Langley birdwatcher John Gordon said his avocation is a good choice for seniors that allows them to socialize while maintaining safe distances (John Gordon/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Birdwatching may be the perfect sport for seniors during the pandemic

Social distancing? Check. Socializing with like-minded people? Check. Fun? You bet.

When word got out recently that a rarely-seen Brown Pelican had been spotted at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, Langley’s John Gordon hopped in his car and headed for Delta.

“The bird was seen at 5 [in the afternoon] on a dusty, smoggy afternoon,” Gordon recalled.

He estimated about a dozen birdwatchers from various Lower Mainland communities made the trip, all intent on adding the species to their personal tally for the year.

So far this season, Gordon, a retired newspaper photographer, has recorded 244 different types of birds in the Lower Mainland (which is defined as 264th Street west to the water), tying his total for the previous year.

READ ALSO: Despite reports of decline, birds flocking to national parks in Canadian Rockies

Now, with less than three months to go, he is hoping to improve that to 250 – a tall order because the remaining species are just not that common.

He has company in his quest.

“About a dozen of us [locally] are chasing this magical number of 250,” Gordon related.

Gordon, 67, had been what he calls a “casual” birdwatcher until his retirement, after which he began to devote more time to what he refers to as a “pastime.”

Okay, maybe a little more than just that.

“It’s a passion, which is all-involving,” Gordon commented.

He now has a not-for-profit blog, “listening to birds,” that is devoted to birdwatching, and features his many photos, at https://thecanadianwarbler.blogspot.com.

“I volunteer my time and expertise in photography, and my growing expertise in birdwatching,” Gordon said.

He likes the way birdwatching can lead participants into interesting tangents, specializing in particular areas.

“I’m interested in what birds are eating, the name of the tree they’re in, their habitat, and migration,” Gordon summarized.

He enjoys the amazed look in the face of novice birdwatchers when he has taken them to see mass migrations, like a recent arrival in Delta.

“Thousands and thousands and thousands of sandpipers migrating to South America through the Lower Mainland,” Gordon described.

It is about as ideal an avocation as one could hope for in a time of social distancing brought on by the pandemic, he maintains – especially for seniors.

Gordon recently took a group to Derby Reach Regional Park near Fort Langley, and found maintaining a safe distance was not a problem – though showing the images he shot using the back display screen of his digital camera proved somewhat challenging.

For fellow seniors, he recommends birdwatching as a way to get around the isolation that COVID has imposed on older, more vulnerable people, and experience social interactions with like-minded souls.

“All you need is a pair of good binoculars and a field guide.”

While there is a bit of good-natured competition between birdwatchers wanting to spot rare species, vying for numbers is not the point, he stressed.

“The thing about it is the camaraderie,” Gordon related. “Just go with the journey.”

For instance, one of his goals post-retirement was to visit every park in Metro Vancouver, and birdwatching helped him achieve that goal.

“This gets you out to places you wouldn’t normally go.”

READ ALSO: Rare bird spotted in Victoria draws enthusiasts from across the continent

One high-tech aid Gordon recommends obtaining is the free E Bird app, which links amateur birdwatchers to an online database of bird observations, operated by Cornell University – which provides scientists, researchers, and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance.

It has provided him with the experience of being a “citizen scientist” working with the university, and during a trip to Mexico, using the app, Gordon was easily able to tally more than 200 bird sightings.

Gordon says the best way to get introduced to birdwatching is to join a local naturalist club, with such groups available in Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford and Vancouver.

In Langley and Aldergrove, that would be the Langley Field Naturalists (LFN), who can be contacted online or emailed at langleyfieldnaturalists@gmail.com.

Bob Puls of the LFN has devoted considerable hours to birdwatching, but it isn’t his primary interest.

“I don’t consider myself a specialist. I consider myself a naturalist,” Puls elaborated.

“We take an interest in all forms of nature.”

Puls enjoys birdwatching, but he is careful to stress that he is not as passionately committed to the extent that John Gordon is.

“We taught John everything he knows, and now he’s teaching us,” Puls laughed.

Participating in a non-profit organization that aims to promote enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of the natural environment, the Puls said it offers a way for newcomers to find out what “clicks” and what doesn’t.

For example, now that the fall rains have begun, Puls will be looking for mushrooms.

“You can look at all sorts of fungi.”

By becoming a member of LFN, one also become a member of BC Nature, the provincial body, Puls said.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Drier weather produces larger numbers for 120th annual bird count in Langley

LFN members also takes part in the annual bird count and are currently involved in doing a bio-inventory of a parcel of Township land that is not open to the public.

As for the Brown Pelican that Gordon was pursuing, despite the less-than ideal conditions, he was able to spot it and even got a photo.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BirdwatchingCoronavirusLangley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Langley birdwatcher John Gordon had a close encounter with one of his subjects (John Gordon/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Langley birdwatcher and photographer John Gordon took this picture of a Townsend’s Warbler. (John Gordon/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

(Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives photo)
LETTER: Think of seniors when casting vote

With the provincial election on Saturday, a local seniors group reminds voters to think about elders

A request for a tax exemption by the Langley Food Bank has prompted a review of the way such requests are handled by Langley City (Langley Advance Times file)
Langley City reviews tax breaks after turning request by food bank

Was one of four groups asking to be added to the tax exemption list

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
COVID case confirmed at Fort Langley Seniors Community

One of five new cases reported by Fraser health Authority

Langley’s Ken Cormack (L) and Craig Brown won the B.C. Match Play Net Championship on Sunday, Oct. 18 in Richmond (Courtesy Ken Cormack)
Two ‘dads’ from Langley win B.C. Match Play Net Championship of golf

‘We were just doing it to have fun and have a laugh’

John Horgan brought the NDP campaign to Langley on Wednesday, Oct. 21, just three days before the B.C. vote (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Horgan brings NDP campaign to Langley

Predicts gains, says people are looking at the party ‘differently’ after three years

Mary Foote (right) took part in the Gutsy Walk in August 2020 at the age of 104. She was joined by son in-law Clarence and daughter Edith Olson. (family photo)
Langley woman turns 105 on Oct. 25

In August, Mary Foote took part in the Gutsy Walk to battle Crohn’s and Colitis

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Most Read