It’s shocking to think even the world of birdwatching has been jolted by the covid-19 pandemic.

By Paul Nicholson

Apart from day-to-day birdwatching, there are other changes.

In each calendar year, a subset of birders will undertake a “Big Year,” trying to see as many different species as possible in a particular geographic area. With strict limits on getting into bird habitats, most of those plans will have been abandoned.

Many birding events are being cancelled and others will inevitably follow suit. If festival cancellations affect your plans, remember to cancel travel reservations, too.

This alone will represent a significant hit to the economy. Lots of bird watchers travel internationally and regionally each spring. The money that had been earmarked for transportation, hotels, restaurants and guides has been taken out of the economy.

Citizen science initiatives will suffer setbacks, too. Since the launch of the eBird platform in 2002, data uploaded to it has grown annually, but this important data flow will be interrupted this year.

It’s also likely that donations to nature organizations will dip in the face of widespread layoffs, stock market declines and general economic insecurity.

Do we just throw up our hands? Certainly not!

“Even though opportunities are limited, we can spend this time getting to know our local patch, be it an apartment balcony or backyard or even the view outside your window,” Lynne Freeman, president of the Ontario Field Ornithologists, reminded members. “It’s a great time to practise your song identification and to observe the fascinating behaviour of your local birds as they set up territories.”

My birdwatching in the field has always been complemented by online, virtual birding. It’s time to do a little more. Read a bird-themed book, take an online course, check out some birdcams or start nature journalling.

Birdwatchers could also try going off on a tangent. What about identifying all of the trees or lichen species around your home? My granddaughters have been observing squirrel behaviours in their backyard.

Hopefully, charitable giving can flow through, even if it is rescaled this year. There are many opportunities to contribute, whether it’s to a regional or national organization.

Finally, remember you can live vicariously through birds. Their flights won’t be cancelled. Admire how some shamelessly congregate in great groups. Observe how they will often be less than two metres from each other. Remember how that felt, back in the day?

Nature notes

Closure notices for parks, trails and other birding locations and updates about rescheduled or cancelled nature events continue to be posted. There is no access to Point Pelee National Park. Thames Talbot Land Trust properties are temporarily closed. All of Ontario’s outdoor recreational amenities, including sports fields and playgrounds, were closed this week. Carolinian Canada’s Go Wild Grow Wild Green Expo planned for April 18 in London has been postponed. Chatham-Kent has delayed issuing access permits for the Blenheim lagoons. The Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch at the Beamer Memorial Conservation Area has been suspended.

Most nature organizations have made adjustments and are carrying on with their core programs in ways that allow for proper precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.