the oldest member 26 now).

Zoomer  (as celebrated by “Zoomer” magazine) – an especially active baby boomer with a positive vision of aging.

I am definitely in the latter group, being over 70 with failing hearing (especially at higher pitches), but otherwise physically able and keen to participate in bird atlassing.  The acoustic point count recorders (Zoom devices) provided by the Atlas were perfect. 

I used to enjoy point counts.  I covered many remote squares in northern Ontario for the second OBBA and also did a Breeding Bird Survey route each year.  But that was 20 years ago.  By the time the third atlas began, my hearing was just too far gone – I could see the Blackburnian Warbler sitting on a branch above me, his mouth open, his chest pumping, but I heard absolutely nothing.  My atlassing days seemed to be over.  Even though I am fit enough and willing to visit remote locations, another volunteer with good hearing would always have to accompany me, or even worse, go on a separate trip to complete my inadequate Square coverage.  This was not a good use of limited Atlas resources or volunteer time. It also made me feel inadequate. 

Then the option of a “Zoom” point count recorder was offered.  It sounded good, but I am not a technophile.  Would I be able to deal with the technology?  After a little practice, I took the portable unit on holidays with me throughout June and July, recording point counts whenever and wherever I could.  This included a family vacation to the Bruce Peninsula, a boat expedition to Michipicoten Island in the middle of Lake Superior, at my cottage on Lake Superior south of Thunder Bay, and while covering squares in Kenora District.  The recorder worked well, was easy to truck along in a boat or a knapsack, and rugged enough to stand up to some challenging travels in remote locations. 

How did it go?  The recordings were successfully interpreted by experts over the winter and the data will be uploaded to NatureCounts in the next few weeks. Atlas staff assure me that this will happen more quickly now that the system has been worked out.  I listened to several of the recordings with another (younger) birder with good hearing who was impressed with the sound quality, and I’m looking forward to seeing the data in the system. And I did learn that I am again fully functional, thanks to the new technology!

If you try the acoustic recorder this summer I really recommend spending some time getting used to the device at home. The instructions that come with the unit are comprehensive, but it takes a bit of time to get comfortable with the technology.

Noise interference created some challenges for our recordings.  One of the pre-set point counts in Sioux Lookout was located at the edge of town next to the airport.  We checked it out in advance – all quiet the evening before.  However, the next morning at 5:45 am there were endless airplanes taking off from the airport, trains shunting on nearby tracks, convoys of pulp trucks passing, machinery with backup alarms ringing at a nearby construction site.  Where had all these people come from at 5:45 in the morning?  It was like point-counting at a heavy industrial site during peak operations.  Obviously the pace of life in this small northern town has picked up significantly since point counts were done there 20 years earlier. 

We also encountered some amusing “natural” noise interference.  Soon after recording started at a wilderness wetland site (west of Silver Dollar, Kenora District) a pair of screaming Greater Yellowlegs started endless flyover assaults.  The continuous tew-tew-tew-tew-tew of the pair drowned out every other fainter call in the background.  The recording was useless for identifying any species other than Greater Yellowlegs. 

Thanks to the new technology, I no longer feel like an inadequate birder – I can now do the full job because I am a “Zoomer”.  This summer I am off “Square bashing” with my Zoom recorder on a three day camping trip to remote Lake Superior islands.  I’ve also planned another trip out to Michipicoten Island, and further square bashing in Kenora District.  Who knows where else my Zoom and I may go? 

I certainly encourage anyone interested in being fully involved with the Atlas work to use the Zoom units on offer (ask your Regional Coordinator).  Whether you need a digital recorder because of decreased hearing, or simply because you are not strong at identifying birds by song, the units can allow you to capably collect the data needed by the Atlas.  The units are simple to use, portable, and free.  You too can be a Zoomer !!!!

Susan Bryan, Thunder Bay.

Atlasser profile: Derek Armstrong, Manitoulin Region

Hi. My name is Derek Armstrong. I am a very amateur birder and have been involved in the BBA for just over a year.  I’ll explain how I got involved, but first a little bit about myself.

I live with my family on a small rural property in the south end of Sudbury.  I am a recently retired geologist, with a 30 plus year career that exposed me to lots of nature (especially mosquitos!!), in many locations across the province. 

Derek on the Severn River in Northwestern Ontario

These experiences and our rural setting have stimulated my general interest in nature and inspired me to join iNaturalist and various nature-based Facebook groups. My birding experience was largely restricted to watching those that came to our winter feeders and birds we heard and saw on our daily dog walks in the woods near our place. 

How did you come to be involved in the atlas? 

I was invited to participate in the BBA by one of our local Regional Coordinators, possibly based on my numerous submissions to iNaturalist. It certainly wasn’t because of my birding expertise, because I have very little. 

In what ways have you participated? 

My first experience atlassing was to help out with an owl survey last year. It’s a relatively easy survey for beginners, made even easier for me because we didn’t hear any(!).  I did though hear my first ever Wilson’s Snipe. I was hooked!

I then offered to be responsible for the BBA square that we live in, thinking it best to start with familiar geography and birds.   Point counts I knew would be my biggest challenge, as they require a high degree of bird song identification ability.  Coincidentally, I discovered the Bird ID and BirdSong ID workshops that the University of Guelph’s Arboretum started to deliver online due to the Covid pandemic. Chris Earley did a wonderful job teaching these workshops!  Despite this, I still didn’t feel confident enough to do my own Point Counts, so took advantage of the digital audio recording devices being offered by BBA for this purpose. These recording devices made it easy to complete the required number of point counts for my square. The recordings were also a good way to review bird songs and practice identifications.  

I also did a Nightjar Survey for my square. We commonly hear Eastern Whip-poor-wills around here, so this was an easy survey to do.  

What do you like the most about atlassing? 

Atlassing provided focus and extra incentive for my bird watching. It inspired me to go out to find birds, not just sit at home and watch what came to our feeders.  Doing point counts got me out early in the mornings during breeding season, to places I might not otherwise get to, and discover birds I would have otherwise missed. Highlights from my first year atlassing include hearing the very weird mating call of the male American Bittern and discovering a Great Blue Heron rookery.  

What have you learned? 

Atlassing inspired me to learn more about birds that I wouldn’t otherwise have come across. And learning bird songs helped me realize how many more birds are out there than I previously realized. 

What do you think of the atlas (it’s importance, etc)?

I think we take a lot for granted when we look at species range maps and other information in field guides. And when data is compared over the years, from atlas to atlas, differences can be seen: some species recovering, others declining, or moving in response to factors like climate change. It’s very cool to take part in gathering the sort of data that goes into producing those maps, guides and more in-depth analysis. 

What advice would you have for beginner birders?

Don’t be afraid of your own limitations, perceived or real. You may not consider yourself a “real” bird watcher (I don’t!), but don’t worry, not all atlassing activities require professional birding skills. Getting involved at any level in the Atlas can provide you with the opportunity and incentive to develop and hone your skills.  

In addition to your trusted field guide, you should check out smart phone apps like Merlin and eBird. They are great for helping to ID birds (including their songs and calls!) and keep track of your observations. And you should check out online birding communities, like local or provincial Facebook birding or naturalist groups. These are great resources to learn what birds are being seen in your area, share your observations and get help with your IDs from more experienced birders.  

Mostly though, get out there and have fun!

Significant Species Committee reminders

Atlassing outside of peak season

Don’t forget to refer to the breeding charts at www.birdsontario.org/safe-dates whenever you’re atlassing outside of peak atlassing season (May 24 to July 10). Exercise caution when using “lower” breeding codes during this time, especially outside of a species’ safe dates (when migrants/non-breeders may display similar behaviours).

Significant species

All flagged records get reviewed first by Regional Coordinators and then a secondary review by the significant species committee.

In general, we encourage atlassers to focus on increasing the quality of details provided (and especially on pinning locations) for significant species records.

Don’t forget that depending on the flag, we’re looking for different information:

Symbol Name Explanation Details requested
[rare] eBird flag If a species is rare for the date and location according to the eBird filter, you will be required to add details. Details about how you identified the species.
Provincially rare Provincially rare breeding species. Will be flagged if you enter breeding evidence. How did you identify the species? Explanation of breeding evidence. “Pin” the exact location(s).
Regionally rare Regionally rare breeding species. Will be flagged if you enter breeding evidence. How did you identify the species? Explanation of breeding evidence. “Pin” the exact location(s).
§ Species of interest Species of interest. Widespread species at risk or colonial species. Will be flagged if you enter confirmed-level breeding evidence. “Pin” the exact location(s) and for colonial species, details about the size and status of the colony.

New information page for eBirders

Do you eBird? We have put together a dedicated page of information for atlassers who also eBird. We hope it will answer all of your questions related to eBIrd and the Atlas. Check it out at https://www.birdsontario.org/ebird/. Still have questions? Then head over to the Atlas-3 discussion forum.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

As you are likely already aware, on March 21, 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), subtype H5N1, in a sample taken from a red-tailed hawk that was found in the Region of Waterloo. To date, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in multiple wild bird species including gulls, waterfowl, raptors and corvids.  The HPAI situation in Ontario is evolving rapidly and it is likely that Ontario will see more confirmed cases over the coming weeks and months.

As you prepare for a busy atlassing field season, we wanted to reach out and provide you with some general information and additional links to resources regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild birds.

The key message for atlassers at this time is:   If you encounter any dead, injured or sick birds, they should not be touched and if possible, should be immediately reported to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative by phone (866-673-4781) or report online (https://cwhc.wildlifesubmissions.org).

The Canada Food Inspection Agency just released a tremendous tool for the wild bird community to track and see what birds have been reported, where, how many, when and so many more details. For information on how to use this tool, click here.

For more information on HPAI, see this link.

 

Happy Atlassing!

