Spring is here! And so are the birds!
Andrea quizzes Jody Allair on his best spring birding tips. They chat about favorite spring bird songs, how to brush up on ID skills, where to meet local birders ...and so much more!
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Jody Allair is an avid birder and naturalist who enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for the natural world. He is the Director of Community Engagement at Birds Canada and has written numerous articles on birds, birding and connecting with nature. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @JodyAllair.
Andrea Gress studied Renewable Resource Management at the University of Saskatchewan. She pivoted towards birds, after an internship in South Africa. Upon returning, she worked with Piping Plovers in Saskatchewan and now coordinates the Ontario Piping Plover Conservation Program for Birds Canada. Follow her work at @ontarioplovers
Andrés Jiménez is a Costa Rican wildlife biologist with a keen interest in snakes, frogs, birds and how human relationships are interconnected with the living world. He studied Tropical Biology in Costa Rica and has a Masters in Environmental Problem Solving from York University. He is Birds Canada's Urban Program Manager and you can follow him at @andresjimo
You're listening to The Warblers a Birds Canada podcast.... minisode!Andrea Gress:
Hey Jody, welcome back to the podcast. Hey, Andrea. Thanks for having me back. So you recently wrote a really nice article about spring birding, which is featured in the spring edition of birdwatch magazine by birds, Canada. That article, really, really amps me up for spring. If I'm being honest, you give some really good tips about how people can get out and enjoy the birds. And so for this episode, I thought it'd be fun to dig a little deeper into that with you.Jody Allair:
Yeah, that sounds great. It's, it's really one of my favorite times of year spring. It's just I I'm really looking forward to to getting into it.Andrea Gress:
What's your favorite part?Jody Allair:
Ah, you know, it's got to be oh, you know, the the warm, the longer days, the warmth? The smell, you know, that smell. So shift that first rain, you know, in the springtime? Yeah. But that for me the best is knowing that the birds are returning and and getting those first migrants back. I just it's so exciting. But it's birdsong. It's just the sounds that you hear in the spring, all of a sudden, oh, the neighborhood birds are singing and all these new arrivals are singing in. And I really can't get enough of that. Absolutely. One of my favorite things of spring.Andrea Gress:
Yeah, for me, it's not just it's not like an individual species that I'm looking forward to. It's the overall feel and sound and like you say, the smells. I love when that snow melt hits and the water is flowing everywhere. Just just love it.Jody Allair:
Yeah, yeah. No, it's It's the best for sure. And, and I think another great thing about spring is such an awesome opportunity for people to dive into birding. And because there's so much around and there and a lot of the birds are really conspicuous. So it's a really great time to getting to get to know your neighborhood birds a little bit better.Andrea Gress:
Yeah. So let's get into that. Then. Starting off. What would you say people should do? potentially even before spring hits their region? How should they start to get ready?Jody Allair:
Yeah, I think one of the first things I would like to recommend is, is to study up in advance a little bit, you know, field guides aren't just for like grabbing and to frantically looking something up that you just saw the window, actually, field guides usually have some really great text. And they're really, if you have a good one, like I love the the Sibley guide to birds, it's probably my favorite Field Guide for North America, just reading the introduction, you know, getting familiar with where everything is in the field guide. getting familiar with certain groups of birds actually goes a long way to prepare yourself for for being able to identify stuff outside. So getting making sure you have a good field guide. And you know, downloading something like the the free Merlin bird ID apps to get familiar with, you know, what you can see around you and how to go about identifying birds. So those are, you know, a little bit of studying in advance actually goes a long way to helping you nail down some of those identifications.Andrea Gress:
I bet it does. And if you're a really experienced birder, is there maybe like a species that would be good to study or something a new skill that they should be working on?Jody Allair:
Yeah, well, you know, out here in Alberta, just a specific example. You know, we have a lot of really interesting in PID Max flycatcher, so those are the those flycatchers that are all sort of greenish, they're actually all fantastically wonderful, but they're very similar looking. And one of the things you need to do to be able to separate several of those species like Pacific slope, or Hammond's flycatcher is learning is hearing their vocalizations, being able to hear their vocalizations and being able to differentiate so often I, you know, come spring, especially before my first trip into the mountains, I always like to refresh myself on the calls of inpit. Next, like pitchers and that's, so that's sort of a ritual for me, which I think is fun to do. And it also I want to be prepared, right when I hear them.Andrea Gress:
Yeah, it's a really nice ritual. Okay, um, so people are all studied up ready to go, where should they start to look for birds?Jody Allair:
