SHA chief medical officer, Sask. photographer take solace in birdwatching during pandemic

·3 min read

From puzzles to knitting, people adopted plenty of pandemic pastimes to help them through 2020.

Now, the Saskatchewan Health Authority's chief medical officer and amateur birder Dr. Susan Shaw hopes others will get outside and look through the trees.

Shaw said she turned to her backyard as COVID-19 numbers started increasing in Saskatchewan.

"I'm really lucky. I live in an old neighborhood with lots of big trees and lots of birds all around me," Shaw told Saskatoon Morning. "I thought, what could I do to actually make the birds come into my backyard so I'd have something to look at and watch and hopefully enjoy?"

Shaw went out and bought a feeding station. Within a day, there were three blue jays enjoying the food.

"Now every day we look outside and we see all kinds of birds, some that I've seen before, some that I've never seen before," she said.

"My absolute favourite is this female downy woodpecker that comes. And she's not very big, but she's very confident and she doesn't really like to share too much, but she does let others get a chance once she's had her fill."

Meghan Mickelson Photography/Facebook
Meghan Mickelson Photography/Facebook

Shaw says it's been relaxing to look out the window instead of at her phone, computer or TV.

"My family joined in. It's not unusual if I'm at work at the hospital for my family to send me photos or even videos of what's going on with the birds in the backyard," she said.

"It has given me joy and it's given me a much bigger appreciation for the little things, the beauty all around me."

Meghan Mickelson Photography/Facebook
Meghan Mickelson Photography/Facebook

Shaw isn't the only one watching birds to pass the time during the pandemic. Meghan Mickelson is with Wild About Saskatoon, a group that promotes exploring the natural urban environment.

Mickelson started birdwatching a few years ago after her daughter made a little milk jug bird feeder and put it in the backyard. Now she has multiple feeders out and watches many birds come and go.

She said it has been a great way to disconnect from the stresses of the pandemic.

"I just find it really relaxing," Mickelson told The Morning Edition. "It's just been really enjoyable to be able to connect with nature in such a quick and easy way."

Meghan Mickelson Photography/Facebook
Meghan Mickelson Photography/Facebook

Mickelson has some advice for people hoping to start birdwatching during 2021. Simply get a feeder and some seed from a grocery store or local garden centre, and find a place to hang it where it'll be a little sheltered. She said a bird feeder with a tray is the best to attract birds.

"But if you don't have that, you could also just put out a plate or like the bottom of a planter or something like that," she said. "If you put the feeders out, the birds will come."

Mickelson recommended people also join the "Sask Birders" group on Facebook for tips, tricks and to help identify unique birds.