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

 

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

Wildlife Habitat Canada

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada (Canada Summer Jobs)

Newmont

Parks Canada Agency

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 



Birds Canada Logo

Common Raven Photo: Mark Peck 

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

This edition of the Atlas-3 newsletter will cover: 

  • Year 2 kick-off event
  • New discussion board (Discord)
  • Owl surveys
  • Atlas clothing
  • Stickers
  • Atlassing in North-eastern Ontario
  • Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and the Atlas
  • Early Season Atlassing – April targets
  • Updates from Significant Species Committee

Tuning up for 2022

Spring is in the air, the birds are pouring back in and nesting behaviour is accelerating, for some species at least. It’s time to start gearing up for the coming season. Don’t forget to be studying Dendroica to tune up your ears for the building chorus and help you find those elusive birds. For tips on how to make the best use of Dendroica, check out this YouTube video.

2022 Atlassing Kick-off event – April 23 and 24

On the Earth Day Weekend, we are officially kicking off the atlassing season with webinars and (finally!) field events to help you get into atlassing mode and prepare you for the season ahead. Hoping you can join us.

The event will be somewhat similar to last year’s Launch weekend, but this time you get to meet fellow atlassers, do some first hand learning from experts, perhaps connect with an atlassing mentor or mentee, and contribute to the atlassing conversation face-to-face. 

In the afternoon of Saturday, April 23, there will be a series of webinars covering topics such as:

  • Intro to atlassing (for those new to the project)
  • Early season atlassing (Safe dates and Breeding evidence)
  • Special surveys (Owls and Marsh birds)
  • The new NatureCounts app, including how to pin significant records
  • How to use Zoom H2n recorders

Although we will have a webinar session introducing the Atlas, if you’re new to atlassing, you might want to check out the many resources on the Atlas YouTube channel prior to the event.

On Sunday morning, April 24, some Regional Coordinators are organizing local events across the province. These will give you a chance to meet your fellow atlassers, get some first-hand training on various aspects of atlassing and help with your planning for the season ahead. Bring your questions. Check with your RC for details of these events and the challenges mentioned below.

We are putting out three inter-regional challenges – where we will compare results among regions to determine which region wins.  The first is to see which region can do the most standardized owl surveys during March and April (up to April 22) – there will be prizes for each survey type, so one for the Eastern Screech-Owl survey, one for the Barred Owl and Northern Saw-Whet Owls survey, etc.  The second challenge is to see which region can confirm breeding for the most species during the period April 16-24, 2022 (Hint: Used nests from 2021 can be very useful here). And the third challenge is to see which region can provide the most pictures of atlassers in the field. To enter this one, tag @ONBirdAtlas on Instagram or @ONBreedingBirdAtlas on Facebook in your post or story, and make sure to include hashtags of both #ONBirdAtlas2022 and #RegionNUMBER (e.g. #Region08 or #Region37) with the photo so we can tally the results per region!

For each challenge, we’ll be doing some calibrations (e.g. based on the size and population densities of regions) to make these as fair as possible.  We want to be sure all regions are able to compete equally in the challenge! 

On Sunday afternoon, we’ll have a short session looking at the results of the various challenges, and providing a chance to ask your questions arising from the morning’s activities. There will also be a dastardly quiz of the kind that only Sarah Rupert can devise. Keep an eye on your inbox – we’ll be sending out more information in the coming weeks!

Atlas-3 discussion board gets a makeover: an Atlas-3 Discord server

After limited uptake in year one, the Atlas has changed direction on the discussion board and replaced it with a space on Discord. A free online service, Discord lets people form their own “servers” as a place where their members can talk and share information. The main benefit of using Discord is that it has a dedicated mobile app so it’s easy to quickly open it up and ask a short question, even when you’re in the field. We hope this is a good tool for atlassers to ask questions, share stories, stay up to date on announcements, learn from and connect with each other.

We considered Discord before year one but wanted something where anyone could go and view the discussion on the Atlas-3 webpage without needing another login or app. Thanks to Kaelyn’s hard work, we now have that option with Discord.

If you want to just read the Discord discussion, then you can continue viewing it all on  the Atlas-3 website. The new discussion board is found under the “Get Involved” menu or by direct link at www.birdsontario.org/discussion

If you’d like to participate, then you’ll have to first create an account with Discord, then you can join the Atlas-3 server using this invite link: https://discord.gg/JCfgfr3egG

We have structured the discussion board with basically the same major subjects (or channels, as they are called in Discord) as we had on “the original” Atlas-3 discussion board, and done our best to copy the  discussion board content over to Discord.

For a tutorial on joining the discord server see: https://youtu.be/YPWgY0pXfSs

Standard owl surveys

March and April are key months for the standardized owl surveys, with 4 different surveys underway during that time period. We hope you’ll give an owl survey a try – you don’t have to be an expert birder to do these surveys and everyone knows how cool owls are! For additional incentive, we’re having a challenge, with results to be announced at the Kick-off event on April 23-24, to see which region can get the most owl surveys done (see above for details). 

View the protocols and watch a recent Sappy Hour on completing the owl surveys. Contact your RC prior to completing the survey to discuss survey location!

Atlassing with Mark and Emily – the Halfway Lake Square-bash

Spruce Grouse photo: Mark Peck

Mark Peck of the Royal Ontario Museum, renowned for his work on the Ontario Nest Records Scheme, and Emily Rondel of Environment and Climate Change Canada, who MC’s the Atlas Sappy Hour webinars, are leading a square-bash at Halfway Lake Provincial Park for the period June 10-15, 2022. Halfway Lake is a lovely area an hour north of Sudbury with great big glacial erratics and plenty of boreal habitat, including the potential for species such as the Connecticut Warbler, which reaches the southern edge of its breeding range in this area, and Spruce Grouse pictured above. The park has generously set aside 5 campsites for that period for atlassers to use free of charge. If you can join Mark and Emily for all or part of that period, please drop them a line at toronto[at]birdsontario.org, telling them what dates work for you, how many people are in your party and whether or not you can do point counts. Thanks to Ontario Parks for their support.

Response has been fantastic for the Grundy Lake Square-bash (also June 10-15) and it is now full – thanks to everyone for your enthusiasm. There is still room at the Mikisew Square-bash (June 17-22), where Ontario Parks is also providing free camping for atlassers for the event. Sudbury RC Darryl Edwards and Atlas Coordinator Mike Cadman will be leading the Grundy Lake event. Parry Sound RC Alex Mills, Manitoulin RC Anna Sheppard, and Atlas Assistant Coordinator Kaelyn Bumelis, will be leading the Mikisew event. Hoping you can join us for some enjoyable atlassing, and filling in some key gaps in Atlas coverage. Please e-mail atlas[at]birdsontario.org

Atlas Swag

You can now purchase almost anything (T-shirts, caps, mugs, tote bags, etc.) with an Atlas logo on it. To view the merchandise and make your purchases, click here. Looking forward to seeing you stylishly sporting your Atlas gear!

Atlas stickers

Is your windshield in need of some beautification? Is your travel mug or laptop looking too plain? Well, you can help spruce up these items, identify yourself as an atlasser, and provide some low-key promotion for the Atlas by using Atlas stickers in prominent places such as these. The clear plastic stickers with the Atlas logo, see example to the right, are being printed out and distributed to Regional Coordinators in time for the 2022 Kick-off event on April 23-24. Another great reason to make sure you attend in person.

Atlassing in northeastern Ontario

Ken Burrell

The bugs are what I refer to as “boreal bad”, but the birds are what really takes the cake. Every year since 2013 my Dad, Jim, and I have spent our Canada Day long weekend running our three annual Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) routes: Lower Tweed Lake, Pearce Lake, and Hilliardton.

Ken and Jim Burrell making dinner and setting up camp in 2014 before a morning of the Kabika Lake BBS route east of Cochrane. Photo: Mike Burrell.

In 2021 we were able to join forces, so to speak, and not only did we complete our three BBS routes (which will be included in Atlas-3’s data), but we also atlassed along the way. We’ve carefully planned our effort over the five years that Atlas-3 will be running, and are planning to take on three squares, with the goal of providing 20 hours of coverage and completing 25 point counts in each square over the duration of Atlas-3. In 2021, in addition to these three squares we also provided some coverage to over 40 atlas squares over our Canada Day long weekend.

Our Canada Day long weekend trip starts with us driving north from Kitchener-Waterloo, past Cochrane to Hwy 652 – the road servicing the Detour Lake gold mine – where we camp at our favourite spot on crown land. Usually we’re pretty tired after the long drive, but we try to fit in some time driving the logging roads that criss-cross the landscape at dusk and hope that we’ll luck into a Solitary Sandpiper or American Three-toed Woodpecker or two, along with the ubiquitous Common Nighthawks that are usually barrelling overhead. Our first morning starts at the crack of dawn (around 4:30), dashing to the car from our tent (because of the bugs!), where we scarf down some breakfast before starting our first BBS route – Lower Tweed Lake. Running this route gives us a great overview of the true boreal species of northeastern Ontario: Fox Sparrow, Orange-crowned and Wilson’s Warblers, Bonaparte’s Gulls, and Boreal Chickadee to name a few, along with the ever incessantly calling Greater Yellowlegs not far away! In 2021 we were lucky enough to come across both Long-eared and Northern Hawk Owls while running our route, but not every year is so lucky.

Once we finish our route in the morning, we take down our camp, before making the 2.5 hour drive to Kapuskasing, where a welcomed hot shower is awaiting us. The next morning we are up well before dawn, where we drive 35 km north of town to start our second BBS route – Pearce Lake. This route is quite interesting, starting with aspen and mixed forest, before transitioning into some old growth Black Spruce bogs, where Connecticut Warblers and Great Gray Owls beckon us to the next point count! Species like Spruce Grouse, Tennessee Warbler, and Olive-sided Flycatchers are usually seen over the course of the morning, while more unusual species that we’ve lucked into include Pine Grosbeak and Sharp-tailed Grouse. After finishing up our Pearce Lake BBS route, we travel north to a series of Ontario Power Generating hydro-electric dams, where we take logging roads to the east and drive into Fraserdale, before making our way south to New Liskeard, close to 4 hours away.

Our last full day “up north” has us running the Hilliardton BBS route, which basically covers from Englehart south to Hilliardton Marsh. This route is quite a bit different from our previous two BBS routes, and species like Bobolink, Savannah Sparrow, and Tree Swallow dot the landscape, while closer to Hilliardton Marsh species like Wilson’s Snipe and Black Tern are typically encountered. Finishing up this route has us on the road for Kitchener-Waterloo by late morning, and arriving home by dinner time, if we’re lucky.

