Category Archives: Birdathon

Report: 2023 Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon, May 26-27, 2023

2023 marked the second full-on Birdathon since we (mostly) emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Once again it was a pleasure for everyone to be able to gather socially for dinner after the birdwatching dust cleared!

Tired Birdathon participants gathered at Rotary Park on Saturday evening to share stories and a meal. Fortunately the cold wind was kept at bay by a clever windbreak of tarps (on the right) erected by John Meikle and Paul Warner!


Total participants: 32
Number of people attending the post-Birdathon BBQ:  28
Total Species observed: 139
(Summary Tables with names of all participants and a complete species list are at the bottom of this post…)

Most Species by a new Birdathoner:
  • Cathy Hoehn 32
  • Colin Abbott and Vickie Rochon 31
  • Tony Gonda 23
  • Jasper Caudle 16
  • Gemma and River Richardson 16

Most Species by a family/household:
  • Julie Bauer and Terry Skjonsberg 78
  • Shyloh, Toren, and Kassandra van Delft 68
  • John Meikle and Helen Liskova 42
  • Amy, Lauren, and Hannah Ryder 22
  • Gemma and River Richardson 16

Is that a Swainson’s or Hermit Thrush? Our youngest birder this year was 6-year-old River Richardson, who participated with his mother Gemma Richardson.
Youngest Participants:
  • River Richardson (6 years old)
  • Hannah and Lauren Ryder  (12 years old)
  • Jasper Caudle (12 years old)
Hannah and Lauren Ryder had so much fun on last year’s Birdathon they came back again! This year they had some serious competition for the youngest participant award! While exploring the area near their home in Whistlebend on foot, they dressed appropriately for the cool spring weather, but their friend opted to stay in his winter coat….. (Amy Ryder)

Oldest Participant:

  • Faulty Team (Bob Atkinson, Barbara Grueger, and Angelika Lange)  Age 75
  • Jim Hawkings Age 69

Most Species Envirobirding:
  • Shyloh, Toren, and Kassandra van Delft 68 (bike and foot)
  • eShrikes – Lena Ware and Cameron Eckert 63 (eBike and foot)
  • Jenny Trapnell 57 (foot and public transit)
  • Cathy Hoehn 32 (foot and plug-in-hybrid electric vehicle)
  • Becky Striegler 31 (foot and public transit)
  • Jim Hawkings 31 (foot)
  • Tony Gonda 23 (foot)
  • Amy, Lauren and Hannah Ryder 22 (foot)
Shyloh van Delft and her daughter Kassandra all set for a fun day of birdwatching by bike! Note the multi-function child seat on this bike… (Toren van Delft)

Most species found near your own home/backyard/shared space:
  • Jim Hawkings 31 (walked around Wolf Creek, Pineridge, Fox Haven)
  • Tony Gonda 23 (walked around Hidden Lakes)
  • Amy, Lauren and Hannah Ryder 21 (walked trails near/around Whistlebend)

Perhaps the most unusual bird found in this year’s Birdathon was this Black-Legged Kittiwake, found at Quartz Road Marsh and seen by multiple observers. (Adam Perrier)

Once again we had tremendous participation.  There were  29 birders, including 7 first-timers.  Cathy Hoehn had a great time in her first birdathon, using her plug-in-hybrid electric vehicle to get around.  Newcomer 12-year-old Jasper Caudle made a great effort, and even dragged his six siblings and both parents to the potluck!

Lots of folks made a really good effort to be enviro-birders:  Five people were solely on foot, two more used foot and public transit, three were on regular bikes (even hauled an infant with them!), two were on eBikes, and one used an electric car.  Together, that’s 13 of 29 participants – a huge change from previous Birdathons.

Toren, Shyloh, and Kassandra van Delft (somewhere in the Ibex Valley?) show how much fun our Yukon Birdathon is when you envirobird! (Shyloh van Delft).  All three of them spent the day getting around by bike and foot from their home base near the Takhini River Bridge on the Alaska Highway.

