The Warblers by Birds Canada

The Year in Birds: Canadian bird and birding highlights from 2021

January 25, 2022 Season 2 Episode 1
The Warblers by Birds Canada
The Year in Birds: Canadian bird and birding highlights from 2021
Show Notes Transcript

We sat down with our friends, Yousif and Mike, expecting to chat about the past year in birding—but we couldn’t settle on one topic!  

In this episode, we marvel over rare bird sightings, like the Steller’s Sea Eagle that visited multiple Canadian provinces this year. We dig into what it means to be a “birder”, and how the birding community has changed for the better in recent years. And we chat about how bird populations have fluctuated in our lifetimes, and how the influx of new birders and technology like eBird helps us track those changes. 

This is an episode with a little bit of everything—we hope you enjoy it. 


Ready to get your bird-friendly coffee? Visit www.birdsandbeans.ca/warblers - using this link will automatically apply the code. You can also use the code "Warblers" when you check out. The code helps us measure the positive impact of the podcast on bird-friendly coffee sales. Please note this option is only valid for purchases in Canada.

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Mike Burrell grew up in a nature-loving family outside of Waterloo, Ontario and inherited his love of birds from his Dad. He has participated in almost every bird citizen science project he can and currently acts as the Ontario coordinator for eBird Canada. In addition, he acts as the secretary and archivist for the Ontario Bird Records Committee, the Ontario regional editor for the Christmas Bird Count program, several committees for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-3 and is a member of the Bird Specialist Subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Mike, with his brother, Ken, also co-authored the book, Best Places to Bird in Ontario. Follow at @mike_va_burrell

Yousif Attia grew up watching birds and exploring the wilds of central and southern Alberta since he and his family immigrated there when he was four years old. He was drawn to the concept of volunteering for citizen science programs in his early teens when he would tag along on Christmas Bird Counts. Although he has lived in several places across the country, he is now settled on the Fraser Estuary on the West Coast of BC. Yousif has worn many hats over the years at Birds Canada, including work on species-at-risk in southern Ontario, field surveys in the boreal including the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas-2, and managed the Long Point Bird Observatory where he eventually became a North American Banding Council certified trainer. Yousif is now part of a team at Birds Canada that coordinates the Christmas Bird Count and eBird in Canada, and another that develops content on the website.  Follow on @ysattia or @biophylia

Andrea Gress studied Renewable Resource Management at the University of Saskatchewan. She pivoted towards birds, after an internship in South Africa. Upon returning, she worked with Piping Plovers in Saskatchewan and now coordinates the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program for Birds Canada. Follow her work at @ontarioplovers

Andrés Jiménez is a Costa Rican wildlife biologist with a keen interest in snakes, frogs, birds and how human relationships are interconnected with the living world. He studied Tropical Biology in Costa Rica and has a Masters in Environmental Problem Solving from York University. He is Birds Canada's Urban Program Coordinator and you can follow him at @andresjimo

Friendly Day by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/<

Andrea Gress:

You're listening to the Warblers of birds Canada Podcast. I'm Andrea Gress. I am undress Jimenez.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Join us as we travel, uncommon flight paths with our guests gaining insights and inspiration from the world of birds and bird conservation in Canada.

Andrea Gress:

Hey, how's it going?

Andres Jimenez Monge:

It's going well, it's going well, I'm quite happy to be back to this, which is our second season.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah. Second season started the new year, I can't believe we've been going for like six months already with the podcast.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

It's incredible that we have a second season to do and that it's been six months. Some facts for our listeners is that we have produced 14 episodes on the past six months, we've also produced 468 minutes of content. And yes, and so many people are listening. We listened to in over 1000 cities in like 150 countries.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, that's pretty unreal. I love stats like end of the year, you know, Spotify, and all these different programs give out so many stats, and it's really fun getting them for the podcast to Yes, particularly locations.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

I'm surprised that people in Abu Dhabi hear us and some other places and many small towns in Canada, so a big thank you, to all of you listening from wherever you are.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, it's great having you guys on the ride with us.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Andrea, what can we expect? What can our listeners expect for the second season of the Warblers?

Andrea Gress:

We've got some pretty special content coming featuring Canada's endangered species, some of the ones that you maybe haven't even really heard of ones that we don't necessarily know a lot about. And then some crowd favorites as well. I'm pretty excited to get into those like piping clovers, piping lovers. Of course, of course.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Are we finally having a piping plover episode?

Andrea Gress:

Finally we will have on this season. Really looking forward to that.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So Andrea, what are the species that we're gonna be talking about?

Andrea Gress:

Oh, man, there's so many like, obviously piping plover, but you know, owls will get into marbled mirror let's and you know, I think I think we should leave some some mystery and let people tune in and find out as we go.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yes. Hopefully everyone is going to tune in for this new season that is going to bring you back the amazing authors and biologists and birders that came to the show last year. And many more. We know that people have been really connecting with the stories, the personal stories of the people that have come to the podcast. So we're definitely going to double down on that. We've also bring in new sponsors. And we want to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about how we do sponsorships.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, yeah, I really like the couple of sponsors we've had so far, because they are companies that are actually doing really good things for birds here in Canada, and like helping us make an impact and hopefully helping you our listeners make an impact. So feather friendly, the dec als for your window to prevent bird collisions actually work. And that's awesome. And same with birds and beans, like are friendly certified coffee is actually something that helps migratory bird species.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yeah, it's it's very important. When we were creating the podcast, it was clear that we needed sponsorships to continue the podcast going,getting the equipment, getting it done getting it out there. But when we were confronting this idea, we had many discussions. And I remember Andrew saying, Well, you know, if we're gonna have some sponsors, I wanted to be sponsors that align with our ethical values. We didn't only find sponsors that align with our ethical values, but we wanted for each single spot that we would create to bring solutions to the challenges we have on everyday conservation of birds.

