Monday, May 14, 2018


A call to binoculars for all birders!

Its time once again for the annual Whimbrel migration. These marvelous migrants give us a super show for a few days every spring. Almost the entire Eastern population of Numenius Phaeopus passes right over our heads between May 19 or so, through May 31st, with the flights peaking almost always on the morning of May 24th. As usual, we of the Toronto Ornithological Club will have as many heads as possible at Whimbrel Point, Sam Smith Park, to witness and record this spectacle of nature. In the past, the flocks numbering from a few to hundreds of individuals could be counted on to pass over Sam Smith park at Whimbrel Point, plus the stretch of Lake Ontario shoreline from Ashbridges' Bay to Mimico. On May 24th especially, the day's tally often runs into the thousands as these magnificent shorebirds pass in noisy flocks all the way from their staging area in the Delmarva Marshes (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia - isn't that cute)  to the Southern shore of James Bay and beyond to their summer breeding grounds. Although the Whimbrel's population status is listed as "of special concern" we are fortunate to be able to see so many of them.

Up until a few years ago Whimbrels almost always flew over Sam Smith Park without stopping. Lately this behaviour for reasons we do not fully understand has begun to change. Almost every day during the last half of may Whimbrels have been observed landing and resting at many places along their migration route. This means that instead of all passing over during the first early hours of morning the flocks can now be seen at various times all throughout the day.

We urgently need observers to watch for Whimbrels at likely places along the North shore of Lake Ontario from sunrise to evening especially if they have been seen on the ground. In order to document this phenomenon and incorporate it into our knowledge of Whimbrel migration we need as many Citizen Scientists as we can get out there recording and reporting. Because you can bet your bottom toonie that there are not enough professional observers to go around. Your observations, if sent to Ontbirds email address :    or to my email address: will ensure that the event will be recorded by the Toronto Ornithological Club and sent down to the the Nature Conservancy in the U.S. Please take the time to count the number of birds as best you can, include the time, date, location, and a rough description of weather, and whether the birds were flying or resting.

Here's your chance to actually do something for the preservation of this species. Don't just watch 'em fly around, this time lets get our observations together and do something positive for the conservation of these magnificent birds.

If you are interested in going the distance this year come out to Whimbrel Point at the Southernmost tip of Col. Sam Smith Park any morning from May 19 to May 31. As most folks who just want to see and hear these fabulous flocks just show up during early morning prime time ,May 23 to May 26, snap off a few photos, say gee-thanks and go home, we really need you to spend a bit more time helping out. The flocks start at daybreak and may go off and on all day. 12 hours at Whimbrel Point is a bit of a stretch for us, but we will manage it with or without your help.

With your help it will be so much better. See you there.

For an idea of where to watch these birds other than Sam Smith Park look for any relatively undisturbed spot along the North Shore of Lake Ontario and to a lesser extent, the North Shore of Lake Erie, especially near the mouth of a watercourse, with rocks along the shoreline. Daybreak is the best time but now they go all day. Don't expect to see them in a heavy rain but watch both before and after.

For reports on what is being seen please watch Ontbirds. I will report there every day with Whimbrel results as well as all the other Shorebirds we see.

For further intriguing reading, see the articles on the TOC website by superbirder (and photographer)Wayne Renaud -

TOC - Page Site - Toronto Birds>
Toronto Ornithological Club (TOC) is dedicated to the study of bird life in Toronto.

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