Weather…..well, after a pretty nice time last year, 2023 was a bit of a character-builder.  Windy and pretty cool (11-13C), with just a few drops of rain on Saturday. The wind was definitely our constant companion, and it made life at the potluck dinner much more interesting as well.  luckily at Rotary Park Paul Warner and John Meikle  stepped up and rigged a very nice windbreak using tarps and rope.  With the wind at bay, the evening sun kept everyone warm long enough to enjoy a great meal and the great company of other birders.

Ted Murphy-Kelly took the opportunity to bask in his favorite haunts at the Albert Creek Bird Observatory at Upper Liard…..which was a bit wetter than normal this spring. (Jukka Jantunen)

As usual most people were birding in the Southern Lakes between Marsh Lake, Carcross, and Lake Laberge, again this year, but we did have some going further afield. Julie Bauer and Terry Skjonsberg were out between Kluane and Haines Juction. Jukka Jantunen and Ted Murphy-Kelly decided to relive their birdathon of 10 years ago, so they drove from Whitehorse to Watson Lake on Friday and returned on Saturday.  Thanks to their sleep-deprived efforts, our species total was bumped up by 20 species.  Close to half of that increase was from birding in southeast Yukon – where a handful of species can be found at the very northwestern part of their North American range (e.g. Pied-billed Grebe, Blue-headed Vireo, Clay-coloured Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart, Western Tanager) .  Meanwhile Julie and Terry added another 5 species that were not seen by other observers (Northern Harrier, Great Gray Owl, Great Horned Owl, American Pipit, Pine Grosbeak).

Hardcore Yukon Birdathoners (left to right) Jukka Jantunen, and Ted Murphy-Kelly managed to see/hear 111 species this year, making them champions by quite a good margin. We’re not sure if Rudy – on the left with the binoculars – was part of the team or not.

Hard work (and covering a lot of ground) makes for a long bird list.  Our resident experts Jukka Jantunen and Ted Murphy Kelly proved this once again.  Their “sleepless in Watson Lake” epic netted 111 species.  This year’s Feature Birder, Alex Oberg, got a better night’s sleep at home, and was not too far behind with 87 species, followed by Tracy Allard with 81.

Our Feature Birder, Alex Oberg, managed 87 species in only his second Yukon Birdathon.   Alex also put in a huge effort to get sponsors for his Birdathon.  Well done Alex!

Our Birdathon species total was 139, which ties for the lowest number in recent years.  The cold, windy weather definitely played into this relatively low number. Compare that to 151 in 2019, 139 in 2020, 147 in 2021, and 146 in 2022.

As to the actual birds seen this year, nothing horribly unusual was seen, but there were a few interesting wanderers:  a Black-legged Kittiwake appeared at Quartz Road – this is gull there never really strays far from salt water and nests on cliffs along the coast! Also at Quartz Road was a Ring-billed gull….common on the prairies, but not here.

Memorable moments from this year’s 24 hours?  Swallows will figure in most people’s notes: It seems people saw almost no swallows, or, if they were lucky, stumbled on one the sheltered wetlands where hundreds or thousands of swallows were desperately wheeling about trying to get enough to eat.  In my case, the only one I saw during 30 km of walking was the Tree Swallow that was nesting in my nestbox at home – and all I saw was its head!   Logan McLeod found the other end of the spectrum – hordes of them in a small pothole lake near the Whitehorse Sewage Lagoons.

The Birdathon is one of the main fundraisers for the Yukon Bird Club – really the only one we have aside from our annual membership dues.  This year several participants really stepped up:  Alex Oberg, our 2023 Feature Birder, Cathy Hoehn – a new member and brand new participant in the Birdathon, and Ted Murphy-Kelly – a longtime YBC member and an undisputed cornerstone of the Yukon birding community. A huge THANK YOU to them and all the other participants and their sponsors this year.

On behalf of myself and all the other participants, I’d like to thank  once again thank our Birdathon Coordinator Jenny Trapnell for all her efforts, as well as Betty Sutton who lined up prizes and took care of logistics for the BBQ.


Download (XLSX, 10KB)

Master Checklist

Download (XLSX, 17KB)

Report: 2022 Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon

Harlequin Ducks are late migrants, but they can be a bit hard to find by Birdathon time at the end of May. Kim Selbee found this amorous pair near Mayo on Friday evening. (Kim Selbee)

Well, after a couple of pretty weird years, the Yukon Bird Club is back in normal field trip operating mode this year, including a fully-fledged Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon held on 27-28 May – complete with an IN PERSON potluck dinner on Saturday evening after the 24 hours of birding was finished.  This was a pleasant change from two years of Zoom meetings which made it very difficult to share any delicious food!