Andrea Gress:

Mm hmm. Yeah, we hope that, you know, learning about the sponsors and listening to each episode as well helps our listeners come up with solutions that they can do to help birds

Andres Jimenez Monge:

and it's important thing for the audience to know then when we find a sponsor. And when we try to do a spot like the most recent one for Britain, beans, we're trying for the spots to teach. We're trying for them to be fun. We're trying for them to be engaging. And so it takes us a while to make them and the whole goal of them is that people can get something out of it and something that is valuable for them and for birds.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, yeah, it's been fun. Gosh, I've gotten a lot of hilarious feedback about the birds and being one people like the slurping sound effect apparently so you know, thank you. Thank you.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Which is it's made by Andrea. I want everyone to know that doesn't come from a soundscape library note that was Andrea through and through.

Andrea Gress:

Lots of fun, lots of fun making them.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

We have a new episode for today. What are we talking about today?

Andrea Gress:

We're kind of looking back on the year of birding, what did 2021 bring us in the Birding community in the Birding worlds?

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yes. And for that we have to You amazing people, burgers and conservationists, we're talking with use of Atiyah. He is in Richmond, British Columbia. He's going to tell you a lot more about himself. And we're also talking with Mike Burrell, one of the authors for the book, best birding places in Ontario. And they are going to tell us how the year was in birding for them. But also in Canada, what were the species that were different or that were moving more than usually? And also, we want to ask them, what were the big good news that birds got on this 2021

Andrea Gress:

And hopefully, we'll get some insights from them as to what the next year might bring.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yeah, let's do it. We'll be right back. How do you like your coffee Andrew cream?

Andrea Gress:

Sure. I like mine, bird friendly, certified

Andres Jimenez Monge:

then I have just to brew for you. Birds & Beans, Coffee Roasters only use beans from farmers who keep the native forest habitat intact, growing coffee in the shade of a variety of native trees.

Andrea Gress:

That's good for migratory birds.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Good for everyone. This coffee is even certified by the Smithsonian migratory bird center. It protects biodiversity support sustainable farming, and it's Fairtrade and organic to

Andrea Gress:

ah, not to mention delicious,

Andres Jimenez Monge:

deliciously bird friendly if any of our listeners also like their coffee bird friendly certified here's how to get it ordered online at Burton beans.ca/warblers. Make sure to use the slash warblers because that means birds and beans will also donate 10% of the purchase price to support this podcast. You can also use the link on your podcast player sounds

Andrea Gress:

great. Andres, how about another cup?

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Let's do it. Well, without further ado, let's welcome our guests for today. We have use of Attia and Mike row with us. And I think we should let them introduce themselves. Why don't we start with you use of tell us about you. And where are you calling in from today?

Yousif Attia:

Yeah, I'm calling in from Richmond BC, on the west coast, just south of Coover. It's actually an urban area right in the middle of the Fraser River estuary, which is an incredibly productive place for birding not just in Canada, but on a global scale. So I feel pretty fortunate to be where I am use it.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What do you do for a living?

Yousif Attia:

So I work for birds, Canada, I coordinate a couple citizen science projects nationally. So the Christmas Bird Count and eBird Canada along with a team of folks and I also develop and maintain the Burj Canada website, among other things. I'm a bit of a jack of all master of none.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yes, use IV is one of the masters behind our website. And he's such a key player for us to be able to do what we do. I'm now let's go to Mike Mike, tell us about you where you calling from and what do you do?

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, I'm based out of Peterborough, Ontario. I've been a birder since I was a little kid. I've sort of dabbled in all sorts of birding related community science projects. I actually worked for birds Canada there for a little while running the Important Bird area program. And I was involved with Christmas Bird Count and E bird program as well. While I was there, I continue doing a lot of volunteer work related to these community science projects. Coordinate e bird here in Ontario and the Ontario regional editor for Christiansburg counts for work. I work at the Ministry of Northern development mines, natural resources and forestry as well just focus on rare species, especially birds. And and through that role, I get to do some work on the Ontario breeding bird Atlas, the third version, which is running now, which I'm real thrilled about.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

That's awesome. So this means that if I report a whitetail kite in Peterborough, I will be getting an email from you.

Mike Burrell:

Well, you know, I don't do a lot of the actual reviewing anymore with the bird i i sort of make sure that the the different areas are getting covered by other volunteers and sort of higher level stuff like that, but used to be me, that's for sure. I was doing the whole province at once a long time ago. But there's there's just too much e bird activity now for one person. So there's a team of about 40 of us now,

Andrea Gress:

That's unreal to think about how much Ebird has changed and evolved over the years and especially with all the increase in birders, right? That's gonna be kind of exciting to see.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah. Well, I mean, it's great, because it's a big job, as you can imagine. I mean, there's a lot of Alberta everywhere. Ontario alone, I think it's about a million, a million per year. And so it's a lot of data to go through. And by spreading the load out amongst a bunch of volunteers. It makes it so it's more manageable. That's for sure.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

I find it shocking that you just mentioned that there were 40 people working in Ontario Ybor just as reviewers and gathers of all the data and everything. I'm quite surprised about that.

