Friends of the Whyte: Banff Community Bird Walk with Peter Poole
Updated: Oct 25
Friends of the Whyte is a series celebrating community, featuring Whyte Museum members, donors, staff, and friends, to get to know them a little bit better.
This past summer, the Whyte Museum partnered with Banff Community Bird Walk in celebration of our multi-artist summer exhibition For the Birds with a special bird walk hosted by volunteer Peter Poole. Renowned both locally and internationally for his passion for all things nature and culture, Peter was generous to share this passion with a group of locals and visitors on a Saturday morning this past June.
The Banff Community Bird Walk is a volunteer-led group of birding enthusiasts, gathering since 1999. For this walk hosted by Peter and the Whyte Museum, about a dozen guests joined, mostly people wanting to learn about birds in the local area, with one couple arriving by car from Utah to Canmore the night before. The group started off around 8:15 a.m. along the marsh loop trail in Banff and soon found themselves immersed in the birdsong of warblers, sparrows, loons, and several other bird species.
"We observed about 30 species of birds and chatted about connections on the walk to the fine poet Jon Whyte, the writers of the west Wallace Stegner and Ed Abbey," said Peter. "One experienced mountaineer wanted to be able to distinguish the Hermit Thrush, so we chatted about Ed Abbey’s love of the Hermit Thrush and composer John Luther Adams chamber music piece about the same. Though we heard Swainson’s Thrush, at this time of the migration we would have a better chance of hearing the Hermit Thrush in the alpine."
"Much of our walk we (first) listened for birds, and then often found them," said Pete. "We heard the Yellow Warbler singing 'sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet,' and then saw the flying dandelion cross Warbler Alley. A well-behaved bear was seen by others near Philosophers' Walk."
Peter helped attendees attune their senses to the environment around them by bringing awareness to the experience of sight and sound, stopping from time to time along the walk to observe and listen. With a depth of experience and unwavering passion, Peter's profound appreciation for Banff's natural heritage ignited that same excitement amongst the attendees. Standing still on a sun-dappled path along the Bow River, with eyes and ears open to the melody of the wilderness, the group was spellbound as they soaked up the sounds of the morning symphony.
"(Bird walk attendees) Naomi, Simon, and I had a marvellous view of a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet at eye level, with the sun shining brightly on his ruby crown," said Peter. "And then we spotted a family of baby Coots with orange beaks and heads. I’d never seen that. Not having a good photo to share, I’ll have to keep this image, like the birdsong, in memory. Nature, as McIvor says, gives us just enough to want to go back for more."
The list of birds identified (most heard, many seen):
Great Blue Heron
Wilson’s Warbler (?)
(? warbler sp. - Oven Bird?)
(Flycatcher - sp.? - Alder ?)
The Whyte Museum extends our appreciation to Peter for his support and sharing his passion of the beautiful Bow Valley.