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2025 Planning


Follow along as Jim and I plan for our Big Canada year in 2025 when Canada's most enthusiastic birding tourists will hit the trails in search of birds, wildlife and all of the other cool stuff that Canada has to offer.
 
 

Canada's Most Enthusiastic Birding Tourists go to Switzerland

June 2, 2024

As promised, here is Part 2 of our spring trip to Europe. After a wonderful couple of weeks in the Netherlands (see Part 1 dated May 11, 2024), Jim and I flew to Zurich where we spent ten days with our good friends Barbara and Bernard. They organized a fantastic itinerary that included all of our favourite things: birding, photography, bicycling (for Jim), sightseeing, eating and wine!

On the afternoon of our first day, we visited Flachsee which is one of the top birding places near Zurich. Much to everyone's surprise, it starting snowing on our way there. Even the birds were surprised - I am pretty sure that this White Stork was not expecting snow on April 21!
 
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The next day we visited the charming town of Schaffhausen. Switzerland is full of these quaint towns, many of which have a preserved section called the Old Town with fabulous architecture, fountains and lovely shops. We also went to see the Rhine Falls which is Europe's largest waterfall.
 
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Travelling around Switzerland is very easy. They have a great transit system and we could travel by bus, metro, tram, train and boat on the same ticket. We took the train to Zermatt the following day with stops in Zurich and Bern to visit the towns and do a little shopping.
 
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For those of you who are not familiar with Zermatt, it is the mountain town that is home to the most famous mountain in Europe called the Matterhorn (the famous landmark feature on the wrappers of Toblerone bars!).
 
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On one of our two full days in Zermatt, we travelled by train to Gornergrat, a 3,000 metre high mountain ridge with a viewing platform that has an amazing view of the Matterhorn (which stands tall at 4,458 metres). The next day we travelled by Gondola to the highest cable car station in Europe called the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise for another look at the Matterhorn from a different perspective. If we had more time, we could have taken the cable car down the other side and had dinner in Italy. Very cool! Next time for sure!
 
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The next day we left Zermatt and travelled by train on the Glacier Express taking the very scenic route back to Zurich.

During our last few days, Jim and Bernard went for a bike ride while Barbara and I went back to Flachsee for more birding. We also went to Lucerne, a cheese factory in Emmenthal, and the Lindt chocolate factory in Kilchberg where they had a chocolate fountain that was over nine metres tall!!
 
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We love everything about Switzerland: seeing mountains everywhere, the old towns, and especially the food! We had cheese fondue for dinner one night, a raclette, Weiner Schnitzel (my favourite!), Rosti, lots of great wine and, of course, lots of apple desserts for Jim!
 
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In Switzerland, I found 59 species of birds with 15 of them being lifers and new additions to my world list. I was surprised to find two of them high in the snow-covered mountains. I'll finish with a few of my favourite bird photos.
 
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Canada's Most Enthusiastic Birding Tourists go to the Netherlands

May 11, 2024

A little over a year ago, I promised Jim that I would go on a Bike and Barge trip with him on one condition. I needed a year’s notice so that I could properly train and we needed to spend one month in Florida in February so that we could train through the winter. Although I wasn’t really all that keen on going cycling for a whole week, I figured that it was only fair that I do this for Jim since he is taking me birding across Canada for a whole year :-)!

So we booked the trip and I started to train. Unfortunately, Florida was so expensive, we changed our plans and went to Madeira instead. The narrow roads and many steep hills weren’t conducive to cycling but we did spend a lot of time hiking which at least gave my legs a good workout!

When we returned, I started training in earnest, mostly riding indoors but going for short rides outside whenever we could. I was very nervous that I wouldn’t be strong enough and would be holding up the group. Here I am coming back from a training ride:
 
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Now that the trip is over and I survived, I can say that I am very happy that I did it (and without using an e-bike too!).

Our days usually involved having breakfast on the barge, hopping on our bikes around 9 a.m., riding and sight–seeing until 4 or 5 while the barge travelled to the next destination, and then spending the evening on board where we received a delicious home-cooked meal and enjoyed the company of our new friends.

It really was a wonderful way to see the Netherlands. We started our trip in Amsterdam and visited the beautiful and historic towns of Haarlem, Leiden, Delft, Rotterdam, Gouda, and Alsmeer. We learned that Holland is made up of only two of the Dutch provinces North and South Holland but that the entire country with 12 provinces in total is called the Netherlands. We knew that the country has an amazing bicycle path system but what surprised us was the amount of beautiful green space that we rode through. We loved riding along the canals and through the many forested areas on our travels.

