It was exactly eight weeks ago when something miraculous happened. In the early morning hours of May 26 I was out walking around when I saw hundreds of birds flying in V formations, all in the same direction. They weren’t geese. These were smaller birds, each with distinct sharp beaks. Looking underneath their pointy wings, the tips were darker than the rest of the bodies. They flew silently overhead, silhouetted by the blue sky and then they were all gone.
Ever since then I’ve wondered what these birds were. Luckily, Lone Pine just published Birds of Canada to make this task easier. This is the ultimate in reference guides, a beautiful hardcover book designed for both professional ornithologists and amateur observers alike. You can take it as a field book or a coffee table edition, preferably right next to your living room window, just in case you catch a glimpse of something new in the neighbourhood.
This is a superlative edition for several reasons. I really appreciated having the quick illustrated reference section at the beginning to help narrow my search just based on visual cues. I knew what the birds looked like so I started there. It’s broken down into categories of birds as well so you can go general first before checking out the specifics of one bird. After flipping through the pages for just a few minutes, I deduced my mystery birds were common terns.
Going into the body of the guide is much simpler because it’s colour-coded by bird type. The pages aren’t too glossy so finger flipping through them isn’t an exercise in slippery friction. Each index entry includes a full body illustration plus photo, along with a detailed summary of its identification, behaviours and maps showing their range throughout the country.
The introduction is incredibly useful, especially for novices like me. I learned about the basics of bird watching, attracting birds and how to care for bird feeders, baths and nesting boxes. It was strange that the list of suggested birding sites didn’t include Big Lake, but it did offer about 20 other locations just in Alberta.
Birds of Canada
Tyler L. Hoar, Ken De Smet, R. Wayne Campbell and Gregory Kennedy
Lone Pine Publishing