“An interesting retirement”: Member Gordon Kelly’s adventures in forestry and duck banding

My family home was in Montreal, and my grandparents had a place in the Laurentians. It was 400 acres of woodland, but as a boy, I remember feeling like I could explore forever. So, I was brought up in two places. And I liked the wild better.

I became interested in birds very early. At 13, in 1947, a friend and I found a local bird club, and we were the youngest members in history! Back then, there were rules about kids going to movies or lectures without an adult, so until we were 16 one of our moms had to come. I remember the thrill of going on field trips with experienced bird watchers, who helped me identify birds even just by song!

At 16, I had a family member whose sister was married to a forester and I thought that sounded just amazing. I went for an interview when I was 16, but I couldn’t be hired for a summer job until I was 17. I was hired that summer and sent to the farthest operation in the St. Maurice Division called Cooper Lake, situated at the headwaters of the Nottaway River which flows into James Bay.

Fall folliage in field next to the La Croche river

Fall foliage in field next to the La Croche river. Photo by Gordon Kelly

It was my first time in the Boreal Forest. 1951, Virgin forest, and logging was just beginning. The black spruce…unbelievable. It was then I decided to become a Forester.

In 1987, with my son, we purchased our woodlot of 225-acres. There were some red pine plantations on the property dating back to the early 1960s. We have since added another 225-acres for a total of 450 which we manage with my son and grandson who are also Foresters. I can’t tell you what it means to me, to my family. It’s the most beautiful place, full of memories and stories.

And about 20 years ago back in 1996, not far from my house, I was walking on a trail near a swampy area, very overgrown. I noticed a pair of Wood Ducks. As I went exploring, I realized it was an old beaver pond, and that I could pull out some of the alders and other growth. One of my sons, who today manages migratory bird banding stations in the Yukon, at the time was learning to band at Long Point. Word spread and I was contacted by a biologist who asked me to start banding.

Image of Gordon Kelly releasing a Wood Duck

Gordon Kelly releasing a Wood Duck

On average, we band 155 ducks per year, some that return. I had one last year that I banded five years ago! And one year we had 255 ducks!

It’s been an interesting and rewarding retirement indeed!

Why do I support Nature Canada? Because education is so important. You see it mostly in the kids, but really so many Canadians don’t get out in nature. We’ve become disconnected. We can’t just continue to exploit nature without consequences. I’m a Guardian of Nature monthly donor, and I know that my regular support makes a difference. It means Nature Canada can get people more involved in nature, in making citizens and our governments more aware of the importance of nature conservation.

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