Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas

Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas by Robert Curry

A publication of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club.

This 676-page reference book to the status of over 386 species of birds that have occurred in the Hamilton Study Area was published in October 2006 and reprinted in October 2007.

The Hamilton Study Area covers a 25-mile/40 km radius circle centred on Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, and so also includes all or parts of Hamilton, Halton, Brant, Haldimand, Norfolk, Peel, Waterloo, Wellington and Niagara counties.

As well as detailed bird species accounts written by Bob Curry the book features:

  • 32 pages of colour photographs by such expert bird photographers as Barry Cherriere, Brandon Holden, Robert McCaw, Ken Newcombe and George Peck
  • Original art by Robert Bateman, David Beadle and Peter Burke
  • A provocative foreword by Fred Bodsworth
  • Chapters by leading local field naturalists covering a wide range of birding projects, and the history of birding activity in the area
  • Detailed colour maps of the regional hot spots and vegetation types
  • Seasonal bar graphs for each species

Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas was created through the efforts and involvement of many Club volunteers. Funding support was provided by personal and corporate sponsors including: Robert Bateman, Hamilton Future Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Fund, Halton and Hamilton Conservation Authorities.

Proceeds from the sale of this publication will support Hamilton Naturalists’ Club conservation and education projects.

Accessing the Book

Unfortunately, the Club no longer has copies of this book for sale; however, it can be accessed through the Hamilton and Burlington Public Libraries.

Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas is still available for sale at some the following store locations (phone to verify before visiting the store):

Hamilton – Hamilton Conservation Authority (available for purchase at selected conservation areas); Epic Books; The Hamilton Store; Titles-McMaster Bookstore;
Burlington – Wild Birds Unlimited; A Different Drummer Books
Dundas – The Printed Word
Waterdown – Pickwick Books
Guelph – Wild Birds Unlimited

Book Reviews
“The story begins with a bird, though, a big one. Bob is eight years old, out with his father trout fishing on Loch Lomond near their home in Glasgow. It’s the late 1940s. That’s when his father points them out. Two of them. Golden-brown feathers on the head and nape. Aquila chrysaetos, a pair of Golden Eagles. Bob is transfixed, the image staying with him forever like a snapshot in his mind’s eye that never fades.”
– Jon Wells, The Hamilton Spectator, October 12, 2006

“I like the month-by-month migration and climate summary in the book. October, for instance, is when winter ducks arrive, and hawks and golden eagles pass through on the northwest winds.”
– Kathy Renwald, The Hamilton Spectator, October 12, 2006

“The breathtaking extent to which birds enrich our lives in heavily urbanized Hamilton and vicinity is celebrated in a classic new book that promises to become a collector’s item.”
– Gord McNulty, The Hamilton Spectator, October 07, 2006

“Birds seen in Haldimand County play a significant role in a new book published by the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club”
– Neil Dring, Haldimand Sachem, Grand River Sachem, Glanbrook Gazette
October 20, 2006

“Birds of Hamilton should find its way onto the bookshelf of any area bird lover as the encyclopedia of birdwatching in Hamilton.”
– Now @ the Gardens, Winter 2006/2007

“With the publication of his book Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Area, lifelong birdwatcher Robert (Bob) Curry wants to get the word out that Hamilton and the surrounding counties are wonderful places to find birds.”
– Hamilton Community Guide 2006/2007

“A compulsively detailed guide to over 385 species of birds that have ever appeared in the area, the book is an armful. Fascinating reading for nature buffs.”
– Hamilton Magazine Spring 2007

“This is a welcome and long awaited addition to the literature on the avifauna of the province.”
– Ontario Birds April 2007

“For birders interested in bird patterns and occurrences along the Niagara Escarpment, this book is fast becoming essential reading. It covers almost 400 species and supplies some of the most complete information available.”
– Mark Cranford, Vice President, South Peel Naturalists’ Club, Summer 2007 Coalition on the Niagara Escarpment newsletter

Funding Support

Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas was made possible through the
generous financial support of personal and corporate sponsors.

