Gardening Blog

Spending the night in a nest

alberta-thenest

The Nest

My first night in the Lesser Slave Lake region of Northern Alberta was spent at a hostel called The Nest. These accommodations were especially interesting because they are on the grounds of the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation (BCBC). And hostel is kind of misleading when you compare it to some of the more (ahem) squeaky-clean-challenged places you might have experienced. This was more like a comfy cabin. It sleeps 10 in two separate wings with a common area and kitchen in the middle, complete with a big fireplace. Super cosy!

Tracking the numbers: Because of the great weather conditions Alberta had this summer, they didn't get the same numbers they have in the past as the birds kept right on flying instead of stopping!

Tracking the numbers: Because of the great weather conditions Alberta had this summer, they didn't get the same numbers they have in the past as the birds kept right on flying instead of stopping!

The next morning after a walk to the rocky beach for views of Lesser Slave Lake, I visited the centre for some bird education. Charity and executive director Patti Campsall were very helpful in explaining what the centre is all about as well as the eco-friendly aspects of this LEEDS-certified structure.

Lesser Slave Lake and nearby Marten Mountain act as a natural barrier for migratory birds making their annual voyage. The BCBC has provided a haven for researchers to study the birds` important relationship with the Boreal forest. Of special interest are the neo-tropical birds. Some of these tiny specimens travel for thousands and thousands of miles!

Walking through the exhibit and reading about these amazing bird populations was fascinating. Afterwards we headed down towards the lake again to talk to Richard, who is the head bander for the bird banding program. Richard and his team use special nets to catch birds and gather important data about them (such as their age, sex, measurements and muscle development).

Unfortunately it was a very windy day — not great conditions for the birds, so we weren't able to witness the banding. But the BCBC does host a number of educational programs, including the opportunity to tour the banding station and see Richard in action (when he's a little busier). If you're there in winter, the centre rents out cross country skis and snowshoes for free!

This didn't come out very well, but Richard has photos in his research building identifying the birds that are of most interest for the purposes of his studies.

This didn't come out very well, but Richard has photos in his research building identifying the birds that are of most interest for the purposes of his studies.

So what’s the connection to gardening? We can provide important habitats for them in our own backyard! During my visit, I picked up some great tips on attracting songbirds to your yard. We currently have the one article on the site and I intend to talk to Patty for more helpful advice!

(photo taken with a Kodak EasyShare M381 digital camera)

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