Frontenac Bird Studies – The 2013 Season


Our fifth straight season of avian monitoring and research in the Frontenac Arch was a success and is now officially wrapped up! A substantial amount of data was collected in 2013 and has now finally been proofed, entered, sorted and examined. Here’s a quick recap of the major highlights from 2013  – the season of the survey….


Point Counts Abound

Surveying along Canoe Lake Road, June, 2013

This past year we conducted a lot of point count surveys – 258 in all, to be exact. Many of these (164) were repeat surveys at fixed stations that were first sampled in 2009. Overall, the effort required >40 kms of walking in Frontenac Provincial Park and stops every 500m along 56km of roadways throughout the study area. Over time, the data enables us to monitor changes in breeding bird populations in a broad array of landscape conditions. Overall, we observed a small decline since 2009 (-3.9%). Minor changes in abundance, positive or negative, are evident for most species, however some have shifted more markedly in recent years. Yellow-throated Vireos, for example, increased in abundance on point counts by a whopping 250% in 2013!


Cerulean Warblers in the Frontenac Arch

In 2013, we collaborated with Bird Studies Canada and Canadian Wildlife Service as part of a project to survey Cerulean Warblers. The study looked at populations across a 300 km extent from Georgian Bay to the Frontenac Arch. Results from this project and our own studies strongly support the value of Frontenac Provincial Park forests to Cerulean Warbler populations in Canada. Perhaps North America’s fastest declining wood-warbler, the Cerulean Warbler has been assessed as Endangered in Canada and Threatened in Ontario.


Monitoring Avian Productivity & Survivorship (MAPS): 2009-2013

Our fifth consecutive MAPS season came to a close on August 4, 2013. After the bumper 2009 season, a substantial decline in population diversity and abundance was detected, reaching a five-year low in 2011. This past season saw the first signs of a rebound with an overall record-high productivity index and also three-year high capture rates for many species. The program is a key component of our breeding bird monitoring objectives by providing annual assessments of forest bird demographics. We are pleased to report that “Mr.33”, a male Veery banded at MABO as a hatch-year in 2009 has returned each year since, including 2013! His travels from the Frontenac Arch to Brazil amount to >56,000 km over eight migrations. This distance is equivalent to one and a half trips around the globe – incredible!

Veery nest at MABO in 2009


These are just a few of many stories from the 2013 season of Frontenac Bird Studies. Our program exists through the assistance of many wonderfully supportive individuals and organizations. The Migration Research Foundation thanks the following for their contribution to FBS in 2013!



The John Hackney Foundation for the Noosphere
Frontenac Avian Atlas Day sponsors


Chris Dunn
Steve Gillis
Seabrooke Leckie

Project Support

Corina Brdar
Ontario Parks

Peter Dawson
Ontario Parks

Bert Korporaal
Ontario Parks

Chris Robinson
Ontario Parks

Ken and Vera Shepherd

The Big Picture: Point Counts Then and Now

Point Count on Canoe Lake Road – June, 2013

For us, 2013 will be remembered as the year of the point count. We’ve now finished up the last of a whopping 260 stations. This includes our own established suite of 164 on and offroad stations but also a new set conducted for our collaborative assessment of Cerulean Warblers with Bird Studies Canada. We’ve yet to enter and mine the data but a few things are clear: a) an overall decline in forest bird abundance has occurred; b) trends are positive for some species but negative for more; and c) You can almost always count on a Red-eyed Vireo or two to liven up a survey!

From 260 Point Count surveys this summer, a total of 576 Red-eyed Vireos were tallied. So often we tend to focus on less prodigious species and those showing signs of decline. However, the stability and ubiquity of the Red-eyed Vireo in the Americas is compelling and worth appreciating. Here at home in the Frontenac Arch they seem to be thriving in forests where others have thinned out if not vanished altogether. This round of surveys struck a note – these are prolific, feisty, robust survivors serving an important ecological role in hardwood forests. They are also the current record-holder amongst world bird species for most songs in a day – 20,000!

Sugar Maple – Red Oak Stand near Birch Lake

I’m beginning to let go of the notion of “normal” with respect to weather. We’re now in the middle of our fifth spring/summer season and we’ve yet to have a complete season without at least one extended period of extreme conditions. This year has been “abnormally” wet. In fact, water levels have never been so high since we began our studies in 2009. This boom and bust weather must take something of a toll on breeding bird productivity. Cerulean Warblers are clearly down from levels detected in 2009 and we’ve talked at length in the past in a similar vein regarding Louisiana Waterthrush and Prairie Warbler. However, the picture isn’t quite so gloomy across the board. A number of species are actually up from previous years including Blackburnian Warbler and Brown Creeper. It will be very interesting to dive into the data in the coming months to get a better handle on what’s happening – stay tuned for more details in the future.

Sugar Maple – Ash – Ironwood Stand near Big Salmon
Arkon Lake

Frontenac Avian Atlas Fundraiser – June 23-24, 2013

Frontenac Bird Studies (FBS) is a program of Migration Research Foundation, an incorporated non-profit organization committed to bird research, monitoring and protection in Canada. Each year we rely upon grants and private donations to deliver our spring & summer field programs in the Frontenac Arch. A cornerstone of this invaluable support is our annual fundraiser event, which has a positive dual effect of raising critical dollars while contributing directly to our studies at the same time.

On June 23-24, 2013 we will be hosting our first Frontenac Avian Atlas Day event! We will have three sponsored teams searching for breeding bird species within Frontenac Provincial Park north of Kingston, Ontario. We’ll be aiming to find as many species as possible within a prescribed 24-hour period but also to confirm active nesting for as many of those species as possible too – much like a mini breeding bird atlas! The data will be used as part of our ongoing assessment of breeding avifauna for the park, which has been maintained since FBS began in 2009. Any donations collected by our teams will go directly to aid our programs in the field.

Barred Owl – Salmon Lake Road

Prior to our inaugural season in 2009, an impressive list of 119 species were documented as breeders within the boundaries of Frontenac Provincial Park. Over the years our own studies have provided first breeding evidence for another eight species, which includes Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Herring Gull, among others. We keep an ongoing record of breeding status for all species encountered in each year, which serves as an invaluable database and service to ecological monitoring in the park. The Frontenac Avian Atlas Day event will provide a substantial boost to our annual coverage by way of a dedicated effort to the task by three skilled teams of biologists! Look for a full report on our mini atlas effort in the week following the event.

Field Sparrow Nest – Slide Lake

We extend our sincere thanks to all of you who have sponsored our annual fundraising events in the past – it definitely makes a difference! All donations to this year’s event are tax-creditable and enormously appreciated!! Click here for more information and/or to make a donation.

Cedar Waxwing – Big Clear