OFO Sault Ste. Marie Birding Festival

SSM Virtual Festival May 28th to May 30th

Located just about where the three largest Great Lakes meet, the Sault Ste. Marie area has many fantastic birding hotspots and a growing birding community. For it’s inaugural year, the OFO Sault Ste. Marie Birding Festival is going virtual, but we hope to be back with a full festival in 2022 so that the area’s birding and community can be on full display. This year, there will be a series of presentations each of the three evenings, all which will be free of charge.

What to do during the day

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, no formal birding outings will be taking place. Instead, birders are encouraged to go birding on their own (while following all relevant restrictions and guidelines) during the day. Make sure you check out the About Birding in SSM page to find some fun birding locations.

Post your pictures on Facebook and Instagram

Each evening, we will have a period where we can discuss what was seen earlier that day. There will be prizes for the best bird found and best bird photo taken during the festival within the Sault Ste. Marie Birding Area!

Use the hashtag #SSMBirdingFestival when submitting your photos to social media.


Separate registration is required for each evening. You will receive the webinar link with the registration confirmation. You do not need to be a member of the Ontario Field Ornithologists (OFO) to attend.

Event Registration


The SSM Birding Festival virtual program takes place over three evenings: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 28th - May 30th. You can register for all three evenings, or just one. The evening program will run from 7:00 - 8:30 pm.

Please note that the schedule is subject to change.

Day 1 - Friday, May 28th, 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Register for Day 1

Daily recap of bird sightings and best photo award

Birding in Sault Ste. Marie – Carter Dorscht

Find out about all things birding within the Sault Ste. Marie area, including hotspots, historical records, and how to get involved in the local birding community.

Carter is an avid birder within the Algoma District and Chair of the OFO’s Northern Ontario Birding Committee. He is the Executive Director of The Kensington Conservancy, a land trust that protects ecologically sensitive land in the St. Joseph Channel area, which is just east of Sault Ste. Marie.

Practical Techniques for Mindful Birding - Andrés Jiménez

Research supports that birds and birding have ample health benefits; birding can be good for your physical and mental health, but only if you let it. Andrés will present the reasons, opportunities and techniques for you to be present and aware during your time in nature. He will also use all his amazing bird photos to delight your journey.

Andrés Jimenez, a passionate Costa Rican biologist who strives towards creating deeper connections between people and the planet. He is currently Urban Program Coordinator at Birds Canada, but his career started in his teenage years as a naturalist guide, hosting an ecological radio program and leading multiple conservation projects.

Register for Day 1

Day 2 - Saturday, May 29th, 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Register for Day 2

Daily recap of bird sightings and best photo award

Being a Young Birder – Sam Phaneuf

Ever wonder what inspires young birders? This presentation, prepared and presented by an 11 year old, highlights his most inspiring birding experiences and his thoughts on how to get kids involved in birding.

Samuel is 11 years old and a Grade 5 student at F. H. Clergue French Immersion Public School in Sault Ste. Marie. Sam started birding when he was 6 and has 299 species on his life list. He enjoys birding, cross-country skiing, mountain biking and baking and hopes to have a career as an ornithologist or baker.

Intro to the Sault Naturalists

Members of the Sault Naturalists will provide some details on the history of the club, the outings and projects that they do, and how you can get involved.

Founded in 1954, the Sault Naturalists is an international club with about 100 members from both Ontario and Michigan. The club objectives are to provide members with a common meeting ground for exchanging ideas and for broadening their knowledge and understanding of natural science; to promote the appreciation, preservation, and conservation of our natural heritage; and to support and co-operate with other organizations having similar aims.

Forest Birds as Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management – Dr. Lisa Venier, Canadian Forest Service

Forest birds are often used to understand how to improve forest management and support forest ecosystem health. Dr. Venier will describe some new approaches for measuring forest birds and mapping habitats as well as how data from the new Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas will help improve forest land management in Ontario.

Lisa is a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre in Sault Ste. Marie. She has been studying sustainable forest management for over 20 years with a focus on biodiversity indicators including forest birds, beetles and soil fauna.

Register for Day 2

Day 3 - Sunday, May 30th, 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Register for Day 3

Daily recap of bird sightings and best photo award

Nocturnal Singing by Ovenbirds – Jenn Foote

This talk will focus on nocturnal vocal behaviour of the ovenbird. Ovenbirds sing sporadically at night but rather than their common loud primary song, they sing their complex extended flight song at night. Jenn will discuss her research into the patterns of flight song vocalization, the seasonal and daily patterns of extended song delivery and how the structure of the song varies both within and among individuals.

Jenn is an associate professor at Algoma University in the Biology Department. Together with her students, she studies acoustic communication in passerine birds. Species she has studied include song sparrow, black-capped chickadee, Eastern phoebe, white-throated sparrow, brown creeper, ovenbird, and hermit thrush. Jenn uses a mix of behavioural observations and automated recordings to better understand the functions of the dawn chorus and nocturnal song.

A Holistic Approach to Learning Bird Songs and Calls – Ian Shanahan

You can learn bird vocalizations in many different ways and it's all about finding the best fit for you. In this session, we'll explore different means of categorizing and sub-categorizing birds’ sounds through various "learning filters" like tone, pattern, and, above all, habitat type. There are many clues in nature that not only aid in recognition of different species, but give you the enriching experience of further understanding individual birds' lives.

Ian's formal education in the arts and education was interspersed with working as an interpretive naturalist at Presqu’ile and Algonquin Provincial Parks over 13 seasons where his interest in birds spread to other winged creatures and all aspects of the natural world. He also served as Senior Park Naturalist at Algonquin where he coordinated the Park's long-standing education program. Ian has led nature tours across southern Ontario, including two annual birding outings with the Ontario Field Ornithologists. He completed a two-year term as the co-editor of OFO's long-standing tri-annual publication OFO News and is now the General Editor of Green Teacher magazine.

Closing Remarks - Carter Dorscht

Register for Day 3

Carter Dorscht Carter Dorscht Carter Dorscht

Andrés Jiménez Andrés Jiménez Andrés Jiménez

Sam Phaneuf Sam Phaneuf Sam Phaneuf

Lisa Venier Lisa Venier Lisa Venier

Jenn Foote Jenn Foote Jenn Foote

Ian Shanahan Ian Shanahan Ian Shanahan