Total participants: 29
Number of people attending the post-Birdathon BBQ:  27
Total Species observed: 146 (plus 2 varieties)
(Summary Tables with names of all participants and a complete species list are at the bottom of this post…)

Most Species by a new Birdathoner:
Kirsten Wilcox 116
Dominique Blanc 96
Alex Oberg 60
Ryleigh Whitefield 44
James Whelan 26
Amy, Lauren, and Hannah Ryder 21
Lawrence Purdy and Pippa Lawson 13

Most Species by a family/household:
Wendy Nixon and Grant Abbott 50  (also winners of the yet-to-be-created Electric Car birding category!)
John Meikle and Helen Liskova 42
Amy, Lauren, and Hannah Ryder 21
Lawrence Purdy and Pippa Lawson 13

Overlooking the mouth of Judas Creek, Marsh Lake. Veteran Birdathon participants know big rewards lurk in Yukon wetlands where dozens of species of waterfowl and other waterbirds can be found in the spring. Spotting scopes are a big help in these wide-open spaces. (Lena Ware)
Youngest Participant:
Hannah and Lauren Ryder  (11 years old!)
Shyloh van Delft (28 years old)

Oldest Participant:  Mary Whitley (50 species! Way to go Mary!)

Most Species Envirobirding:
Jim Hawkings 56 (traveled by Bike: Pineridge, Wolf Creek, Mary Lake, Lewes Marsh and points between)
Amy, Lauren and Hannah Ryder 21 (walked trails near/around Whistlebend)

Most species found near your own home/backyard/shared space:
Amy, Lauren and Hannah Ryder 21 (walked trails near/around Whistlebend)

Male Long-tailed Duck. Another hard-to-find species come Birdathon time in late May. This one beautifully captured by Kim Selbee near Mayo. (Kim Selbee)


This year’s Birdathon had tremendous participation.  There were  29 birders, including 11 first-timers.  For the first time in several years, the weather was quite pleasant (definitely in a different league than last year!), notwithstanding a few isolated squalls of rain and hail on Friday night in the Whitehorse area.

People were birding mostly in the Southern Lakes between Marsh Lake, Carcross, and Lake Laberge, but a few went as far as Haines Junction, and we had Kim Selbee up in Mayo.  This was the first year in quite awhile that none of our participants were birding in the Watson Lake area, where a handful of species can be found at the very northwestern part of their North American range.  In spite of that, our hard-birding crew managed to see or hear 146 species, just one less that the 147 seen in 2021, and better than the 139 seen in 2020.  The best recent year was 151 species recorded in 2019.

As to the actual birds seen this year, a few oddballs turned up. A Willet – a large shorebird normally found on the prairies- was seen by multiple participants at Lewes Marsh.  Tracy Allard glimpsed a Black Tern at Jackfish Bay on Lake Laberge.  Black Terns are also prairie birds that just poke their noses into the southeast Yukon. A Glaucous-winged Gull was skulking among the hordes of Herring Gulls in on the gravel bars at Quartz Road, well inland from it’s usual home on the Pacific Coast.  Alex Oberg found another visitor from the southeast – a Western Tanager – at the Marsh Lake Campground.

Cameron Eckert and Kirsten Wilcox in search of the elusive Willet in the bowels of Lewes Marsh (Lena Ware)

After all the Steller’s Jays seen in the past 18 months, only one turned up on the Birdathon – all that is left of the big invasion?

Dufflbags, the winning team composed of our Feature Birder Lena Ware, Cameron Eckert, and Kirsten Wilcox, found 116 species of birds during the 24-hour event! They look pretty happy here on Friday evening at Judas Creek, no doubt fueled by thoughts of nice weather and upcoming sleep deprivation. (Lena Ware)

Our top birders this year were a team of biologists: the Dufflbags, including our feature birder Lena Ware, long-time YBC board member Cameron Eckert, and Kirsten Wilcox.  They managed 116 species of birds – and even got a few hours of sleep in the middle of it!  Close on their heels was Adam Perrier with 114 followed by Tracy Allard with 106.  Our perennial winner, Jukka Jantunen, tried his luck in Haines Junction this year instead of his usual Watson Lake haunts.  Along with teammates Shyloh van Delft and Julie Bauer, he saw 96 species.

