Passing birding knowledge on

People who have been birdwatching for many years store an enormous amount of information in their heads – the kind of experiences and emotions you can’t learn from a book or website. To foster an appreciation for nature in new generations, it is essential that information be passed on.

Do you have years of birding experience? For the sake of the birds, become a mentor to an eager new birdwatcher; lead a tour; start a young naturalists club; give a talk. Looking at beautiful bird photos on the computer is one thing, but there is no substitution for a personal introduction to the magic of nature. Pass it along – the birds will thank you for it!

This article was originally posted on the Birds Calgary blog, and immediately captured my attention. I found it through the Bird Canada blog.  It presents the complete juxtaposition of bird watching today, with the old guard encouraging and passing on their knowledge to a newer generation.

Matthew Sim is a high school student who has only been birding for about five years. His enthusiasm for birds is infectious, and when he collided with Gus Yaki, it was a match made in heaven. As much as Gus loves birds and nature, he loves passing on his knowledge even more.

Famous Birders: Gus Yaki
By Matthew Sim

It has been a while since I last did a famous birders post but today, we have a very special expert birder and naturalist who some, if not most of us know personally; Gus Yaki.

Gus is a lifelong naturalist who has had a profound effect on numerous Calgarians, Albertans and people from across Canada and many other countries. In November 2009, I was just starting to get seriously into birding and enjoying nature when I went on a Nature Calgary field trip to Fish Creek Park led by Gus; he did such a great job leading the trip that he helped to propel me into the world of birding. Gus leads many trips throughout the year whether they be birding, botany or anything else dealing with nature.

Originally from North Battleford Saskatchewan, Gus used to walk 3 miles to school each day and got to learn and enjoy local fauna and flora this way. He started a nature tour service and, in 1983, led a trip around North America, following in the footsteps of Roger Peterson and James Fisher who had gone 30,000 miles around North America 30 years earlier. As Peterson’s and Fisher’s journey was immortalized in the book Wild America, so Gus’ trip was immortalized in the book, Looking for the Wild, written by Lyn Hancock, who was on the trip with Gus. Gus is very active in all conservation, birding and overall nature aspects of Calgary.

Below are some questions I asked Gus about various aspects of his birding and natural life and his responses.

Gus Yaki with injured Ring-billed Gull.      Photo Bob Lefebvre.

When did you become interested in birds and nature?

I had nothing to do for nine months before I was born, so I listed all the bird sounds that I heard: as a result, I had a life-list (heard only) of 14 species when I took my first breath.

Seriously though, I don’t ever remember not being interested in birds and nature. One of my first teachers had a little 3 x 6 inch bird booklet. Walking almost three miles to school, I would see a bird on its nest. At school, during recess, I would thumb through this little publication to find a matching description. On the way home, I would confirm that I had correctly identified it.

Later, the government provided a lending library service to those living in Saskatchewan, so I was able to borrow such books as Birds of Canada by P. A. Taverner, with illustrations by Allan Brooks. Needless to say, I soaked up those illustrations and texts, so that when I saw the real thing, I was able to instantly identify it.

By then, I had realized that birds were only part of nature: they needed the other plant and animal species to provide food, shelter, and reproductive services – as did all other species, so naturally, I expanded my horizon accordingly.

Read the whole article here

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