USEFUL TOOLS & RBA's
"Perhaps the most rewarding byproduct of birding is a sharpening of the senses -- the eyes and the ears. It develops awareness and a regard for life --- all life." - Roger Tory Peterson
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Books: Enjoying the Birds of the Ottawa Valley by John Sankey is still the only actual birdfinding book available covering the entire area for birders. Although it was published in 1987, it still has a lot to offer the newcomer to Ottawa. Even those who have lived here all their lives may learn much. This wonderful little book is choc-a-bloc full of interesting stories and suggestions for local birders. It has a good deal of birdfinding information, but is meant to be a more general coverage. It has a little history, a bit of anecdote, some whimsy, practical info on feeders and bird study, a month by month breakdown of the birding year and a checklist. Unfortunately, it is now out-of-print, but John Sankey has generously placed the entire text on the internet. Click here to go to John Sankey's website.
The Le club des ornithologues de l'Outaouais (COO) has produced three editions of a guide which cover many sites on the Quebec side of the area. The first, from 1985, is titled Guide d'observation des Oiseaux de l'Outaouais; the second, from 1996, is called Sites ornithologiques de l'Outaouais. These editions are in French only. There are good maps and with the bird name page provided in this site, you can probably learn a lot while you brush up on your French. If you know French already, even better. The latest edition, released in 2009 (though dated 2008), has both an English and French version. It is titled Guide to Birdwatching Sites of the Outaouais in English and Guide des sites d'observation des oiseaux de l'Outaouais in French. It covers 48 sites in the Outaouais checklist area, many of which are also in the Ottawa Checklist area; and all of which are worth visiting. Excellent maps accompany each descriptive text. Check the club's website for details on how to get a copy.
Not focused primarily on birds, but very useful nonetheless, is Daniel Brunton's Nature and Natural Areas in Canada's Capital published in 1988. This book covers the various habitats found in the Ottawa - Hull region and has nearly a third of its pages devoted to site guides. Though these lean strongly to botany they do have many useful birding references.
A new additional to the local information on natural areas is Seaton Findlay's Capital Woodlands published in 2001 by Penumbra Press in both English and French edition. This book covers urban woodlands and wooded areas in city proper area of Ottawa (prior to amalgamation with the region). To quote the cover text, it "uses geography, natural history, city history, and identification information on the city's natural and planted tree cover to stimulate interest in and appreciation for the wooded areas of our nation's capital." Excellent maps of each site are included and there is a section on tree identification. Again, while not specifically on birds, this guide provides insights on 25 easy to reach birding sites here in Ottawa. Return to Main Menu
Checklists: The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club (OFNC) has defined a 50 kilometre circle centered on the Peace Tower in downtown Ottawa as its study area. It publishes checklists of the area which are available either through the club or from most local nature stores. The May 1993 A Birder's Checklist of Ottawa is one of the best checklists of the many hundreds I've seen. It contains weekly relative abundance, habitat information, breeding status and a site map. A stellar effort by two of our best local birders, Bernie Ladouceur and Bruce Di Labio. The newer 2002 checkist adds the new species seen between 1993 and 2002, but provides only a simple list. Get the 1993 checklist if you can; even a few years outdated it provides a tremendous amount of useful information. A much less informative field list is also available. It is also cheaper and can be used for day lists and such.
A checklist for sightings in the Outaouais may be found in the Guide d'observation des Oiseaux de l'Outaouais, mentioned above. In conjunction with the 2009 edition of "Guide to Birdwatching Sites of the Outaouais" a "Frequency Chart of the Birds of the Outaouais" compiled by Gilbert Dupuis was also released. It has weekly bar graphs showing frequency of reports for 255 species and a list of less commonly reported species, including exotics.
Also see the Birding Ottawa Ottawa Bird Names: English - French - Scientific and Ottawa Big Year Checklist pages. Return to Main Menu
Maps: Various city maps are available. They fall into two categories by construction, booklets and folding maps. My experience has been that booklets are far superior for birding purposes. Folding maps are unwieldy and tear easily, though they may be easier to carry if you are on foot. The booklet types are much easier to use and especially more manageable in a car, easily stored in most glove compartments. The content is nearly identical for the two types by the same publisher.
There are currently three booklet type Ottawa area maps in the stores. One each is published by Rand McNally, MapArt and Pathfinder Maps. They are all updated yearly and MapArt and Pathfinder, at least, display the year of publication prominently on the front cover. All are comparably priced and may be purchased at local map stores such as World of Maps at Wellington and Holland. The MapArt booklet is somewhat more compact at 23 by 16.5 cm and 96 pages, the Rand McNally is 26.7 by 19.7 cm and has 131 pages, and the Pathfinder is intermediate at 21.5 by 20.3 cm with 144 pages. The Rand McNally is in a larger format, making it especially good for folks who prefer large print books. All have a good street index and an overview index map near or on the front. All three booklets cover the surrounding area in less detailed maps.
