“It’s not uncommon,” says Barbara Haley of the Nova Scotia Bird Society, for volunteers to field requests from out-of-province visitors “who want to see a specific bird.”
Haley was preparing for such an excursion, this time with a birder from the United States. Ruth Carlier hails from Florida, according to Haley, and contacted the Nova Scotia Bird Society requesting a tour.
Haley is one of about 600 Nova Scotia Bird Society members and, on behalf of the society, provides complimentary bird tours.
In an email following the tour with Carlier, Haley noted, “I think we saw about 45 species yesterday with Ruth — two of which were ‘lifers’ for her, meaning she had not seen them before. One was a Nelson’s Sparrow .... Another bird we saw was a Bobolink which is considered a ‘threatened’ bird in Canada.”
Providing guided tours is just one feather in Haley’s birding cap. She serves on the Nova Scotia Bird Society’s board of directors and among other things co-ordinates volunteers.
The Nova Scotia Bird Society is a non-profit that took flight in 1955 catering to “... the study and conservation of wild birds in Nova Scotia,” according to the website.
A testament to the success of the organization, Haley says the society — and particularly David Currie, president of the society — is commonly called on by researchers and members of the media to provide data or comment on birding questions.
The society does not have paid staff. Volunteers do 100 per cent of the work. They may plan meetings, organize and guide field tours, accept speaking engagements, facilitate a booth at a trade show or tend to bird feeders at local seniors’ facilities.
The society produces an extensive professional quarterly publication called Nova Scotia Birds filled with reports, stories and photographs all contributed by volunteers.
The society curates an informative website and several volunteer administrators respond to the posts on the society’s private Facebook group page. Haley says requests to join the Facebook group are considered by a team of volunteer administrators.
Members of the Facebook group report sightings and descriptions of birds, upload unique photos and pose questions about birds, feeders and “even what cameras to use,” says Haley. The society now has more than 11,000 Facebook group members.
For Haley, birding is not only about data collection; it’s also about the experience.
“Birding for me is about having an absolute place of peace,” says Haley, adding that occasionally she will rise before sunrise, make her way to where birds nest, perch herself in the still darkness and wonder, “What am I doing here?”
“And then the air fills with sound,” she says, “and immersed in this ... everything else falls away.”
If you’re interested in being a birder, visit NSBirdSociety.ca.