Safe birding habits

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Birding is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in North America and High River is lucky to have one of the pivotal international destinations right in our own backyard.

While birding enthusiasts have always known about Frank Lake, even when it was a dry lake for half the season, things are changing quickly at the lake.

A combination of a series of dams, as well as treated water from the Town of High River and Cargill Foods has created a sustainable wetlands ecosystem for countless birds.

The cattail and bulrush reed beds are home to thousands of eggs and nesting colonies. However, while the lake is serene for birders, it’s going to get a lot more attention.

The Town of High River has created a tourism website for Frank Lake, which is kept up and operated by Ducks Unlimited. A recent scenario where photographers were disrupting birds and nests is cause for concern in many ways.

Though 99 per cent of the people are diligent, safe birders, there are numerous scenarios where the few ruin it for the masses. Understand that Frank Lake is a conservation area first and foremost.

When using the lake for dog walking, birding or photography, please follow the rules. Keep your dogs on leash from April 1 to July 1. Stay out of the reed beds. Be patient and you’ll get your quality photographs.

Wouldn’t that be disappointing if one of the leading birding destinations was closed to only the birds because of a few who were violating the Alberta Wildlife Act?

Many of you can attest to the fact that you have traveled to destinations where photography is prohibited, or entering certain sites is banned. It wasn’t always like that, but a few ruined it for the many.

When out on the lakeshore enjoying the birds, keep your distance if you’re not sure how close you can get. In addition, if you can afford it, bring a long lens to photograph the birds in their habitat.

On the other hand, if you’re just there to watch the birds, bring a pair of binoculars. The birds won’t be the only ones who will thank you. Hundreds if not thousands of birders and photographers are set to flock to High River.

They want to see the birds, photograph them in flight and the vast majority of those are ready and willing to follow the rules. If you ever see someone disrupting nests and they’re being belligerent, the Report a Poacher line is available.

If you’re a longtime birder or a newcomer to the recreational activity, take the time to follow blogs, bulletins and updates as to safe birding practices. Go out on a tour with a seasoned veteran and ask questions about what you can do and what practices are prohibited.

With birding set to be a tourism draw into the Town of High River, it’s hard to tell how many enthusiasts are going to come into town, but one thing is certain.

Yes, it’s a good economic draw for the region, but only if it’s done safely and with the birds and their eggs in mind.




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