Andrea Gress:

Well, thanks for that intro, guys. It's kind of nice to know just how deeply involved in the Birding community in Canada you guys are both through your work experiences and volunteering and just personal interests right. What would you consider is like your birding style, like how do you like to bird Are you a Twitchers? You know,

Andres Jimenez Monge:

I feel that we need to provide some clarity or some context for the new birders are listening to us today. Can one of you guys define twitcher for me?

Mike Burrell:

It comes from the British you know, they're always coming up with stuff first, especially when it comes to enjoying nature and birds. I first heard the term Twitter as a as a teenager volunteering at lawn point Bird Observatory on Lake Erie and Ontario and I met all these you know, all these really intensive birders coming over from the UK and Belgium and France and they all had these hilarious stories and it was a whole nother world I didn't know existed. And and so twitcher is this British term for somebody who chases rare birds and where it originates is the idea that you know, you hear about a rare bird and you just get so excited that you can't even control yourself. You start twitching like it's just, it's just one of these reactions. You're just so excited

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Okay, so we know what Twitter is now. Is it Twitter the same as a hardcore burger?

Yousif Attia:

Not necessarily

Mike Burrell:

Not necessarily

Yousif Attia:

Some hardcore burgers take pride in just being very thorough and contributing to citizen science or community science. You don't necessarily have to be a hardcore birder, to be a twitcher, and you don't necessarily have to be a twitcher or a Lister to be hardcore like we said earlier you know it's it's whatever you want it to be it can it can be all those things all at once as well.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Okay, then what would a Lister be?

Yousif Attia:

I think a Lister is somebody who keeps track of their birds, whether it be on an annual basis a life basis, you know, even monthly.

Mike Burrell:

We're already getting at the heart of what makes birding so fun. I don't like to consider myself one you know, sir fit into one of those categories. Some people would say I'm a twitcher, and I am a twitcher some days I love chasing rare birds but at the same time i i can be pretty happy sitting in my backyard staring at my feeder and and you know looking at the Junko flock or seeing what I can wait what I can get flying over I really enjoy like the the concept of patch birding and trying to trying to see what you can find locally things like E bird and breeding bird atlases are really cool excuses to to go and just explore if I had to kind of give myself a label it would be that I like to explore the world of nature through birds.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, it's kind of like scavenger hunting you get out in the woods and see who's out there with you.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, forsure. And you know, the the element of surprise that's part of what makes finding rare birds really fun, but you can be pretty surprised you know, with common birds doing things you've never seen before.

Andrea Gress:

Oh, absolutely. Like I consider myself more of a casual birder. I don't Twitch I don't go out of my way to find a specific bird that might have been reported somewhere or anything like that. I'm all about seeing just the birds that are around me and enjoying their interactions with each other or with other wildlife. For me, that's that's totally where it's at. What about yourself use Yousif

Yousif Attia:

that's the beauty of birding. I mean, it can be all those things at the same day, really. You can enjoy birds you can chase birds. It can be whatever you really want it you know, personally, I have dabbled a little bit in competitive birding. I know Mike has as well. You know, we're doing things like big days and fundraisers where you go chase bird all day, sort of like the Olympics of birding and also I also have been increasingly interested in taking ownership of my patch really getting to know the birds close to me. And no, occasionally being seduced by the odd rarity vagrant that become a little more selective about the birds I chase. But I do go after a few birds on occasion.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Everyone that is into birds is going through their own journey. Our journeys evolve and change as we experience them.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, for sure. I mean, we've got all these labels like twitcher and Lister, and also all sorts of of labels. And realistically, nobody fits into one of those boxes. It's it's a huge spectrum. And just because I like to chase birds, or you know, have a bigger life list and then somebody else, it doesn't mean that other person is any less of a birder. I heard Ben Kaufman once say something along the lines of the quality of somebody as a birder is really how interested they are in birds and how much they pay attention.

Andrea Gress:

So we've got all these different types of birders I think, right now is a really exciting time because in the last couple of years, we've seen a huge influx in new birders, people who were kind of stuck at home and started to look around at their their local patches or their backyard and and started to notice birds for the first time and really got into it. You could almost say birds were like essential workers for a lot of us during the last couple of years. Do you guys think that that's had an impact on the species were detected.

Yousif Attia:

I think so. Yeah, I mean, birding has gone viral. Is that okay to say that? Is that how the kids use it these? Yeah, I think that works, it's a really good thing and seeing people, like just take an interest, whether it's even picking up a camera and keep track of what they're seeing, or just an interest, like you said, in their in birds yard, putting up a feeder, it's really, it's really caught on and people are realizing you don't have to go far to achieve that feeling of discovery. If you've never really paid attention to birds, and you just start, you're gonna see a lot of new things that you didn't know, we're just outside your door. And that's really exciting. And I think people have found that exciting. It's, it's really caught on, it's really nice to see. And as far as people finding more birds, I mean, we talked about rarities, having more people out there just increases the chances that we're going to see more birds. And actually, it really helps for keeping track of bird sums, like fluxes of birds, and, and finding rare birds have all happened because there are just more of us out there.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, absolutely. And it's been really amazing to see the growth, especially in the last couple years. During this pandemic, you can see the growth just in a thing like eBird, I think we're like, I know, in Ontario, we were kind of it felt like we were starting to plateau in terms of the growth, which was fine, but it just ramped right back up. The last few years, like 30% growth year over year, the last two years in a row and exactly what you said, you know, the more people out there looking, the more likely we are to find out about rare birds, you know, somebody stumbles across something, they might have no idea what it is, but they can take a picture now the way digital photography, so they can post it on Ebird, they can post it on all these different social media channels. And it gets identified within seconds. And you know, and then a crowd of burgers descends on it sort of thing

