Want to have some fun outdoors? Like birds but can’t tell the difference between a crow and a raven?
Then think about taking part in the 25th Annual Yukon Birdathon.
You can work on bird identification skills while exploring some spectacular natural settings. And you might even win a prize.
With the return of summer songbirds and other migrants to the Yukon, the birdathon is a fun challenge to see how many species one person – or a team – can find in a 24-hour period.
This year, the birdathon takes place during the last weekend of May, timed to offer the greatest selection of the Yukon’s 297 bird species, favourable temperatures and lots of daylight.
Participants raise funds by getting pledged donations for each species. Organized by the Yukon Bird Club, the event also helps track species and gain more knowledge about birds in the Yukon.
And there are lots of prizes, some just for showing up.
The thing to remember is you don’t have to be an expert, says Wendy Boothroyd, an avowed non-expert and the co-ordinator for the birdathon this year.
“You can go for the whole 24 hours or you can just go for an hour.
“It’s a nice way to celebrate spring and to slow down for a few hours and enjoy the outdoors,” she adds.
The most species ever seen (or heard) is over 100, and hundreds of dollars have been raised by veteran birders like Helmut Grunberg and by young birders like Malkolm Boothroyd.
In recent years, prizes have also been awarded to the best enviro-birder – the person who birds by bike or foot or maybe just floats their way through the day in a boat – using non-motorized transport.
“We like to encourage people to use less fossil fuels,” says Boothroyd.
You can participate or help by pledging funds to your birding friends. And if you don’t have any of those, you can sponsor the 2009 feature birder and well-known wilderness and avalanche expert, Hector Mackenzie.
The Yukon Bird Club has numerous resources to help fledgling birders and birdathoners, including a one-page information sheet with bird-finding tips (locations in Whitehorse and farther afield), general birdathon rules and a pledge sheet. There’s also a bird species checklist to help you keep track.
Or you can tag along with Wendy and Ken Madsen for a guided bird walk, suitable for beginners, along the Millennium Trail on May 30 at 3 p.m. Bring binoculars if you have them.
The Whitehorse Public Library has a number of field guides (many purchased by the Bird Club with birdathon proceeds) to help identify birds.
Started in 1985, the birdathon has become an important fundraiser for the Yukon Bird Club and proceeds are shared with the Yukon Conservation Society. Both organizations are registered non-profit charitable organizations (donations are tax-deductible) that work for environmental conservation and education.
Funds raised this year will support Yukon bird observatories (bird-banding stations), in Watson Lake and Teslin, where birders can see birds close-up. An experimental observatory is also operating this month at the McIntyre wetlands.
The event starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 29 and ends at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 30. Birding adventures and prizes are shared at the closing potluck/barbecue (hot dogs are fine) held at Robert Service Park campground at 6 p.m. For more information, call Wendy Boothroyd at 668-7370.
Pledge forms can be downloaded from www.yukonweb.com/community/ybc/yukon-birdathon.pdf.
Jenny Trapnell is the field trip co-ordinator for the Yukon Bird Club. For information on trips, go to www.yukonweb.com/community/ybc/ or e-mail email@example.com to request a free notice of upcoming events.