A life for the birds
It's springtime and there are birds aplenty

by Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 15/98) - Although a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, biologist Bob Bromley has never watched Hitchcock's horror classic, "The Birds."

"I've seen the previews, but for some reason I was never attracted to it," he laughs.

Bromley is instructing a bird-watching course again this year as we head into the prime of the season. As a 30-year bird-watching veteran, Bromley gets e-mail and phone calls all the time from proud naturalists who spy an unusual species.

"There's great camaraderie. It's a social thing as well as a personal thing," he explains.

Bromley, who has a doctorate in ornithology, is pleased with the 150 species, including 25 resident varieties of birds that can be found in and around Yellowknife.

"This is a very good area. We have some real different habitats," he says.

Spring makes for the best bird-watching because migratory species begin to return in their colorful nuptial or "breeding" plumage. As well, the trees and bushes haven't yet flowered, so the birds are easier to spot.

That means people can finally see something other than ravens and ptarmigan. Ravens, which some say have few redeeming qualities for a bird that we perceive to be intelligent, are

"extremely adaptable," according to Bromley. That means ravens annoy people all over the world by getting into garbage and crying out for food.

"They drive everybody nuts," Bromley admits, noting that they aren't seen as often at this time of year because they're nesting on the outskirts of town.

A particularly fascinating species is the arctic tern, which should appear soon. They spend winters in Antarctica -- meaning they circumnavigate the globe annually.

"Knowing these things when you're watching the birds adds another dimension to what you're seeing," he says.

Being a bird lover, it would be counterproductive for Bromley to be housing the enemy.

"I certainly don't," he replies when asked if he owns cats. He holds no disdain towards felines but notes that next to habitat loss, cats are the number 1 reason that birds wind up extinct.

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