Yousif Attia:

you mentioned, you know, the advent of social media and technology, because I think that has a part to play with how much birding has caught on. It's really accessible. It's the information is moving really fast. It's exciting. And I think that's part of it. So

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Ebird is a bit like the birders social media, right? It's a platform where people report this piece of bread they see but it's so much more than that is a database that collects information and makes it accessible. It's also used for identifying birthdays, many, many things Mike and us have, have we seen an increase on eBird? You mentioned that we have seen it but how big is that increase? Is this more users? Or is this more people submitting more lists? Or as well? Are we seeing more rarities being spotted because more people are burning?

Yousif Attia:

Yeah, I mean, it's all of the above. There are more people who are readers who have been birding for a long time and have started like using a bird more. It's also a new people who are new to birding and have picked up so we're definitely seen increasing users all along the whole the whole spectrum. And it's definitely resulting in us learning more about birds, whether that be rarities or just changes in bird distribution, and just finding more birds increasing that dataset, that E bird dataset, making it more powerful, more records.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, and the great thing is with E bird and seeing it grow, is it's a reciprocal relationship between the data in that are putting the information in because the more information that's in there, I mean, it benefits researchers and conservationists because it can be used to to track bird changes in bird status and distribution and abundance. But it's really powerful as a learning tool for for birders to know, okay, this is when I should expect this species or this is an area where the species typically shows up, a lot of that information used to be recorded, has been recorded for, you know, 100 years in a lot of places. But you know, up until 20 years ago, and when stuff started coming online, you know, if you wanted to know about the history of a species in an area, you had to know, the person who had those records in, you know, a filing cabinet in their basement kind of thing.

Andrea Gress:

Do you have any specific examples of a change of species perhaps that you've noticed in your life that really stand out?

Mike Burrell:

Oh, man, how much time do you have? Yeah, I mean, like you said, Neither him or I have been birding that long. I mean, lots of people have been birding longer than us. And it almost feels like we're in a completely different place than when we were kids. Like, you know, here in Ontario. A really great example is red bellied woodpecker. Red bellied woodpecker. When I was a kid, I remember I did this take your kids to work day thing. So in grade eight, and I went to this outdoor Ed Center with a friend of my dad's who was the teacher there, Ted Chesky. He's listening. And I remember being so excited to go down there because they had had a red bellied woodpecker coming to the feeder. This is just south of Cambridge. I was pretty bummed because I didn't get that red bellied woodpecker. That was about 25 years ago, and I still needed red bellied woodpecker for my life. And you know now when I go home to my parents in the Kitchener Waterloo area, Redbelly woodpeckers like the most common woodpecker, we see, it's incredible how fast some birds can change positively, like red bellied woodpecker. But at the same time, you know, we see species that have completely disappeared in that in that same amount of time. You know, thinking of Christmas bird counts back in my home turf and Kitchener Waterloo where in my lifetime, American Kestrel and rough grouse have both basically become extirpated from that Christmas Bird Count circle, whereas they, you know, they were annual in, you know, double digits when I was a kid. So it goes both ways.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

If you'rewondering why we're talking with Mike and use it today, this is why because they have been burning for a long time since they were kids. And even though they say they haven't been doing it for that long, they can remember the birds that were extirpated through the decades of birding that these guys have done. And that is remarkable. And that's one of the useful things of being out there constantly, all the time, because you go beyond identifying birds and creating a list towards understanding how these birds are changing. And then I have a note for Red Headed woodpeckers. If you're listening to me, and you can follow the example of Red Belly woodpeckers, I would really appreciate that because I haven't seen a red headed woodpecker yet. And I really would like to see one.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, well, that's one that's gone basically the opposite direction, unfortunately, yeah,

Andres Jimenez Monge:

that's sad. And it makes it super hard to find. And as I understand where we're headed, woodpeckers need big cavities and old trees. And the old trees are not increasing in Ontario, right? They're kind of disappearing really, really fast. And that could be one of those reasons. And on that sense, I wanted to ask you, you've mentioned a lot about rarities. And I want to ask you what is a rarity? And how did they get here? And why do we love them and find them so fascinating.

Yousif Attia:

The most simple definition of a rarity is a bird or a species, individual bird that is not where it's supposed to be.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Give me a good example of that use of

Yousif Attia:

well, one example that comes to mind is something that's happened in half a year, which is the discovery of a stellar seagull in North America, it first showed up in inland Alaska, and then it just popped down to Texas real quick. And then it came to Canada was found in New Brunswick, near the border of Quebec bopped around the gas Bay peninsula of Quebec for a little while, stopped in Nova Scotia. And I think it was it made its way down the eastern seaboard into Massachusetts, and now back up north to Maine. So all that to say that this incredibly rare, large eagle that is supposed to be found in eastern Russia, a very limited range, northern Japan, eastern Russia, parts of Korea, and is now found in East North America is like unheard of. It's insane to wrap your head around. And if that doesn't make you excited, then I don't know what what.

