Wings Over Brantford
The hobby of birding is taking flight.
Maichina Veri, July 14, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioBeautiful birding location along the S.C. Johnson trails. A stunning Prothonotary Warbler. Photo credit Andy Nguyen.
With the river running through Brantford and several parks and conservation areas, this city is home to great biodiversity. Wildlife and nature enthusiasts have an abundance of creatures, plants and resources at their fingertips. Naturally, our area is amazing for the deep focus of an age-old hobby: birding. The activity has been growing in popularity over the past couple of years. BTOWN decided it was time to join the flock to see what it’s all about.
“I like birding for several reasons,” says Sarah Lamond, 26, a lifelong birder. Sarah is a Brantford resident currently working in Algonquin for the next six months as a Park Naturalist. Although Sarah comes from a family of birders and has been going out on excursions since she was an infant, she says she’s been seriously birding for the past seven years. In addition to birding being a year-long activity, Sarah likes birding because there is a large variety of birds — around 512 species — that you can find in Ontario. “Each time I go out to bird I never know what I’m going to find, and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
Andy birding in Brantford. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
Not only is birding enjoyable, but it’s an important activity. Birding helps in research and conservation of not just birds, but of other creatures in the habitat they occupy. “It helps us see trends with what’s going on, not just with birds, but with lots of other species too. For example, there are a lot of our insectivore species that have become species at risk. Not necessarily just because of habitat loss, but because there are a lot less insects for them to eat as well. We can see that, when there is a trend of birds declining, it may be because there is a trend of other things declining as well,” Sarah explains. She suggests that if birds were to disappear, it could potentially cause a collapse of within the whole ecosystem.
"Brantford has many amazing locations for year-round birding. In the colder months, Sarah recommends Mohawk Lake and Mohawk Park. For birding along the river, adventuring out in the spring and summer is best. Other specific locations include Gilkison Flats, Wilkes Dam, the S.C. Johnson trail, and, if you're ready for it, the dump."
Brantford has many amazing locations for year-round birding. In the colder months, Sarah recommends Mohawk Lake and Mohawk Park. For birding along the river, adventuring out in the spring and summer is best. Other specific locations include Gilkison Flats, Wilkes Dam, the S.C. Johnson trail, and, if you’re ready for it, the dump. “Because we don’t have a composting system like many other cities do, it attracts a lot of gulls — especially in the winter time. Brantford is a really good hot spot in the winter for gulls. We get a lot of high arctic birds that come down south in the winter. Birds like glaucous gull and Iceland gull can be found pretty commonly in Brantford.” Sarah goes on to say rare gulls can be seen this time as well near the Grand River and Mohawk Lake, gulls which people from all over Ontario come to see.
Among the birds by the Grand River you can also find bald eagles, ospreys and Baltimore oriels. On the trails in this area in May and September, Sarah says you can also find bright songbirds like warblers, vireos and flycatchers.
Birder Andy Nguyen hopes to see a Mississippi Kite. Photo credit Paul Smith, Photohouse Studio.
The most amazing bird Sarah has come across in Brantford was a common gull. This European bird is a rare sight in the city and is not to be confused with the usual gulls we see around here. Sarah was the first person in Brantford to note this bird. The gull had become lost at some point and followed other birds to Niagara Falls where it was originally spotted. Six hours later, Sarah found it at Mohawk Lake. The gull was able to be identified by photos. “It was kind of neat to see that this bird had traveled all the way from Niagara Falls to Brantford on the same day,” Sarah says.
To begin your journey into birding, Sarah recommends few tools which include binoculars, a camera and a scope. The number one thing to have is the binoculars. A camera is an extra, but good for notating, recording and reviewing what you saw. Though not necessary, the scope is a good device to help with viewing birds in the distance.
Other tools include apps and online databases. For an app, Sarah recommends Merlin Bird ID and says it’s good for beginners. It can help you identify birds through description, pictures and vocal recordings. As for a website, eBird is where to go. “It’s a really great place to add your bird observations for scientists to use. But it’s also just a really good browser for keeping track of the birds that you see and where you’re seeing them. I really enjoy using it to keep track of what I’ve seen in Brantford and other places, especially when I’m going on trips.” The site is also good for learning all about different birds, and you can use it to submit checklists for the birds you observe, even if they’re just in your backyard.
If you’re ready to step up your leisurely birdwatching game to full-on active birding, you can use the resources mentioned in this article to get started. You can also join the Facebook groups Nature in Brantford for the sharing of all nature pictures in and around the city, and more specifically the Brant County Birders Group which is a forum for folks to connect, share sightings, post pictures and plan outings in relation to birding.
Check out the links and resources below to explore and connect with the birding world.
eBird - CLICK HERE
Merlin Bird ID - CLICK HERE
Brant County Birders Group - CLICK HERE
Nature in Brantford - CLICK HERE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maichina Veri is a writer based in Brantford, Ontario. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Montreal’s Concordia University and has a background in Journalism – Print from Niagara College.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Paul Smith has been shooting photos professional for the past eleven years. After graduating from Applied Photography at Sheridan College in 2008 he returned to Brantford and opened Photohouse Studios with his partner.