This past Saturday the Boss and I signed up for a birdwatching tour. It was a different sort of adventure than we’re used to, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, if we don’t try we’ll never know, right? It was organized by a local university in partnership with Oiseaux Quebec – an association of Quebec bird enthusiasts. The tour was a walk around Parc Jean Drapeau with an experienced guide to teach us the basics of birdwatching.
Parc Jean Drapeau is basically a man made island just under Montreal and it’s full of green spaces, gardens, forests, and walking trails. It’s a perfect habitat for birds.
We were instructed to meet at 6:15 IN THE MORNING. I found it extremely inconsiderate of the birds to not keep to a schedule that is convenient for everyone, but it is what it is. We met up and started walking.
Immediately we started seeing all sorts of birds around us. Not because this park is a bird haven, but because we were intentionally slowing down to observe and listen.
Our guide gave us tips on how to use our binoculars to best effect (focus on the bird and raise the binos without taking your eyes off it). She also gave us tips on how to identify birds. Basically, try to learn the calls – this will make identifying the critter easier than relying on hard-to-see plumage. Feathers and coloring can change based on the time of year and habitat, but the songs are essentially the same.
She showed us a bunch of cute little birds, but I forget most of their names. Bicolour something-or-other, and a crowned-whats-it-called. Fancy names for what I would just call a “sparrow”.
At one point we spotted a Coopers Hawk and it tried to nab a “sparrow” close to us. It wasn’t successful, but it was cool to see that hunting behaviour in real life. It flew off it perched on a tree and sat there motionless, waiting for another opportunity. Kinda like how were were standing there, motionless, waiting for another opportunity to witness a predatory bird predating. The highlights of this 3 hour birdwatching tour were spotting a shy fox, a dumb raccoon that climbed a tree and was scared to come down, and that Cooper’s Hawk.
Bird watching is not an activity I actively pursue, but I think I’m going to do more of it in the future. It forces you to slow down and spend time looking and listening and paying attention to your environment. Even if you don’t spot the rare crested shoehorn thingamabird, you’re still getting a nice walk in the woods. What’s not to like about that?