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!
- Cathy Hoehn 32
- Colin Abbott and Vickie Rochon 31
- Tony Gonda 23
- Jasper Caudle 16
- Gemma and River Richardson 16
- 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
- River Richardson (6 years old)
- Hannah and Lauren Ryder (12 years old)
- Jasper Caudle (12 years old)
- Faulty Team (Bob Atkinson, Barbara Grueger, and Angelika Lange) Age 75
- Jim Hawkings Age 69
- 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)
- 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)
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.
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.
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).
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 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.