Gardening

Birding for beginners

©iStockphoto.com/diego_cervo Author: Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/diego_cervo

Gardening

Birding for beginners

Canada's 44 national parks provide habitats for many wild animals. Éric Le Bel, superintendent of Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada, spends his time observing the creature he loves most: birds. "When I hear a bird singing and don't remember what it is, I become really excited," he says.

An avid bird-watcher (or "birder"), Le Bel has taken many stunning photographs of the different species he's seen in Canada's national parks. "My hands were shaking, and I was sure that I missed my chance," says Le Bel, speaking about how thrilled he was to capture a picture of a Northern Parula warbler, a species common to Kejimkujik, but one he hadn't seen much of in other locations.

Interested in experiencing your own sighting? Le Bel shares his most useful bird-watching tips.

Check your equipment
"Some people use a telescope or a zoom on a camera, but those don't replace the binoculars," says Le Bel, who recommends carrying a pair at all times. He also suggests investing in a bird-watching field guide to help keep track of the different types of birds. "The drawings better pinpoint the distinctive characteristics of each species," he says.

But make sure to pay attention while birding. Memorize what the bird looks like before you consult your guide, says Le Bel. "If you look into your field guide while the bird is still there, you may lose track of it and miss the detail needed to identify the species."

Over time, you'll become better able to recognize birds, even by their calls. Audio guides are available to help with those who have an interest on relying on their ears alone.

Focus on the location
You don't have to be overly familiar with your surrounding area, says Le Bel. "Birds are all around us in very diversified habitats. They are one of the biggest draws to help people connect with nature."

Kejimkujik National Park provides various habitats and trails for many bird species, making it an ideal place for birders. The Roger Brook Trail is one of Le Bel's personal favourites. "The meander boardwalk along the Mersey River goes through a beautiful red-maple floodplain and is rich with bird life, amphibians and turtles."

He has visited parks across the country, relishing in the beautiful places where he can peacefully enjoy his hobby. "Our national park system is a reservoir of life and biodiversity, so birding is popular and engaging all across the country," he explains.

Commune with nature

"Birding is so much more than finding a bird and checking it off the list; it's also the chance to get to know nature," says Le Bel, adding that taking pleasure in where you are and observing birds makes it easier to slow down and appreciate life's gifts. "Birds are an eternal source of enjoyment and learning. This is the way to make sure that the joy of watching birds will follow you, all your life."

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10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

1. Hermit Thrush

“Kejimkujik National Park provides various habitats for many bird species, making it an idyllic place for birders,” says Éric Le Bel. The Hermit Thrush is an insectivorous bird and is very active during the day, foraging the forest floor and the lower parts of foliage to feed itself and its young. It plays an important role to control insect abundance in all habitats.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

2. White-breasted Nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch can be seen year round. It is a real acrobat and climbs up and down tree trunks looking for insects.   Also check out: 5 Best Canadian National Parks for Birding.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

3. American Woodcock

The long beak of the American Woodcock is the ideal tool to hunt for worms in moist and muddy woodlands. “Its camouflage is so good you may not see it until you’re about to step on it, almost giving you a small heart attack,” says Le Bel.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

4. Northern Parula

This Northern Parula is a very colourful Warbler, common in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. It’s much easier to see in the spring when the leaves are not fully open.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a woodpecker that doesn’t look for insects in the tree; it simply digs evenly spaced holes in rows to make the tree bleed sap. The sap attracts insects and the Sapsucker then eats the insects from there.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

6. Piping Plover

The Piping Plover is endangered globally. There are approximately 40 breeding pairs nesting on the beaches of Nova Scotia, including some at Kejimkujik National Park. During the nesting period, portions of the beach at Kejimkujik Seaside (see map here) are closed to visitors to favour the reproduction success of this rare shoreline bird. Birding tip: Learn about the conservation program.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

7. Male Ruffed Grouse

The male Ruffed Grouse is quite demonstrative in the spring when he wants to impress females. He raises the black ruffs on the sides of his neck, fanning his tail and beating his wings to make a drumming hollow sound.   Bird-watching elsewhere in Canada: visit 5 Best National Parks for Bird-watching in Canada.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

8. Common Loon

The Common Loon is a marvelous bird, typical of our lakes. Its call is symbolic of the Canadian wilderness and a camping experience in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site will give you an experience you won't soon forget – almost reason enough for a trip to Nova Scotia.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

9. Barred Owl

The Barred Owl’s camouflage makes it hard to see when it sleeps on branches during the day. Sometimes in the forest, one can feel watched -- and then the big black eyes will suddenly appear. At night, they sing loudly what sounds like, “Who cooks for you?” What a perfect way to end a day of camping in one of Canada’s national parks this summer.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

10 common bird-sightings in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

10. Black Duck

According to Le Bel, the black duck is the most common type of duck in Nova Scotia. They can launch themselves in a burst of energy without a running take-off. This allows them to rest and feed in tiny puddles of water and mud. If you’re looking to combine some beach time during your camping holiday: visit Best Canadian Campgrounds with Beaches.

By: Leah Morrison Source: Éric Le Bel, Parks Canada Credits: Canadian Living

Want to attract birds to your garden? Check out our tutorial on how to build a birdhouse.

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