Who are the authors?

Bob Curry and the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club (HNC) are producing a 600 page book documenting the Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas. Just who are these authors contributing so much to the Club’s newest publication? You’ll recognize many names, and be impressed with the range of material you’ll read about when you have your own copy next year.

“Wood Duck Pair” by Robert Bateman is the frontpiece of the book.

Bob, who has been birding in the Hamilton area since he was 13, is the senior author of the text. Bob enjoyed the mentorship of George North, the famous birder from Hamilton who bridged the time from the days of collecting with the gun to collecting by checklist. The 380 some species accounts of birds seen within the Hamilton Study Area (a 40.2-kilometre radius circle centred on Dundurn Castle, Hamilton), from prehistoric records to the present day, will form the major focus of the book.

However, this book is much more than the species accounts. The Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas is also a book by many other HNC members who are writing chapters to describe and document the astounding variety of bird related projects this club and its members have undertaken over the years. Well known author, Fred Bodsworth, is writing the introduction for this book.

Lois Evans, a retired school principal, a recipient of our Volunteer of the Year award, is one of HNC’s most active historians. Her chapter outlines the history of the birding contingent of the club, with excellent archival photographs of our earliest members.

Rob Dobos, who keeps our Noteworthy Bird Records and over the last five years has co-ordinated our contributions to the second Breeding Bird Atlas of Ontario, is writing a chapter highlighting the major Birding Sites of the Hamilton Study Area.

David Brewer, birding expert with many publications to his credit, including a major monograph on Wrens, Thrashers and Mockingbirds, has explored the history of bird banding in the region, with input from John Miles. David’s brilliant sense of humour is worth the purchase of the book alone!

Bev Kingdon, who we all know from our visits to Lasalle Docks, has presented the development and extent of the Trumpeter Swan recovery project. Bev’s love for her birds energizes her whole account.

The on-going research into Colonial Waterbirds in the Hamilton area warrants two chapters. Chip Weseloh, a Wildlife Biologist, explores the Canadian Wildlife Service and government involvement here, as they have monitored toxicology of the colonies. Ralph Morris, a retired Brock University professor, explores academic research into the behavioural nature of these nesting species. Both of these authors have spoken to the Bird Study Group over the years.

Bill Read, with much input from Don Wills, explores the history of Hamilton’s involvement in the Bluebird Recovery Program. Bill has written the Eastern Bluebird Status report for Canadian Wildlife Services, and has chaired the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society since its inception.

One of our more famous and public activities is of course the Beamer Hawkwatch. Mike Street, past president of the Niagara Hawkwatch, well known for his major contributions to the birding life of the HNC, has written the account of the Hawkwatch, an essential ritual for Ontario birders every spring.

Many club members have participated in the major bird counts the club organizes. Years of data have provided us with fascinating patterns of bird migration, and provided the thrill of some unexpected rarities as well. Ian Richards, a Field Biologist, has compiled and analyzed the highlights of our years of Christmas Counts; Mark Chojnacki is preparing a paper to highlight the South Peel Christmas Count results. South Peel’s Christmas Count area lies entirely within the HSA. Bill Lamond, our Field Events Director and co-ordinator of the Fall Bird Count, summarizes the trends and highlights of that project. George Naylor, co-coordinator for many years of our Winter Duck Census, recounts highlights and trends in our wintering waterfowl populations.

Bruce Duncan, former HNC President, founder of the Bird Study Group as we know it today, contributes his experience with the Bald Eagle Hacking Program. Mike Street and Audrey Gamble, our Program Director and Falcon Watch Co-coordinator, cover the history of this major project.

Brian Wylie, Past-President, covers the Wood Duck Box program in Dundas Marsh. The Prothonotary Warbler Recovery Program, run by Don Wills in the Dundas Marsh, is being written by Don and Kim Barrett who is currently with Conservation Halton, and frequent presenter at club meetings.

