Birding by Kayak

4:19 PM

Whenever I ask people where their favourite place in the world is, generally speaking it is somewhere in the great outdoors. For the past couple of weeks I have been at my favourite place, my cottage on the French River (this is the recent delay in blog postings as there is no internet). For those who don’t know the French River is a large river located in Northern Ontario about 45 minutes south of Sudbury and about 3.5 hours North of Toronto.

One of my favourite things to do at the cottage is to kayak in the early morning. I enjoy the stillness of the water and the quiet. Kayaking, I have discovered is also a great way to birdwatch. I learned this a few years back when I was leading kayaking day tours in Costa Rica. I noticed it was easy to spot wildlife from the water as they come to the forest’s edge to eat, drink, hunt etc. Shore and wading birds are easily observed when kayaking and the wide open spaces above the water makes it easy to spot many other birds, including raptors.

Sometimes I bring binoculars along with me in the kayak, but most of the time I bird by ear or by plain eyesight and I am never disappointed. During my adventures in the kayak this vacation I listed to the Wood Thrushes, White-Throated Sparrows and Song Sparrows calling from the forest as I paddled quietly by the shoreline. The call of the Song Sparrows at the cottage are much different from home. Their call is shorter and sharper, and what I would describe as impatient. During my paddle I observed Cedar Waxwings flying from tree to tree, mother Mallards move their ducklings around the river and rocks, Spotted Sandpipers bobbing their tail up and down on the shoreline and Common Loon’s calling to each other up and down the river.

My favourite part about birding in a kayak is how close you can get to birds before they are startled off. Motor boats are loud, conspicuous and disturb birds. Kayak’s let you silently glide up to these creatures with ease. It’s not uncommon to have a loon surface beside you or for you to get very close to a family of mergansers. This vacation presented a new surprise, a family of Merlin’s stayed around the cottage for our entire stay. They were constantly calling and flying over the river. With the kayak I was able to get up close to the family of Merlin’s and watched all three of them calling to each other from perches on the same dead tree.

Below are some photos from my kayaking adventures:

Scenic forested shoreline.

Scenic forested shoreline.

Turkey Vultures resting by the shoreline.

Herring Gull floating on top of the water.

A family of Mallards.

Two common loons.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to try kayaking, I highly recommend it and if you can bird watch in the process even better!

Good birding!

~ Kristen Martyn

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