All in all, our Canada Day long weekend trip is something both my Dad and I look forward to every year (despite the bugs!), and contributing our data to both the BBS and Atlas-3 makes it that much more enjoyable! Like last year, we’re eagerly looking forward to this coming Canada Day long weekend where we hope to continue carefully plugging away at our three atlas squares.

There are lots of opportunities for interested volunteers to help fill Atlas-3’s data and effort gaps, particularly in northern Ontario. Reach out to our expert Regional Coordinators or watch for upcoming information about northern Ontario square bashing events, including the Block Party in block 17UNR, which incorporates part of our Lower Tweed Lake BBS route mentioned above. 

Breeding Bird Survey and the Atlas

Natasha Barlow

The North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and Atlas-3 are two complementary programs dedicated to collecting data on the distribution and abundance of breeding birds. As Ken notes in his experience collecting Atlas data and running BBS routes in northern Ontario, pairing a BBS route with Atlassing can double your impact in providing valuable data on Ontario’s breeding birds. 

One day a year, during the peak of the breeding season and for as many years as possible, skilled BBS observers run their assigned roadside route(s). Routes consist of 50 stops spaced 0.8 km apart along a 39.4-km route. Participants record the total number of individual bird species heard from any distance or seen within 0.4 km of each stop during a three-minute observation (i.e. point counts). In Canada, the acceptable dates for running routes are between 28 May and 7 July. These data are carefully analyzed on a yearly basis to provide information on bird population trends, relative abundance and species composition and richness at the local, regional and continental scale. BBS data are freely available, and are used by scientists, wildlife managers, educators, and students, as well as by the general public, and will be added to the Atlas database.

If you’re already Atlassing in Ontario, especially in the central and northern parts of the province, and are interested in adopting a BBS route to increase your impact, please reach out to Natasha Barlow (nbarlow[at]birdscanada.org) by mid-April to see how you can get involved, and/or visit the BBS website to view vacant routes near you. 

The Atlas will provide an unprecedented understanding of the status, distribution and abundance of Ontario’s birds, and together with the BBS, we can simultaneously collect data to help protect and conserve Canada’s birds for years to come. 

Early Season Atlassing – April targets

As we inch toward the peak breeding season more and more species are arriving back and beginning their own unique breeding season. While April is still early, many species have already begun their breeding season.

Reminders for early season atlassing

Don’t forget to refer to the breeding charts at www.birdsontario.org/safe-dates whenever you’re atlassing outside of peak atlassing season (May 24 to July 10). Exercise caution when using “lower” breeding codes during this time, especially outside of a species’ safe dates (when migrants/non-breeders may display similar behaviours).

April targets

Stick nesters: Before the trees leaf out is a good time to watch for stick nesters. Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Great Blue Heron, and American Crow are prime targets. This is likely the last chance to confirm Common Ravens as they finish nesting early.

Accipiters: In addition to looking for their stick nests, all three species should be regularly doing their display flights over their territories, especially early in the morning. Watch for males to flap with slow, steady, and deep wingbeats with undertail coverts flared. This flight is much different than the typical direct flight these birds are known for. 

Owls: We are into safe dates for most owl species now so most observations can be atlassed. We are also into the period for standard surveys for Eastern Screech, Barred, Great Gray, Northern Saw-whet, Boreal, and Northern Hawk Owls. 

Other early season nesters: Many other species are beginning to establish territories. Until we are in the safe dates, remember to wait until you can apply a higher level breeding evidence code (e.g. wait for them to be maintaining a territory for at least a week). These include many resident and short-distance migrants common in backyards and urban areas such as various woodpeckers, Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, White-breasted Nuthatch. Many of these species will become more difficult to detect later in the year. Don’t forget that the drumming of woodpeckers and Ruffed Grouse and the display flight of American Woodcock counts as “singing” (S).

Updates from Significant Species Committee

Of the ~650,000 records submitted during year one to the Atlas, approximately 3% were flagged as Significant Species. All of those flagged records get reviewed first by Regional Coordinators and then a secondary review by the significant species committee.

In general, we encourage atlassers to focus on increasing the quality of details provided (and especially on pinning locations) for significant species records.

Don’t forget that depending on the flag, we’re looking for different information:

Symbol

Name

Explanation

Details requested

[rare]

eBird flag

If a species is rare for the date and location according to the eBird filter, you will be required to add details.

Details about how you identified the species.

Provincially rare

Provincially rare breeding species. Will be flagged if you enter breeding evidence.

How did you identify the species? Explanation of breeding evidence. “Pin” the exact location(s).

Regionally rare

Regionally rare breeding species. Will be flagged if you enter breeding evidence.

How did you identify the species? Explanation of breeding evidence. “Pin” the exact location(s).

§   

Species of interest

Species of interest. Widespread species at risk or colonial species. Will be flagged if you enter confirmed-level breeding evidence.

“Pin” the exact location(s) and for colonial species, details about the size and status of the colony.

Happy Atlassing!

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

Newmont

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

Wildlife Habitat Canada

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada (Canada Summer Jobs)

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Parks Canada Agency

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 





 


Birds Canada Logo

Black-capped Chickadee Photo: Mark Peck 

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

This edition of the Atlas-3 newsletter will cover: 

  • Free access and camping in Provincial Parks
  • Block Parties and Square Bashes 
  • Owl Surveying (which begins for some species March 1)
  • Sappy Hour – Owling and early season atlassing
  • Summer job opportunities with the Atlas
  • Year-1 highlights submitted by Atlassers

Free Access and Camping for Atlassers

We encourage you to go atlassing in Provincial Parks. Parks can be home to species uncommon in the rest of the landscape, and data provided from parks will contribute not only to the Atlas but to an understanding of how well Parks protect our birds. Parks may also have trail systems well suited to doing off-road point counts and atlassing.

Thanks to Ontario Parks, atlassers may be able to access and/or camp free of charge while collecting atlas data in many provincial parks. It must be noted, however, that complimentary access and/or camping at operating parks is at the discretion of the Park Superintendent. Complimentary access, camping, campsite availability and quality are not guaranteed.

 If you are interested in camping, it is best to act asap. The parks book campsites 5 months ahead, so will soon be filling up for atlassing season, and you are most likely to be successful if you can get your arrangements in place before the campsites are full. Please note that Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Parks are being handled separately, see details below.

Please do not contact the park about this yourself. You should contact the Atlas Regional Coordinator for the region containing the Park and let them know which park you are interested in and provide dates that you would like to be camping and atlassing. Eligible dates for free camping are in the period May 24 through July 10. Usually no more than 5 days of free camping will be provided. You should also indicate which square(s) in and around the park you would like to cover and whether or not you will be doing point counts, either in-person or digital* using Zoom H2n units – priority will go to atlassers doing point counts. The RC will check with the park and let you know if and when free camping can be provided.

If you want to go atlassing in a Provincial Park, but do not require camping, you may be eligible for free access for atlassing purposes, but don’t need to act as early. Let the RC know at least 2 weeks ahead of your first planned visit, and the RC will approach the park on your behalf to request free entrance to the park for atlassing purposes. If permission is granted, you will be provided with a letter that you can present at the park gate. The eligible period for complimentary access for atlassing is January 1 through July 29.

For Algonquin and Killarney Provincial Parks

We’re keen to recruit experienced campers to do atlassing in backcountry squares in these parks that so far have few hours logged during the core period (i.e., <10 hours). If you have a backcountry trip in mind where you can complete at least 20 hours of atlassing in squares that still need hours or you can complete at least 25 in-person or digital point counts* in squares that still need them, then we would very much like to hear from you.

If your proposed canoeing or backpacking atlas trip is approved by the Regional Coordinators and Park staff, then your backcountry camping permits will be provided free of charge. Please submit a proposed trip plan for review and potential approval using the application form on the Atlas web site at: https://www.birdsontario.org/camping-application. Please be prepared to provide the number of hours and the number of in-person or digital point counts*, if any, you expect to complete in each square you plan to visit during the core period.

 *Digital point counts are suited to birders who don’t know birds well by song. They involve standing at a prescribed location and using a Zoom H2n recording device supplied by the atlas to record birds for 5 minutes. Recordings are later downloaded to the computer and “interpreted” by expert birders. A video explaining how to use the recorders can be found on the Atlas YouTube channel.

It is important that these privileges only be used for the stated purpose of collecting Atlas data. Abuse of the system could result in removing this privilege for all atlassers.

“Block Party” in the near North

Much atlassing remains to be done in the road-accessible parts of the north, from Temagami to the Manitoba border. We encourage everyone to consider helping out in this region – COVID-permitting, of course – and enjoy the different suite of birds that make this area home. Although work anywhere in the area is of great value, the Coverage Map on the Atlas-3 website shows our priority squares. Please check with the appropriate Regional Coordinator (RC) listed on the website if you plan on doing any atlassing in this area.

One new Atlas activity, open to all, will take place at the northeastern limit of the province’s road system. Angie Williams is organizing a special event — our first-ever “Block Party” — to help cover the priority squares along Highway 652 in Block 17UNR, northeast of Cochrane. Angie will organize a base camp in mid-to-late June for any other birders who want to come up and join her and her husband, Ken Williams.

Angie and Ken can also help with equipment for camping or getting around the area if that kind of support is needed. It’s an exciting opportunity to experience the boreal forest up-close and see and hear some very cool northern species in their breeding habitat. Among possibilities are Black-backed Woodpecker, Fox Sparrow and Northern Hawk Owl. For more information, contact Angie by email ([email protected])

Square bashes

We are delighted to announce our first “Square Bashes” for Atlas-3 (COVID safety precautions and restrictions permitting). Both are planned for beautiful provincial parks on the Canadian Shield in June. Both parks are rich with warblers, thrushes and other central Ontario species. At each location, five campsites (maximum six people per site) have been set aside for atlassers, with no camping charge. At least some sites will offer electrical hookups.

