Next Saturday, May 11th is International Migratory Bird Day! This is a fantastic occasion to celebrate not only the stunning spring migrants making their way through our province, but also an occasion to celebrate all birds as well as conservation efforts. It’s a chance to marvel at the things we often take for granted and to recognize how wondrous, surprising, colorful and precarious nature around us really is.
We owe the creation of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) to the dedicated people at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. IMBD has grown over the years and has turned into a fabulous environmental education opportunity. There are bird festivals happening all over the country (and the world!), with bird walks, workshops, and events that promote ecological awareness.
Why not join in the fun? If you happen to be in the GTA, come and visit the Spring Bird Festival at Tommy Thompson Park. Activities include bird walks, hikes, nature photography workshops, a visit to the bird banding station, and much more. Most of the migration hotspots in Ontario will be holding birding events to coincide with IMBD. If you happen to be in the Long Point area, you’re not likely to experience a dull moment during the Birdathon weekend celebrations. A little further west, you could also partake in the Baillie Birdathon at Rondeau Provincial Park. Out east, the Prince Edward County Spring Birding Festival also kicks off on Saturday and lasts until May 20. And, of course, there’s the crème-de-la-crème of migratory bird destinations, Point Pelee National Park, where things have been going strong since the beginning of the month. Should you find these large events intimidating, smaller-scale walks are being organized all over the province, just contact your local naturalist organization.
Don’t miss out on this chance to get to know the birds around you! You’ll get to meet other quirky, good humored, knowledgeable, compassionate and quite possibly Tilley-hat-clad bird enthusiasts. The best thing about these events is that beginners are always welcome and very much appreciated. What better way to hone one’s birding skills than to show a beginning birder a bird they’ve never seen before and explain its distinctive qualities or to bear witness to someone else’s a-ha moment?
I love the idea of celebrating and taking the time to think about migration. Learning more about migratory patterns and trends also shed light on a host of other environmental issues, including climate change, the Endangered Species Act and habitat protection.
But a little part of me wonders: shouldn’t every day be bird day? Shouldn’t we celebrate the fabulous birds in our midst, the ones whose stunning physique or color scheme or calls encourage us to look more closely, and pay greater attention to detail in the world around us, on a daily basis? Taking the time to really see the birds around us not only instills a sense of wonder but also reminds us that we’re a part of this fragile yet magical natural world.
Let me know if I have missed any great bird events in your area on or around May 11th!
Julia Zarankin is a writer, editor, and former professor of Russian literature and culture at the University of Missouri. She's a long-time contributor to ON Nature magazine and our blog.