BIG DAYS/BIG YEARS
On a good migration day in mid- to late-May it is possible to observe over 100 species in a 24 hour period in Muskoka. The top 5 "Big Day" records for Muskoka are:
REPORT YOUR SIGHTINGS
127 species 25 May 1996 (Ron Tozer, Doug Tozer, Bill Crins, Dennis Barry, Margaret Carney)
125 species 22 May 1995 (Al Sinclair, Dan Burton, Lou Spence)
125 species May 1989 (Bob Bowles, Sandy Sutherland, Pat Tafts)
125 species June 1987 (Bob Bowles)
121 species 21 May 1994 (Al Sinclair, Dan Burton, Lou Spence)
"Big Day" records have also been set for the Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons, Muskoka's number one birding hotspot. Birders attempted to find as many species as possible at this single location! The top 3 "Big Day" records for the Lagoons are:
92 species 22 May 2017 (David and Regan Goodyear, Janice House)
90 species 20 May 2018 (David and Regan Goodyear)
78 species 20 May 2017 (Janice House, Michael Hatton, David and Regan Goodyear)
Another version of a "Big Day" is known as the "Big Sit". Birders try to see and hear as many species as possible in 24 hours, however, they must stay within a small prescribed area, usually about 5 - 6 metres in diameter. You can come and go from the circle for food or breaks, but birds only count when you are in the circle. So, find yourself a spot with a variety of habitats and birds and a good view, stay within it, count birds, and have fun!
51 species 3 May 2020 (Dale Wenger - his Big Sit spot was his Huntsville home roof!)
Some birders are obsessed and do what is known as a "Big Year", extending the search for birds in a given geographic area over the course of an entire year. The top 5 "Big Year" records for the most species seen in a single year in Muskoka are:
219 species in 2020 (Aaron Rusak)
216 species in 2020 (David and Regan Goodyear)
212 species in 2019 (Aaron Rusak; David and Regan Goodyear)
208 species in 2020 (Cindy Rusak)
205 species in 2020 (Janice House)
Records are meant to be broken, so get out there and set a big day/big sit/big year record of your own.
If you want to report your sightings to help document the occurrence and distribution of birds in Muskoka, or if you would like to find out what others are seeing, then head on over to the eBird
homepage for Muskoka. eBird is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is the world's largest biodiversity-related citizen science project. This online database of over 500 million bird observations from around the world provides real-time data about the world's 10,000+ species.
As well, MFN often conducts birding hikes in May. See our Outings page for uptodate information.
MFN sponsors two annual one day bird counts, the mid-December Gravenhurst-Bracebridge Christmas Bird Count and the mid-May Great Canadian Birdathon, and happily welcomes new participants no matter your age or skill level. MFN members also participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feederwatch. For complete details on these nature counts see our Counts
WHERE TO GO BIRDING
Muskoka has a number of great birding locations, but the premier "hotspot" is the Bracebridge Sewage Treatment Ponds (aka Lagoons). Yes, we mean "sewage". 245 species have been recorded from this one location, including rarities such as Hudsonian Godwit, American White Pelican, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ruff, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Nelson's Sparrow. The "Lagoons" are the best place in Muskoka to find migrating shorebirds, such as Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Dunlin, Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plover, and Least and Semipalmated Sandpiper. As well, over 26 species of warblers have been recorded here.
Nearby Henry Marsh is another favourite spot. A number of rarer species have nested here, including Golden-winged Warbler, Least Bittern, and Sedge Wren.
Beausoleil Island in Georgian Bay is one of the easiest places in Ontario to observe nesting Prairie Warblers, and if you are lucky perhaps you will also find the rare Cerulean Warbler or catch sight of a passing Black Tern.
Axe Lake in north Muskoka is home to both Olive-sided and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers.
The Torrance Barrens near Bala provide ideal breeding habitat for Field Sparrows, Yellow-throated Vireos, and Eastern Towhees.
For more information and directions to these birding hotspots and over 40 other areas of significant natural interest in Muskoka, see our Hotspots
If you want to find out more about the life histories of birds, learn how to identify birds, listen to bird songs and calls, track the migration of hawks and hummingbirds, or find out what rarities are being seen elsewhere in Ontario, MFN recommends the following print and web-based resources.
The Sibley Guide to Birds
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America
The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America
The Crossley ID Guide
The Warbler Guide (Stephenson and Whittle)
A Cottager's Guide to the Birds of Muskoka and Parry Sound (Mills)
Birds of Algonquin Park (Tozer)
Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005
Muskoka Bird Board
Simcoe Nature Board
Ontario Bird News
Bird Studies Canada
All About Birds