Two other accounts take us back to our past. George Bryant, former editor of The Wood Duck, is preparing a review of those Lake Ontario Pelagics taken when birders could collect enough money to hire someone to take them out looking for those jaegers. And perhaps many of us will enjoy Phil Wagget’s account of egg collecting in east Hamilton 50 odd years ago. It may remind more than a few naturalists of our beginnings.

Who are the artists and photographers?

A naturalist, one time Wood Duck editor, artist, and supporter of the HNC in all its endeavors. Yes, Robert Bateman is lending his expertise once again. To help the club and its members succeed in this project, Bob painted Wood Ducks for the frontispiece of the book. This striking painting was also Bob’s donation to Club Conservation Projects. The Burlington Art Center sold the painting in its art auction in February for $19,000, with the proceeds coming back to us! Such generosity to the HNC and to the publication of Birds of Hamilton is more than we could imagine. However, Bob has donated even more of his art. His painting of the Siberian Rubythroat, the most rare bird ever to appear in the Hamilton Study Area, will be reproduced in our colour plates. He will also be donating a few of his black and white sketches to be included throughout the book.

Two of the best bird illustrators in the world today, Peter Burke and Dave Beadle have also donated many black and white drawings to illustrate the pages of our text. Peter Burke’s paintings can be seen in the National Geographic Society’s Birds of North America and the Birds of Chile. Dave Beadle’s paintings can be seen in such bird books as The Sparrows of the United States and Canada. He is currently painting birds for a birds of Brazil publication.

OFO’s Ontario Birds, its professional journal, has featured the work of both Dave and Peter over the years, but you will also have seen drawings by Ron Ridout and Ron Scovell there. Both have added their work to our pages.

It’s been clear for years that the HNC has had the best bird photographers in the province. Barry Cherriere has been recording the birds of Hamilton for decades now, and his portfolio is a history of most of the rare birds that have dropped in, as well as careful studies of our resident and wintering birds.

Brandon Holden has been exciting us all with his brilliant photos of birds on the move. Gerard McNaughton has for years been donating calendars of his intimate photographs of secretive birds to members of the Bird Study Group.

Ken Newcombe, making bird photography the main focus of his retirement hobbies, has brought an artist’s eye to the records of our birds.

Robert McCaw the professional photographer who has often photographed Don Wills’ Bluebird families, has added his expertise to our photo collection.

It’s not just our infamous photographers who have contributed their work. Pictures of rarities in back yards by our club members and former members are collecting for inclusion. Sandy Bell, Gavin Edmondstone, Ursula Kolster, Rob Dobos, Reg Mills, Karen and Dan Olech, Mark Peck, Kayo Roy, Bill Smith, Harold Stiver, Alan Wormington, Phil Waggett and Wilf Yusek are a few of the supporters who have volunteered their pictures for the record.

Birds of Hamilton Available in Local Libraries

To ensure that Birds of Hamilton and Surrounding Areas (BOH) ) was readily available and accessible to any and all citizens residing in the Hamilton Study Area (HSA) the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club (HNC) has donated complimentary copies of the publication to the following organizations:

Complimentary copies of BOH were donated to library boards within the HSA so that a copy of BOH would be available in each library branch. A total of 53 copies were donated to 13 different library boards.

Complimentary copies of BOH were also donated to the public and separate school boards within the HSA so that a copy of BOH would be available in the library of every secondary school. A total of 81 copies were donated to 8 different school boards.

One copy of BOH was donated to the Six Nations Library in Ohsweken.

One copy of BOH was donated to McMaster University.

These donations ensure that the BOH is available to anyone in the HSA who might be interested in learning about the rich history and diversity of birds, birding and bird research in our area, as well as the importance of protecting birds and the habitats in which they reside. A special thank you from the HNC and the BOH Production Committee to all BOH project donors and sponsors for providing funds and allowing for these book donations to occur.