Highlights of the tour included visiting the Keukenhof, a famous flower garden that is only open for six weeks every year, riding through the many tulip fields, visiting the Delft pottery factory, the cheese market in Gouda and the flower auction in Alsmeer.
 
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We really enjoyed the Dutch cuisine which included pancakes, croquettes and much apple pie. It is a Dutch custom that every time you are served coffee, it comes with a treat and Jim was delighted that this often turned out to be apple cake or pie!
 
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After our week on the barge was over, we spent several days visiting some of my Dutch relatives. We had super visits and they spoiled us with great food and showing us more of the Netherlands. Fortunately they all spoke very good English and we had no troubles communicating!

We spent our last few days birding near the northwest coast of the Netherlands. A birder friend of mine (thanks Joanne!) connected me with a Dutch birder (Ruud) that she met in 2022 when he was birding here in Ontario. As it turned out, I discovered that I had also met him while I was doing my big year in Ontario. We were at Point Pelee and Hillman Marsh on the same day and I had memories of the “Dutch birders” finding the Bell’s Vireo at Point Pelee.

Jim and I took the ferry from Den Helder over to Texel Island where Ruud met us. He was a wonderful host and ever though the weather wasn’t very cooperative, I was able to log 77 birds with many of them being lifers for me. Thanks Ruud for a wonderful day. We look forward to coming back to your beautiful island!

Here are a few of my favourite bird photos from the Netherlands:
 
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Stay tuned for highlights from Switzerland. I still have many photos to sort through!
 
 

Our New Logo

April 1, 2024

It’s hard to a believe that it’s April already. I look forward to seeing many of you during spring migration. As Jim and I continue to plan for our 2025 Big Canada Year, we would love to hear from you if you have any favourite birding spots across Canada or if you know of any other cool tourist attractions that we could visit during our travels. We are adding to the list every day!

Jim has just finished updating my website and we are very excited to share the new logo that Jim’s daughter designed for us. We wanted the design to reflect our love of Canada, birding and travelling as well as commemorate our Big Year. We think she has done an awesome job!
 
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She has also designed a Canada 2025 souvenir pin that we will be selling for $10 each with all proceeds going to Nature Conservancy of Canada. We chose this organization because their mission and values speak to our love of nature and goal to help conserve the amazing natural environment the we call home.
 
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Our next big step is to try and plan a route that will include visiting as many interesting attractions as possible at the best time of the year to find as many different birds as possible. Not an easy task! As we mentioned earlier, we plan to visit every province and territory at least once as well as fit in a couple of pelagic tours. It is going to be an epic adventure for Canada’s Most Enthusiastic Birding Tourists.

My plan is to post photos on the website during our travels as well as post regular blogs. If you would like to be notified when there is a new blog post, please make sure to sign up for email notices.
 

 
 

Our Trip to Madeira

March 11, 2024

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When Jim suggested going to Madeira in February for a winter getaway I was thrilled to be going to a new country with new sites to explore and of course, new birds to see. I soon found out that winter is one of the worst times to go birding in Madeira! Even so, we found 17 new birds for my world list and got some lovely photos (Island Canary, Cory’s Shearwater, Madeira Chaffinch, Berthelot’s Pipit, Eurasian Blackbird, Eurasian Blackcap).
 
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We went on two separate dolphin and whale watching cruises which were a lot of fun. The first one was on a catamaran and we found some Short-fin Pilot Whales. It was nice to be on the ocean and see some of the coastline from the water. The second trip was more of an adventure. The water was quite rough and we were in a much smaller boat with only twelve seats that we had to straddle. The photo below shows the type of boat we were on. We drove 7 or 8 miles straight out into the ocean at high speeds until we found a number of seabirds on the water waiting for the dolphins to stir up some fish for them. I was as excited about seeing the Cory’s Shearwaters (lifer) as I was about seeing the dolphins. We saw four different species of dolphins on this trip and got a taste for what the pelagic tours will be like in Canada next year.
 
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Madeira is known for its beautiful landscape, hiking trails and levadas. The levadas are a system of channels that were originally designed to transport water from the top of the mountains to the lower farmlands. Speaking of mountains, there are over 20 different microclimates on the island which means the weather can change from one minute to the next. Often the days would start off cool and cloudy and end being warm and sunny.
 
