The Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory field staff were busy this week with the MAPS program that monitors the breeding status of the diverse bird species that nest in Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park as well as completing vegetation surveys to monitor habitat changes in our study areas. This week, the banders are starting to observe juvenile birds including banding their very first black and white warbler fledgling of the season. Although it seems that summer has just arrived in the boreal forest, fall migration is just around the corner as many of these young birds will be ready to depart on their first migration in the next few weeks. The LSLBO Fall Migration Monitoring program will commence on July 12th and run until the end of September.
MAPS and Fall Migration Monitoring are just a few of the LSLBO programs that look for trends or changes in bird populations over time. This spring, a new and very exciting trend has been observed by our staff; lots and lots of keen bird watchers! After two springs of being closed to the public due to COVID restrictions, it has been a real treat to welcome spring birders once again and hear about their adventures. Birdwatching is one of the fastest growing hobbies in North America and there has been an explosion of interest during the COVID pandemic. Whether it is watching birds at your backyard feeder, or exploring the trails for a new species, birding is the perfect social-distancing hobby for any age. Living in northern Alberta, we might take for granted the songbirds that arrive each spring with their beautiful songs and striking breeding plumages, but for many birders, experiencing these songbirds on their boreal breeding grounds is a life-long dream and they will travel great distances to enjoy them. This spring, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of keen birders and enthusiastic beginners that have visited the LSLBO and the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation from all across Alberta as well as Oregon, Washington state, Colorado and even southern California. Another sign of this trend…we had our biggest attendance at our spring Songbird Festival ever!
Birding in the boreal forest can be challenging for beginners and experts alike as it is almost impossible to spot those tiny yellow and green warblers way up in the thick foliage. This spring, one of the “game changers” has been the new Song ID feature in the Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Learning the birdsongs of the boreal forest is a daunting task, but this free app is helping nature lovers identify the sounds of the birds around them and making birding more accessible to new audiences. It is clear that this avid interest in birding isn’t showing any signs of waning after the pandemic. As most birders will attest, once you get “hooked”, bird watching becomes a lifelong passion (or obsession). Enjoy!