Our first annual Frontenac Biothon was held this past weekend in Frontenac Provincial Park. The weather was excellent – clear skies and seasonal temperatures. We had originally planned the biothon to take place on June 10-11 but we had to postpone due to expected thunderstorms and heavy rain. The disadvantage of running it in mid-July was that the birds were MUCH harder to find. On the upside, plants and insects were far more diverse and abundant. Overall, the biothon went very well and all participants had an enjoyable time. Also, as this was our first biothon experience, we’ve learned a lot about what will and won’t work for future editions. We set a goal of identifying 500 species and came oh-so-close to that number, falling just short, with a total of 441! Despite missing our goal, a rather arbitrary figure, our results were fantastic and some truly wonderful species were recorded!
The biothon “MVP award” has to go to both Seabrooke Leckie and Julia Marko Dunn who demonstrated superb knowledge of insects and plants respectively. Myself, Steve Gillis and Chris Dunn spent much of our time covering ground in search for elusive birds and ended the biothon with just 64 bird species – well short of what could have been found earlier in the season. However, we have experience outside of birds, as well, and managed to add bits and pieces to the throng of plants and bugs found by the girls.
We camped at cluster 13 on Big Clear Lake, which was a good location for the biothon. This area of the park is known for its rugged topography – steep ridges along lakes dominated by Eastern White Pine. Of particular note at this site was the evening serenade provided by the Coyotes, two or three Whip-poor-wills and a couple of Common Nighthawks!
A personal/FBS highlight was the discovery of a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers observed in an open swamp near Hardwood Bay, Devil Lake, on Saturday afternoon! My records indicate that the last breeding record for the park dates from over ten years ago near Gibson’s Lake to the northwest. I’m not clear on the historical status of this species in the area but I do know that they have declined sharply in the Kingston region and the province as a whole. This was our first encounter with the Red-headed Woodpecker since the project began in 2009 and it was a thrill to observe these stunning birds sally for insects from the many snags in this swamp. I never would have seen these birds had it not been for Steve who found the swamp and called me over to investigate (thanks Steve!). I will have to go back to this swamp in 2011 to confirm nesting. The Red-headed Woodpecker is a provincial and federally listed Species at Risk with a designation of Threatened.
The woodpeckers were just one of many notable sightings from the weekend – too many to list here unfortunately. We visited lakes, fens, bogs, beaver ponds, deciduous and mixed forests and successional rock barrens in the 24 hour blitz. I’m sure that each participant would describe their biothons differently but it is safe to say that a lot of fun was had and that our stay was much too short!
On behalf of the Migration Research Foundation I wish to extend our grateful thanks to this year’s many sponsors and to Ontario Parks for their support of the biothon. And finally, the whole event would not have been possible without the efforts of our dedicated volunteer biothoners; Chris Dunn, Julia Marko Dunn, Karina Dykstra, Steve Gillis and Seabrooke Leckie (clap clap clap!)
Below is a small selection of the species encountered during the 2010 Frontenac Biothon – hope you enjoy!