Eastern Ontario birds and horticultural society news

Robin Cunningham demonstrates birdwatching app for Peter Dolan

The speaker at the June meeting of Madawaska Valley Horticultural Society was Robin Cunningham on birds and their habitats. Cunningham is a retired forester, a naturalist and member of Pembroke Area Field Naturalists Club.

Cunningham spoke about his approach to bird watching. Some bird watchers make it sound like it’s all about lists and numbers. Indeed on June 21 Cunningham was up to 166 Ontario birds on his 2018 list. But his talk emphasized the different types of habitats for bird and the techniques of spotting birds. As I’m someone who finds all birds look like black silhouettes, it was reassuring to learn that the art of bird watching doesn’t have as much to do with actually watching as the name implies. Cunningham recommends listening every bit as intently. Indeed, all the senses seem to come into play when setting  out to spot wildlife.

Cunningham pointed out that birds aren’t just divided into water/land creatures or day/night hunters. Identifying birds means looking at all types of habitats: grassland, shoreline, sea, mountain. In forested areas, birds differ depending on the tree species as well as canopy height. I came away thinking of an Ontario woodland as a type of bird apartment building – some like penthouse life, others are basement birds, with varying levels in between.

And every habitat is dependent on an intricate balance of climate, weather, food chain, vegetation, etc. Cunningham spoke about the challenges both for rare grassland/pasture birds and for farmers, in the light of modern agricultural methods and regulations.

And to help identify all those dark silhouettes, Cunningham suggests using technology. Birding has changed dramatically with web apps. You can get a standalone “book” that includes recordings of bird songs that help you identify – and even attract species of birds. More portable still are the apps you can download to your smartphone. Birding used to be about carrying notebooks and pencils and field guide books to identify and record the birds you spot. Now these apps allow you to attract, identify and record the birds on your list and automatically upload these to your own and even shared lists. eBird Canada provides a free app so this means everyone with a smartphone/signal can participate in province-wide birding.

Here are some of the online resources mentioned by Cunningham:

Click HERE for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology section on bird song at allaboutbirds.org 

Click HERE for the Sibley eguide to birds app

Click HERE to go to eBird Canada

Cunningham also recommended the Pembroke Area Field Naturalists Club website for links to information on birds and all forms of wildlife. http://www.pafn.on.ca/   and the PAFN Facebook page for wildlife photography  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1710993362476691/


Other news for local gardeners

The next event for the MV Horticultural Society is the Annual Garden Tour Sunday July 8 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can visit six unique gardens in the Madawaska Valley. Tickets available:

  • Barry’s Bay          Gift It Gray
  • Combermere      The Old School Café, Laundry & Greenhouse
  • Killaloe                 Grandma’s Pantry



The society held its annual Strawberry Social prior to Cunningham’s talk about birds. While the crowd in the Opeongo Seniors Centre feasted on strawberry desserts, Darren (above), son of Past President Sharon Mahussier demonstrated bonsai pruning on a small spruce he had dug up in the wild.

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