Doug Smyth’s photo in Birds Canada calendar

Physical Education faculty member and Nature photographer Doug Smyth’s photo is featured in the Birds Canada 2024 Calendar, which is mailed out to 15,000 people across Canada.

Kate Dalgleish of Birds Canada said that “in 2023 nearly 2,000 photographers submitted images, so the competition is fairly fierce. A few of Douglas’s shots were in the running. Kudos on capturing such incredible moments with birds!”

Doug is happy that his photo will be part of people’s daily lives in the coming year: “I realized that to-do lists, family get-togethers, weddings and funerals will all be written onto this calendar all across Canada. In so many kitchens my Black and White Warbler (pictured) will contribute to moments of family. My friend the Black and White Warbler would be proud. Like an old friend, I hope to see him next year.”

Doug recounted taking the photo: “The photo was taken on May 13, 2023, at Parc de la Frayère on the South Shore of Montreal. At some time during the month of May, a massive migration occurs where migrating warblers stop to rest and fuel up for their remaining journey quite frequently on their way to our northern Laurentian and Boreal forests.

“This park borders between Boucherville and Varennes. It attracts a large number of migrating birds in the spring because, although small, it has many ecosystems like the Saint Lawrence River, a marsh and some forested areas with lots of flowering  trees and a dramatic increase of insect life at that time of year.

“This Black and White Warbler was doing what Warblers do on their stopover, moving quickly along a vine snapping up all the bugs he could find. The photo had some challenges in it as I photographed the bird against the light in the lower part of the some vegetation, hence he was also in shadow. As he was moving along the vine I caught the moment when he suddenly perched completely upside down in the middle of a quite large branch of the vine. At that time, I said to myself: “What a silly bird….too funny!” Postprocessing brought out his details and his humour even more.”

Doug became interested in birding in his 20s and more recently in photography. He recently gave a workshop at Ped Day on birdwatching and meditation and plans to offer it again.

“My bird photography is being used in many ways at Dawson,” he said. “In my outdoor education courses, I have often included teaching students bird identification skills so they can use them during the course and hopefully afterwards as they move on from Dawson. I have recently taught some of my Fitness Activities classes how to identify birds. Overall, students really enjoy being outside and they quickly appreciate how birding can be such a calming and low stress activity that anyone can do. Basically I want my students to care about  birds  throughout their lives so I give them a good start at Dawson.  I am actually thinking of developing a Physical Education course that would be solely about Birds Identification and developing a Nature Connection in students in the future.”

Doug reflected on the benefits of birdwatching and photography on well-being: “You find peace of mind when birding and even more so with photography, as you become completely focused on the moment and your subject.  Any cares about other aspects of your life, like career, finding a life partner, and finances. They all melt away.

“Birding and photography opens your mind  to a different world view. It brings peace of mind as you begin to recognize the constancy of the cycle of the seasons and how birds are a part of that.  I know it is spring when the first male red-winged blackbirds arrive, the first birds to return from the south. Others follow. I know it is the middle of May in later spring because the Warblers are present and singing.

“I know summer is upon us as all manner of birds have built their nests and are fledging their young. I know it is fall when the colours of the leaves change as well as the colour of the birds returning to their drab non-breeding suits.  No more need to impress the ladies! Then there is the fall migration and transition to winter where ecosystems are quieter and only the hardiest of birds like owls and woodpeckers remain.

“Seeing the constancy of these seasons and the return of my bird friends yearly takes me to a place of quiet contemplation where the wars that humans rain on each other and the political anxieties of the day disappear. There is a fragility in my feathered friends that face such long journeys on an earth that we are unfortunately abusing and yet like the seasons they survive. This gives me a sense of courage. If they can navigate their challenges successfully, I believe so can I.  I am at peace.”

To get a Birds Canada calendar, visit:

Last Modified: November 9, 2023