The first event will be at Grundy Provincial Park, north of Parry Sound, from Friday, June 10, to Wednesday, June 15. The second is at Mikisew Provincial Park, near South River, from Friday, June 17, to Wednesday, June 22. You could come for the entire five days in each case or just part of that time. Our goal is to provide adequate coverage for as many squares as possible in and around each park.

If you are interested in participating in these events, email Kaelyn Bumelis ([email protected]), telling her which location and dates work for you, how many people are in your party, and whether or not you can do traditional point counts. Please do not contact the parks as we are making the arrangements through the Atlas-3 office.

Standard Owl Survey season begins March 1

Standardized Owl surveys are a great way for us to learn about the distribution and abundance of owls and how they’ve changed since previous atlases. They are also a lot of fun and well suited to both experienced and inexperienced birders. There’s something about the sound of an owl calling from the darkness, or a Northern Hawk Owl perched atop a spindly spruce.

Here is the what, when and where:

Survey

Date

Location

Playback?

Eastern Screech-Owl

March 1 – April 30

“Southern” section in Figure 1.

Yes

Northern Hawk Owl

March 1 – May 31

“Northern” section in Figure 1.

Yes

Barred and Northern Saw-whet Owl

April 1-April 30

“Central” section in Figure 1.

Yes

Great Gray and Boreal Owl

April 1 – April 30

“Northern” section in Figure 1.

Yes

Long-eared Owl

July 1-August 14

In any section

No

Figure 1. Dates and locations of Standardized Owl surveys.

For more information, see the Special Surveys section on the Atlas website.

Sappy Hour 7pm February 23

The next Sappy Hour is devoted to the standard surveys of the Eastern Screech-Owl and Northern Hawk Owl and to early season atlassing. Migrant birds are trickling back into the province and some residents are starting their breeding behaviours. We’ll discuss what breeding evidence you should be recording over the next month. 

 

The event will take place on Zoom webinar (register using the link – here) and will also be streamed to Facebook Live (www.facebook.com/ONBreedingBirdAtlas/live). The event will be recorded for those who cannot attend either on Facebook or Zoom and will be available on our YouTube channel.

Summer job opportunities with the Atlas

The Atlas is hiring experienced field staff to conduct bird surveys in Central and Northern Ontario beginning in May 2022. For more information click here.

Atlassing highlights

My winter days were spent snowshoeing my Larose Forest Atlas Square (Region 24) in blissful solitude surrounded by both species of crossbills, and other finches, in good numbers.  I was even able to document courtship for Red Crossbills! Unfortunately, I had to move from the province in the fall, but I will never forget my time with those birds. In a fitting farewell, the last bird I Atlassed before I left was a single Red Crossbill flyover, heading in the direction of that same forest tract. I’ll miss Atlassing, and that forest, dearly! Thank you for the memories.

Bree Tucker

My most memorable Atlas moment was not a single point in time.  It was all those moments while out on small waterways in a small rowboat.  Pied-billed Grebes, while often heard, seeing them is difficult at the best of times.  And while numerous, Red-winged Blackbirds generally keep their young well hidden until they have lost their down and fledged. So seeing these up close and personal made for a very special summer.

Janet McCullough

Until next time!

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada

(Canada Summer Jobs)

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Parks Canada

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 


 


Birds Canada Logo

Canada Jay Photo: Jim Richards 

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

In 2022 and beyond, if COVID protocols and restrictions permit it, we will be focusing a lot of effort on getting atlassers back into northern Ontario, especially into remote areas. Given the lack of data collection in the remote north in 2021, we have some catching up to do.

One of our main priorities is to repeat atlas work done in Atlas-2, from 2001-05, covering the same squares and even a lot of the same point counts. This will primarily involve teams of four people canoeing northern rivers, especially those that pass through the Hudson Bay Lowlands. We are working to subsidize the cost of these trips.

The table below and the map provided here both show nine of the trips we are hoping to run in 2022 and beyond. A more comprehensive list will be available on the Atlas-3 website later this fall. All of the 100-kilometre blocks in northern Ontario must be adequately covered by the end of 2025.

For the nine trips listed here, at least two people in each team of four need to be expert birders capable of doing point counts in remote northern Ontario. And all four need to be experienced campers and canoeists able to work safely in remote wilderness conditions. The trips vary in length from 10 to 17 days on the river, plus time getting to and from the north. Trips will run between mid-June and early July to be at the peak of breeding bird activity.

If you are interested in participating in any of these trips for Atlas-3 — or you have other remote atlassing trips in mind — please visit our website and complete a remote northern atlassing application form providing information about yourself and a trip you would like to do. We will get back in touch with you with the goal of getting as many trips as possible going for 2022 and beyond. We will soon be posting a Northern Atlassing Manual to give you a more complete idea of what northern atlassing entails.

These trips provide a rare opportunity to experience and contribute to the conservation of Ontario’s amazing wilderness. We hope that folks with the right skills will join us for an extraordinary experience and make a valuable contribution to the Atlas project.

Remote Northern Canoe trips

Nine suggested trips are shown on the map and in the table below. If you are interested, please fill out an application form on the website asap.

Trip #

Target Blocks Location Suggested Itinerary (based on Atlas-2) Length of trip (canoe portion)

1

15VV, 15WV Opasquia Provincial Park Drive to Vermillion Bay, float-plane to Opasquia Provincial park and back, then drive home. 12 days

2

16DF, 16DG Fawn and Severn Rivers Drive to Sioux Lookout, float-plane to Fawn River, canoe down Fawn River, then Severn River, commercial flight from Fort Severn to Sioux Lookout, drive home. 17 days

3

15XA, 15XB Sachigo River (Upper) Drive to Nakina, float-plane to upper Sachigo River, canoe downstream, float-plane back out, then drive home. 15 days

4

16CF, 16CG

Sachigo River (Lower)

This trip will be paired with the upper Sachigo Trip. The pick-up flight for the upper trip will bring in the crew for the lower Sachigo trip. 12 days

5

16FC, 16FD Missisa Lake and River Drive to Hearst, float-plane to Missisa Lake, paddle to Attawapiskat River, float-plane to Hearst, drive home. 10 days

6

17LT, 17MT Albany River Drive to Hearst, float-plane to Albany River, paddle 150 km to Fort Albany, commercial flight to Moosonee, travel to Hearst, drive home. 15 days

7

17MS, 17NS Moose River Drive to Cochrane, train to Moose River, paddle to Moosonee, train back to Cochrane, then drive home. 10 days

8

16DB, 16DC Upper Albany River Drive to Nakina, float-plane to Fort Hope, paddle downstream, float-plane from Washi Lake to Nakina, then drive home. 10 days

9

16DD, 16DE Upper Winisk River Travel to Thunder Bay, commercial flight to Webequie, paddle the upper Winisk River, float-plane to Hearst, travel home. May link this trip to a lower Winisk trip. 15 days

Sappy Hour, November 23, 2021: Atlassing in the remote north

Mark your calendar now. To help get you in the mood for northern adventure, we are devoting the November 23 Sappy Hour to Atlassing in the remote north.  Special guest Michael Runtz will provide a 20 minute presentation about his atlassing trip down the Muketei River in the Hudson Bay Lowlands during Atlas-2; Mike Cadman, Mike Burrell and Adam Timpf will provide general information and answer questions about our plans for northern atlassing; Emily Rondel will keep us all in line; and  Kaelyn will keep the broadcast running smoothly.

The event will take place on Zoom webinar (register using the link – here) and will also be streamed to Facebook Live (www.facebook.com/ONBreedingBirdAtlas/live). The event will be recorded for those who cannot attend either on Facebook or Zoom and will be available on our YouTube channel.

Square-bashing coming soon!

We are delighted to announce that plans are underway for our first “square-bash” events for Atlas-3 (Covid safety precautions/restrictions permitting). Square-bashes are fun and productive activities focused on filling gaps in atlas coverage. Both are planned for beautiful provincial parks on the Canadian Shield in June of 2022, in areas rich with warblers, thrushes and other “central” Ontario species. At each location, five campsites (maximum 6 people per site) have been set aside for atlassers with no charge for camping. At least some of the sites will be electrical.

The first is to be at Grundy Provincial Park, north of Parry Sound, from Friday, June 10th to Wednesday, June 15th, 2022. The second is at Mikisew Provincial Park, near South River, from Friday, June 17th to Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022. You could come for the whole 5 days or just part of that time. Our goal is to provide adequate coverage for as many squares as possible in and around each park.

If you are interested in taking in either of these events, please email Kaelyn at atlas@birdsontario.org, telling us which location, what dates work for you, how many people are in your party and whether or not you can do point counts. Please do not contact the parks about these square-bash events as all arrangements are being made through the atlas office.

Hoping you can join us! Thanks to Ontario Parks for making these opportunities available.

Backcountry atlassers wanted in Algonquin

Completing >20 hours of atlassing and >25 point counts during the core period (24 May to 5 July) for the many squares in the interior of Algonquin Provincial Park is very challenging. But for experienced atlassers who are avid canoe campers or backpackers, this area offers beautiful landscapes and excellent birding.

We’re keen to recruit experienced campers to do atlassing in backcountry squares in Algonquin Park that so far have few hours logged during the core period (i.e., <10 hours). If you have a backcountry trip in mind where you can complete at least 20 hours of atlassing in squares that still need hours or you can complete at least 25 in-person or digital point counts in squares that still need them, then we would very much like to hear from you.

If your proposed canoeing or backpacking atlas trip is approved by the Region 27 coordinators and Algonquin Park staff, then your backcountry camping permits will be provided free of charge. To submit a proposed trip plan for review and potential approval, please complete the application form. Please be prepared to provide the number of hours and the number of in-person or digital point counts, if any, you expect to complete in each square you plan to visit during the core period.

Owling in November

If you check the Safe Date charts, you will notice that it is safe to report breeding evidence for Eastern Screech-Owl in November and December, and for Great Horned Owl in December in southern Ontario. Both species are quite vocal at this time of year as they advertise their territories and seek mates. Although November is in the shoulder season for Great Horned Owls (when some are starting breeding behaviours and some are still dispersing), calling birds can be counted as “S” for singing and “T” for Territory. So, to clarify, calling Screech-Owls and Great Horned Owls in November and December can be counted as breeding evidence for the Atlas. Great Horned Owls in November that are not calling should not be given breeding evidence.