The city maps are especially useful when tracking down rare bird reports within the city. But for the more adventurous, the Backroad Mapbook - Eastern Ontario will be a more useful tool. This 28 by 21.5 cm booklet sells for $15.95+ at the map shop and has 40 pages of maps and 64 pages of reference material. As well as covering roads, it includes hiking trails, paddling routes, cross-country ski trails, etc. It does not include city streets.
Also available at the map store or from the government are the National Topographic Series maps. They are available at 1:250,000 and 1:50,000 scales. The 50 kilometre Ottawa circle is mainly on 1:250,000 maps 31G and 31F, but if you wish to make a circle map (steering wheel sized), you will also need 31B & a tiny bit of 31C. There are many 1:50,000 topo maps in the Ottawa area, check the topo map index to chose the one you need.
A wonderful resource has appeared online recently. The City of Ottawa has, as part of the online services portion of its website, an Ottawa eMap. There are many maps, some interactive, mostly to point you to various services. Useful items may be found in the Parks and Recreation section; but for birders, the most useful section is the 1999 Air Photo coverage of the entire area. This can be used to scout out habitat and access to remote areas or just for fun. This is accessed through a downloadable mapping program called eMap which has 2002 and 2005 air photo coverage. This may be somewhat difficult for computer novices, but provides more up-to-date imagery. Return to Main Menu
Rare Bird Alerts: Perhaps the most valuable tools for birders in the area are the bird information lines run by the OFNC and the COO. The OFNC Bird Status Line is operated by volunteers and the number is 613-860-9000. The recorded messages are updated on an irregular schedule determined by reports received and it is wise to check it frequently. It now has a Rare Bird Report (press 1) and a separate Bird Status Report (press 2). To share your interesting sightings with other birders in the area call the same number (press 3). Bird Status Line report transcripts from the recent, but not always immediate, past are found on the OFNC website. The COO line formerly run by Daniel St. Hilaire still exists, but only as a reporting line.The number is 819-778-0737. The COO also has an Observations page, where sightings are listed, albeit with minimal location information. The Ontario rare bird alert is at 519-586-3959.
There is also an OFNC sponsored rare bird alert call-around in Ottawa. It consists of about 50 of the keenest birders in the club. When a rare bird (as defined by this group) is found, someone in the call list is notified. They in turn notify someone in each of four sections. These 4 folks have 2 columns of six names each to notify. They can usually find someone to do one of these columns while they do the other. Hence a maximum of six calls for any one person before they're out the door. A natural for cellphones. The message system has been very effective. Those not on the 'official' callout list may ask to be called by someone on it. As people move or lose interest (I know it's hard to believe, but some people actually do), vacancies on the list are filled by new keeners. This list is updated every year or two, depending on how quickly it become outdated. The COO has a similar, but smaller, call list. And the two are somewhat interconnected.
And don't forget to check the Birding Ottawa RBA, which attempts to keep abreast of the latest local rare bird reports and provides links to the appropriate site pages, if available, for further information. See also the archive of past RBA's beginning in the year 2001 at Birding Ottawa Past Years' Rare Bird Alerts. Also useful in winter are the Birding Ottawa Winter Specialty Status pages, that attempts to give a rundown of birds of special interest in Ottawa's chilly winters. These birds are often of interest to southern visitors to the city. And there is also a reference archive, beginning in the winter of 2003 - 2004 of Birding Ottawa Past Winter Specialty Status Reports. In addition, NeilyWorld has an all observers combined Winter Bird List for the Ottawa checklist circle. Click here to see the current Birding Ottawa Winter Bird List and here for the reference archive, beginning in the winter of 2005 - 2006 of Birding Ottawa Past Winter Lists.
Also online, is the phenomenal Rare Birds of Quebec, which provides daily updates on rare birds found throughout Quebec. It is the best online resource provincewide. Return to Main Menu
Listservs: RBA's, of course, are old technology. With nearly everyone being connected through the internet, it is now the method of choice for most notifications. The ONTBIRDS listserv, run by the Ontario Field Ornithologists, is an excellent connection to make. This is basically an electronic mailing list service which notifies birders of new Ontario bird sightings of interest. This will give you notice of any rare birds found in Ontario. Also provided are general trip reports, location updates and background information. Directions are included in reports, as a rule. All Ontario birding hotlines, major birding hotspots and hawkwatches are being invited to post their regular updates, and especially rare bird reports, to ONTBIRDS. Several people in the Ottawa area post regularly. Information about and instructions for joining the mailing list can be had at the OFO's Ontbirds site. There are currently over 1000 subscribers. Messages posted are received by all on the list and best of all, it's free! The Ontbirds Archives are a phenomenal resource for birders.
