Breeding Bird Survey Trip / Part 1 and a Look at Pin Cherry

All through chilly Toronto winters I look forward to the week or so in June when I head north to run breeding bird surveys. I did some of these routes many years ago as assistant to my grandfather Dr J. Murray Speirs and have done them from time to time ever since. For the past 13 years I have taken a week or more every June in northern Ontario and this year am running 12 surveys.

It started on June 3 this year when I did the Limehouse survey which explores the Caledon Hills just north west of Toronto.

Surveys begin one half hour before sunrise on scenic roads with little traffic. Each stop on the survey consists of a 3 minute time period when my friend and I listen for, look for and write down the name of each species we encounter. We then drive .8 kms and do the same thing. This goes on for 50 different stops on an assigned route and take about 4.5 hours.

Usually all the surveys are in the north but this year I have surveys in Caledon and near Port Hope.

We get birds such as Cardinal, Brown Thrasher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Towhee and Baltimore Oriole there which are rare up north.

After this, a drive to Muskoka where we arrived at about 1 pm and headed to the motel. I rang the bell in the office and no adult appeared. A young lad who appeared to be too young for kindergarten appeared at the window but no one else seemed to be present. Not the best parenting! Eventually I found a maid who let us into rooms where, despite no heat on in the room, a 90 minute nap followed…fully clothed of course. It was about 10 degrees outside and inside. Eventually heat arrived.

After an early morning survey in gorgeous Muskoka, we headed north to explore a survey route which is new to me just south of North Bay.

The countryside here is filled with eye-catching white flowers on a shrub with red bark.

This is Pin (or Fire) Cherry. Pin Cherry usually occurs in areas recently cleared by cutting or burning. It is intolerant of shade and is seldom found in mature forests.

The white flowers are in tassel-like clusters of 4 – 7 and appear when the leaves are about half grown:

The leaves are lance-shaped gradually tapering to a slender sharp tip. There are small uneven teeth on the margins:

The twigs are small and reddish:

The bark is smooth, shiny, dark reddish brown. The marks or lenticels are conspicuous, large, widely-spaced, horizontal and orange powdery.

Miles Hearn

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