Bird Watching with David Stirling
December 17 2017 was the Christmas Bird count for Central Saanich, North Saanich & the Gulf Islands
I was approached by 2 avid bird watchers and asked to accompany another avid bird enthusiast who has been involved with this count since its inception in 1959, minus the 2 years he was unavailable.
Mr David Stirling, is the penultimate observer and a self-proclaimed Naturalist.... Born in Northern Alberta to parents who homesteaded on the edge of the boreal forest, he and his family collectively lived in their hand built log cabin, fondly referring to it as their family home. This home on the "edge of the wilderness" as David says was surrounded by deer, Moose, Woodchucks, many species of animals and of course, an abundance of birds.
David grew up there, walking 3 miles to the nearest school and having very few friends... A rather isolated but peaceful existence working around the farm.
When WW2 broke out, he had just finished high school and decided to enlist in the army ... Upon reaching Calgary for basic training, he woke up and saw the Rocky Mountains for the 1st time...
He then shipped off to England and immediately faced near misses as German planes bombed his camp... The next 5 years were spent defending Britain and the free world. During that time his older brother, also in the army was killed in battle.
After the war he returned to Canada (and his family home) later married and then decided to move to the West Coast (1955) in which Victoria on Vancouver Island became his permanent residence.
David and his wife Ruth spent two years in New Zealand and Australia watching birds, doing casual work and travelling by motorcycle, then later produced a book.
Birds, Beasts and a Bike Under the Southern Cross *
David, always familiar with nature, then took up a 25 year profession as a Park Naturalist working in BC’s Provincial parks , sharing his knowledge and love of nature with all people interested in the natural history of BC and these parks.
In 1959, David and his friend Alan Poynter organized the first Christmas bird count for the Victoria area. (Frank Chapman, naturalist and member of the Audubon Society is officially credited with starting the very first Christmas bird count in Florida in the year 1900.)
David said that back in the 60's there were around a dozen dedicated participants throughout the Victoria area and after the count they would all meet at one of the member’s homes for a get together and tally the bird numbers counted that day.
Today on this rainy, windy West Coast day, I met an extraordinary man, humble and of great character with an overwhelming love of nature and all things wild.
We enjoyed lunch together at Marys Cafe by the airport and spent a couple hours searching for bird life on the airport lands. It was a day of observing many raptors, Red Tailed Hawks, Coopers, Northern Harrier, Glaucous Gulls and others.
The elusive Meadow Larks avoided being counted as did the once common Skylarks.
Disappointing, but thats birding.
David mentioned that in the early days up to 900 Sky Larks had been counted, but loss of habitat due mainly to human expansion has caused their demise, plus the same story for many other species.
By 3 in the afternoon we had finished our visit and search for bird species and hopefully a pair of Nature minded individuals began a new friendship.
David is in his 97th year and he is by all means a great force in the birding community. Victoria and indeed planet Earth are fortunate to have such an informed and caring naturalist in their midst.
http://www.elderscouncilforparks.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/David-Stirling-Poster.pdf click button below for more information on this incredible man's life work.
http://www.agiopublishing.com/authors/davidstirling/ < copy/paste to link info about his book ... Beasts and a Bike Under the Southern Cross.
March 2018 .. I just received notice that my blog has been awarded a distinction of being one of the top 100 photography blogs in Canada.