Yukon Birdathon

There are 284 bird species recorded in Yukon. This weekend is your chance to count as many as you can.

The Yukon Birdathon is designed to get you out birding, and raise funds for bird conservation. Held the last weekend in May, the goal is to identify as many species as possible from Friday, May 29 at 5 p.m. to Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m.

You don’t actually have to watch for birds that entire time — even a few hours is encouraged. And if you don’t like to bird yourself, you can sponsor a birder (a pledge per species or a donation), says organizer Jim Hawkings. “Anyone is welcome to do it – individuals and teams. It’s nice to get sponsors but you don’t have to. And you don’t have to register for the event beforehand to participate.

Funds raised are used by the Yukon Bird Club and Yukon Conservation Society for environmental education programs.

The species counts and locations also help researchers track changes or trends in bird species and populations.

This year the event has been renamed the Helmut Grünberg Yukon Birdathon in honour of the late renowned birder and educator, and the Birdathon’s greatest fundraiser.

Feature birders like Ted Murphy-Kelly help promote the event and encourage participation, and often do pretty well in the bird tallies. He shares the record of 126 birds as a team with Ben Schonewille and Jukka Jantunen. Murphy-Kelly is a master bird-bander who operates the Albert Creek Bird Observatory ( a bird-banding station) near Watson Lake.

There are a few basic birdathon rules: count all birds that you confidently identify (use a guidebook and binoculars, take a photo, make a drawing, or record a song, and check it out later online. Avoid “flushing” or scaring birds. Tread lightly in sensitive habitats, like wetlands. And do not use sound recordings to attract birds.

Birdathons are a wonderful time to enjoy the outdoors and to learn about birds. I like to hike around Hidden Lakes and the Millennium Trail in Riverdale, and there are other hotspots too: the Quartz Road wetlands near Walmart, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve, and the McIntyre Creek and Yukon College ponds near Takhini.

Take a guide book, binoculars, and a chair and park yourself outside for awhile. It’s fun to look for features that will identify an unfamiliar species, such as shape, size, colour, how it moves, and how it sounds.

Like all fun events, the Birdathon also includes food. There’s a barbeque afterwards at the Robert Service Campground that anyone can attend. There will be prizes, and this year there will also be a special celebration of Helmut Grünberg’s life, at 6:30 p.m.

Pledge forms are available by emailing [email protected] com, or can be picked up at the Yukon Conservation Society.

Guidebooks can be found at local bookstores and libraries (donated by the Yukon Bird Club with Birdathon-raised funds). On-line resources including the Facebook page, Yukon Birds, and All About Birds — Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

So, as Hawkings says, with that winged Greek goddess watching, just get out and do it. For more information, call Jim Hawkings at 668-2639.

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