Bird watchers thrive on challenge. Every time we go out to look for birds, we face a monumental challenge, and we love every minute of it.
We bird in all weather conditions, and generally glory in tales of getting stuck in mud or snow, being drenched from pouring rain, or sweltering in the excessive heat. About the only thing that slows us down is a high wind – not because we don’t want to be out there looking for birds, but because the birds very sensibly don’t fly in a high wind.
Birdwatching is challenging no matter where you are, but think for a minute about birding in Canada in the winter. Justifiably famous for our winter climate, Canadian birders don’t just sit on their hands during our chilly months. No, we actively embrace the challenge of stomping through the snow in heavy boots, wearing ten pounds of clothes and focusing binoculars while wearing thick gloves.
A new page on this blog, Winter Birding in Canada 2009-2010, features a coast-to-coast summary of the birding highlights for the past winter. As well as listing the total number of birds seen in each province, it also lists the rarities and unusual sightings.
Who would have thought you could see a Phainopepla in Ontario, a Rustic Bunting in Saskatchewan, a Green-tailed towhee in Alberta, or an Oriental Turtle Dove in BC? In the winter.
These are the sightings that keep us mushing through the miserable weather, weighted down by parkas and boots, and loving every minute of it.
The winter birding summary was written by Blake Maybank, Editor, Nova Scotia Birds Birding Sites of Nova Scotia. It has been distributed to various birding Listservs across the country, and is an excellent read for any Canadian interested in birds.
Winter birding in Canada can best be summed up by the following statements included in the summary:
In Canada, perhaps because of (or in spite of) experiencing a bit of weather during the winter, winter birding has become a very popular activity. The origins of this slightly insane behaviour apparently date from southern Ontario in the 50′s and 60′s, but the sport’s appeal really took off with the promotion afforded it by Gerry Bennett in the 1980′s, through his “Birdfinding in Canada” newsletter. Winter Birding remains popular today. The winter birding period comprises the three months of December through February, matching the reporting period of “North American Birds” journal. -Blake Maybank
For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept, it basically involves a frenzied search during the first couple of weeks to squeeze in as many late migrants as possible before the onslaught of usually more severe weather conditions. Christmas Bird Counts often jack up our total, as do normal winter activities. Plus, it gives us birders something to do for the three slowest birding months of the year other than sitting idle on our hands until March. To me, at least, a winter list is great for maintaining birding enthusiasm, and gets a person active and out of the house to ward off the winter doldrums that tend to creep up mid season. – Ryan Dudragne, Saskatchewan