It was particularly heartening to see the 11 first-time Birdathoners, many of whom are still quite new to birding. Congrats to all of you! One of our new youngish keeners, Kirsten Wilcox, topped this crowd as well as being part of the overall winning team. Behind her was Dominique Blanc with 96 and Alex Oberg with 60.  Among our newcomers were 11-year old sisters Lauren and Hannah Ryder and their mom Amy Ryder.  Lauren and Hannah were also our youngest participants and their team also distinguished themselves by enviro-birding very close to their own home in Whistle-bend!

Hannah and Lauren Ryder were youngest Birdathon participants. Along with their mom Amy they scoured the trails around their home neighbourhood of Whistlebend. (Amy Ryder)

Aside from the Ryder clan, the only other enviro-birder this year was yours truly.  Enviro-birders participate under their own power or using only renewable energy during the entire 24 hour period.  Traditionally this has been walking, biking, or paddling.  This year does mark our first Electric Vehicle participants: Grant Abbott and Wendy Nixon! Next year we will consider officially expanding this with some other categories:  e-bikes, other Electric Vehicles,  Car Pooling, Public Transit.  Let us know if you have other suggestions!

In 2022 we were finally able to re-instate our in-person potluck BBQ social event on Saturday night following the Birdathon. Here participants, including Birdathon Coordinator Jenny Trapnell (in red), gather around as Lena Ware goes through the checklist of Yukon Birds to find out how many different species were seen in total – as well as where any unusual birds turned up. (Beth Hawkings)

This year our Birdathon wasn’t completely without glitches, as our normal post-Birdathon social venue, Robert Service Campground, was closed for renovations, forcing a move to a more exposed location at Rotary Park. Luckily for us, the sun was out and the wind calmed down so it was an extremely pleasant shirt-sleeve event attended by 27 people!

As always, there were interesting stories of adventure from participants.  Among my memorable moments was exploring the bike trail along the Alaska Highway between Golden Horn subdivision and the Yukon River Bridge for the first time ever, even though I have lived here since 1983, and even lived for 7 years at the Yukon River Bridge!  This was a very pleasant ride in the warm(ish) morning sun, made even better by a nice tailwind from the north and a generally downhill gradient.  Coming back at the end of the afternoon into the wind and uphill was a bit more exhausting however.  Another great moment was a surprise I got while watching an Olive-sided Flycatcher busily working the shrubby area at the far end of Lewes Marsh next to the sawmill road.  I was enjoying a nice view of this bird through my binoculars and lazily waving at a bee that was buzzing around me, when the flycatcher looked my way and then, completely unprovoked, suddenly charged directly at my head. I was actually quite startled but quickly understood the situation as the bird snagged the bee next to my ear and darted back to it’s perch, where it beat it’s quarry furiously against a tree branch and swallowed it.  That was the end of that buzzing.

On behalf of myself and all the other participants, I’d like to thank  our Birdathon Coordinator Jenny Trapnell for all her efforts, as well as Betty Sutton who lined up prizes and took care of logistics for the BBQ.  And of course thanks to all the participants and sponsors for making the event a huge success this year!


Download (XLSX, 13KB)

Master Checklist

Download (XLSX, 17KB)

Report: 2020 Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon

The 2020 Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon took place from 5 pm 29 May to 5 pm 30 May.  Other field trips usually offered by the Yukon Bird Club have been cancelled to date due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a slightly modified Birdathon turned out to be a winner for both the club and keen birders in the Yukon.  As can happen, the weather challenged everyone, with frequent rainshowers both days sending birders scurrying for the shelter of the nearest building or vehicle or even a handy spruce tree. In spite of these difficulties, we had 22 participants in 14 parties, including  4 families (2 or more people from the same household).  Four parties (7 participants) were enviro-birding, i.e. they birdwatched using human- or renewable energy-powered transportation only from 5 pm Friday to 5 pm Saturday.   In the spirit of current times, most people stayed pretty close to home – even those who used their car to get around.

