Your news this week: Watchout for wildlife - Page 8 Andrew Cafeteria - Page 9 Fire Prevention Week - Page 10 - 17 Read us online at www.lamontleader.com twitter.com/lamontleader Vol.2,7,Tuesday, No. 49 Tuesday, October 9, 2012 Vol. 7, No. November 8, 2011 Birds, brains, and behaviours at Elk Island National Park Educational hike allows tourists and locals to better understand the life of birds and birdwatching Birdwatchers gather across the viewing areas in hopes of seeing Elk Island National Parkâ€™s different species of birds, as well as listen and learn from superintendent Stephen Flemming. The birdwatchers also had opportunities to view the birds up close with Flemming's telescope as well as in the books Flemming brought. Jazmine Inkster Student Reporter "The key to a good telescope is an even better tripod." This was the first piece of advice given by Elk Island Superintendent Stephen Flemming to the birdwatchers attending Saturday's educational hike. The excursion started at the Astotin Lake Recreational Grounds, and took the onlookers around four different ponds to see many different types of waterfowl. Flemming has been birdwatching since the age of 16, and has been with Elk Island National Park (E.I.N.P.) for approximately two years. With his expertise, the attendees were given an abundance of information on many different types of birds, such as their feeding habits, their specific behaviours, their instincts, and of course how to spot them and tell them apart from other similar birds. There are over 100 species of birds that stop in E.I.N.P. before migrating south for the winter, and therefore the park is a great place for those who are hoping to get a closer look at the birds before they take off. The morning got off to a fairly chilly start, however the attendees quickly warmed up as they travelled from pond to pond and were able to experience an up close look at wildlife and the multiple types of birds that can be found at E.I.N.P.. With the help of Flemming, onlookers were able to use the telescope to see the birds as would not normally be possible with only a simple pair of binoculars. Among the subjects that Flemming educated the birdwatchers on, was the migration patterns and instincts of birds and their young. Flemming explained that contrary to popular belief, birds' young do not actually follow their parents on their first migration. Often times, the young will be left behind to figure it out on their own. This, explains Flemming, is where instincts play in. During a bird's migration, there are a great deal of things that will help a bird's sense of direction, and ability to recognize where they are, so they can come back to their same ponds year after year. Among these are a few simple reasons that are obvious, such as sight and landmarks, smells in the air, and the direction of the sun. However, Flemming explained to the audience, that birds are also equipped with their own sort of 'magnet'. This magnet is composed of metal deposits in the bird's brain. These deposits allow migrating birds to feel the natural magnetic poles in the earth, so they always know exactly which direction they are going. As the group switched between ponds, the numbers and types of birds varied, but there was always something to look at and talk about. Even if it was not directly related to birds, there was always something interesting. At one point in the journey, the group was able to enjoy one pond with an estimated 180 birds in it. "When you're doing waterfowl census', one of the first things to do is just whip across what you have, because they're always moving." explains Flemming. As birds in general move in flocks, Flemming explains that you have to count the number of flocks, and then remember how many birds will usually be in that bird species' flock. Some of the other birds the birdwatchers were able to take in were Coots, gadwalls, mallards, buffleheads, yellow legs, greater yellow legs, and a herrier hawk. In saving the best for last, the last stop the birdwatchers took was to watch a flock of trumpeter swans. The individuals were all excited to take a turn at the telescope, and be able to see the breathtaking sight up close. Flemming explained that swans, like other birds will generally come back to the same nesting grounds and ponds every year, however they have a much longer life span. "They live 30 years, So you kind of get to know them." However, as excited as the group was to see the swans, they were looking forward to going back in for a group lunch of moose chili, vegetarian chili, and various buns. A good time was had by all, and everyone was able to go away with a little bit more knowledge than they came in with.