Calgary

What's behind the 'amazing' surge of animal activity?

Humans may be physically distancing and staying home when possible, but the animal kingdom is thriving in our absence. 

As people stay home, geese take over parks, coyotes explore boldly and birds nest freely

Chris Fisher says it doesn't take much for a Canada goose to get an inflated ego and strut around like it owns city pathway or green space. (Bruce Reeve/CBC)

Humans may be physically distancing and staying home when possible, but the animal kingdom is thriving in our absence.

The geese are out and emboldened. In the absence of human food and scraps, gulls are back on the Bow River chowing down on the dead fish left behind after the winter's melt. Bohemian waxwings are being loud and flocking to backyards for leftover crabapples.

Cheryl Myers takes frequent walks in Inglewood with her dog. This week she captured a breathtaking sunrise with a twist. 

"With the chatter of all the birds, it just sounded like I should be at a beach house on the seaside," she said. "That was pretty amazing to see."

In her video, you can see and hear thousands of seagulls flying overhead, their white wings in contrast to the bright orange and pink sunrise.

Myers said this spring she's seen more birds and geese closer to the pathways. She's watched a coyote playfully hunt in the field across from her home and other animals seem to be more present.

"Being home with two adult kids in university and a husband, everyone's in a different spot doing calls and online courses. It's really nice just to go out and catch your breath," she said. "Just experience nature how it should be. It's really nice not having a whole bunch of people around to scare that off."

Others are seeing skunks, deer, porcupines and beavers hard at work.

It's become a live show, for some. Veronica Lawrence described the scene in her backyard a week ago.

"It was absolutely invaded by starlings, waxwings and robins," Lawrence wrote. "They spent the entire day camped out eating old crabapples. I've never seen anything like it. It was nearly 10 hours of just watching them eat and snuggle on branches."

Cheryl Myers said her walk by the Bow River felt like a stroll down a beach with all the seagull activity. (Submitted by Cheryl Myers)

Professional biologist Chris Fisher is finding reasons to be excited during this unprecedented pandemic.

"Calgary is one of the great wildlife cities of the world, because we are so close to the Foothills and we have these streams of wildlife coming in as a result of the Elbow and Bow [rivers] and Fish Creek," Fisher said.

"It'll be interesting to look back to this very time to see if we will see permanent change within the relationship between Calgarians and the wildlife community."

Fisher said in the absence of human activity, the animals that used to live in our shadow are now roaming more freely.

Predators who would normally sneak around your neighbourhood or come out at night, are more comfortable owning the city streets any time of day.

As the pandemic has emptied city streets, Bohemian waxwings are loudly making themselves known while flocking to backyards for berries and crabapples. (The Canadian Press)

This also means nests are popping up in new places, too.

"Some of the resident animals that are beginning nesting may be nesting in areas where they previously were a little bit more disturbed," Fisher said. "I'm thinking about species like Canada geese and mallards." 

But he said it's also a matter of people seeing things that used to fly under the radar.

Considering many are home without distractions, eyes are wandering to the window and what people see there is new and exciting.

Like the Bohemian waxwings, which he said have been in the city since December.

"A lot of people, myself included, have seen dozens or hundreds of these beautifully plumaged birds descend on the mountain ash and crabapple trees in full force," he said. "Making a big racket and just bring a wonderful conclusion to their time here in Calgary before they migrate."

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