Atlasser chip notes

Atlassing Adventures in Wabakimi Summer 2021, by Mhairi McFarlane

Having taken up canoeing on, appropriately, Canada Day in just 2020, the next obvious step was to embark on an 18-day, 300-km wilderness trip in 2021. Although this sounds crazy, we’ve been privileged to have done plenty of wilderness hiking in various parts of the world, and had done two white water canoe training courses and a river rescue course, so we were more prepared than it sounds. It seemed obvious that this was a great opportunity to contribute to Atlas-3. With lots of unknowns around COVID-19 restrictions, there were unlikely to be any organized trips to the north in 2021. We gritted our teeth about feeding the bugs and arranged our dates to coincide with breeding bird season. Two days of driving later, we arrived at Armstrong and were dropped off by an outfitter at the roadside at the south end of Caribou Lake, on June 21, 2021. This was the start of a 300 km adventure that would take us across Wabakimi Provincial Park, down the Misehkow River and along the Albany River to Miminiska Lake, where our outfitter would pick us up in a float plane on July 8th. We borrowed two Acoustic Recording Units (ARU) and a handheld recording device and I received a great training session from Rich Russell, a wildlife biologist at the Canadian Wildlife Service, over zoom before we left.

All packed up and ready to go: our put-in at the start of our 300 km, 18 day adventure. Caribou Lake Road, June 21, 2021 ©Mhairi McFarlane

I downloaded the Atlas squares we would paddle through to the Gaia GPS app, and attempted to collect data in as many as possible. We had some pretty tough conditions, including headwinds for the first week, which lost us some time, then some rather epic portage clearing, so we had a lot less time and energy to collect data than I’d hoped. It turns out that rolling into camp between 6 and 9 pm is not conducive to early morning starts, so I only managed 2 in-person point counts! We managed to get either one or both of the ARUs out on 13 nights, for a total of 19 recording sessions. Combined with around 135 daytime eBird checklists which I ported over to the atlas, it was pleasing to be able to add some data for quite a few pretty remote squares.

These figures show the general location of our canoe route, north of Lake Nipigon, and a more detailed view of the squares we passed through along the way.

Some species which dominated the soundscape throughout include Northern Waterthrush and White-throated Sparrows, while Tennessee Warblers split our ears along the shrubby banks of the Misehkow in particular. It was a new experience for me to be dive-bombed by Greater Yellowlegs – despite our best efforts to avoid disturbing the many pairs we encountered. The Misehkow area also proved to be quite the Common Goldeneye factory, with the occasional Mallard and American Black Duck too. We came across one probable and one confirmed breeding Trumpeter Swan. One highlight was a flock of 14 American White Pelicans on our very last morning on Miminiska Lake! We came across quite a few sets of Boreal Chickadees, and had several fun encounters with Canada Jays with young of the year in tow.

I always get a kick out of seeing shorebirds up trees! This was one of many very territorial Greater Yellowlegs we came across on the Albany River July 6, 2021 ©Mhairi McFarlane

We enjoyed some great non-bird experiences too of course: we almost lost count of how many American Black Bears and Moose we saw, but we were particularly excited to see Woodland Caribou on two occasions. Both were very distant groups of swimming adults with calves in tow.

In terms of gear, some items we were very grateful to have: “Eureka no-bug zone” bug shelter. Although the biting insects weren’t as bad as they can be, they certainly had their moments and this bug tarp provided some much needed relief during mealtimes. Although we relied on paper maps for navigation, having Gaia GPS app on our phones was very helpful for small-scale route finding, and making sure where the Atlas squares were. We also used our phones for eBird, iNaturalist, and photos, so we appreciated having a couple of battery packs and a “Big Blue” solar charger. Our canoe is an H2O Voyageur 17’, made of innegra-kevlar-epoxy (approximately 25 kg, 55 lbs). Despite low water levels and many associated knocks and scrapes, it performed extremely well on flatwater and rapids alike. It now has many, many battle scars, but no repairs required!

We did not see any other humans at all between day 2 and day 16, so it was a true wilderness experience. Despite the occasional hardships of this trip, I can’t wait to embark on another northern river adventure in 2022, building on what I learned this year and hopefully contributing more data from another part of Ontario’s stunning boreal landscape. You can read more technical details about our trip on the Friends of Wabakimi trip forum page here: https://www.wabakimi.org/trip-report-forum.html  (look for “Little Caribou to Miminiska, June/July 2021”).

 

If you have an interesting discovery or fun story to share from your atlassing that you’d like to share, please send it to atlas@birdsontario.org

 

Until next time,

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada

(Canada Summer Jobs)

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Parks Canada

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 






Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas Logo

Boreal Chickadee Photo: Scott Leslie 

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

We hope your summer has gone well and some normalcy is returning despite the continuing concerns around COVID-19. It’s been a very odd start to Atlas-3 with all the travel restrictions and absence of a social component to the project, which is usually so important. Despite this, you atlassers came through like the Canadian Women’s soccer team at the recent Olympic Games, as summarized in the table below.

Data submission deadline is August 31

The main goal for now is to make sure that you get your 2021 atlas data in by the end of August. Having the data in will be very useful so we can see exactly how things went in 2021 and so we can plan effectively for 2022 and beyond. After 2021, it’s all about filling gaps in coverage, so being able to identify and home in on those gaps is crucial.

If you need help with data entry, please contact your Regional Coordinator or Kaelyn at the Atlas “office” at atlas@birdsontario.org. You might also want to attend the August 26th Sappy Hour which is devoted to atlas data entry.

Long-eared Owl survey data submission

We’re having some challenges getting the LEOW Survey data entry operational. Please hang on to the data for now and we’ll get word out once it’s working. As a result, you don’t have to worry about meeting the August 31 deadline for these data. Our apologies for any inconvenience this has caused.

Your efforts to date

We’re off to a great start and are very close to Atlas-2 levels of participation (see Table 1) – we may well exceed them once all the data are in. With a global pandemic underway, that’s a great credit to you and the Ontario birding community generally. Well done, folks!

Table 1. Comparison of effort in year 1 of Atlas-2 and -3. Note that the data shown for Atlas-3 are partial and yet to be reviewed.

Year

Atlassers

Species

Squares

Records

Point Counts

Hours

Atlas-2 2001

1,145

274

2,526

103,050

5,745

23,494

Atlas-3 2021 (to AUG 10)

1,052

248

2,167

387,817

8,244

31,157

Atlassers: This is the number of people who have submitted data which will probably increase as everyone gets their data in. You can help us to increase participation in 2022 by getting your birding friends to jump on-board. (A greater number of people have registered, but not entered data.)

Species: it’s not surprising that the species count is lower so far in Atlas-3. We had very little effort in the Hudson Bay Lowlands in 2021 due to COVID. Some Far North work was done but the data are yet to be entered. We are looking forward to filling out that list as we expand our coverage throughout the Lowlands in 2022 and beyond.

Squares: Amazingly, even with COVID-related travel restrictions, we got data for almost as many squares as in Atlas-2.

Records: The big jump here is because of the switch to a checklist approach. As you can see, it provides considerably more data, which will be very useful for understanding our breeding bird populations.

Point Counts: An excellent start and well ahead of Atlas-2 when point counts were novel and it took a year for the new concept to catch on. In Atlas-3, point counters were out of the blocks like Andre De Grasse! It’s quite feasible that there are a lot more point count data yet to be submitted – so if you don’t have yours in yet, please get them in ASAP. (This total also doesn’t include the recorded point counts, which won’t be added until the recordings are interpreted).

Hours: Wow!! We are already well ahead of Atlas-2, which is fantastic, especially given the pandemic. Three possible reasons: 1. You are wonderful!, 2. Checklisting encourages you to submit data from short atlassing outings, and 3. the app (and eBird) make it easy to do so. Now that the app is working well, we’re hoping for even more hours of atlassing in 2022!

Some kudos

A big shout out to Dianna Wolfe, whose record of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird nest in Parry Sound made her the 1,000th atlasser to contribute data.

So far, 8,244 traditional Point Counts have been entered into the system. Seventeen people have done over 100 point counts each, with Krista Oswald (Gold medal), Bob Saunders (Silver) and Kurt Hennige (Bronze) topping the list with 224, 213 and 205 each respectively. Special thanks to them for an amazing effort.

So far this year, there have been 7 Monthly Challenge winners: Lyle Friesen, Luke Raso, Patricia Wray, Theresa McKenzie, Remy Poulin, Toby Rowland, and Luc Fazio. Congratulations to you all, and keep up the great work!

Thanks to everyone who submitted data so far to the atlas. You helped get the project off to a great start. If you still have data from 2021, please make sure you enter it by the end of August!

Quiz: What species is this?

Here is a screen grab from the Atlas web site species maps of one of the following species, based on 2021 data. Can you guess which? Answer is at the bottom of the newsletter.

  • Green-winged Teal
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Yellow-throated Vireo
  • Gray Catbird
  • Magnolia Warbler

 

That’s all for now, folks!

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex Canada

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada

(Canada Summer Jobs)

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Parks Canada

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 

 

 

 

Quiz answer:

Yellow-throated Vireo. It’s interesting to see that the pattern of this species’ expected occurrence is already coming though, with bands of records in the Carolinian Region (north of Lake Erie) and the edge of the Canadian Shield (from Kingston to Midland), as well as a few records near Lake-of-the-Woods.


 


Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas Logo

Pied-billed Grebe Photo: Scott Leslie

Dear Atlasser,

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on the Government of Ontario website. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province.

We hope your first year of atlassing is going well. Although the point count season is behind us (it ended on July 10), there’s still lots of great atlassing to be done, with some suggestions below! Keep reading for some incredible year one highlights – there will be more to come!

