Page 6: Lesley Howes to Pamela Laidler
Photo: Lesley Howes
As the Bird Banding Biologist for the Canadian Wildlife Service, I have the great pleasure of seeing birds close-up and in the hand. Each fall I lead Northern Saw-whet Owl banding at Innis Point Bird Observatory. I love seeing people’s faces light up when they encounter one of these amazing birds for the first time. Every owl is beautiful and a wonder as they fly silently into the night. Every person leaves with owls in their hearts.
Photo: Barbara Frei
Photo: John McKay
As National Coordinator of the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) in Canada, I have been fortunate to run BBS routes across the Gaspé Peninsula in Québec, and across Labrador. I’ve experienced so many amazing and significant moments while running these surveys: surprise encounters (“is that what I think it is?!”), strange behaviours, breath-taking sunrises, and gorgeous scenery. The fact that these surveys have helped create the backbone of North American bird conservation is just the icing on the cake – being able to see (well, mostly hear) these birds, doing what they do, is the best feeling in the world.
Photo: Ana Gonzalez
Photo: Katie Studholme
In July 2016, I joined co-workers on Lucy Island, off the coast of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. We were to capture Rhinoceros Auklets from nest burrows and attach GPS tracking devices to identify foraging habitat. In the wee hours of July 10th, we pulled a bird from a burrow. “Wow, that’s an old band!” The bird had a worn-looking stainless steel band, and after inspection was returned to its burrow. We later discovered that this individual was banded as a juvenile by Doug Bertram from the Canadian Wildlife Service on July 15, 1985…31 years ago, almost to the day. A new longevity record for the species!
Photo: Benoît Jobin
Photo: Christian Marcotte
I was lucky and privileged enough to participate in surveys of the Yellow Rail, a Species at Risk in Canada, in the coastal marshes of Boatswain Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the southern James Bay area of Quebec. After flying and delimiting the survey transects during the day, my colleagues and I were taken by helicopter to our starting point at nightfall. The survey began as soon as it was dark, and we walked through the marshes all night guided by the lights of our headlamps. Almost twenty years later, the ticking song of the Yellow Rail still rings in my ears.
Photo: Anne-Brigitte Quirion
Photo: Suzanne Labbé
What power these winged creatures hold that humans flock together to observe their plumage and aerobatics, for the hunt to nourish our families, and to protect the lands, waters, air and trees they bless their presence with. A century ago this continent drew together to protect birds with our first modern environmental treaty. We are now approaching the centennial of the naming of Canada’s first federal game officer, Robie Tufts, to enforce the Migratory Birds Convention Act. Many brave men and women of the uniform have followed with the mission to Conserve, Protect and Respect Canada’s wildlife.
Photo: Peter Turnley
Photo: The Afternoon Birder
As a bird photographer and author of a birding blog, I spend a lot of time out in nature interacting with birds. One encounter that stands out in my mind was late last winter. Ottawa was in the middle of a late season snow squall, but I decided to go birding anyway. Unbelievably I came across two Eastern Bluebirds feeding on sumac. We don’t normally see these birds until later in the spring so it was a lovely surprise encounter. One of my favourite aspects of birding is that every day is different and you never know which species you will come across!
Photo: Amélie Roberto-Charron
Photo: Suzanne Labbé
So many moments come to mind: banding birds from the Arctic to the tropics, ranging from geese to hummingbirds; a purple twilight in the Prairie potholes watching thousands and thousands of waterfowl coming in to roost; the thrill of finding a nest holding its precious eggs. But recently I’ve found it very moving to recover a geolocator from a Canada Warbler and to know that the bird in my hand has made such a spectacular journey to Colombia, surviving all the human hazards, and returned to the same part of the same woods it departed from eight months ago. Miraculous!
Photo: Samantha Krause
Photo: Suzanne Labbé
Birding is more than just birds, it is a community. This April an ice storm hit Thunder Bay, Ontario and blew in a VIP visitor from the southern States: a Tricolored Heron. Luckily, I was online when the field report arrived and was onsite 30 minutes later. After excitedly taking and attaching a photo to my own report, I waited. Sure enough, over the next hour, birders began to appear one by one and I finally met people I had only known as names on e-mails. The impromptu two-hour marsh-side party was filled with laughter, stories, and one misplaced heron.
Photo: Pierre Bannon
Photo: Suzanne Labbé
I have been watching birds for a long time and have experienced many a lovely moment in their company. The Eastern Screech-Owl is one of my favourites. I’m lucky enough to see it once in a while when I go birdwatching. But one particular day in May 2017 was really special. To my amazement, I spotted the bird in a big hole a few metres away from the path. It was sleeping peacefully after a busy night of hunting; at least that’s how I imagined it. Thank you Nature.
Photo: Karen Legasy
It was June 6, 2015 when I fell in love with bird watching. A beautiful Yellow-rumped Warbler caught my attention. He was resting briefly on a white pine branch, staring at me. In eastern and northeastern Ontario, I regularly saw American Robins, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Common Loons, etc. Since June 2015, I have been actively searching out birds in Canada, and finding such spectacular and diverse creatures as the Blackburnian Warbler, Barred Owl, Atlantic Puffin, and Northern Gannet. What a joy to discover and appreciate their unique features and sounds.
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