38th Annual Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon

The Yukon Bird Club’s (YBC) annual fun and fundraising event will take place from 5 p.m. on Friday, May 26, to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 27.

Over the 24 hours, participants will head outdoors, or watch from their windows, to identify as many bird species as possible.

“You don’t have to see a lot of birds—twenty or even forty is doable—but it’s a good chance to be observant and take in what’s around you,” said the Yukon Bird Club’s Jim Hawkings.

Yukon has over 300 recorded bird species, many of them migrants that come north each spring. Trumpeter swans are early arrivals, while pretty songbirds like the yellow warbler, noisy kingfishers and giant flocks of sandhill cranes are among others we happily welcome.

Where to bird? The McIntyre Creek wetlands, off the Fish Lake Road, and the ponds in Takhini are hotspots. So are shrubby spots along the Whitehorse waterfront, from Schwatka Lake to Walmart.

“Any place around water is good,” Hawkings advised.

In the past, birdathoners have walked, paddled, biked or driven, all night, sighting up to 151 species.

But it’s not necessary to venture far from your neighbourhood, Hawkings noted. “Just walk or bike with your family or friends to a favourite place nearby.”

There are prizes in various categories, including youngest and oldest birders, new participants, families, enviro-birders (self-propelled) and “backyard” birders. This year may see a prize for birders using e-bikes or electric vehicles.

A potluck BBQ gathering will be held in Rotary Park afterwards.

The Yukon Birdathon was launched 38 years ago by the Yukon Conservation Society and was taken over by the YBC after its formation in 1993. It was renamed, in 2015, to honour legendary birder Helmut Grünberg, one of the club’s founders.

Gathering pledges for species seen, or donations, help to fund the club’s programs. All promote the awareness, appreciation and conservation of Yukon birds and their habitats.

And if you can’t take part yourself, consider sponsoring this year’s Feature Birder, Alex Oberg. Born and raised in Whitehorse, Oberg started birding on family camping and river trips.

Now, he’s one of the Yukon’s top new birders and is recording sightings on the website eBird.org.

The full-time chef and young father encourages new birders to just “take the plunge.”

“When I did my first birdathon, last year, I didn’t have a lot of birding experience.

“Go ahead and participate, even if you don’t know what all the birds are,’’ he said, adding: “You can start out with some familiar birds and then learn more as you go.

“An appreciation of nature and willingness to learn is all you need. And if you’ve already got a pair of binoculars, you’re well on your way.”

Oberg identified 60 species in 2022. This year, birding with his family, his goal is 70 species including the mountain chickadee.

Fledgling and experienced birders can find checklists, pledge sheets, birding tips and more at yukonbirds.ca/birdathon.

Happy Birdathoning!

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