Gone Birding - Pt. 1

There is one aspect of life that fascinates me more than any other thing; the animal kingdom.

Growing up, I could often be found pawing my way through National Geographic magazines, looking for strange and exotic animals to "ooh" and "ahh" all the while dreaming I would someday become a National Geographic explorer so I could experience these creatures first hand. I was captivated by the astonishing amount of life that existed within our planet, in places both far and familiar. My wish list of pets as a child grew increasingly large and included everything from a White Bengal Tiger to Wallabies, Lemurs, and Sheep.

As I came to understand how ridiculous my childish notions of owning hoards of exotic animals were (and my allergies stopped me from owning anything remotely fluffy), my parents gifted me an amusing game called Zoo Tycoon; a place where my childhood fantasy could become reality. I hated the idea of fencing off an animal even in a computer game and chose to build my zoo safari style with each section of the map containing a habitat suitable for each species I purchased. While this un-gated community soon became a predator vs. prey enterprise, I always made sure there was a mate for each animal, enough zookeepers to feed them on time, and of course enough groundskeepers to scoop their poop and keep the habitats in tip-top shape. Otherwise, animal outrage ensued and it was not pretty.

While my dream of working for Nat Geo and being surrounded by strange and wondrous animals unfortunately never came to fruition as I entered adulthood, my awe and appreciation for them has never diminished. My opportunities to photograph larger species have been far and few, thus igniting my fascination with something a bit closer to home; birds.


Great Blue Heron - George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary| Delta, British Columbia

Wild Sulphur Crested Cockatoo - Royal National Park | New South Wales, Australia

Male & Female Wood Duck - George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary| Delta, British Columbia

Male & Female Bald Eagle - Brackendale| Squamish, British Columbia

Believed to have descended from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, these feathered wonders have long been an icon within human society; They wake us at the break of dawn; they are one of the most common motifs in art, film, religion and sports; a desirable subject amongst shutterbugs; an important species within the conservation community; a favourite pastime of many outdoor enthusiasts. Their ability to fly inspires, their unique beauty captivates, and their singing makes us swoon.

I recall the first time I saw the film The Big Year. It followed the lives of three gentleman, each of whom were on a quest to achieve a "Big Year" - a competition created among birders to see who can identify the greatest number of species in one calendar year by travelling around North America. I found this notion absurd and amusing, not completely grasping how anyone could be THAT obsessed with birds. Little did I know, I would soon come to recognize this strange obsession within myself; it was the moment I first laid eyes on a Kookaburra in Brisbane, Australia.

I was strolling through the Brisbane City Gardens, awaiting the arrival of a friend. I heard something chuckle at me from the eucalyptus leaves above - stopped - and found myself staring up at this adorable white birb. I felt this rush of calm flow over me as he stared back; as if he had seen and knew so much more than I would ever know about this strange planet. His big brown eyes sparkled with wisdom as he took one last glance and gracefully fluttered away into the tree tops. I instantly had an urge to seek out more of these beautiful creatures and document as many species as I could. After coming across a pandemonium of Rainbow Lorikeets later that week in Sydney, I was officially hooked and my love for birds has continued to grow ever since. [Con't...]

Kookaburra - Brisbane City Botanical Garden| Brisbane, Australia

Kookaburra - Royal National Park| New South Wales, Australia

Pied Currawong - Blue Mountains National Park | New South Wales, Australia

Sandhill Crane - George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary| Delta, British Columbia

Noisy Miner - Royal Botanical Garden| Sydney, Australia

Noisy Miner - City Garden| Brisbane, Australia

Black Headed Ibis - Royal Botanical Garden| Sydney, Australia

Hairy Woodpecker - Murrin Provincial Park| Britannia Beach, British Columbia

Downy Woodpecker - Bow River Park| Calgary, Alberta

Spotted Towhee - Maplewood Flats Conservation Area| North Vancouver, British Columbia

Barred Owl - VanDusen Botanical Garden| Vancouver, British Columbia

Masked Lapwing - Royal Botanical Garden| Sydney, Australia

Canada Jay (Whiskey Jack) - Cypress Provincial Park| North Vancouver, British Columbia

Northern Pintail - George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary| Delta, British Columbia

Female & Male Mallard Duck - George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary| Delta, British Columbia

Australasian Swamphen - Royal National Park| New South Wales, Australia

Great Blue Heron - George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary| Delta, British Columbia

Common Gull - Sydney Harbour| Sydney, Australia

Great Blue Heron - Maplewood Flats Conservation Area| North Vancouver, British Columbia

Great Blue Heron - Saratoga Beach| Black Creek, British Columbia

While I am nowhere close to spouting off facts, mimicking calls or able to identify many species off the top of my head, I throughly enjoy the challenge of scouting our feathered friends while exploring the great outdoors. I swear there is nothing more relaxing than a stroll in the forest, listening to the sweet melodic songs that catch the wind and echo their way through the tranquility of the trees. Next time you hear a bird serenade you, I urge you stop for a moment and take it in. I promise it will bring a smile to your face and send you home with a new spring in your step.