Long-eared Owl survey

The new Long-eared Owl survey runs from July 1 through August 14 and is an enjoyable and productive way to spend a summer night when most other atlas field work is over for the year. It’s an excellent survey for newer atlassers since it’s very straightforward and requires the identification of only one species. The Instruction Manual for these surveys can be found here, but in a nutshell, the protocol is similar to the other special surveys. It involves going out at night to pre-selected locations in a square and simply listening for the begging calls of the young owls, which are quite vocal in encouraging their parents to hurry up with some food. Click here to listen to the begging call of the young.

If you are interested in doing the survey, don’t forget to let your Regional Coordinator (RC) know and good luck! It is our hope that this unique survey (we don’t know of any other extensive surveys of this kind, for this species) will provide us with an unprecedented understanding of this mysterious and elusive bird.

Late season atlassing

July is a great time to focus your efforts on upgrading breeding evidence to probable and confirmed for many species. Check adult birds to see if they are carrying food for young, or a fecal sac, and watch for newly fledged youngsters fluttering around the underbrush. Some late breeders such as American Goldfinch and Cedar Waxwing are nesting now, and many other species can be on second or third nests by this time. With any luck you’ll come across some new species for the square while on an upgrading mission.

Because birds are wrapping up the nesting season and starting to move around, especially later this month, be careful when recording breeding evidence and be sure that any young of the year are incapable of sustained flight before recording them as FY. Some birds such as northern-nesting shorebirds are already starting to move south, and should be recorded as X, unless you have good evidence they are nesting on-site. Check the Safe Date Charts for guidance on this. If the species isn’t listed on a particular chart, then there’s very little likelihood that the bird is nesting in that area.

By the end of July, you can pretty much wrap up atlassing for the year, other than recording any incidental observations of breeding evidence that you come upon, and, of course, the Long-eared Owl survey.

If you did get permission to enter private property to do some atlassing, this might be a good time to write a thank-you note to the landowner. It would be much appreciated and may help you or others get back onto the property in future years.

Atlas data due by August 31

Please submit your Atlas data into NatureCounts as soon as possible. The deadline for year one data submissions is August 31, 2021. Having the data in-hand will help considerably in the review process and in planning for 2022 and beyond. It’s also good practice to get your data entered while it is still fresh in your mind!

We’re really looking forward to summarizing the atlas effort and results from year one and laying out the plan for the rest of the project.

Thanks for your efforts so far

Data from 2021 continues to pour in. As of July 18, 1,003 participants have submitted over 38,000 checklists, and reported over 7,500 point counts. 287 people have done at least 1 traditional point count, and 15 have done more than 100 each! 239 people have already logged 20 or more hours of peak season effort.

With the COVID-19 restrictions, this has been a very different first season for the atlas and we’re hopeful for a more normal year of atlassing in 2022. Fingers crossed that we’ll be able to gather indoors and on birding adventures together to share the atlassing experience.

Some 2021 highlights

There have already been some noteworthy reports to Atlas-3 from our first year of data collection. Such as the following, by Mike Burrell…..

Prairie wormhole spits out Sprague’s Pipit and Lark Bunting!

On the morning of June 15 2021, Peter Hogenbirk and Geoff Carpentier were atlassing in region 40 (Rainy River) north of the town of Pinewood (about halfway between Emo and the town of Rainy River) when Peter heard the distinctive song of a Sprague’s Pipit. They observed the bird displaying for the next fifteen minutes. This bird was very difficult to observe as it displayed very high in the air and disappeared on the ground in a pasture. Peter and Geoff observed it again the next morning and Ethan Quinton, Glenn Coady, and myself observed it again on June 18 and made a recording. It was reported again on June 20 and 21.

This represents the fourth year at least one Sprague’s Pipit has been seen displaying in the Rainy River area (1980, 1990, 1998). Another male displayed during the first year of Atlas-2 near Hudson Bay, 76 kilometers east of Peawanuck.

If getting Sprague’s Pipit for the atlas wasn’t good enough, Ethan Quinton and I managed to get it on a nearby point count! And if THAT wasn’t good enough, just down the road we found a singing male Lark Bunting – another bird of the prairies! It really felt like we had been sucked through a wormhole and ended up in southern Saskatchewan.

Lark Bunting © Mike Burrell

– Mike Burrell, Regional Coordinator for Region 43

 

And this from Glenn Coady:

The highlight of year one in Region 12 (Toronto) was the nest of a Prothonotary Warbler in the Humber Marshes, found by Owen Strickland on June 1. This is only the second nesting record for the entire GTA, the last occurrence being a nest in Castlederg in Peel Region during Atlas-2.

Prothonotary Warbler © Glenn Coady

– Glenn Coady, Regional Coordinator for Region 46

 

In other highlight news… For those of us who remember back to Atlas-1, reports of a territorial Henslow’s Sparrow and a Western Meadowlark in southwestern Ontario bring back fond memories of when these birds were considerably more common.

We’ll provide a more complete picture of the year one highlights once all results are in and tallied.

Atlasser chip notes

I moved to Ontario as the province launched Atlas-2, but I was just starting a family so time in the field was limited. Now, for Atlas-3, I’m a principal atlasser in a county square. I’ve always been a “slow” birder, making frequent stops and taking the time to watch bird behaviour, so atlassing suits my birding style. When not in “my” square I’m close to home watching and photographing the birds around me. The “Powerline Trail” is one such local hotspot, that I only came to appreciate as a rewarding birding route fairly recently. Part of the attraction is that it passes through a good variety of habitat in a relatively short distance. Walking along the Powerline Trail takes one through scrubby successional habitat (which is terrific for fall sparrows), mature woodlots, a marsh, and some agricultural fields. It was along the edge on one of those fields that someone had once placed a plastic owl decoy, presumably as a deterrent to crop-hungry birds.

On June 12 I took an evening stroll to bird the trail. Heading north, I had passed the owl without noticing anything unusual but on the return leg I saw a House Wren protruding from the north side of the decoy. As I approached, the wren left the cavity and flew a short distance to shelter. I was then able to see clear evidence of a nest inside the body of the owl. The wren later flew to a nearby fence post, heading back towards the nest. House Wrens don’t excavate their own nest sites so presumably this pair took advantage of an existing hole in the side of the owl. Perhaps an ignominious fate for an owl, plastic or otherwise, but a nice example of the versatility of wren nesting behaviour and just one of many tales that I’m sure we are all collecting while out looking for breeding birds.

House Wren and nest © Andrew Bendall
– Andrew Bendall, Atlasser in Region 47

 

If you have an interesting discovery or fun story to share from your atlassing that you’d like to share, please send it to atlas@birdsontario.org

 

That’s owl for now!

– The Atlas-3 Team

 

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada

(Canada Summer Jobs)

 

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Parks Canada

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry

 




 


Birds Canada Logo

Cedar Waxwings Photo: Mark Peck

COVID-19: The Atlas team reminds all atlassers to be aware of the latest COVID-19 conditions in Ontario. Please follow all public health guidelines and restrictions, and check for updates frequently. Information on the latest conditions and public health guidance can be found on Government of Ontario websites. Follow the links to the most current situation in the province. 

Dear Atlasser,

Welcome to the new format for keeping you abreast of Atlas goings-on. Each month, we’ll be sending out short newsletters so that we can provide timely updates to the atlassing community. We need your help naming these monthly reports – please head over to the website to vote for your favourite name! 

Atlassing has come a long way since we chiseled our data onto stone tablets in Atlas-1, back in 1981-1985 (not really). Atlas-1 was a magnificent effort by the province’s birding community, but we didn’t have an app devoted to atlassing, or excellent, readily-available, learning resources, and smartphones that can help atlassers in so many ways. The technology has changed considerably from the written data entry from the first Atlas to the development of smartphone apps that can assist volunteers, however, the spirit of the Atlas remains the same – documenting the distribution and relative abundance of every species that breeds in Ontario.  No matter how the technology has changed, the key factor to a successful atlas is you, the volunteer! 

June is the peak of the breeding season and atlassing activity. Almost every bird out there is involved in breeding activities, and are fair game for atlassers. If you haven’t started atlassing yet, please don’t hesitate any longer. It’s an amazingly short season, and we only have 5 of them, so it really is time for the fun to begin. Things get noticeably quieter in early July and are largely done by the end of that month.

If you’re already scouring the bushes, thanks very much and we hope it is going well. Here are a few statistics on where things currently stand…

  • As of June 23, 928 participants have submitted over 27,000 checklists, and documented over 20,000 hours of atlassing. If you want to see for yourself how things are progressing, you can view the data on  NatureCounts by clicking on Explore and the Atlas Data Summary
  • Ottawa atlassers (Region 24 – known, justifiably perhaps, as “The mighty 24”!) are leading the pack in terms of numbers of checklists submitted (2,162 as of June 23), barely ahead of Peterborough (1,955), with Kingston (1,568) and Simcoe (1,546) close behind.
  • We’ll mention a couple of outstanding individual efforts for inspirational purposes… Don “look at him go” Sutherland has already submitted 643 checklists! And David and Reagan “what a team” Goodyear have put in 245 hours of atlassing! It’s wonderful to see such fantastic efforts on behalf of the project.

Atlassing Resources:

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas website (www.birdsontario.org) is where you’ll find everything you need to know to participate in Atlas-3.

  • Guides: The Atlas-3 manuals can be found on the Instructions & Forms page (for General Atlassing and Point Counts), or on the Special Surveys page (for those doing surveys on Owls, Nightjars, or Marshbirds). These manuals provide the instructions needed to participate in the Atlas. For quick lookup of some of the Coding Sheets in the manuals, the Atlas-3 website also has pages dedicated to Breeding Codes, Safe Breeding Dates, and Species 4-letter Codes.
  • Learning Resources: The Atlas-3 website has gathered resources on the Learning Resources page, which may help those looking to improve their bird identification skills. Atlassers can also test their knowledge with the Atlas-3 Quiz. Or, if Atlassers have any questions, they can use the Discussion Forum or reach out to their Regional Coordinator.
  • Atlassing Articles: The Articles provide important identification and breeding information for select species.

NatureCounts is the database where Atlas-3 data are collected and managed. The NatureCounts web portal is linked to the Atlas website, but contains resources and summaries that are specific to data collection.