For the Quebec reports, again the best online resource is Rare Birds of Quebec, providing daily updates and plenty of great photos of rare birds. There is also a Quebec listserv provided by Birdingonthe.Net for Ornitho-QC. For Outaouais birders that belong to the COO there is a Yahoo French language newsgroup called COO_courrier.
The Ottawa Citizen newspaper has a birding column each week written by Elizeth Le Geyt. These columns and a wealth of other material relevent to the local birding scene are archived on Elizabeth Le Geyt's Birding Column Website.
There are listservs for adjacent New York and Vermont as well, and though these listservs are generally chatty, they contain the meat too. Check out ONEIDABIRDS, CayugaBirds-L (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org - put the words subscribe CAYUGABIRDS-L in the message body), Northern_NY_Birds and VTBirds Archives (subscribe from there). The areas these listservs cover are generally within a five hour drive of Ottawa.
The BIRDEAST listserv will provide you will transcripts from RBAs throughout Eastern Canada and USA, including reports from Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal, Syracuse, Hamilton, Buffalo, etc. These are well worth scanning for patterns and news, but are not always timely. Excellent archives (back to Jan. 1995) exist for BIRDEAST and its sisters, BIRDCNTR & BIRDWEST. If you are planning a trip or want to check what occurred in Ottawa at this time a year or two ago, this tool accommodates your needs. Return to Main Menu
Audio-Visual Aids: This section includes audio recordings of bird calls that may be useful for Ottawa based birding. The old standard for bird songs recordings, and still among the best, is the one-CD Peterson Field Guide Series Eastern/Central Bird Songs, Roger Tory Peterson (editor), from the Cornell Lab, revised 1999, with 250 species covered. (The Western Bird Songs 2-CD set, by Cornell/Interactive, also from the Cornell Lab, revised 1992, has 522 species.) Another CD offered is the Guide to Bird Sounds by the National Geographic Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 1986, covering 180 species. Yet another set (3 CD's) is the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs (Eastern Region) by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes from Little, Brown and Co., 1997 (372 species). The American Birding Association carries all of the above at its online store, ABA Sales. Return to Main Menu
Closer to home, Monty Brigham's wonderful 3 CD set Birds of Canada is likely to fill your needs, if you can find it. Try local nature stores. More local, but less comprehensive, is Brigham's newest CD, Natural Sounds of Eastern Canada: Birds, Frogs and Mammals. It is also available at the Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum in Kemptville. Return to Main Menu
Video recordings are also available from the ABA Sales website. These are usually restricted to a family or group of birds, such as shorebirds, hummingbirds or warblers. Return to Main Menu
Local Natural History Clubs: The premier club for English-speaking folk in Ottawa is the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club (OFNC). Its counterpart for francophones is the Gatineau-based Club des ornithologues de l'Outaouais (COO). To the east of the city, a group centred in St-Isadore is led by Jacques Bouvier whose blog is always worth visiting for birding information for Eastern Ontario, albeit in French only. To the west of the city itself, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) can be found. Visit the Birding Ottawa Local Natural History Clubs page for more information and further links to the clubs' own websites. Return to Main Menu
Local Field Trips: The OFNC offers a number of organized birding opportunities during the course of the year, a list of upcoming events is posted on their website under Field Trips, Workshops & Excursions. The COO offers a similar program in French, though there is often someone along who is bilingual. See their events on the Activités page of their website. Check these out. They're a good way for a newcomer to meet some of the locals. Return to Main Menu
Local Commercial Guides: For those you prefer to have a local expert introduce them to an area, we have two local guides who can provide scheduled or taylor-made birding experiences. Visit the Birding Ottawa Local Commercial Guides page for more information and links to the guides' own websites. Return to Main Menu
Local Bird and Nature Photographers: Local photographers (professional, amateur, and even beginners) who shoot birds and display them on the internet are introduced on the Birding Ottawa Local Bird and Nature Photographers page. Here you will see samples of their work, brief biographical sketches, photos of the photographers and a link to their websites. The Ottawa Citizen has a bird photo gallery to which many local photographers have contributed. It is found on Elizabeth Le Geyt's Birding Column Website. Return to Main Menu
Weather: Local weather can be accessed by either stepping outside or visiting the Environment Canada Weather Office website. Here you will get current conditions, a 5 day forcast, averages and extremes, historical data, local radar map, storm warnings, satellite images, etc., etc. Return to Main Menu
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