rare to me- Rob’s time with the birds

rare to me is a place where wildlife gets a chance to survive and thrive, and we are lucky enough to be able to observe them in an increasingly crowded Southern Ontario.” – R. Unruh

As the winter months are just around the corner, the birders are finishing up their final days out on the property. On weekend mornings throughout the fall, before many walkers and cyclists have hit the trails, you would have found Rob Unruh at the rare ECO Centre – pair of binoculars and notebook in hand – eager to have his eyes on some local feathered friends.

Rob in the backyard at Lamb’s Inn. Photo by C Richardson

Originally, Rob started supporting rare because he believed in the protection of a large area where wildlife could survive and thrive, years later he thought it would be fun to explore the property personally and so he joined the volunteer bird monitors. Rob had been generously supporting rare for five years before becoming a volunteer in 2009.  After seven years of bird monitoring Rob has a record of spotting 68 of the 231 bird species that call rare home.

When talking to Rob about his volunteer experience at rare, he recalls lovely weekends at the beginning of every May, before the trees are full of leaves, when the birds along the Grand Trunk Trail are particularly active. The bare branches offer a brief opportunity for great views of Warblers, Baltimore Orioles and Grosbeaks, and the quiet trail welcomes a symphony from these songbirds. “This moment of peak variety in numbers of birds, plus the chance to see them in the open, only seems to happen once a year…….making it a pretty magical experience!” Rob says.

In addition to bird monitoring in the fall and spring, which is a significant weekly commitment, Rob also enters all of the data from each monitor’s weekly forms into a master excel spreadsheet – and he even compiled archived birding data! This information is crucial for the success of the birding program at rare and the data is extremely helpful for researchers on the property. It is also filtered through rare’s Chain of Learning into Summer ECO camp, “I think that it is great that rare is introducing the next generation to birds and other wildlife through ECO programs” Says Rob. “If they get interested and develop a love for wildlife and wild areas now, they will grow up wanting to protect them.”

Magnolia Warbler. Photo by R Unruh


Bill Wilson, who heads the bird monitoring program here at rare, works closely with Rob and the other bird monitors – “Rob exemplifies the ideal volunteer at rare with his enthusiasm and his long-term, dedicated commitment that ensures project completion both in his computer work as the rare bird-records’ compiler and in his field work as a rare bird monitor.”

We are so grateful to all of our volunteers and donors who are passionate about research that enhances the protection of the habitats and species that call rare home. Thank you to all of our bird monitors for their time and dedication to protecting the birds.

Feature Image by R. Unruh

 By Cheyanne Richardson 


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