  • Data Summaries: The NatureCounts Summary Statistics allow users to view the number of hours, species, or checklists in a Region or Square. The Coverage Map presents a visual representation of the Summary Statistics – showing how many species, hours, and checklists have been completed. The Coverage Map also shows important location information, including region boundaries, and designated priority squares. The Species Map shows where species have been observed, along with the highest breeding evidence recorded.
  • Resources: The Square Resources page of NatureCounts allows you to download the square map, geographic information (square boundary and point count locations), as well as the Square Summary sheet – which shows the highest breeding evidence of each species during Atlas-2 and Atlas-3 for that particular square. The Atlas Resources page contains important documents, including the Landowner permission letter (this page requires that you log in to NatureCounts).
  • NatureCounts app: The newest version of the NatureCounts App has been responding much better than previous releases, and we have addressed several outstanding bugs and made improvements throughout. One major new feature is the ability to record precise locations for individual species records. Please use this feature for all significant species records. For more information on how this works, please watch this YouTube walkthrough
  • One outstanding issue (mainly in iOS, much more rarely in Android) is that the App will sometimes terminate while in the background. For instance, if you close your phone, you may come back and find that you need to reopen your app, and find your checklist in the drafts. This also terminates the GPS track, unfortunately. This is largely tied to the device trying to reduce your battery usage by shutting down the app while it collects your GPS track in the background. This may happen more frequently when the battery level gets depleted.
  • If you have any questions or comments regarding the app please fill out the NatureCounts App feedback form (www.birdscanada.org/app-feedback). As always, you can still record your data in your notebook and submit directly through the web portal or import data from eBird.

Video Resources: The Atlas-3 YouTube channel has many useful video resources. This is where the recordings from Sappy Hours can be found, as well as the recordings from the Atlas-3 Virtual Launch event. In addition to event recordings, the Atlas-3 YouTube channel has many tutorial videos, including how to submit data, how to conduct digital point counts, and more.

Beyond the Basics:

Point Count season is underway. Point Counts are the primary means we will use to map the relative abundance of the birds. They can be conducted  starting May 24 in the south and June 1 in the north and run until July 10. See the Instructions for Point Counts for details of methodologies. For those who don’t like to read (), videos at the following links explain various aspects of point counts:

Special Surveys are also underway. The Marshbird Survey has the same season as point counts, and the Nightjar Survey runs from June 15 to July 15. Both surveys will provide a wealth of new information on the status and distribution of groups of birds that are of great conservation interest but not well covered by traditional bird surveys. Marshbird surveys can only be run by those able to ID birds by their calls whereas the Nightjar Survey is well suited to newer birders (though enjoyable for all).

Atlasser Chip Notes

This is where we provide a short note from an atlasser on an atlas-related topic. This month’s entry is from Roxane Filion describing her first attempts to use the Zooms H2N recorder to record a point count:

We all know how important the Boreal Forest is for breeding birds but monitoring changes in abundance for the species that rely on it to breed is a challenge. Not only due to the vastness of it, but the low population density also means fewer volunteer birders for collecting valuable data. When the Zoom H2n recording unit was presented to atlassers as a means to record digital point counts in squares that wouldn’t get the traditional point count coverage, I was interested; but found myself quickly intimidated by the instruction manual and the settings; technology is not my cup of tea! But this device offers the potential to increase coverage and help create accurate relative abundance maps for species in Northern Ontario – a goal that is dear to my heart; I had to give it a try! 

 

After reading the instructions and watching the tutorial video, I set my alarm; it was time to find out if someone who still struggles with a tv remote could successfully operate one of these units. I headed for the nearest trail for a test. It was very easy to set up, at ear level, on a branch, a trunk, or a tripod. On my very first test, when it came time to record my info, I wasn’t ready: I forgot my square number, and the date, and I was scrambling with my map and phone to find the coordinates, but none of that mattered since I forgot to hit the record button before enunciating my info. But hey, that’s what practice is for, right? Since I went through the whole process once, the rest went smoothly. When I got home, I listened to the recordings with earphones (ouch!) I thought I was being quiet but some of the noise I made hurt my eardrums; I felt bad for the people analysing these recordings. Next time, no nylon wind jacket, no moving my feet, no looking in my pocket for a pen, and no holding a sheet of paper.  

 

The next morning, I was ready! I went out early (Just before sunrise = the optimal time to start Point Counts) I recorded 9 digital point counts before 8:45 am when I stopped since the songs slowed down quite a bit. At one point I noticed the “surround” settings had shifted so I had to reset it (using the sheet). Once I got home, I downloaded the files to my computer and transferred them to Wildtrax’s Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas folder using FileZilla.

 

Overall, this unit is easier to use than it looks and the protocol to follow is straightforward. If you live anywhere in the province but especially north of Gravenhurst,  and you are interested in recording digital point counts with these units during a few mornings, contact your Regional Coordinator. Your RC will let you know if there are squares in need of point counts in your region and can lend you one of these handy little devices. 

 

My top 7 tips:

1.     Watch the YouTube Tutorial on Recording Digital Point Counts.

2.     Print the little one-page “cheat sheet” guide (and bring it with you to check the settings a few times in the field!)

3.     Set all the Zoom H2n settings at home, including the date and time, microphone settings, etc. 

4.     Have your info handy before speaking it:  Name + Month, day, year + Time & Time zone + Square # & point # (or square # and UTM or Lat-Long for off-road Point Counts).

5.     Do a practice recording first and listen to it with earphones to make sure you are being as quiet as a sleeping Great Gray Owl.

6.     Wear cotton or wool or any comfy ‘quiet’ clothes that will permit you to lift your arm to remove the mosquito on your cheek without hurting the analyst’s eardrum.

7.     Bring extra batteries, be safe and enjoy the morning!

 

It’s a great opportunity to contribute valuable data to the Atlas without having to identify all the birds you hear! And later on, when you look at the relative abundance maps for your favourite warbler, you know you’ll have played a little role in creating them while enjoying the morning chorus.

Stay safe,

Your Atlas-3 Team

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their financial support:

Environment and Climate Change Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada

(Canada Summer Jobs)

The Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 thanks the following for their in-kind support:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Natural Resources Canada 

Ontario Parks 

Parks Canada

Royal Ontario Museum 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

 


 


Atlas-3 Logo

Jaseur d’Amérique Photo: Mark Peck

COVID-19: L’équipe de l’Atlas tient à rappeler à tous les atlasseurs de s’informer des dernières conditions reliées à la COVID-19 en Ontario. Veuillez suivre toutes les directives et restrictions en matière de santé publique et vérifier fréquemment les mises à jour. Vous trouverez de l’information sur les conditions les plus récentes et des conseils en matière de santé publique sur les sites Web du gouvernement de l’Ontario. Suivez les liens pour connaître la situation la plus récente.

Cher participant(e) à l’Atlas,

Voici le nouveau format pour vous tenir au courant des activités reliées à l’Atlas. Chaque mois, nous envoyerons de courts bulletins d’information dans le but de fournir des mises à jour à la communauté d’atlasseurs. Nous avons besoin de votre aide pour nommer ces bulletins mensuels – rendez-vous sur le site Web pour voter pour votre nom préféré!

L’Atlas a fait du chemin depuis que nous devions ciseler nos données sur des tablettes de pierre lors de l’Atlas-1 en 1981-1985 (on plaisante!). Altas-1 à été un effort prodigieux de la communauté d’amateurs d’oiseaux mais nous n’avions pas accès à une application consacrée à l’atlas, ni à la panoplie de ressources d’apprentissage que nous avons aujourd’hui, ni aux appareils mobiles qui aident les atlasseurs de bien des façons. Bien que la technologie ait évolué considérablement au fil des années, en passant des données transcrites à la main jusqu’à la création d’application pour téléphone mobile, l’essence même de l’Atlas demeure la même – documenter la distribution et l’abondance relative de chaque espèce qui niche en Ontario. Cependant, peu importe à quel point la technologie évolue, l’élément clé pour un atlas réussi c’est vous, les bénévoles!

Juin constitue l’apogée de la saison de nidification et de la collecte de données de l’atlas. Presque tous les oiseaux qu’on croise démontrent des comportements reliés à la reproduction et sont donc prêts à être documentés. Si vous n’avez pas encore commençé, n’hésitez pas plus longtemps. La saison de reproduction est étonnamment courte et nous n’en avons que 5 – alors que le plaisir commence! Les activités de reproduction deviennent beaucoup plus calmes au début de juillet et se terminent presqu’entièrement par la fin de juillet.

Si vous parcourez déjà le terrain, merci beaucoup; nous espérons que tout se déroule bien. Voici quelques statistiques intéressantes:

  • En date du 23 juin, 928 participants ont entré plus de 27 000 listes d’observation et documenté plus de 20 000 heures de collecte de données. Vous pouvez consulter la progression de l’atlas par vous même sur le site de NatureCounts en choisissant «Explorer» et «Résumé de l’Atlas» 
  • Les atlasseurs d’Ottawa (Région 24 – aussi connue, à juste titre, sous le nom «Le formidable 24»!) sont en tête du peloton dans la catégorie du nombre de listes d’observation (2162 en date du 23 juin) à peine devant la région de Peterborough (1955)  suivi de près par Kingston (1568) et Simcoe (1546).
  • À titre d’inspiration, soulignons aussi quelques efforts individuels exceptionnels: Don « regardez-le aller » Sutherland a déjà entré 643 listes d’observation! Et David et Reagan « quelle équipe! » Goodyear ont effectué 245 heures de collecte de données. C’est merveilleux de voir de tels efforts déployés pour ce projet.  

Ressources:

Vous trouverez tout ce dont vous avez besoin pour participer à l’Atlas-3 sur le site Web de l’Atlas des oiseaux nicheurs de l’Ontario (www.birdsontario.org/?lang=fr)

NatureCounts est la base de données où les données de l’atlas sont rassemblées et gérées. Le portail Web de NatureCounts est relié au site Web de l’Atlas, mais contient les ressources et les sommaires spécifiques à la collecte de données.

