Go birding in Lac La Biche for a nature refresh
With over 230 species of bird, and 150 lakes spread across Lac La Biche’s boreal landscape, birding in the region is a great nature escape.
Lac La Biche, AB - You never forget your first time spying a pod of pelicans: my paddle dipping near silently, canoe shearing the water, I drifted past a small pod on one of Lac La Biche’s backcountry lakes. It’s the kind of experience that just makes you want to learn more about birds and birding.
Lora, Miya and Soléne Lamoureux have come to Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park here in Lac La Biche region for that very same reason. With over 150 lakes and ample boreal forest, the region is prime bird watching habitat, with over 230 species of birds frequenting the area. The provincial park’s island setting makes it a popular spot for a variety of birds - including pelicans, osprey, eagles and other shorebirds and waterfowl - and those who love watching them.
With some help from Alberta Parks and the Lac La Biche Birding Society, the Lamoureux family are learning some of the top bird watching tips for Lac La Biche region, as our cameras lean vicariously over their shoulder.
So what is it about Lac La Biche that makes it great for birding? And what kinds of birds and nature experiences can you find there? Let’s break it down.
Top 3 reasons to go birding in Lac La Biche
1. Lac La Biche’s boreal habitat and protected parkland make for great birding.
In case you missed it, here’s a cool fact you need to know: Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park is the only Alberta provincial park set completely on an island. At the heart of Lac La Biche (the lake itself), this makes it both ideal for bird watching, and for camping and paddling.
But it’s far from the only spot. With so many lakes and forested areas, with provincial and crown land for untold miles, sojourns into Lakeland Provincial Park afford plenty of places to begin your mission.
2. Camping and nature stays keep you close to the action.
When you’re out early in the morning or late in the evening for wildlife viewing, coming back to a cozy spot nearby makes a big difference. Overnight options on the island include cabins, tipi tents and your traditional tent and RV campsites.
The tipi camps are particularly unique, offering a low-barrier entry to the camping experience, without the need to have or bring much of your own gear. The convenience of full bed frames and cooking equipment makes leisure camping here even easier.
“The tipis were amazing!” says Lora. “It’s a great spot with a view of the lake… and it’s a nice change from regular tent camping.”
3. Over 230 species of birds frequent the area, including pelicans and herons.
Now to the birding: if you’re heading to Lac La Biche area to watch for birds, here’s what you can expect to find. Common birds in the area include the aforementioned pelicans (American White Pelicans), great blue herons, shorebirds including terns and cormorants, and waterfowl such as red-necked grebes, eared grebes, swans and geese.
On occasion, ospreys and eagles will also take to the area for their nests, which happens to be the case in recent years at Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park. Alberta Parks is careful to manage the area to ensure safe access while preventing unwanted intrusion on the birds, for their comfort and safety. But armed with some basic knowledge, good timing and a little luck, you can see these magnificent raptors in their habitat, like the Lamoureux family did.
“It was a gorgeous bird!” Lora reflected, afterward. “It reminded me a lot of hawks.”
As for pelicans, these large water birds visit the area in abundance and can be found on many local lakes. While you can spot them on occasion from land, one of the best ways to get closer views is by paddling (still keeping a respectful distance, of course).
For the Lamoureux family, the day of birding and hiking has reinvigorated their appreciation for the nature that’s in their own backyard. Our cameras, meantime, have feasted on the beauty of some incredible birds.
“We’ve always loved birds and our appreciation for them has definitely grown,” Lora sums up.
With boardwalk, shoreline and old growth forest trails, hiking at Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park is an excellent way to reconnect to nature, enjoy fresh air, bathe in the forest and spot birds as you go. And returning back to a cozy tipi tent, for evenings spent by the fire under Lac La Biche’s big skies, can turn a great day outing into an adventure.
WHEN YOU GO
Check out the Lac La Biche Birding Society for local info. The society runs annual winter and spring bird counts open to anyone.
Book your stay at Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park (SWCPP) and check more information from Alberta Parks here.
Through summer 2023, the pelican viewing decks at SWCPP at the park are undergoing repairs, and are inaccessible. Hit the water to see more of these magnificent birds. Water rentals can be found at McArthur Park, via Off Road Rentals.
#TakeItToTheLake in Lac La Biche
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