Andrea Gress:

What on earth was going on with that bird any series? Well,

Yousif Attia:

we know that weather is a big part in taking birds off course, if you get a storm, for example, that they're notorious for picking up birds and moving them around, Mike can speak to what happens in, you know, eastern North America, when a hurricane or a tropical depression happens. A lot of birds from the south and further out in the ocean will sometimes get blown in inland. But there might be there are some theories that some individual birds have a predisposition to wander a little bit. And sometimes that gets, you know, out of hand, I guess predisposition to wander might be a selection tool for you know, expanding their range or something like that, you know, just being a little more adventurous. So some birds do that. And some birds just get caught up caught up in the weather.

Andrea Gress:

Yeah, so it could be sine a trouble or it could just be a unique individual. It's kind of interesting.

Mike Burrell:

Sometimes it's it's sort of the precursor to colonization and range expansion. And sometimes, you know, a bird that's vagrant or a rarity today, you know, 20 years from now might become established and might be a normal part of, of the birds in that area. But going back to your to your question, there was some pretty incredible dispersal events, rare bird eruptions even last year, I know use of Scott a pretty interesting one from the West Coast and on the east coast here. If you consider Ontario east coast, we had a big eruption of razorbills. That's the sort of northern hemisphere version of like a penguin almost except a can fly. And you know, we in Ontario, we almost never see razorbills, maybe one every few years make it in to Ontario coming up the St. Lawrence. Usually they don't make it really past Quebec City. But this fall, there was just a huge number. I was trying to count up the number on eBird. There's at least 20 different locations where razorbills were seen on Lake Ontario, this this fall, there was, you know, close to double digits in along the Ottawa River Montreal had a whole bunch. So they just really made it up to St. Lawrence. And one of the theories that was floated was that that there was food shortages in other parts of their range. And so they were fleeing fleeing poor conditions in one area and trying to find food and another

Yousif Attia:

the big story out on the West Coast is eruption or influx of short tailed shearwaters. So I know you had a recent episode talking about seabirds and pelagics and so shearwaters, our true pelagics in every sense, you know, they're able to ingest saltwater, they only need to come to land to nest and so short tail shearwaters breed or nest in the water south of Australia and South Pacific and then during our summer they come up to the ocean, the waters around Alaska, but this year, birder started to notice shearwaters, showing up off the coast of Vancouver Island and even within sheltered waters, sort of between Vancouver island and the mainland of BC so the Salish Sea like the Queen Charlotte Strait and those waters are sorry, I should say more protected waters don't usually have these seabirds they're usually further out so this this invasion is truly unprecedented. The numbers are off the charts like more bird seen in the past year that have ever been recorded ever before off the west coast of BC here so yeah, so it's it shows the importance of people paying attention, you know, having all these birders able to document these events. And as far as the short tail shearwaters go we don't actually have a good explanation. But it likely has something to do with changes in atmospheric pressure probably related to climate change that are causing changes in where different temperatures of water are and and the food availability.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

So we had a big movement of razorbills. We had one from shearwaters use if can you describe a short tail shear water for us?

Yousif Attia:

Sure. A short tailed Shearwater is what we call it to nose. It's one of those true pelagic species related to albatrosses. So it's kind of smaller than the albatross, but looks like a little mini albatross. And it's larger than that, you know, Storm petrels, for example. So it's about the size of a crow. It's a overall brown bird. And it looks very similar to another species called a six year water, and they're actually really difficult to tell apart. So when this eruption started, we're unsure if it was misidentified city shearwaters, or actually short tailed Shearwater. They're that similar, but it turns out, they are short tails, your waters and you know, having people able to take photos and document that better, we've been able to really document this totally insane, unprecedented event that's happening off the west coast this year.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Okay, so I can see how this is not worthy, like a lot, many more individuals of a bird moving farther from their territory that they traditionally do. What other noteworthy movements happened on 2021 Besides the racer bills, which I am so sad, I didn't know about this, like I would have definitely gone and seen them. I'm finding about that now.

Andrea Gress:

I agree; like if you don't know these birds go Google them now. You'll agree. It'll be sad. You missed out.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

What other movements were noteworthy for this year?

Mike Burrell:

Yeah. Well, you can't talk about bird movements this past year without without talking about winter finches and just the absolute super flight. I guess that was last winter now but I mean, that trailed into 2021. And then we're off to another pretty big year for finches, I would say this winter as well.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Is this the winter Finch eruption for the ages I've heard about.

Mike Burrell:

It's the the thing that made it the winter Finch eruption for the Ages was that it was like every species of Finch was involved. There's this awesome thing in North America called the winter Finch forecast. It was done by Ron Pittaway from Ontario for a really long time. And then in the last couple years, he passed that job on to Tyler Hoare, another Ontario birder. And so the winter Finch forecast involves basically serving burgers and naturalist's all over sort of the northern half of thought and getting a handle on the food sources that these finches depend on in the winter. And we took this food pine Grosbeaks they feed on some of the berry crops like mountain ash, and then redpolls will feed on things like birch seeds, some of them feed on Maple keys and ash keys like Evening Grosbeaks do and then spruce and Tamarack pine, there's the crossbills and Siskins are feeding on those as well as Eastern White Cedar are some of the big ones. And so they pull all these natural lists and find out what's happening with those food sources. And then these birds are just have these amazing abilities to move across the continent, east to west, they basically move back and forth around the boreal forest and in search of their food in the winter and in years when they're sort of synchronized failure of those food crops, which is a natural you know, it's natural for these trees to produce food one year and not much the other year. It's it's a bit of a response to making The seed actually survives to turn into baby trees. Basically, some of yours are good crops some years they're not. And when it's synchronized that large chunks of North America have poor years for these crops than the birds that depend on them will, you know, like white wind Crossville might be entirely in Alaska one winter, and then move over to, you know, the Maritimes in Newfoundland the next year, depending on where the food is. And so the big flight in the fall of 2020 was a result of basically every single one of those food crops failing. And so all these Finch species of every species, evening, Grosbeaks, crossbills, redpolls, pine Grosbeaks, everything came south in huge numbers. And so people got to see them in places where they don't normally get to see them.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Okay, so last year, I saw my first White-winged Crossbill. And I was so excited about it. But to give people context, Mike, why would it be the years in which we don't have them? Would we see any of them? Would they not be here at all?

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, it depends on the year. So I would say on an average year, a few white wind crossbills might make it into southern Ontario, Southern Quebec, and you know, the Northeastern US, but some years there, like I said, some years, the entire population of North American Whiteman crossbills could be, you know, in northern Alberta and southern Yukon, and there might not be a single one in the east, and then it could be the complete opposite the next year. So it's really one of these things that and that's why it's so amazing that we have these winter Finch forecasts to start a Primus and get us ready to know Okay, yeah, this year, it's going to be on. So let's get out there and watch for these birds coming south.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

That's fascinating. This used to happen to me in Costa Rica with cedar waxwings, in which they were unpredictable. And there were three, four years where we would see none of them. And there were other years in which we would have 60 or 70, or 80, cedar waxwings. And then the whole country would go and see them.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, well, we do that for Bohemian Waxwings. Basically, it's very similar.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

They erupt. Is this going to be a good year for bohemian waxwings?

Mike Burrell:

Well, it depends on your perspective. If you're a birder in you know, Southern Ontario, Southern Quebec, then it's probably not a good year. But that just means there's good availability of food to the north so they can stay further north and don't have to move as far in order to find enough food

Yousif Attia:

experience as a bit of a pinch eruption in the West in western North America. Although we did get a huge influx of pine Siskins to the extent that it was the most counted bird on the Christmas bird counts in British Columbia last season. So we didn't get the diversity of the East. We still had a Finch eruption in the West as well.

Andrea Gress:

It's so interesting to hear about some of these trends from you guys. Were there any species highlights from the past years so I'm thinking like, regional or national first time birds or any personal highlights? Maybe?

Yousif Attia:

Well, I think Mike can speak best to the yellow brown warbler that showed up in Ontario, which was, I think, the second for Canada.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, that was definitely a highlight the yellow Brad warbler, and that's a great example of, you know, social media and orders being connected. It showed up kind of late April this year and in Ontario near sort of Hamilton area between Hamilton and Toronto. And like you said, it's only the second one ever for Canada. The first one was just a couple years ago in BC, I think. And this is a bird again of like Eastern Asia. It got posted on a on a burner site. And kind of wondering what is this bird looks pretty weird, and pretty quickly, people realized that it was something really good and worked out the ID and a lot of birders are able to go get a chance to see it. That's pretty high on the list of birds you didn't expect to get on the Ontario list anywhere in Canada or North America for that matter. And I mean, UCF already mentioned the stellar sea eagle app. That was another definite highlight for Canada and pretty cool that it was able to so far be ticked off on on three different provinces lists, we're still got our fingers crossed here in Ontario.

Yousif Attia:

I'm starting to feel left out with the sea eagle because I always expected it the first well documented Canadian record to be found here on the west coast because we have it's very closely related to bald eagles and similar in habits and we've got the highest number of bald eagles in Canada here West Coast year round. I saw close to 2000 on a Christmas bird count here in Vancouver area. So

Andres Jimenez Monge:

wait what you saw 2000 bald eagles on one Christmas bird count.

Yousif Attia:

Yeah, we get huge numbers of of bald eagles here on the West Coast. Most of those were at the dump bald eagles are really glorified scavengers, but when it's easy, they go for garbage and I have these pretty amazing photos of fence posts just lined up and just the ground littered with bald eagles at a garbage dump. I will be looking at every bald eagle very clearly. From now on knowing that a stellar sea eagle can make it to the Nova Scotia this stellar Seagull must have flown over British Columbia bird at some point to get to where it is. Now

Mike Burrell:

there were some other pretty amazing birds in 2021 as well. I wanted to mention a couple from Quebec first one is the small bill the lainnya that was found near Tata sack in October, I think, and that's definitely in the sort of mind blowing range of rarities, you know, something that you didn't really ever expect you to be saying was just seen. It's a South American little fly catcher, you know, not too different from our least fly catchers and all their fly catchers and then not too far away from there, there was a lesson cedar cedar just another South American bird. It was sound right around the same time. There's, you know, questions about whether this was a caged bird that escaped. But there's definitely a case to be made for wild origin, especially showing up right around the same time that the small builder lainnya showed up

