Enjoying Nature During Quarantine by Tony Beck
Enjoying nature is the simplest of activities. Being close to nature is its own reward. But, some people need a little motivation before carefully searching for wildlife. Thankfully, it’s easy to make it interesting and challenging, especially during these times of self-isolation and social distancing.
Make it a game. Just pick a spot, or restrict your movement to a small area like a living room window or a back yard. Then push yourself to successfully identify as much diversity as possible from the one spot. Try to identify everything including all those shy and elusive creatures that prefer avoiding detection. It becomes like a treasure hunt looking for rare gems or rarely seen natural phenomenon. Each list you create becomes a motivator. Birders have lists for everything including yard lists, day lists, provincial lists, years lists… the sky is literally the limit.
This adult Red-tailed Hawk occasionally comes and
perches somewhere on or near our balcony.
Living on a 23rd floor apartment overlooking the Ottawa River at Deschenes Rapids, I see lots of interesting wildlife. The water is open all year, even during the coldest winter. I regularly see Bald Eagles, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Peregrine Falcon, Common Raven and an assortment of vagrant birds. In the wetlands below, I occasionally see River Otter, Muskrat, Beaver and even the rare Blanding’s Turtle. While writing this piece this morning, I managed to observe 17 species of birds including Great Egrets conducting courtship displays.
Ring-billed Gulls are abundant around our building, especially from spring through fall.
Although most of my observations are far from my balcony, it’s still very exciting. However, to maximize the number of species, and to improve accuracy, I need good binoculars and a high-quality spotting scope. It also helps to have good weather. Use all your senses, not just sight. I often hear individual species well before seeing them.
Common Ravens are a regular sight from our balcony.
It’s also wise to keep a camera handy. If I’m not photographing sunsets, I’ll try to capture frame-filling images of birds like Herring Gull, Red-tailed Hawk, Osprey or a rare Gyrfalcon.
Since I moved here 10 years ago, I’ve successfully identified 142 species of birds from my balcony alone. Interestingly, there are still a few common species that elude me. Thanks to current self-isolation efforts this spring, I’ll focus on all the wildlife migrating by. And, the fun never stops… My wife Nina Stavlund has successfully spotted a few species that I still haven’t. So I have some catching up to do. Besides being fun and entertaining, adding birds to my “balcony list” is a very powerful motivator that pushes my skills to their limit. I wonder what #143 will be?
Rock Pigeons are another common bird observed frequently from the balcony.