By Irene Doucet for Bird Studies Canada’s 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count Story Contest
Resembling an old film strip, my first experience in the Giant Backyard Bird Count flashes in my mind’s eye…
Destination number one saw me eagerly seated on a carpet near a patio door, brunch in hand, observing a naturally landscaped yard. On a tree that had withstood the previous ice storm, a group of Bohemian Waxwings played and fed.
Feeling at home, I chatted with my newfound friends of the Moncton Nature Club as a number of common interests were discussed: native plants, foraging, mushroom identification, and shared hotspots for viewing our winged friends. Emotions welled within as my mentors-to-be bore witness to their love and respect of our planet Earth. Stories, pictures, recipes, and funny incidents were shared as deep connections were woven. When I missed a sighting, my host encouraged me by expressing her desire for my return as soon as possible. A strong bond had already been forged between us, as though we had waited all of our lives to finally meet.
Each spot visited that day left me breathless as I came eye-to-eye with “lifers” I had never before seen. My camera was forgotten time and time again as I peered through binoculars to take in all of the details. A Field Sparrow (a very rare sighting for the Maritimes) darted about as if dancing a ballet, and was such a delight to see! In a fleeting appearance, a Brown Creeper came and went as I quickly readjusted the focus for a better view of the camouflaged beauty. Soon, a Pileated Woodpecker drummed away at a suet feeder, giving ample time for all to view its plumage and behaviour. A nuthatch also made an appearance on the snow, showing no signs of fear as it delighted us watching it feast.
On the drive homeward along the Chocolate River (the Petitcodiac), two Snow Buntings flew and dove around a snowbank near countless Mallard Ducks and gulls of all kinds, along with a pair of Northern Pintails. A final tally that day included 466 birds viewed.
No words can express how transported I was by the fleeting sights and sounds of winged beings that share our Earth, to a point of failing to recall my camera hanging around my neck. To me, they are nothing short of angel spirits hovering above us, searching for Earth angels to discover them!