  • Sommaires des données: Les résumés des statistiques de l’atlas permettent aux participants de consulter le nombre d’heures, d’espèces ou de listes d’observation dans une région ou une parcelle. La carte de couverture offre une représentation visuelle des statistiques, montrant combien d’espèces, d’heures et de listes d’observation ont été accomplies. Cette carte affiche également des informations importantes au sujet des emplacements tels les limites géographiques des régions d’atlas et l’emplacement des parcelles prioritaires. La carte de répartition présente les lieux où les espèces ont été observées ainsi que l’indice de nidification le plus probant qui a été enregistré.
  • Ressources: La page Ressources de parcelles d’atlas vous premet de télécharger la carte d’une parcelle, les informations géographiques (frontières de parcelle et emplacements des stations de points d’écoute) ainsi que le résumé de parcelle qui montre l’indice de nidification le plus élevé pour chaque espèce observée lors de l’Atlas-2 et l’Atlas-3 pour une parcelle particulière. La page Ressources de l’Atlas contient des documents importants comme la lettre de demande d’accès aux propriétaires fonciers (vous devez être connecté à votre compte pour avoir accès à cette page)
  • L’application NatureCounts: La dernière version de l’appli NatureCounts fonctionne mieux que les versions précédentes; nous avons corrigé plusieurs pépins et apporté une série d’améliorations. Un des ajouts majeurs est la capacité d’ajouter l’emplacement précis pour une espèce individuelle. S’il-vous-plait, utilisez cette fonction pour entrer les coordonnées précises de toutes les observations d’espèces désignées importantes. Pour plus d’information, ce tutoriel YouTube vous présente les étapes à suivre.
  • Une difficulté qui persiste toutefois (en particulier pour les appareils iOS et plus rarement pour certains appareils de type Android) est l’arrêt complet de l’appli lorsque celle-ci est reléguée à l’arrière-plan. Par exemple, lorsque vous éteignez votre téléphone mobile, vous devez relancer l’appli et votre liste d’observation en cours pourrait se retrouver dans le dossier brouillon. Ceci provoque malheureusement l’arrêt de l’enregistrement du trajet GPS. Cette complication est due en grande partie à l’appareil qui tente de réduire l’épuisement de la pile en arrêtant l’appli pendant l’enregistrement de votre piste GPS en arrière-plan. Ceci est plus fréquent lorsque la pile s’épuise.
  • Si vous avez des questions ou commentaires concernant l’application NatureCounts, veuillez remplir le formulaire suivant: (https://www.birdsontario.org/app-feedback/) Vous pouvez aussi noter vos observations dans un carnet et les soumettre directement par l’entremise du portail Web ou transposer vos listes d’observation d’eBird (en anglais)

Ressources vidéo: La chaîne YouTube de l’Atlas-3 offre une variété de tutoriels utiles. Vous y trouverez les enregistrements des sessions Sappy Hours ainsi que les sessions présentées lors du lancement virtuel de l’Atlas-3. De plus, la chaîne YouTube de l’Atlas-3 offre plusieurs tutoriels, y compris l’entrée des données, les points d’écoute par enregistrement numérique, et bien plus encore.

Au delà des relevés de base: 

La saison des points d’écoute est en cours. Les points d’écoute forment l’élément clé qui permet à l’Atlas de cartographier l’abondance relative des espèces à travers la province. Ceux-ci peuvent être réalisés à partir du 24 mai au sud et du 1er juin au nord de la province, et se poursuivent jusqu’au 10 juillet. Les méthodes détaillées pour les points d’écoute se retrouvent sur la page suivante https://www.birdsontario.org/instructions/?lang=fr. Pour ceux qui n’aiment pas lire (), les tutoriels suivants démontrent les aspects variés des points d’écoute:

Certains relevés spéciaux sont aussi en cours. L’Inventaire des oiseaux de marais s’effectue au courant de la même saison que les points d’écoute, et l’Inventaire des engoulevents se déroule du 15 juin au 10 juillet. Ces deux relevés fourniront une variété de nouveaux renseignements sur l’état et la répartition de ces groupes d’oiseaux envers lesquels nous portons un intéret particulier pour la conservation, mais qui ne font pas l’objet d’étude suffisante lors des relevés aviaires traditionnels. L’inventaire des oiseaux de marais peut être accompli uniquement par des participants capables d’identifier les oiseaux par leurs sons, tandis que le relevé d’engoulevents convient aux ornithologues amateurs débutants (quoiqu’il est plaisant pour les participants de tous les niveaux)    

Notes de l’atlasseur

Nous présentons ici une note de la part d’un atlasseur sur un sujet relié à l’atlas. Pour ce mois-ci, Roxane Filion nous décrit ses premières tentatives avec l’appareil Zoom H2N pour enregistrer un point d’écoute numérique:

«Nous savons tous à quel point la foret boréale nord-ontarienne est vitale pour les oiseaux nicheurs mais évaluer les changements dans l’état des espèces qui en dépendent pour se reproduire est un défi de taille; non seulement en raison de son immensité, mais la faible densité de population signifie que très peu de miroiseurs bénévoles y sont présents pour recueillir les données indispensables. Lorsque l’appareil Zoom H2N a été présenté aux atlasseurs comme un moyen d’enregistrer les points d’écoute dans les parcelles dont la couverture n’obtiendra pas le nombre suffisant de points d’écoute traditionnels, j’ai trouvé ça interessant mais j’ai vite été intimidé par le manuel d’instructions et les paramètres multiples; la technologie n’est pas mon truc. Cependant, cet appareil offre la possibilité de créer des cartes d’abondance relative plus précises pour les espèces du nord de l’Ontario – un objectif qui me tient à coeur. J’ai dû l’essayer.

Après avoir lu les instructions et visionner le tutoriel vidéo, j’ai réglé mon réveil; il était temps de découvrir si quelqu’un qui éprouve des difficultés avec une télécommande de télévision peut utiliser cet appareil et obtenir un enregistrement de qualité suffisante. Je me suis rendue dans le sentier le plus près pour un test. L’installation de l’appareil à la hauteur de mon oreille sur une branche, un tronc ou un trépied était facile. Lors de mon tout premier essai, lorsqu’est venu le temps d’énoncer mon information, je n’étais pas prête: j’ai oublié le numéro de parcelle et la date, et je tentais de trouver l’emplacement sur la carte; mais tout cela était sans importance vu que j’avais aussi oublié d’appuyer sur le bouton d’enregistrement. Voilà l’utilité d’un exercice! Les tests suivants se sont bien déroulés. De retour à la maison, j’ai fait l’écoute de mes enregistrements à l’aide d’écouteurs (aïe!) J’étais assurée de mon silence mais en réalité, j’ai fait tellement de bruit que mon ouïe en a souffert. La prochaine fois, je laisse derrière ma veste en nylon, je ne bougerai pas mes pieds, je ne chercherai pas de stylo dans mes poches et ne tiendrai pas de feuille de papier.

Le lendemain, j’étais prête très tôt- le moment optimal pour débuter les points d’écoute est juste avant le lever du soleil. J’ai pu enregistrer 9 points d’écoute avant 8:45. À un moment donné, j’ai remarqué que le paramètre “surround” a été accidentellement déplaçé alors j’ai dû le régler à nouveau à l’aide de l’aide-mémoire. De retour à la maison, j’ai téléchargé les fichiers audio et les ai transposés dans le dossier de l’Atlas de Wildtrax à l’aide du programme FileZilla.

Bref, cet appareil est plus facile à utiliser qu’il paraît et la marche à suivre est simple. Si vous habitez une région peu peuplée, surtout au nord de Gravenhurst, et que vous êtes intéressé à effectuer ces enregistrements, communiquez avec votre coordonatrice ou coordonnateur régional. Votre CR vous indiquera s’il y a des parcelles cibles qui pourraient en bénéficier dans votre région et peut vous prêter l’enregistreur numérique.

Conseils:

  1. Visionnez le tutoriel YouTube sur l’enregistrement de points d’écoute numériques.
  2. Imprimez l’Aide Mémoire (et apportez-le avec vous pour vérifier les paramètres à quelques reprises sur le terrain)
  3. Réglez les paramètres du Zoom H2N à la maison, y compris la date et l’heure.
  4. Soyez prêt pour l’énonciation avec votre information à la portée de la main :  nom, date, heure, numéro de parcelle et numéro du point d’écoute (ou coordonnés UTM ou latitude et longitude pour un point d’écoute hors-route).
  5. Faites d’abord un enregistrement d’essai et écoutez-le à l’aide d’écouteurs pour vous assurer que vous êtes aussi silencieux qu’une Chouette lapone qui dort.
  6. Portez du coton, de la laine ou des vêtements confortables et « silencieux » qui vous permettront de lever le bras pour chasser un moustique sans nuire aux tympans de l’analyste.
  7. Apportez des piles supplémentaires. Soyez prudent et profitez de la matinée!

Quelle belle occasion de collaborer et fournir des données vitales au projet même si on ne peut identifier tous les oiseaux entendus! Et, plus tard, lorsque vous contemplerez les cartes d’abondance relative pour votre paruline préférée, vous aurez la satisfaction d’avoir joué un role dans la création de ces cartes tout en appréciant la symphonie matinale des oiseaux.

 

Meilleures salutations,

L’équipe de l’Atlas-3

 

 

 

L’Atlas des oiseaux nicheurs de l’Ontario remercie les organismes suivants pour leur soutien financier:

Environnement et changement climatique Canada

TD Friends of the Environment Foundation

Vortex

Natural Resource Solutions Inc.,

Hodgson Family Foundation

Baillie Fund

RBC Foundation

Employment and Social Development Canada

(Canada Summer Jobs)

L’Atlas des oiseaux nicheurs de l’Ontario remercie les organismes suivants pour leur soutien logistique:

Boreal Avian Modelling Project

Ressources naturelles Canada 

Parcs Ontario

Parcs Canada

Musée Royale de l’Ontario  

Sustainable Forestry Initiative 

University of Alberta 

Wild Birds Unlimited 

WildTrax

 

 


 

 

Birds Canada Privacy Policy | Accessibility Policy
Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, Birds Canada, 115 Front Street, P.O. Box 160 Port Rowan, ON, N0E 1M0 Canada
Phone: 1-519-586-3531 E-mail: onatlas@birdscanada.org