Beach family flies high in birdathon

How do you warm up for a birdathon?

Just wing it.

At least, that’s one approach recommended by Beach birder Andrew Macdonald, whose family is currently ranked third in the Great Canadian Birdathon.

“Grab a pair of binoculars and some snacks, and just go to the Leslie Spit on the weekend,” said Macdonald. “There’s so much going on.”

Held each year during the spring migration, the Great Canadian Birdathon supports conservation efforts by Bird Studies Canada.

Even in the eight years since he started volunteering as a bird bander at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station and joined the birdathon, Macdonald has seen more birds benefit from the park’s ongoing wetlands restoration.

And with his five year-old son and seven year-old daughter joining in, Macdonald said the birdathon is great chance to learn.

Jokes aside, good ways to prep for the birdathon – the day the Macdonald family will try to spot 100 different species of birds – is to visit the bird research station at Tommy Thompson Park on the day of a guided walk, or when volunteers are bringing in netted birds to band.

“Our daughter was only three, but she still remembers the first time they put a bird in her hand,” said Macdonald. It was a bright yellow warbler.

“That’s a great way for a child, anyone really, to see a bird up close,” he said.

“Often they’re way up in the trees, they’re hidden by leaves, they fly away one second after you say, ‘Hey look, there’s a —!”

So far, Macdonald said his family has 50 supporters and $4,160 in pledges, which supporters can make via

Birdathon participants can direct three-quarters of the funds they raise to a cause of their choosing, and Macdonald already has his picked out – the Tommy Thompson Park bird research station in the Beach’s backyard.

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