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Renowned birder takes local naturalists under his wing

Mike Burrell described some of the best places to bird in Ontario; Next meeting will focus on the Life and Times of a Canadian Icon
naturalists club oct 8
The Orillia Naturalists' Club met recently. From left: Rob Henderson, Barb Ryckman, Allan Thompson, Mike Burrell (guest speaker), Warren Ryckman and Sharon Hancock. Contributed photo

The Orillia Naturalists’ Club was treated to a summary of a book co-authored by the presenter, Mike Burrell.

He has a very busy life in the birding community such as being zoologist for the Ontario Natural Heritage Centre, and co-ordinator for ebird in Ontario.

There are thousands of wonderful places in Ontario to bird, but his choices of “best” were decided for their closeness to birders, as well as being some of his “faves”. The nearest to Orillia is the Carden Alvar.

Burrell chose the Long Point area as one of his specific areas to talk about in his presentation. Using a slide with a map of the Long Point area, he described a strategy for visiting the area.

Perhaps the most unknown (to southern and central Ontarians) is Rainy River. Here the close proximity to the prairies to the west and the Cambrian Shield to the north, which is a region dominated by agriculture and speckled by stands of regenerating aspen and low-lying peat-lands.

The shores of Lake of the Woods and Rainy River are bordered by fairly rich deciduous forest, dominated in areas by Bur Oak. As a result of the varied habitats, the area provides birders a chance to see species found reliably nowhere else in the province, especially the White Pelicans (95% of the nesting birds in Ontario are here).

Burrell closed his presentation with a description of birding opportunities in the Moosonee and James Bay area. Moosonee is accessed through the Polar Bear Express, a journey that affords the passenger great views.

Moosonee is in the heart of breeding country for many northern species, such as Northern Hawk Owl, but it is perhaps most important for its shorebirds, who visit this area in large numbers in late summer, early fall.

Many enthused club members stayed behind to chat with Burrell and buy an autographed copy of his book.

The next meeting of the Orillia Naturalists' Club will be Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 7:30 p.m. at the Orillia Museum of Art and History on Peter Street South. The speaker will be Mark Peck, Manager, Schad Gallery of Biodiversity, Royal Ontario Museum about The Common Loon: The Life and Times of a Canadian Icon.