..The Intuitive Times
Connecting With Nature


Enticements to Birding in PEI

by J. Dan McAskill

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In the still of the dawn in June, the Island's forests and fields come alive with a chorus of songs. It is the breeding period for most woodland birds and, in their many different ways, they proclaim their domain. Some, such as the American Robin, do so quite vociferously while and others do so softly with their melodies widely spaced such as a Swainson's Thrush. This spring chorus of songs is music to the ears of those who are drawn to birds as it heralds the arrival of many species who spent the winter in more southern clines ranging from New England to deep in South America.

Once known as bird watchers, those who identify birds by sight and sound now call themselves birders. Those who feed birds in their backyards form the largest group of birders while acoustic birders, those who identify birds by their songs and call notes, are among one of the smallest groups. Most birders thrill to the sights and sounds of birds just as many Islanders respond to that first call of a Canada Goose in spring.

Birding draws on many senses and feelings. For many, it offers peace and relaxation. This might be from the corner nook or table from which you take your morning coffee overlooking your bird feeders and gardens. Or, it might be from the edge of a forest road where one listens in anticipation for the response of a Long-eared Owl to its song broadcast on a portable tape recorder.

Birds evoke wonder amongst those who watch them. The breadth of their behaviours is so large that you are always seeing something new. For the avid reader, there is a multitude of books on birding. These range from field guides and books on bird behaviour to how to attract birds to your backyard niches through plantings or building projects.

The visual spectacle offered by birds is amazing. The brilliant yellows and blacks of the male Evening Grosbeak add splashes of intense colour to a winter landscape while in summer, its smaller relative, the American Goldfinch does the same to our many shades of green. The undulating flight of hundreds of Snow Buntings, commonly know as snow birds, provides a striking, multicoloured hue of white and brown flashes against the Island's backdrop of snow covered field and forest. The majesty of a single adult Bald Eagle soaring high above river valleys is contrasted against the furtive behaviour of a Lincoln's Sparrow as it searches for food amongst the bases of trees and shrubs.

For those who thrill to the chase, birding can be a competitive event with individual birders or teams of birders pitting their skills against each other to identify the most birds in a single day, year, or lifetime. In the jargon of birding these individuals are known as listers. The most avid lister will pursue birds about provinces, states, or continents in search of adding new species to their lists for that area. Thus, the sighting of a single Black-tailed Godwit, a large Eurasian shorebird seen in January, 1999 here on the Island, brought birders to the province from as far away as Florida.

Birding offers enough to fill a lifetime of learning. Almost every outing brings something new to experience as the antics of the various species are so varied as are the interactions between species. It offers relaxation and can be enjoyed throughout most of the world. All it takes to start is a field identification guide for your area and a pair of decent binoculars. Help is as close as your local naturalist club!

J. Dan McAskill is a leading expert on Birding on Prince Edward Island


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