Wildlife and Nature Photography

Great Experiences For Summer Birders

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With so many species present in our region during the summer months, birding can hardly be described as slow.

Many consider this time of year slow for birding, which I think is both untrue and unfair. With so many resident birds, and birds that breed in our area, there is always plenty to see. Just because we are not in a peak migration period doesn’t mean birding is slow, it just means the variety of birds isn’t as great. To call it slow, doesn’t promote year round birding in a positive way.

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Watching this Red-winged Blackbird fledgling flutter only a few feet at a time as it takes it first flight is only experienced during summer birding.

Summer birding has perks of it’s own. It is only during this time of year that certain behaviours can be seen. Interactions between adults and babies are always fun to observe. Watching the young fledglings calling with their mouths wide open for food is not something you will experience during spring or fall migration. First flights are always entertaining and sometimes humorous to watch. It is these first short excursions, that quite often only last a few seconds, that make summer birding so enjoyable.

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An inexperienced flyer, this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk passed by low overhead. Within a short period of time, this hawk will be soaring high above and such close encounters will be less likely.

Following the breeding season is one of the times when we see a plumage change in birds. As birds molt, their appearance drastically changes making it a great time of year to practice and perfect identification skills. This is especially true in waterfowl as males enter their eclipse plumage, which again is something not seen during migration.

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Plumage changes like this male Mallard showing eclipse plumage are observed during summer months.

Closer views of birds are also had during these summer months. As the season progresses, birds become more accustomed to human activity and are less wary. This is especially true with birds that migrate into our region to breed. Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and warbler species are all much more skittish in early spring when they first arrive back in our area. Take the opportunity now to get a bird’s eye view of these species.

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Seeing this Gray Catbird call at close range makes sound and sight identification unmistakable.

Traffic from other birders is also less during the summer months. Many of my favourite birding hotspots are absent of other birders at this time of year. Less people moving about makes hearing the various songs and calls easier. With the closer views mentioned earlier, quite often birds can be seen singing or calling, making summer the perfect time to learn identification by sound.

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More runners than flyers, Killdeer chicks are always fun to observe.

Bird activity is always greatest during cooler periods of the day, making early morning and evening the better times to go. Dress appropriately, making sure to protect yourself from the sun and insects. Sunscreen, a hat, and insect repellant should all be worn during summer birding.

Get out there and make the most of summer birding. Take in the once a year experiences that are happening right now. I’m sure you will agree that summer birding is hardly slow.

Good birding,




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2 Responses to “Great Experiences For Summer Birders”

  1. Gillian

    Yes, I don’t get the people who think birding is slow in the summer. Try going out in the woods in Ottawa in mid-February (especially during a finch-less winter) and finding only 7 or 8 species in 2 hours!

    In the height of breeding season we hear Ovenbirds, Eastern Wood-Pewees and Red-eyed Vireos in the woods almost every outing and may be lucky to spot a Scarlet Tanager, Hermit Thrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeak or Great Crested Flycatcher. We also have breeding warblers! Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroats, Nashville Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, and Black-throated Green Warblers are all very common here in the summer, not so much in the winter! Indigo Buntings, Eastern Bluebirds, Savannah Sparrows, and Eastern Meadowlarks love the open country. Killdeer, Spotted Sandpipers, and several herons and bitterns inhabit a variety of wetlands. I never get tired or bored of finding these species, because they are only with us for a short time. And as you say, when they aren’t migrating, they get used to people, and you often get much better looks at these birds in the summer than you do in the spring when they’re trying to fly north as fast as possible.

  2. Paul Roedding

    Well said. Warbler watching is far easier in the summer. During migration they are constantly on the move feeding on insects to fuel their long flights. I always say about the term “confusing fall warblers” that they wouldn’t be so confusing if they would just sit still.

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