Birds of the Feather and Birds on the Page

My favorite season of the year is soon to be over — spring migration. Upon moving to Ontario, I quickly learned what a haven the north shore of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are for bird watchers. Every weekend, I head out to the Leslie Spit in downtown Toronto, Colonel Sam Smith Park in Etobicoke or one of the many other birding hotspots in the region. Last weekend, we headed specifically to Colonel Sam Smith to see the first year male Summer Tanager I had heard via the Ontario birding listserv was in the top of the pines near the smokestack. I am not often a twitcher but the occasional bird and ease of location do make me jump at an opportunity. I have also seen the elusive (and threatened) cerulean warbler this way.

During this time of year, I always have my Peterson Field Guide to Warblers of North America as well as my trusty laminated fold-outs for Ontario and Great Lakes area. My home library also has my favorite bird identification guide, The Crossley ID Guide. This guide is excellent because it has an almost full page image of the species in various color phases, positions (in flight, swimming or perched, etc) and perspectives.

Both out in the woods and fields and once I’m safely home, I love looking at Cornell Ornithology’s website: allaboutbirds.org. This site has an exhaustive list of birds of North America. You can search by name, shape or taxonomy. The pages for the individual species provide means of identification, life history, sounds, and videos. This website and their excellent mobile app, Merlin Bird Id, are my two favorite technology tools for this entirely natural pastime.

Our public library also has a great collection of bird books. Whether you are hoping to identify the common bird or the rare one on these shores or farther afield, we have something for you. Here is a list of a few books to take home.

Cover image for National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America by Jonathan Alderfer and Paul Hess
Birds of Toronto and Vicinity by Gerald McKeating and Illustrated by Ewa Pluciennik
Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die: Birding Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations by Chris Santella
North American Songbirds: identifying the most common bird songs and hear their calls on your smartphone by Noble S. Proctor

If you are more of an armchair birder, the movie The Big Year is an humorous introduction to the antics of birders and birds alike. It stars Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson and is directed by David Frankel.

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