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Jody Allair, Director, Community Engagement

A vivid blue male Mountain Bluebird perches on a branch.
Mountain Bluebird. Photo: Jody Allair

It’s May. A time of new arrivals, bird song and the undisputed high point of the birding calendar. The constant waves of feathered super migrants in our local parks, eBird Hotspots and even our backyards is the stuff birding dreams are made of. Frigid winter days have become a fuzzy distant memory. Now is the time to get outside, explore, learn and bathe in the wonder of spring migration. 

This magical time of year is fleeting and as the years go by it has become shrouded in the knowledge that there are far fewer returning birds than there were decades ago

How can we still find joy in migration knowing that things are dire for so many species of birds that travel across the Western hemisphere? I find myself asking this question more and more every year. And the optimist in me holds steadfast with the hope that inspiring people to witness the magic of warblers, tanagers and thrushes is precisely what is needed for people to make the necessary changes to save our birds, our nature and ultimately ourselves.

Spring has arrived here in southern Alberta. The local Mountain Bluebirds are already pairing up and cleaning out new nest cavities in the 70 million-year-old sandstone cliffs of the Red Deer River Valley.

And the characteristic sound of the prairies has returned as well—the constant melodious singing of Western Meadowlarks.

A Western Meadowlark perches on a fence post, looking back over its shoulder to the right with its distinctive vibrant yellow plumage visible on the throat, contrasting with its brown speckled body plumage. It has a stout and round body with a flat head and long, slender beak,
Western Meadowlark. Photo: Kalin Ocaña

I was birding Horsethief Canyon the other day and had a Western Meadowlark pop up on a fence post beside me and belt out its other-worldly ode to spring. I took out my phone and made an audio recording in order to add it to my eBird Canada checklist (take a listen below, or click here). 

It’s days like these that you can almost forget about all the threats facing our migratory birds right now.

Outdoor cats, window collisions, unnecessarily lit office buildings, pesticide use, habitat loss and of course climate change. All of these, and several others, are wreaking havoc on our migratory songbirds. We cannot ignore these issues for much longer. Some can be dealt with by simple actions at home or throughout a community, others will require broad-scale change in how we value the world around us.

A person applies Feather Friendly window film to save birds from window collisions.
Feather Friendly window film. Photo: Ellen Jakubowski

I don’t believe that enjoying the wondrous spectacle of bird migration and taking action on the biggest threats to Canada’s birds are mutually exclusive. In fact, exploring the beauty of nature when birds are looking and sounding their finest is exactly what is needed for all of us. To heal our souls, and to inspire positive action. It’s also an opportunity to show friends, family, neighbours, school children, and politicians, this amazing event happening outside right now. 

Only by immersing ourselves, and others, in birds and nature can we hope to inspire the change that is needed.

It’s not too late. Get outside and go birding in your local park. Discover for yourself the magic of spring migration. And when you’re ready to act, start here:

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