Yousif Attia:

moving a little bit west to th e interior, we had a fatal pop up in Saskatchewan. There's probably only there are under five Canadian records of that species that typically occurs in the southwestern United States. It's really an arid desert species. It's a very cool looking bird. Mostly black with these distinct white winged patches and has this crazy punk crest like even crazier and more you know poofy than a you know, a cardinal or a blue jays crest and it has this piercing red eye. So I'm sure Saskatchewan birders are pretty pleased to see that one last year.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

I want to ask you Did you get any lifers this year because I assume that you must be struggling to find lifers and for those that do not know what a lifer is, that means a new bird for a bird or one that they have not seen. I'm wondering if you had any lifers this year,

Yousif Attia:

I did not have a lifer for the past year partly because I wasn't able to travel there are 10,000 species of birds in the world. So anytime you leave Canada there's a good chance you're going to get a lifer. And if you leave the continent or even better chance to find a lifer. But I did see a really great species that I've only seen once before which is a short tailed albatross on a pelagic off the west coast so that was a highlight for me for sure not a lifer but I got life for looks at it which means I got my best best looks at a species that I'd seen before.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, and I did get one life or this year like use if it was a bit slim pickings because I didn't travel. I didn't leave the province. So a little trickier but there was I didn't see Sprague's pipit was a lifer for me. It was one found by Jeff carpenter and Peter hilgenberg. Jeff was doing a big year here in Ontario and he was out in Rainy River which is the little sliver of sort of prairie in Northwestern Ontario right on the Minnesota and Manitoba border. And they found a Sprague's pipit that was displaying this was in in sort of mid June, you know, that's like a 30 hour car ride from Peterborough. So it's not something that I would just go drive for even though it was pretty exciting bird but as well I didn't drive there. That is just, it just so happened. I was like an hour away for work. I was doing these aerial surveys and I had you know, two hours the next morning to zip out and try to see the Sprague's pipit As luck would have it. I got there and was able to enjoy the Sprague's pipit singing, doing it's amazing display flight. It's a bird of the prairies and even you know, it looked like it was on the prairies. In this little pasture, got the spraying strip it and then on my way back to catch my plane the birder I was with Ethan him and I found a lark bunting which is another pretty rare bird in Ontario. I'd only seen two before so it really felt like we were on the prairies that little morning in June in Northwestern Ontario.

Andrea Gress:

Well, right place right time. Hey, it sounds like it was meant to be.

Mike Burrell:

It felt like that for sure. I was pretty excited.

Andrea Gress:

Have either of you ever found a rarity yourselves? Like you were the first ones to spot it?

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, yeah, I've been lucky to find a few pretty pretty rare things here in Ontario. My absolute favorite rarity story was about a decade ago. It was 2013 and my wife and I were driving along the north shore of Lake Erie from Rondo Provincial Park two point Fili and that stretch eautiful No, it the highway goes right along the lake and we're just driving along. I wasn't expecting to see something. I see this bird up ahead. Can't tell what it is. I get a little closer. And you know, I realized Holy crap. A swallowtail kite kind of appears overhead. I practically like ditched our car. I was so excited. I was shaking. You know I got those twitches my wife Erica, she she phoned my brother who was burning down at point pili phone him to tell him he jumped in his car did race towards us. The swallowtail Kate started heading west towards point pili. So we got back in the car and we started following it. And Erica was sending updates to the birds which is this email listserv for rarities in Ontario. Eric is posting these updates. You know where we are how fast we're driving, you know at same time people are starting to assemble down at point purely in the big parking lot there because it's got a good view of the sky. Birds of Prey have this tendency to not want to go over water so they kind of get funneled down point purely as they get into southern southwestern Ontario. And the best vantage is this parking lot at the Visitor Center. So people are starting to assemble there. Were following this bird. And eventually, you know, this crowd of I'm told, like 100 people had assembled Sure enough, this wild tailed kite crested over the trees and flew directly over this crowd of people. And you know, everybody's laughing and smiling, taking pictures. Everybody's pretty excited. And then a few minutes later, we pulled in and everybody's kind of like laughing about the situation how cool it was.

Andrea Gress:

You painted that story, so well. I was picturing like that old movie Twister where they're chasing tornadoes and like the energy and the excitement of it, but then with a much less terrifying ending, just really wonderful.

Mike Burrell:

It was pretty awesome experience. I mean, part of what made it so fun was to get to share, share it with so many other people an aspect of birding that I don't think gets enough focus to sort of community nature of it.

Yousif Attia:

Yeah, real quick. My most memorable rarity finding was one actually, when I was quite young, might have been my first rare bird. And it was a scissor tailed flycatcher in Calgary at the Inglewood bird sanctuary in Calgary. And it was a spring migration day, there was a there were a lot of birds around and you know, this flock harmless flock of kingbirds flies over and within it was this long tailed bird that all of a sudden just split its tail. If you ever seen scissor tailed flycatcher, you'll know what I'm talking about it just all of a sudden, the tail opens up and it's like, no question as to what it is, you know, a little bit of salmon coloration on the sides. And it was just me and this one other lady standing there seeing this happen, and the flock moved on, unlike Mike story where other people actually got on to the bird. We were the only two people to see this. I'm really glad she was there, because I'm pretty sure nobody would have believed me. I was pretty young at the time as well. Yeah, that's my most memorable rarity. And it's funny, that still is my most memorable one because it was probably one of my first

Andres Jimenez Monge:

and that is especially been memorable moment because that bird when I've seen it, it's been in the dry forests of Costa Rica is so good. And you and I find it cool that both of these pieces you mentioned are quite tropical

Yousif Attia:

and have crazy pointy tails. Yeah, they both have crazy pointy.

