The Long Watch Project – Birds at the Head of Lake Ontario

The Long Watch is a new long-term project to accumulate data to assist in understanding and appreciating bird populations, particularly migrants, using Royal Botanical Gardens Cootes Paradise and Hendrie Valley Nature Reserves. This pilot project started in October 2014 and we anticipate continuing indefinitely; data collected over many years will contribute understanding trends at these nationally recognized Important Bird Areas.

There are currently two parts to the Long Watch Project:

1) Multi-week morning censuses of fixed routes completed in spring and fall, and

2) One day, dawn to dusk counts in spring and fall from fixed stations.

The protocol for the multi week census walks is below. We plan to grow carefully keeping the long-term viability of the project in mind. Once we feel secure with what we’ve taken on, we will open up more census routes.

Census Route - Multi-week Mornings - We have established two, more-or-less circular, routes (~2.5km) that pass through a variety of interesting habitats, one for Hendrie Valley and one for Cootes Paradise. Volunteer birders census each route several mornings per week during spring (April & May), and fall (Sept. & Oct.). Their task is to walk the route counting and recording all birds seen and heard. It’s more than a checklist process, as they note and tally all individuals of each species, not just their presence. The census demands sustained concentration and reasoned judgment. Our volunteer birders’ visual and listening skills grow with every outing.

All-Day Dawn to Dusk Count - Twice a year, once in May and once in September, we count birds at two fixed stations. Starting at first light (that’s very early in mid-May) and ending at twilight, our volunteer observers record all birds seen and heard. Some volunteers stay for 2 hours, the most ambitious stay for the full day. On our first effort in October 2014 (at just one site) we saw 52 species, counted 1,150 birds and witnessed lots of avian drama. On May 23 2015 we held our first spring Long Watch day at two sites. All-day dawn to Dusk count. We recorded 74 species at the Cootes Paradise site and 57 species in Hendrie Valley.

Two ways you can participate & help.

We need birders who can lend their eyes and ears to do a Census Route and/or participate in the All-Day Dawn to Dusk count. If you have good bird I.D. skills, commitment to the cause and the time to go out for a nice walk around good bird habitat in spring and/or fall; we’d like to hear from you. For the Census Route, the time commitment is about two hours per walk plus twenty minutes or so compiling and reporting your results, and we try to work in teams of at least two. For the All-Day Dawn to Dusk long watch days in May and September, any length of time spent at one of our sites is valuable. Contact Us

The data collected is for RBG’s use and information and will be made available to birders and bird conservation organizations. As noted above, the goal is to build a body of information over many years and decades that can be analyzed and used to guide programmes and conservation activities