The early bird may get the worm, but the early birder gets to watch
The Portage Citizen — Early morning Tuesday walks on the “bird side” of Island Park has been turning up some surprises in the trees and ground, in the air and on the lake.
Experienced and knowledgeable naturalist Cal Cuthbert has so far led two walks around Island Park to view birds and explore the natural beauty this rare gem of a park has to offer.
The first walk on May 1 was pretty cold but an enthusiastic group met at the east side of Stride Place at 7 a.m. to begin Cuthbert’s month-long Tuesday morning explorations. True to the promise of spring and the rebirth it holds, the May 8 gathering was a bit larger and the weather a bit warmer.
Cuthbert grew up along Portage Creek, moved away following a career working the outdoors as a resource technician with Ducks Unlimited. Both he and his wife have now retired and have returned to live on part of the family farm near Delta Marsh. Truly a good-natured guide, Cuthbert shares his vast knowledge base of birds and habitat during his interpretive Tuesday morning walks.
“Bird watching is a real passion of mine,” he said. “Some guys are into fishing. Some guys into golfing, well some guys are into birding and natural history — I fit into the latter. A vast majority of people have some degree of interest in birds. It’s really about to ‘what level do you take it?’ ”
Cuthbert’s easy walks are a way for people to meet up, just go for a walk and explore the different habitat and “see what we can see.
“People who have a slight or remote interest in birds, but don’t feel confident enough in the identification, but would certainly grab a pair of binoculars and go out if they were with somebody that could help them…that’s the gist of what I am doing with these walks” Cuthbert explained.
“Because the walk is on familiar ground to everyone — at this great park — you can come and go. The walk would be a couple of hours, but you don’t have to do it all. If things are really fun and showing a lot of birds, maybe it might last longer.”
His idea behind the walk is to help improve your bird identification skills. “I’m the tutor guy,” he said. Cuthbert has been quick to identify birds often before others even have a hint the feathered aviator is nearby. To the uninitiated, that someone can identify a bird so quickly, is nothing short of impressive. Experience — he has seen 333 (and counting) species of birds in Manitoba alone and has either led or co-led birding tours throughout Manitoba for top American and European birding tour companies. — has given Cuthbert the necessary tools to identify birds by sound alone – not just song, but what kind of woodpecker it is by its pecking pattern! His vast knowledge of local flora he brings to the walk is an added bonus.
“Instead of going out and birding by my myself, maybe there’s somebody else out there who wouldn’t mind coming along.”
Birding in Portage and area is quite remarkable. The University of Manitoba Delta Marsh Field Station offers a stellar opportunity to view migrating waterfowl as does Crescent Lake to a lesser degree.
Cuthbert will continue leading a nature walk Tuesday mornings throughout May. If you are interested, meet the group on the east side parking lot at Stride place at 7 a.m.
“I enjoy getting out. It doesn’t matter if it is one person or a dozen. This is a great place to view birds and in a setting that is second to none.”
Seen and heard
List of bird species seen May 1:
Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Common Goldeneye, Franklin’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle.
List of bird species seen May 8
Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Franklin’s Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle and Purple Finch.
The sightings are on eBird under Region Portage la Prairie.
For more information, contact Cal Cuthbert at firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos by Mickey Dumont/The Portage Citizen