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Pandemic brings a resurgence in local birding interest

Bird Wing at Nature Guelph helps newcomers get into birding

Enthusiasm for bird watching continues to grow during the pandemic and interest in joining the Bird Wing group at Nature Guelph is off to a flying start. 

“There has been an increase in interest and there are so many new birders who want to find out more,” says Valerie Wyatt, from Nature Guelph and owner of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Guelph. 

“Anyone can join the Bird Wing group. Programs are free and open to the public.”

Wyatt, also a regional coordinator for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, says that the Bird Wing welcomes people who are simply passionate about birds. 

Wyatt’s involvement with the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas has sparked her interest in helping restart the Nature Guelph’s Bird Wing group which stopped running about five years ago. 

The goal of the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas is to map the distribution and numbers of Ontario’s approximately 300 species of breeding birds across the province. 

Data collected over five years provides important information for researchers, scientists, government officials and conservation professionals. The data will help guide environmental policies and conservation strategies in the future.

Data collected for the two previous Ontario atlases covered 1981-1985 and 2001-2005.

And Wyatt looks forward to the publication of Atlas 3.

Data collection for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas 3 began in January, this year. Volunteer birders count and record the presence of breeding birds across Ontario for a five-year period.

“Through the atlas, there has been a quite a bit of outreach from beginners to avid birders. So, in starting the Bird Wing at Nature Guelph, it just seemed right to learn more, to teach new skills and pass it on,” Wyatt said.

Nature Guelph is a non-profit organization continuing as an active club virtually, for nature lovers in the Guelph area. The club hosts monthly meetings with guest speakers, regular outdoor events, and field trips.

The club also has a special interest group for wildflower lovers, a Young Naturalists program for children and an Eco-Leaders program for high school students.

Nature Guelph connects people with nature and inspires them to celebrate and protect it. 

The goal of the new Bird Wing is to hold regular meetings, trips and involvement in a variety of conservation projects. 

For those who would like to get started with birding, you don’t have look far.  

A view of the fascinating bird world can be seen right in your own backyard.

Downloads of popular bird identification apps have spiked during the pandemic as have sales of bird feeders, nesting boxes and birdseed.

“Birding has really evolved. With apps like e-Bird, there’s a real push for people to get involved,” Wyatt said. 

The e-Bird app has become a popular online platform for scientists and hobbyists alike to upload and share bird observations. 

And Wyatt says getting a bird feeder is a really good start.

For those feeling a little more adventurous, a walk outside can bring new sightings especially with a good pair of binoculars and a field guide in hand.

“Every season brings something new in our area like the winter finch explosion. We have seen some birds this winter that we haven’t seen here in years,” Wyatt said.  “And we have the rivers and such a great community of birders. Things are seen and discussed.”

Wyatt was introduced to birding at a young age by her father.

“I just like birds. They are cheerful and I especially enjoy the migrants. I continue birding because it’s rewarding and through our work with the atlas, the information can be used for conservation and research. With so many birds disappearing, it’s important to monitor them,” Wyatt said. 

And a little ‘bird therapy’ can have health benefits, especially during the pandemic when many people are staying indoors. Birdwatching outside can improve mood and reduce stress.

Wyatt encourages others to get involved and the Bird Wing at Nature Guelph has much to offer for any birder, from beginner to advanced. 

Bird Wing monthly meetings are expected to begin in March. The group is still looking for experienced birders to present short virtual workshops or bird identification sessions to the group.

“The Bird Wing will also participate in local and provincial advocacy efforts,” Wyatt said. 

“People can put their voices together and make change.”

For more information about the Nature Guelph Bird Wing, visit https://www.natureguelph.ca/ or  the Nature Guelph Facebook page.

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community. She joined CambridgeToday in 2021
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