Mike Burrell:

It's fun to find rare birds. But often, you know, like we were talking earlier, it could be a goal, which, you know, looks similar to a lot of other goals or it's a fly catcher that looks similar to other fly catchers. So when it's one of these amazingly beautiful or such distinctive species like scissor tailed flycatcher, or swallowtail Kai, it just sort of adds to the excitement for sure.

Andrea Gress:

Well, those have all been wonderful stories. But looking forward as we go into 2022 What do you think we can expect from from the birds and birding culture?

Yousif Attia:

I think we can expect more burgers. I've been happy to see the uptake in birding. I've been happy to see that. It's gone beyond the typical, you know, demographic, older people have seen lots of young folks get into it, which is amazing. You know, they're the next generation. And I've seen different faces, it's become more diverse. It's become many, you know, naturalist group, organizations have acknowledged that there's a lack of diversity in birding, traditional education to make sure everyone feels included promote more diversity. So seeing that is a great thing. And I think we're going to see more of that. And I'm excited to see how that affects birding culture as well.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, that's That's well put use if I was gonna say similar things that it's it's really amazing to see the growth just keep going in in birding and the interest and there's been a lot of sort of reckoning reckoning with, with the lack of diversity there has been for a long time and in birding. There's a lot of groups and people working really hard to try to make it a more inclusive space for everybody, as the American birding Association says the most exciting flocks are the most diverse, and I think it's it's very similar with birding, it's only going to make it better. Some of the other things that are on the horizon. I think we're going to see more and more interested in the local birding, the patch birding, like we've talked about. And one of the initiatives that I think is really cool, that kind of feeds back to diversity and inclusion aspect is the bird names for birds initiative. You know, it's little things like names that can go a long way to recognizing lack of diversity and moving beyond it and sort of trying to improve what I think is already an amazing hobby.

Yousif Attia:

I'm glad you mentioned that patch birding has has increased and I almost go as far as to you know, put a call to action to for those who haven't really been paying as much attention as they could to areas close to them put an effort into into spending one A day a week or so at your local pack, you'll be surprised how rewarding it is whether it's just little discoveries of things that you didn't expect to find close to home, or, you know, happening on that big beggar rarity. You know, that's how a lot of these rare birds that we talked about weren't found at popular birding spots, where people were just paying attention to birds or took photos and found them, you know, rarely show up everywhere. So you might be rewarded by paying attention to what's close to home.

Andrea Gress:

That is some really excellent advice. Do you have any more advice for new birders or maybe the skilled birders amongst us?

Yousif Attia:

I'd like to see, you know, those who do have experience, continue to be open about sharing their knowledge. If you see somebody who looks like they're a new putter, you know, just say hi, you know, ask them what they're seeing, offer some advice, perhaps. And just try to try to remember that the community aspect of it is important. And now that things are opening up in the world, and it's okay to talk to people again, let's do more of that. And just be be nice to each other out there.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yeah. My personal hope the one thing I expect to see more of for the coming year, and it's aligned with the advice you're giving in so we can get together again for birding. I feel that when I started birding, more, we kind of went into the pandemic and I missed on this community aspect that Mike was referring to. And I hope that we can get together again to do birding, it feels like it's been quite isolated. And I'm not complaining. It's awesome that we have it and that we can go out and see birds and still share online, but it will be nice to see communities coming together again.

Mike Burrell:

Yeah, I agree. I look forward to doing field trips again. And you know, birding in a group. I love birding on my own. But is something really fun about seeing the excitement of everybody and sharing that excitement with everybody? And the thing is, there's this huge new group of birders who haven't gotten to experience that that community aspect so much. Yeah, hopefully, we can start to enjoy that really soon.

Andrea Gress:

Thank you so much, Mike, and use if you've really given us some awesome highlights from the last year, and I've learned a lot and I feel like I could sit here for another hour and hear some of these epic bird stories you've got, but we can't, we can't go on forever. So thank you so much for joining and sharing. And I look so forward to the coming year.

Andres Jimenez Monge:

Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us. And as you as you say goodbye. Can you tell the people that are listening where they can find you or reach out to you or where they can find information about rarities and deepen their exploration?

Mike Burrell:

Thanks so much for having us. It's been a real pleasure to be on the podcast. I'm a big fan. If people want to reach out to me. I'm on Twitter, just Mike VA Burrell. I'm on Facebook as well. And you can find me on E bird if you can find my profile, you know, look in Ontario for some sightings around Peterborough. You might find me and you can click on my name. There's my profile. You can you can get my contact details there. I always love chatting birds with anybody.

Yousif Attia:

Yeah, thank you so much, Andres and Andrea, and congratulations on the success of the podcast. I've really enjoyed listening to the other episodes. And yeah, you can me also all the major social media channels, y s et Here is my handle, or Biophilia vi o p h y li. I also have an upward profile. So if you if you see that, feel free to click on it and if you see me in the field, come and say hi,

Andres Jimenez Monge:

thank you so much for being with us and keep on birding. The winter birding is getting exciting, go out, get close to the water and find some birds. The warblers is produced by investments Julia lair and Dr. Ruth friendship Keller and Kate fish. This episode was edited by Greg McLaughlin and engineered by Katie, with the music vine was a model an art by Alex Nichols. Until next time, keep burning