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McMaster Forest Bird Survey

The McMaster Forest Bird Survey is an ongoing effort by the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club to observe and record bird species records over the course of several years at McMaster Forest, a conservation space owned by McMaster University just off of Lower Lion’s Club Road, Ancaster.

While not directly affiliated with a university study, we work in concert with McMaster University’s biology department where possible, including assisting with their efforts to attract and monitor certain bird species at-risk.

The surveys were started in 2014 by Rob Porter, who observed and recorded over 150 bird species over the course of three years, with over 50 of those species likely to be breeding on the property. In 2017, we seek to bring in more observers in an effort to continue the study as well as improve upon discovery and recording of nesting records and general bird breeding activities.

Scope of Surveys

Area: Although any species within observable range of McMaster Forest research site is valid observation, currently a focused effort being made upon the space in and around the main tallgrass prairie section, known as the labelled on the map below in yellow. The property as a whole is quite large and diverse — you can spend a few minutes or a few hours here.

Season: Surveys are done all year round, with more concerted efforts being made during the main breeding season (May-July). We attempt to maintain a minimum of three 20-minute surveys per week during main breeding season, and one 20-minute survey per week during the secondary season. Note that this is an absolute minimum which is usually well-exceeded.

Species: All species observed are to be recorded. In the migration period of late March through mid-May a special effort is made to seek out two target species: the Eastern Meadowlark, and the Bobolink. In the primary breeding season, efforts are made to find and record active nest locations, and other relevant breeding data that can be collected without disturbing breeding birds, as per NestWatch protocols. During this period, there are over 50 possible breeding species which include Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and many more.


Participation: Anyone is welcomed to survey and submit data. If you wish to assist in finding nests, please attend an orientation outing, review NestWatch’s Nest Monitoring Manual, and register an account to take the quiz.

Submission of records: All records are submitted by eBird, and shared with the McMaster Forest eBird Records (username: mccforest) account. Sensitive records should be postponed until after any risks to the affected species have passed.

Upcoming orientation outings: Saturday March 11 at 9:00 a.m, and Sunday April 9 at 1:00 p.m. Meet at parking area along Lower Lion’s Club Rd. Likely to be about 2 hours. Dress for the weather — if it is wet the trails become quite muddy, rubber boots might be necessary.