Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Birding, Butterflying and a Confrontation

Well!  I've had a few weekends go by at Tommy Thompson since the last post.  Went a week with no internet from doing field work so it's taken a little bit getting back into the swing of things (not to mention rested up to not feel like the walking dead!).

Unfortunately while leading the bird hikes I am trying (hard!) not to actually be taking photos..so this will be a little lacking in the photo department!

Two weekends ago was a fairly quiet day when it came to the bird hike.  We saw quite a few barn and tree swallows in their usual spots (either flying overhead or at the area where the new building is being built perched along the wires).  One of the most exciting finds, which I didn't realize at the time, until I came back and looked at my photos...were that some of the baby birds were infact baby bank swallows!  There was this little boy with us (probably about 8 years old) who was awesome and spotted a mockingbird, which was actually a first for me!  A great white Egret was resting in the Cell one area of the park, along with a few mallards and the every playful Kingfisher trying to grab himself a meal. While walking away from Cell one we were able to hear a Spotted sandpiper off in the distance!  Otherwise..that is really about all we really saw, it's been quite the quiet days so far.

Baby Bank Swallows
Barn Swallows
Great White Egret
The next weekend at Tommy Thompson Park happened to be the Toronto Butterfly Festival!  I was set to give 3 tours throughout the day and each of them seemed to go fairly smoothly without hiccups.  It's always so interesting meeting the people come out to these events and always amazing to see the wide variety of experience levels.  Some people make me feel like I need to read through my Bird ID book about 20 more times a day, and others who are less experienced make me excited to teach them what little I feel that I know! We were able to see only a few butterflies this day: Monarch, Cabbage White, Yellow Sulphur, and a White Admiral which was the highlight.  While many people were very excited to go on the search for butterflies, others really surprised me with their frustration that butterflies were not abundant and were not displayed throughout the park similar to a conservancy.  It felt strange to me needing to explain to people (especially grown-ups) that the butterflies in this park were not brought here for display and we could not make them sit perfectly on a flower for you...and that instead they are free and migrating through on their long journey making you play a game of "hide and seek" for a good shot.  It was a real reminder that many people in this area have not grown up along side nature but instead probably are used to museums and conservancies/zoos with animals on display.  Either way, I was very happy that they came out!

American Goldfinch on a Thistle.
The last part of this is unfortunately going to be a little rant on my end.  At the beginning of one of the tours a lady was chatting with me about a lot of little things when she inquired about my necklace, which is a Browning symbol that my boyfriend had given me as a gift.  I explained to her that I am a waterfowl hunter (as many of you who know me know) and that it was just a symbol of a company.  She suddenly started screaming really loudly "SHAME ON YOU" over and over again, then stormed off to join another tour.  I was initially incredibly shocked to have someone scream at me, then immediately became very embarrassed with over 30 eyes looking around to why someone was "shaming" me, their tour guide.  Now, after a week or so thinking about it I am not only hurt at the quickness her judgement of my character turned but I was even more upset that I wasn't able to "defend" what I do and attempt to have an educational debate.

I wish I could have told her that:

1) I completely and totally understand her disgust and repulsiveness towards hunting.  Not too long ago I was in the exact same frame of mind and also seriously contemplating becoming vegetarian. Unfortunately my doctor flipped a lid when I mentioned it, worried about my already incredibly low iron levels and said it would not be in the best interest of my health.  Being an environmental studies student I looked into other ways and learnt through a visit to an Ontario park about hunting and the role it plays in conservation and one's connectiveness to nature.

2) That not all hunters are life-taking, murderous, trophy chasing, killing machine assholes that they are all too often depicted as. Many of those who I have connected with have some of the highest respect for nature and all beings, whether they be human, animal, or plant. Many have admitted to me that they have practiced for years to get the perfect shot outside of hunting so that when they do go out for an animal it has the quickest and painless death, and once they have an animal...they have many times cried for it's loss and thanked it for what it's given them.  As cheesy as it sounds, it's 100% true.

3) I would tell her that hunters wouldn't be able to hunt if the ecosystems of what they eat either didn't exist or were unhealthy.  The vast majority of hunters are very aware of their surroundings, understand the animals biology, life cycle, and habits.  Most duck hunters I have met have said the most important thing is to be able to ID a duck flying (which for anyone who has tried...it's CRAZY difficult!).  Hunters have often been referred to even as the pioneers of the conservation movement. Every year hunting related organizations direct millions of dollars towards wildlife habitat conservation.  Ducks Unlimited (Including US, Canada and Mexico) put over $85 million towards conservation efforts and over $3 million towards conservation education in 2011 and 2012 totalled (Click the link to see the auditor report). Other organizations such as the OFAH and Delta Waterfowl also contribute to conservation and securement of land to be maintained.  In addition to these organizations, hunters help with their own private land creating habitats such as prairies, wetlands, and forest. The understanding of "if you don't take care of it, it wont be there in the future" is very understood..with the majority.

Sunrise on Luther Marsh
4)  I was once told by a hunter that you have never truly lived life until you have watched the sun rise over a river, fog lifting from the water as ducks sit quietly, take off, and land on the water.  After experiencing this...It's one of the truest words.  It is something that you can experience with and without an intent to hunt.  I came across a statistic from a Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference in 2011 that said "up to 75% of hunters are motivated to hunt each year because hunting connects them physiologically to nature like no other activity". That as well..can never be more true.  Not only are you more aware of the natural world around you, but every night you are surprisingly that much more thankful for the meal on your plate, because you recognize it was a life.

5) Lastly (certainly not least...but it's getting a little lengthy now), I have tried very hard to use the word "majority" because I recognize that these attributes can not be extended to everyone.  There are many levels and aspects of hunting that I (as well as many others in the lifestyle) disagree with.  For example, my biggest is those who sport hunt. I firmly believe that if you do not eat it or use it in some way other than a head on your wall, you shouldn't be out hunting it.  I recognize that there are, more of these people than I probably think and hope that there are, and it is these individuals who paint the lifestyle and hobby in a bad light.  I hope that you can recognize and understand that we are all not like this and that although you may personally never wish to partake or fully agree, I wish that you learn to respect other lifestyles different of yours and that it doesn't call for a "public shaming" of those who do different.

That, is what I wish she could have heard.