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One day we did a hike out to Ponta De Sal Laurenco, the most eastern tip of the island. There were many elevation changes, narrow trails and it was quite cold and very windy in spots (and a little scary too!). The hike is 7 km in total with a promise of a bathroom and a café at the halfway point, however, when we reached the tip we were told that the bathroom was out of service due to the fact that they had no water. I was not too pleased about that! At the end of that day, my fitness app reported over 100 flights of stairs climbed! Here are some of the gorgeous views from that hike:
 
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Our hotel was lovely, overlooking the ocean. Each night we would open our balcony door a little so that we could listen to the waves crashing on the shore. It was very peaceful until around 4 a.m. when the Eurasian Blackbirds would come to life and wake us up (not to mention the barking frogs outside our front door which went all night long!). Other wildlife close to our hotel included many little Madeiran wall lizards and lightfoot crabs.
 
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Other interesting things to do on Madeira Island: Visit the fishing village of Camara De Lobos, see the colourful market in Funchal, enjoy a fish dinner at one of the many restaurants in Madeira, stroll along the boardwalk (which includes walking through a tunnel!) and enjoy the sunsets. Definitely a place worth visiting!
 
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Happy New Year

January 11, 2024

I hope that 2024 brings all of you good health, happiness and many great birds!

Jim and I have been travelling a bit in Ontario since January 1 and I already have a year list of 63 species which I am happy with. After slacking off a bit last year, I wanted to start getting out more this year to hone my skills in preparation for our Big Canada Year in 2025. We started the year in Point Pelee where we ran into one of my favourite birding friends (yes, that’s you Jeremy!) and together we found the Townsend’s Solitaire that has been hanging around in the park. From there, we all went to Erieau and found a Harlequin Duck and then we topped off the day with a Black-billed Magpie in London. A good start to the year!
 
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Since then we have been to Algonquin Park where I saw and heard many Red Crossbills which was a nice treat as they have always been a tough bird for me to get. On our way home from Algonquin, we saw a Barred Owl on a wire along the highway, we added a Barrow’s Goldeneye to our list, a Dickcissel, a King Eider and four more Harlequin Ducks.
 
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I haven’t set any specific goals for 2024 other than to get out more and work on some identification skills (both sight and sound). I also have to start learning the rest of the Canadian birds that don’t reside in Ontario.

We have started planning in earnest for our Big Year. I have created a spreadsheet listing all of the Canada Birds and am now trying to develop a plan that will take us to all of the Canadian provinces and territories in 2025 and will allow us to find as many species of birds as possible. Not an easy task! Jim has created a binder with tabs for all of the provinces with a map of each province at the beginning of each section.

We have a Canada map where we are highlighting the birding hotspots as well as some of the other attractions that we want to visit along the way. We are hoping that this will help us to form our strategy. It is still undecided how much we will be travelling by air versus vehicle. Anything is up for discussion at this point!
 
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Stay tuned for more stories about how we planning our big year and also watch for the new logo for Canada’s most enthusiastic Birding Tourists! If you would like to be notified of future blog posts, please sign up for email notices on my Contact Page or Click Here.

 
 

2023 - Catching Up

October 19, 2023

Hi Everyone,

This is my first blog post since December 31, 2022 when I completed my Ontario Big Birding Year. In 2022 I travelled all over Ontario with a goal of seeing and photographing 300 birds. In the end, I recorded 335 birds with 332 of them having photographs (although not necessarily good photographs!).

During the first six months of 2023, I did very little birding in Ontario. I spent a lot of time catching up on things I had neglected during 2022 and also we hosted our first grandchild’s first birthday party in July so we used this as an excuse to freshen up a lot of things around the house.

We did go to Costa Rica in February and Texas in April where I was able to add a lot of birds to my life list. See my website for photos.

On October 6, I did my first of 3 presentations about my Big Year which was a lot of fun. I was happy to have my blog and photos to assist me in putting the talk together and helping me remember a lot of the experiences; the challenges and rewards, that were a part of 2022.

One of the questions I always get asked by people is if I would do another Big Year. The answer is Yes but not in Ontario. My husband Jim and I are going to do a Canada Big Year in 2025 which for us means travelling to every province and every territory to see as much of Canada as possible, experience some of the things that Canada has to offer and, of course, see as many birds as we can.

If you would like to follow the adventures of Canada’s most enthusiastic Birding Tourists, please sign up for email notices on my Contact page.