My earliest foray into birding and photography occurred simultaneously back in 1977. I landed this great summer job working on cataloguing and photographing birds in a study area as part of an environmental impact study in northeastern Alberta. I was thrilled with both of these new adventures, photography and birding. Forty years later and I am still thrilled with birding and bird photography.
Over the years I can recall a few unique sightings of birds that I made which were particularly memorable. The sightings were not necessarily rare, but for the area I live they were exciting to me. As has been pointed out by others, birds have wings and sometimes they fly off course and end up where they shouldn’t be. Other times they are birds who are the “early adapters” of their species and are testing the limits of what is possible for their survival.
So, one of my first unusual sightings was literally in my back yard. A Lark Sparrow showed up with some other sparrows at my feeders in late April. Lark Sparrows are common in the southern part of our province but not so much in the northern foothills of Alberta. A few years later I located a Brown Thrasher north of Hinton, again not a rare bird but “unusual” for this region. Similarly I identified and photographed a Whimbrel in Jasper National Park. I was told that this was the first sighting of this species in the park. There have been other surprising sightings; a leukistic Raven, A Crested Caracara in Jasper Park, a Lewis’s Woodpecker in the David Thompson region, a Snowy Owl in southern Saskatchewan in July.
This fall I spent some time birding along the Athabasca River in Japer National Park. I was looking for shore birds and I ultimately had some success (within the “New Photos” Portfolio you will find a collection of Shorebird photos exclusively from this fall). However, the highlight of the fall migration from this location for me was identifying some Sabine’s Gulls. According to “Birds Of Alberta” Fisher and Acorn, p172 ”One reward for persistent birdwatchers in Alberta is to finally see a Sabine’s Gull - it is a great-looking bird, and a real rarity.” These birds migrate from the Arctic nesting areas to the Pacific Coast and are sometimes spotted during migration in September. Dumb luck put me in the right place at the right time. Here are a couple of photographs of the Sabine’s Gulls I was so happy to see.
In summary, one of the enjoyable aspects of birding is that you never know what you might see so you always have to remain alert to the possibility of spotting something really cool!