Happy Father’s Day to the ultimate bird nerd

Me as a child with my father (Photo courtesy of Maia Herriot)

Me as a child with my father (Photo courtesy of Maia Herriot)

June 16, 2019 | by Maia Herriot

There is an infamous home video of my older sister learning to ride a bike. My dad is coaching her while my mom records the milestone on a rented camcorder. When the video begins, my dad is slowly pushing my sister along, holding on to the back of her bike as she tries to push the pedals hard enough to get going. Suddenly, he lets go of her bike, not in a throw-your-child-into-the-pool-to-teach-them-how-to-swim parenting way, but because he needs both hands free to lift his binoculars to his eyes. (Who brings binoculars with them when teaching their kid how to ride a bike?)

He shouts my mother’s name and points upward (suddenly, he can hold the binoculars with one hand). He has spotted some kind of hawk, and my mother, the cinematographer, turns away from the wobbly child roaring down the sidewalk and swings the camcorder toward the sky.

My sister crashed, and the hawk flew away.

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Me as a baby with my father (Photo courtesy of Maia Herriot)

Me as a baby with my father (Photo courtesy of Maia Herriot)

My parents spend every weekend at their property out by Indian Head, Saskatchewan. The property, which my family and I call "The Land,” earned its name because apart from a small yard site and private shallow lake, it's really just a quarter-section of open prairie. From childhood to adolescence, I had to spend every weekend out there while my friends spent their weekends at their lakefront houses with motorboats and sandy beaches. It was hard not to resent my parents for refusing to develop our land in that way.

I now know that “The Land” happens to be native grassland. Friends of my parents, who are as passionate about conservation as they are, purchased land adjacent to the original quarter-section. “The Land” combined with the land adjacent to it total 480 acres (194 hectares) of native grassland in Aspen Parkland that will now be preserved and inhabited responsibly — thanks to my parents and their friends.

My father is a conservationist, and the reason I have known about the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) for as long as I can remember. He is the reason I jumped at the chance to apply for my role as the communications intern with NCC’s Saskatchewan Region.

My father has written books and articles, started movements and organizations. He has done good work to protect Saskatchewan’s native grasslands. The disappearing prairies are vital habitat for the birds he loves so much.

My father has done good work to protect Saskatchewan’s native grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Maia Herriot)

My father has done good work to protect Saskatchewan’s native grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Maia Herriot)

Last month, as I was walking around one of NCC’s properties with a team of conservation employees, we stopped every once in a while to identify a bird. While listening to my companions call out bird names, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that everyone lives their lives surrounded by birds, yet so many people never even look up.

So I’m glad my dad and I had to pull over for every blob on a fence post. Glad to have always been aware of my responsibility to protect this land. Glad to have the dad I have. Glad that I have always seen the birds. One of the best parts of working with NCC is knowing that I am giving other people the chance to see them too.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

The Conservation Internship Program is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Summer Work Experience program.

Maia Herriot

About the Author

Maia Herriot is the summer communications intern for NCC's Saskatchewan Region.

Read more about Maia Herriot.

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