Yellow Warbler

It’s Time for Birds! 37th Yukon Birdathon

If you can’t join in on this year’s Birdathon, consider sponsoring Lena Ware, the club’s designated Feature Birder.

Ware is a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service and a new YBC board member.

She’s putting a small Birdathon team together to scour local hotspots — such as the impressive McIntyre Creek wetlands, to meet her birding target of 90 species. 

Ware’s birding passion began in BC in 2013 while doing research on Yellow Warblers, her favourite bird. 

The tiny, colourful songbird winters in Central America but heads north to breed and raise a family. It’s often found in willows and is known for its sweet, vibrant song. 

Fascinated by migration, Ware’s worked on beach bird surveys, owl surveys, and volunteered at bird banding stations throughout western Canada including the Teslin Lake Bird Observatory. She’s also taken part in Christmas Bird Counts and other citizen science events like the Global Big Day, to aid research on bird species distribution and populations.

Ware has also studied various seabirds, shorebirds, crows, and songbirds in as diverse places as the Gulf of Alaska, Guam, California and Nunavut’s Southampton Island. Since 2018, her focus has been on Yukon birds through her work and personal adventures. A “highlight” last year was seeing her first Surfbird (which winters along Pacific shorelines), in the Tombstone Mountains. 

 “I enjoy birding because it gets me outdoors with friends and it takes me where I might never go, otherwise,” Ware said.

Migration. It’s a word that gets birders all a twitter!

In spring, the Yukon comes alive with birds, from as far as Antarctica, flying here to nest and rear their young.

It’s a season that the Yukon Bird Club (YBC) celebrates, with its annual Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon. The 24-hour birdfest, always held at the end of May, runs this year from 5 p.m. on Friday, May 27, to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 28.

The birders’ aim is to listen and look for as many species of birds as possible, while raising funds for bird conservation and awareness. It’s a friendly competition, for some. 

Founder Jim Hawkings, the YBC’s current president, sees the Birdathon as an opportunity to “combine a bit of fun and education with a bit of fundraising. It’s a chance to spend as much or as little time as you like enjoying the outdoors—when it is alive with the full variety of birds that will be breeding here, as well as some that are still migrating north,” he said.

It’s not just for “twitchers” or avid birders, either.

“We try to encourage birdwatchers of all kinds to participate, including beginners and families,” Hawkings said.

Donations (tax deductible) are generated through pledges or directly, online, to support YBC’s non-profit education-related programs, such as research grants, field trips and scholarships.

 Lena Ware
The Yukon Bird Club’s Feature Birder, Lena Ware, holding an Arctic Tern fitted with a geolocator on Southampton Island, Nunavut. Now working as a federal biologist in Whitehorse, Ware has previously done research on migratory birds in places as far away as Guam.

Prizes offered include those for self-propelled enviro-birders, families/households, new participants, home birders (deck, yard) and the youngest and oldest participants. 

Last year, of the 147 species reported, overall, well-known birder Jukka Jantunen identified the most (111), followed by Adam Perrier (102), and Haines Junction birder Julie Bauer (92). Malcolm Boothroyd tallied 80 species on his fossil-free Birdathon, cycling and paddling.

Hawkings said a key part of the event is a social gathering, afterwards, to share food and the day’s birding adventures.

This year’s wrap-up potluck barbecue is at Rotary Peace Park, at 6 p.m. on Saturday. 

To find out more about the Birdathon, get bird checklists and other birding resources, visit YBC’s website at yukonbirds.ca.

The club’s free guided bird walks, to local hotspots such as the Whitehorse Quartz Road marsh, can introduce you to Yukon’s bird world and knowledgeable birders.

An easy and useful birding tool is eBird (check out ebird.org/canada/home), an online program and mobile app to record your checklist and view what other people have reported—both locally and around the world, often in real time.

Binoculars and a good birding guide, online or from your library or bookstore, are useful, too. 

Happy Birding!

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