Birding started out as a hobby for Carter Dorscht, but it didn't take long for it to become a passion.
"I started out just watching and keeping track of the different species that came to my parents' feeders, and that quickly spread to keeping track of the species I saw everywhere," said Dorscht.
Dorscht didn't know what he wanted to do after high school graduation. He jumped around between a few post secondary schools before landing at Sault College for their Fish and Wildlife Conservation Technician program. There he learned many skills such as identification of local flora and fauna, ecology, ecosystem classification, and wildlife surveys.
Dorscht has been an avid birder for the past few years. By volunteering his time to lead bird-oriented outings for organizations such as the Sault Naturalists and the Ontario Field Ornithologists, he was able to gain the field experience and local expertise required to start his own service.
Dorscht Birding is a guiding service that offers tailored tours to individuals or small groups. Each tour focuses on seeing and/or photographing birds the client wishes to see. In addition he also offers bird-related consulting work.This could be things like species inventories or breeding surveys on a particular piece of property for a business, organization, or individual or trip planning for someone who is visiting the area.
He draws from his knowledge gained at the post-secondary level to enhance his tours. That knowledge allows him to point out any interesting non-bird species, or answer questions about nature in general.
"Leading bird tours is something that I really enjoy doing and I saw an opportunity to provide this service locally, as there is nobody else doing it," said Dorscht.
Based out of Echo Bay, most of his tours take place within the Sault Ste. Marie area, as this is where he has the most knowledge of local birds. He is willing however to provide tours throughout the Algoma District and conceivably beyond.
Since he works full-time as a program manager for the Kensington Conservancy, a land trust in Desbarats, he is generally only available on weekends and holidays.
When asked what his favourite bird to seek was, Carter replied: "This is a tough question, they're all my favourite. I think waterfowl might be my favourite birds to watch. I love sifting through a large raft of ducks out on the water or in a flooded field, trying to pick out something unique among them. More often than not, there is something in there! The same goes for groups of shorebirds and gulls."
Speaking to equipment needs when taking a birding tour or birding in general Carter explains: "Binoculars are highly recommended for birding, as you might have already guessed. Everyone seems to have a different preference when it comes to binoculars though, so it's hard to recommended a particular pair. You just have to go try some out and see what works best!
"Nowadays, most birders carry a camera as well. I mostly use my camera for documentation purposes. If I find a rare or interesting bird, I want to get proof. If you are just starting to learn your birds, or are in a new area with new birds, a camera can be very helpful for identifying species. Snap a photo and then you can look it up after the fact or find someone to help you. And some people simply enjoy taking photos of birds and obviously you need a camera for that.
"For situations where you know the birds are going to be far away, such as waterfowl out on a lake or shorebirds in a flooded field, spotting scopes are very handy. A spotting scope has helped me countless times to get that extra reach that my binoculars or camera would not get."
I asked Carter what his expectations for rare bird appearances in the district was?
"Coming into 2020, Gyrfalcon was my most desired bird to see within the Algoma District, so I was thrilled when one was found and I was able to see it. It was a lifer for me and Gyrfalcons are just awesome birds to see," he said. "Next on my list for this winter is Townsend's Solitaire. This is a rare winter visitor to Ontario and there are only a handful of records for the Algoma District. With all the fruit remaining on the trees and shrubs this year, there is certainly a lot of food for one.
"Come spring, I want to see a Ruddy Turnstone. I've seen this species many times, but never within the Algoma District. It's probably the last remaining species I need for my local list that isn't considered rare."
I connected with Carter on a few very different occasions this week as he conducted tours. True to form he was able to point out some of the birds mentioned above.