Into the minds of birds and birders

In Birds, Uncategorized by couchiching

I have no way of knowing what birds think of as they fly long distances during migration or whether they think at all! But a long flight provides me lots of time to think. On a recent trip home from Panama, the topic for my musing revolved around bird watching and why so many people engage in it.

It is estimated there are over 50 million people in North America alone who consider themselves bird watchers!   This group is made up of casual bird watchers–people who may know a few local species, to the professional birder who make serious study of birds and their behaviour.

Many people just go out to look at birds and enjoy their songs and their colours, and nothing more. This is a great way to relax and enjoy nature.

Others make lists of the birds, counting every species they see in a day, a weekend, a year or even a lifetime! Some will travel the world in search of that an elusive species! I met four young men from Ireland a few years ago on the Carden Alvar who had come here just to see an Upland Sandpiper!

Some of the more serious birders engage in competitions, compiling lists of every species seen in a given time and area. The Carden Challenge, an annual fund raising event for the Couchiching Conservancy is one such competition when groups of four people scour the Carden area for as many species as they can see in a 24 hour period. Winning teams consistently have about 130 species!

You may have heard of “A Big Year”. This is when a person or a group will set out to count as many species in an entire year as they can. A local couple, Ron Reid and Janet Grand did their Big Year in 2010, counting   284 species in Ontario during the year. Hollywood movies have been based on such a competition.

Another birding and nature event is the Carden Alvar Nature Festival, taking place on Saturday, June 6, 2015. Outdoor enthusiasts of all knowledge levels can take part in this full day event in this Important Bird Area.

Then there are those who couple their love of birds and bird watching with photography. This can take many forms: some people take images and store them for future personal viewing, others make and sell prints, note cards, calendars and even make books from their pictures. Many wildlife artists use their photographic images as reference material for paintings, carvings, weavings, folk art etc. Photographs are used as a basis for a presentation or articles such as this.

This image of a Slaty tailed Trogon is one of about 50 images I took of it recently in Panama. It is a “life bird” for me. A print of it will hang on my den wall; it will be the basis for an e-card to send to friends; it will appear in a presentation; it may be used as a “model” for a bird sculpture; and maybe incorporated in a book some day.

An interest in birds and bird watching not necessarily is an end in itself. There are just so many ways to spin off one’s interest in birding into other dimensions. No wonder it is one of the fastest growing activities in the world!

Written by David A. Homer.

We are always looking for volunteers. Can you help? Volunteers are needed to help out during the Carden Alvar Nature Festival (June 6) in a variety of ways. Contact Gay Guthrie, Volunteer Coordinator at