Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Birding in the St. Marys River IBA

Over the winter, I came across the IBA Canada website and noticed that there is an Important Bird Area just south of Sault Ste. Marie along the St. Marys River.  I contacted the Ontario IBA Coordinator to find out some more information on it.  It turned out that no formal bird surveys had ever been done for the IBA.  All their data came from sources like eBird.  In order for an area to by considered important, it has to have certain trigger species present.  If a certain threshold is met for a trigger species, then it meets the criteria for being an IBA.  Rusty Blackbird (2003, 2009, 2014-2016), King Rail (2007) and Chimney Swift (2012) have been the IBA's trigger species that have met the threshold so far under IBA Canada's current criteria.  Black Tern (1991 and 1996) triggered the threshold under the previous criteria, which was in place circa 2000.

Ken McIlwrick and I teamed up to organize some formal surveys so that some real data could be submitted for the IBA.  However, it turned out that we were both so busy this spring that we ran out of time to properly recruit volunteers and set up survey dates.  Therefore, we decided that we would do the surveys on our own and turn it into a trial run so that we totally knew what to expect for 2018.

The surveys I completed this spring within the IBA were definitely a lot of fun and a great learning experience.  I was able to get a few new birds for my life list, including a local rarity, a Yellow-headed Blackbird.  Every single species of waterfowl that you could commonly expect to find within the IBA for the spring was recorded.  All the usual gull and tern species were found as well. 

Stan Phippen, another birder in the area, recorded 860 Rusty Blackbirds at the Echo Bay viewing platform, meaning a threshold has been met for at least one trigger species within the IBA for 2017!

Now that spring migration is wrapping up and birds are starting to breed, there is a lot less action at the hotspots within the IBA.  Hopefully the excitement picks up again when fall migration starts!

AUGUST 4, 2017 UPDATE:

To date, I have personally recorded 134 species within the St. Marys River IBA with a total of 85 eBird checklists under the IBA Canada protocol since January 1, 2017.

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