When you have lived in an area for a while, it is easy to start taking it for granted; to forget what drew you there to begin with. I was brought here by the birds and I stay, year after year, for the birds. Northern Alberta really is a phenomenal bird-watching destination and the Boreal Centre for bird Conservation and Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory get visitors from all around the world coming to appreciate the birds of the boreal forest, especially the huge diversity of warbler species. Just this week we had a professionally guided birding tour from California make a three day stop in Slave Lake (they gave themselves more days to explore the Lesser Slave region than they have slated for Jasper). One morning while we were chatting they excitedly told me about how they saw/heard ten warbler species in just half an hour! That is what made me stop and think about how lucky I am to live here. For me, ten warblers in a short walk is standard fare, but for most birders (like the tour group) it is a truly amazing experience. Even right in town we have better birding then many other places in North America. Just from standing on my front step in the SE I have heard black-throated green warbler, Canada warbler, mourning warbler, yellow warbler, common yellowthroat, American redstart, black-and-white warbler, bay-breasted warbler, Tennessee warbler and myrtle warbler singing from the nearby Bear Trails. That’s ten species of warblers in a no-minute walk, sometimes still in my pyjamas.
As easy as it is to forget how wonderful our bird diversity is, it is also easy to take for granted that they will always be here. We are incredibly lucky here in Canada to have vast expanses of wilderness that are still full of wildlife of all shapes and sizes. Many other countries have lost the majority of their natural landscapes and most Canadians are quick to say how happy they are to not live in those places – but remember, all those places were once pristine wilderness as well. It is a strange irony that the more people are drawn to wild spaces the more the spaces become less wild. This article is going to be printed after Canada day but as I am writing it on July 1 I want to wish you all a fabulous Canada day and encourage everyone to remember how beautiful our country is and how beautiful its nature is and to never take for granted what we have, especially the birds!