Yeah, and so I think, I think this is the the big one, I think there's sometimes that perception that you know, you have to go to, you know, a world famous migratory hotspot like long point or point p li, or, or, or Tadoussac in Quebec, in order to see big movements of birds, when it's actually it's just the opposite. Like you can find any local park any green space. However small during spring migration can be filled with with migratory birds like warblers and thrushes and fly catchers. So, you know, I recommend, you know, just getting out just getting out in the spring not worrying about having to go to, you know, like two point pili or something just get out to your local park and greenspace during the spring and you absolutely will be will run into migrants that are coming through. One thing you can do if you're looking for, you know, birding hotspots in your area, or places where you know, that are really good close by, I would definitely recommend people to go visit eBird firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can look up and see all of your local birding hotspots. You can even search particular birds, if you really want to get a great look and listen to a hermit thrush, you know, you can search for them around where you are and find a place to go look for them. So it's a couple that those would be my recommendations.Andrea Gress:
Beautiful, beautiful. And then you're gonna want to get out early, right.Jody Allair:
Yeah, you know, I think especially for for songbird migration. Getting up early is, is kind of key. A lot of these warblers and thrushes are nocturnal migrants, so they're flying through it date. And then soon as the sun starts to come up, they they head down for land, and they usually are looking for places where they can forage and fatten up and rest throughout the day. So usually, places like Riverside forests, especially here on the prairies, or, or places along Lake shores, forests, or Long Lake shores, but even a small Parker greenspace in a town works. And morning is always sort of peak activity. Although I have to say when migration is really humming along, I have had amazing birding throughout the day. So if you miss the morning, don't let that keep you from going out birding still worthAndrea Gress:
going out after work and, and having a good look. Yeah, love that. And I think learning bird songs really helps. Right? So you might not see the bird but hearing it and being able to identify them that way. That's big, too, right?Jody Allair:
Yeah, I think it's, it's, it's a huge step. I think when people are ready to take this step, I think it's, it really helps you not only identify and learn more birds that are maybe in your neighborhood or on migration, but it also helps you find birds when you start picking up on the the calls on the songs of of these migrant birds in the spring. It's a really great way to find birds, I spent a lot of time birding, not just walking around, just spot looking for everything I can, I actually spent a lot of time walking around listening, listening for songs and call notes to find birds. And even if you're not sure what it is, it'll you know, it's an indication that there's something interesting over there to go look for, right? So I highly recommend learning bird songs. It's, it's, you know, bird songs are just an amazing, amazing thing to listen to. And they just, I don't know, they fill me with just like, hope enjoy. And they're just so wonderful. And, and more and more as I get older, I'm more and more interested in in listening to songs and recording bird songs. And I think that's just such a fun. I really enjoy that as my reading evolves, right? Yeah. So like, if you want to learn birdsongs just a couple of great things out there. There's this great app called Lark wire. And which you can download and it's sort of gamified learning learning birds is sort of like Duolingo for bird for bird sound ID It's really fantastic. That sounds cool. Yeah. Yeah. It's awesome. It's a really great tool. There's some great books and CDs out there. You know, I really like there's just one author in the US Donald crude SMA. He's written numerous books on on learning to tune into bird sounds, and I just really resonates with me, him. His books really resonate. And there's this great introductory one he put out a couple of years ago, which I think is fabulous for people wanting to just start their journey on birdsong. It's called Bird song for the curious naturalist. Excellent, excellent book, highly recommend it. And of course, I think I mentioned Merlin bird ID, right. The Merlin bird ID app now has a feature where you can actually hit record record the bird song, and it'll actually help you identify it. And I actually I think we had a whole episode about the wholeAndrea Gress:
episode. Yeah, yeah. Back in the September October maybe make August timeframe. Flip back to our old episodes and check that one out, and you'll learn so much about that up. So speaking of birds song, do you I want to ask what you think is is iconic some iconic springs sounds. So say for someone in the prairies. What do you think's an iconic sound that they'll hear?Jody Allair:
Yeah, I think I hit the prairies. And I think, you know, and maybe you would relate to this one as well, having grown up in Saskatchewan and but it has to be western meadowlark. Yeah Western metal archives here is The sound of the prairies there. They're fairly common. And it just there's something about that song.Andrea Gress:
It's It's charming and haunting kind of at the same time.Jody Allair:
Yeah, it's it's really it's really wonderful it it's the sound of the prairies as far as I'm concernedAndrea Gress:
it is. Okay, let's go across the country to say the Atlantic provinces. What will they hear?Jody Allair:
Yeah, uh, well, there's a few different things I think, I think, you know, in eastern in Eastern Canada, you know, I did a quick poll. So my printing friends, right, like their favorite bird sounds of the spring, you know, and I think at least you know that the song like the song of Black Capped Chickadee, right. It's just saying, and they're just starting to do that here. You know, that beautiful Phoebe song. I think that is just wonderful. Gets a real characteristic out east. Yeah, and then where you have house finches, I have to throw one for house finches. And I think, you know, for even though they're sort of widespread across a lot of Canada now that they weren't before. For me the sound of the house finch growing up in southern Ontario. That was a big one. Right? That's That to me was the real sound of spring and I loved it when that my neighborhood house finches started the singing there was always my favorite. They should and they should be. They should be singing now. They're just starting here.Andrea Gress:
Yeah, I I noticed when I moved to Ontario, that the northern Cardinals really bring on the spring with their like, sort of sound actually, I shouldn't mimic it. We can just play it forJody Allair:
everything is good. Shopping laser gun. Yeah, they do aAndrea Gress:
Yeah, I really, really like that.Jody Allair:
Yeah, it's fantastic, isn't it? It's yeah, so so good. It's unfortunately you know, it that's sort of limited to southern and eastern Canada. But if you get a chance to be somewhere where cardinals are singing, it's yeah, they're awesome.Andrea Gress:
Very cool. All right, people are all prepared to get out and go birding. Can I find a birding community to join? Or is it a solo activity? What do you think?Jody Allair:
Yeah, I think that you know, one of the great things about birding is that you can go do it on your own as a, you know, almost a meditative activity to do in your local green space or park or, you know, people that want to have a more social element. Birding is absolutely there. You know, birding is for everyone. And and birding together brings just another level of fun and excitement to your bird. I actually really love birding with a group of people, especially people that are just seeing birds for the first time. There's nothing more satisfying than showing someone their first card holder or you know, or seeing some pretty awesome or they never knew existed and getting to see that so there's a couple different ways to do it. You know, and obviously, you know, all things knock on wood, all things are going well, you know, with hopefully, birding festivals are going to be having more sort of in person events in 2022. And so, you know, Toronto Brit celebration is a great one that that we have involvement in and our co host Andre says is involved in intros ears will be burning. That's right. Vancouver has Vancouver bird celebration and other different festivals. I know quaint pili has a really great spring festival as well. Finding those sort of bird festivals are a great way to find other people that are interested in birds like you. There's often field trips, it's it there's many programs geared for every different you know level of skill you want to bring. That's a great way to meet your meet your people and to learnAndrea Gress:
and even things like local birding groups on Facebook or with naturalist clubs are a good place to start. And And how about Burton'sJody Allair:
if people want to take their their birding to the next level in terms of trying to help leverage impact for conservation, the birdathon birds Canada's great Canadian birdathon, which is the oldest existing birdathon in the world is is a fantastic program, where you know, people raise money to help support the conservation work of birds, Canada, they go out and go look for birds over 24 hour periods. Some people, you know, make a big day of it and try to get as many like really try to push the limits of the number of species they find others, you know, take the family and it's more casual, but it's all in the name of raising money for bird conservation. So it's, it's if people are interested in that I've been doing them every year for over 20 years. Wow. And I love doing it I think it's it's a it's a fun excuse to to go out birding and to raise money for conservation. So if people want to learn more birds canada.org/birdathon If you want to want to check it out, and and I have some actually, tips if we have time. You know, there's a whole different way I used to do birdathon but one of the some of the most enjoyable birdathon I've ever done are green Berta thorns. And I used to have with a couple of my birds Canada colleagues, Doug Tozer and Myles Falconer. We used to we had our team called the Green herons. We would do non motorized birdathon around the Long Point area and we would do it by bike by foot and by canoe. And we would go out and try to see as many birds and we saw tons of stuff and didn't really have to drive that far and, and not having the noise of a vehicle or any of that stuff. It's boy, some of my favorite birdathon is doing a green birdathon so yeah, I understand doing birdathon you know, maybe consider trying to reduce your carbon footprint and and try to do a green birdathon they're really great.Andrea Gress:
I bet you'd feel just immersed in the bird sounds and the experience that sounds wonderful. Well these little been really excellent tips Jodi and if people want to read the full article they can get bird watch magazine by becoming a supporter of birds Canada, learn about that on our website and get out and go birding. Right it's spring.Jody Allair:
Yeah, get out. It's it's it's the best time of year. Get out. Immerse yourself in birds and yeah, but yeah, heads up. It's highly, highly addictive.Andrea Gress:
Warning. Thank you.