Page 8: Alex Martin to Marie-France Noël

Alex Martin

Photo: Chantal Lepire

Snow Bunting

Photo: Pierre Bannon

I participate in the Quebec Nocturnal Owl Survey. In accordance with a strict protocol, at sunset, we turn on a playback at specific locations. We then wait to see whether the masters of the night will come. There’s a sound, then another one. The hooting comes closer; the intensity increases, as does our adrenaline. Suddenly, there they are: two magnificent Barred Owls, visible in the half-light. Perched on the uppermost branches of a tree, they are watching us. It’s dark, but we feel their curious, inquisitive stares. This is their territory. What a magical moment.

Bev McBride

Photo: Karen Timm

Imagine seeing thousands of birds of hundreds of species from across the country, every year for 12 years. Exciting, right? That’s how it felt for me as a technician at the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) with the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). All I needed was some imagination and bird knowledge while I handled incoming data from volunteers across the country after having sent them their survey kits in early spring. I work elsewhere in CWS now but still survey several BBS routes each year. It’s a fantastic program! I encourage all bird nerds to build their bird identification skills and join in.

John McKay

Photo: John McKay

Pacific Loon

Photo: Christian Marcotte

Thirty years ago, my late father hung a feeder in our yard in Nova Scotia and after seeing the amazing assortment of birds, I was hooked! I purchased a Peterson’s Bird Guide to start identifying all the LBBs (little brown birds) and discovered a kaleidoscope of colors. From there my interest grew. I became involved in the Christmas Bird Counts which fed my desire. I combined my passion for birds with my love of nature and photography. Twenty-three years ago I moved to Yellowknife, NT and continue my pursuit of the world’s feathered wonders!!!

Michael Mesure

Photo: Naturally Superior Adventures

House Wren

Photo: Carol L. Edwards

A security guard and I were patrolling outside an office building for birds that had hit the mirrored glass when he pointed out a cluster of bird droppings under a tree. Looking up, we saw a Saw-whet Owl. The bird was emaciated. Without proper care, it would perish. I slowly extended my net through the branches, fearful the bird would take flight. Shimmying along the branch to avoid capture, the owl jumped from its perch and glided toward the glass. Luckily, it didn’t hit hard and fluttered down to the ground where I retrieved it and transported it to the Toronto Wildlife Centre for care and eventual release.

Ella Meyer

Photo: Barbara Campbell

Northern Cardinal

Photo: Mary Hindle

After watching with keen interest, I finally asked the question: “Dad, can I touch it?” With courage, I first touched the duck’s toenail with my finger, then its foot and finally its feathers. “Ok, time to let it go”, said Dad. A few ducks later, I asked: “Dad, can I release it?” With some help, I wrapped my hands around the bird, placed it on the ground and then, in an instant, it flew away. Boy, I like this job.

Ella Meyer (3 years old at that time)

Shawn Meyer

Photo: Barbara Campbell

Braving the swells off of Prince Edward Point, we hunkered down behind the two foot sandbar on Gull Bar. In front of us lay the vastness of Lake Ontario with our string of floating mist nets extending out into the lake. A flock of a few thousand Long-tailed Ducks buzzed near us like a swarm of ‘laughing’ bees. Then it happened, a flock of around 12 ducks hit the nets. Out into the zodiac to retrieve the birds then back on land to process and band. With duck in hand, I wonder where it is from.

Rhonda Millikin

Photo: Michael S. Roway

Varied Thrush

Photo: Suzanne Labbé

I leave my sleeping bag at 3 in the morning to open the bird nets a kilometer from camp. Amateur bird enthusiasts from around the world are having a retreat on the Taku River and I’m the ornithologist teaching them the wonders of forest birds. In an hour I return with 30 passerines, all colours and shapes. Coffee is on and these beginners have assembled to help weigh, measure and record data. “What is this one?” I ask. Barely containing their excitement, they raise their hands. Each is now able to describe a bird’s lifestyle by its beak and feet.

Guy Morrison

Photo: Guy Morrison

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Photo: Garry Donaldson

During the latter half of the 1970s, I organized a large-scale shorebird banding project on the west coast of James Bay. Little was then known about shorebird populations migrating through the area. We banded over 60,000 shorebirds, including about 40,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers. Our colour banded and dyed shorebirds were seen in many parts of the east coast of Canada and the USA, south to northern South America. Through aerial surveys, we established the importance of the coast for many species, including Red Knots, and Hudsonian Godwits, many of which make a direct flight to South America.

Silke Neve

Photo: Rachel Vallender

Scarlet Tanager  

Drawing: Franziska Harper (10 years)

After 20 years working for the Canadian Wildlife Service and being surrounded by passionate birders and hunters I have, at minimum, a soft spot for birds. I recall the excitement at being able to identify a few (a very few!) birds by call, seeing thousands of Dunlin in the Fraser River Delta, watching Great Blue Heron swoop down into the fields as I biked past on my way into work. Most recently, I have had the privilege of watching my children be mesmerized by the birds coming to our backyard feeder and realizing that even the most energetic child will sit quietly and watch birds have their breakfast.

Marie-France Noël

Photo: Marie-France Noël

Piping Plover

Photo: Christian Marcotte

My first summer working on birds was in New Brunswick. I was hired as a student to survey the beaches of New Brunswick in search of the endangered Piping Plover. Of course, that summer made me realize how special New Brunswick and its coastal habitat really are for wildlife that inhabits or simply stops during migration within the area. This gave me a new-found appreciation for birds and my passion for conservation was launched. My most breathtaking moment was seeing thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers stop on the shores of the Bay of Fundy to rest and feed.

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