I have always been captivated by the beauty and diversity of birds and nature. My childhood home is situated in close proximity to a provincial park, which is a sanctuary for over 230 different species of birds and may have played a role in cultivating my early interests in birds. Growing up, I would often watch different species of birds that visited our yard or flew overhead, but it wasn’t until I headed out on my Early Morning Birdwatching Hike in May 2022 that my passion for birdwatching took flight.

That morning was supposed to be like any other, where we set out on our usual hike around the nature sanctuary with the intention of taking in the fresh spring air, searching for wildlife (if we were lucky) and capturing a few photographs. However, as soon as we stepped out of the Jeep, we were surrounded by an abundance of birds and small wildlife, creating a feeling of being a princess in a Disney movie. The variety of birds that we encountered was astounding, with some that I had never seen before, others that I had not seen in a while, and opportunities to photograph them from closer than I had ever been able to before (while still maintaining a reasonable distance with the use of a telephoto lens, of course).

The highlight of the hike was when we had the pleasure of running into a local birder a couple of times along the trail. He was knowledgeable and shared some valuable birdwatching tips with us, as well as suggesting another nearby spot that we would also enjoy. And indeed, we very much do enjoy it! (Thank you!)

The experience from that morning was transformative, as it opened my eyes to the incredible world of birds and their behaviour. The serene early morning atmosphere, the melodic songs of the birds, and the thrill of spotting and identifying different species all contributed to an unforgettable experience that left a lasting impression on me. The hike was not only a visual treat but also an auditory and emotional one that would spark a newfound hobby of birding.

I was feeling a growing interest in birdwatching and wanted to take it to the next level by learning to identify different species. I downloaded the eBird app on my phone so I could easily search for birds by name, location, physical characteristics, sound, and even by photo. Additionally, the app has a feature that enabled me to track and record the birds I had seen, creating a personal birding list that I could refer to later. I felt that this app was the perfect tool for me to improve my bird identification skills and enhance my birdwatching experience. In addition to the app, I picked up the “Birds of Alberta” book, an invaluable resource that has detailed descriptions and illustrations organized by bird families. I now felt much more prepared to take on the challenge of identifying birds in the wild. I also decided to upgrade my 70-200mm lens and invest in a high-quality telephoto lens for my camera, specifically the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. This lens, with its powerful zoom and image stabilization capabilities, has been ideal for capturing stunning, high-resolution images of birds in motion, even from a considerable distance away.

With the acquisition of my new telephoto lens, I felt like I had a new sense of purpose and direction, was now fully committed to the pursuit of bird photography, and was eager to put my new lens to the test. Over the course of the summer, I began to actively seek out local birding hotspots in and around the Edmonton region, with the sole purpose of observing and capturing images of birds in their natural habitats. I spent countless hours exploring different habitats and observing different species of birds (visually, and by their song and call). I became more and more passionate about birding and felt like my hobby of observing birds was elevated to a whole new level.

No longer was I a “birdwatcher,” casually observing birds by happenstance. I was now, accidentally, a “birder.”

Until next time, chase the stoke!
– Tracey

Chase the Stoke Mountains

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