Shyloh van Delft and her brother Toren managed to snap a great photo of two Trumpeter Swans and a single Tundra Swan on a pond at the Takhini salt flats – a nice side-by-side comparison. Photo Shyloh van Delft

A total of 139 species was seen, a bit less than last year’s 151. Jukka Jantunen, our perennial champion, saw the most species (103), but this year he only beat the runner up, Adam Perrier, by one species! Adam’s Birdathon effort was remarkable considering he did not have the benefit of species that frequent southeast Yukon, where Jukka was birding.  Julie Bauer, who was also birding in southeast Yukon, managed 98 species, while Cameron Eckert and Pam Sinclair were 4th with 86 species. In the Enviro-birding category Jim Hawkings was first with 47 species;  Kim Selbee was second with 38 and the family team of Melanie McFadyen with Joseph, Kalia, and Morel Graham were 3rd with 31 species.

In between rainshowers, Kim Selbee managed to get a nice photo of this Orange-crowned Warber. You can see the orange crown here — something that is not always prominent in the field. Photo Kim Selbee

Speaking of species found in southeast Yukon but generally not around Whitehorse, here are a few that gave Jukka and Julie an edge this year: Pileated Woodpecker, Franklin’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Magnolia Warbler, Swamp Sparrow, Western Tanager, Brown-headed Cowbird.  In addition, they found a couple of habitually late migrants, Alder and Least Flycatchers, which had made it to southeast Yukon by Birdathon time but were not yet in the Whitehorse area.  Eastern Kingbird is another species usually found only in southeast, but Adam Perrier managed to find one closer to Whitehorse this year, one of the more unusual sightings of the 2020 Birdathon.

In honour of COVID -19 this year, there was a special category for the most species of Corvids (Ravens, Crows, Jays, Magpies).  Julie Bauer  wins most species (Common Raven, Common Crow,  and Canada Jay).  Most species for a household/family team goes to Cameron Eckert and Pam Sinclair with 86 species followed by Logan McLeod and Caitlin Willier with 70 and Melanie McFadyen and her family with 31.  The most species by a person new to the Birdathon goes to Logan McLeod and Caitlin Willier.  The youngest participant was a 10-year-old member of the Graham clan, while the oldest participant award goes to Betty Sutton.

This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was very cooperative for Shyloh and Toren van Delft. It’s a species that can be a bit hard to find on Birdathon Day. Photo Shyloh van Delft

This year’s feature birder, Taylor Belansky, sighted 38 species.  We thank her for spearheading the fundraising side of the Birdathon, with all of this year’s donations going to the Whitehorse Food Bank.  We do not know how much money was raised for the Food Bank, but we sincerely thank everyone who donated in these times that are so difficult for many low-income people.

Kim Selbee was one of the few lucky participants to catch up with the elusive Golden-crowned Kinglet. Photo Kim Selbee

In lieu of the normal BBQ gathering at Robert Service Campground, most of this year’s Birdathon participants took part in a cozy and delicious online conference call to compare bird notes and tales of survival.  Particpants on the call mused about some apparent trends in the birds seen over the years: Where have all the Red-necked Phalaropes gone? Why only one Least Sandpiper? Why no American Kestrels?  Where are all the Mountain Bluebirds – they were quite common in past years?  Are we going to get Rock Pigeons back in town?

So, in spite of being in the midst of a global pandemic, our 2020 Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon adapted to the times and was a success. Kim Selbee summed it up pretty well after her 24 hours of fun:

I got home at 4:50pm, starving but really happy 👍. I hope you, and everyone else who participated had half as much fun as I did!!!

The Birdathon is a chance to get out in your own back yard and see what might be there—right under your own nose! Kim Selbee captured this stunning portrait of a lynx while picking her way through the forest near home. Photo Kim Selbee

Thanks to all participants and  fellow organizers, especially our Birdathon Coordinator Betty Sutton.  We hope to see you all again next year at a real live post-event BBQ social!

Here is a list of this year’s participants and prize-winners!

Download (XLSX, 10KB)

And here is a complete list of the birds reported on the 2020 Birdathon.

Download (XLSX, 22KB)