The Joys of Bird Watching in Sylvan Lake
Watching a White-Winged Scoter race across Sylvan Lake in the early morning is like peeking into another world. Tourists may flock to Sylvan Lake but so do the birds, making the community a great spot for bird watchers.
What you might not know, is that during spring, Sylvan Lake is host to around 150 species of birds including species that stopover on their migration north to summer feeding and breeding grounds.
“Birding is a great way to get outside. I find their behaviours so fascinating to watch. Some of the things birds do and their behaviours are so interesting,” said local birder Judy Boyd.
The lake is an important habitat for migrating birds in need of food and rest not to mention a variety of water birds who “summer” in Sylvan Lake. The local trails, lake, and the Sylvan Lake Natural area offer good vantage points to observe local and visiting birdlife.
Tip: The best birding is often between dawn and 11 a.m., when birds are most active. This is often the case in the spring and early summer, when birds sing in the early morning.
Jarvis Bay Provincial Park
Located just five minutes outside of town, Jarvis Bay Provincial Park is a great spot with an interconnected trail system perfect for a bird watching hike. The trail follows along a shoreline cliff with opportunities to peek at the lake from various viewpoints.
Expect to see everything from ducks, Red-Necked Grebes to loons. But don’t be surprised to see something totally unexpected as migratory birds fly by.
Sylvan Lake Natural Area
For the more adventurous bird watcher, the Sylvan Lake Natural Area is an 11-hectare mature aspen/balsam/mixed woodland on the northwest shore of the lake. It’s a bush whack but the natural area displays a tremendous variety of life.
Upon arriving look for a small overgrown, wet trail to the southeast. Birders can expect to view notable species such as Ruffed Grouse, Bald Eagle, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Ovenbird and more.
“The Sylvan Lake Natural Area involves bush whacking, but we’ve seen warblers and rough grouse. Bring your rubber boots,” Boyd said. The area is excellent for viewing waterfowl and Canada's largest woodpecker, the Plieated Woodpecker can be spotted here among the old growth trees.
Find it: Turn south on Range Road 2-4 off Rainy Creek Road (Twp Rd 40-0 ). The Natural Area is at the end of the road.
Local trails and parks
Sylvan Lake has over 26 kilometres of trails connecting beautiful parks and the famous lakefront. Sylvan Lake was named from the latin word ‘sylvanus’ meaning “of a forest” for the many trees in the area. Surrounding the lake is an abundance of poplar and birch trees that create a fantastic canopy for a variety of bird species.
The CP trail is a favourite spot to listen to the songs of local woodland birds. It runs straight across town from east to west and much of it is covered in tree canopy. About an hour to walk one way, the trail is completely paved.
According to the Red Deer Naturalists, Central Alberta’s common residents include: Black-billed Magpie, Boreal Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, House Finch, Merlin, Common Raven, Mallard, Canada Goose, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue Jay, and many others.
So book your stay and plan your next bird watching adventure in Sylvan Lake!