The Mercier-Est Sightseers
Five years ago, Denis Clavet, Yoland Bergeron and Michel Couillard got interested in the tree swallows in the Parc de la Promenade-Bellerive. “I had just retired,” Clavet remembers, “and I didn’t want to stay at home doing nothing.” The former municipal employee had a passion for birdwatching as he strolled along the banks of the river.
“I took lots of bird photos,” he said, “and I wanted to share them. I decided to create a Facebook page, but I didn’t know how it worked, so I asked my daughters to help me.”
Clavet named his page “Les Badauds de Mercier-Est” (“The Mercier-Est Sightseers”), with the idea of being a witness to everyday beauty. Next to photos of birds, he added information about the neighbourhood, pictures of nature, stories and testimonials. Quickly, people become interested in his page. At the time of our meeting, the page had nearly 3,000 fans.
“I had a lot of people asking to collaborate with me,” said Clavet. “Yoland and Michel joined me. One thing led to another, and the idea became a collective. There are now a dozen photographers and reporters collaborating on the project.”
A Facebook page is great, but Clavet likes more action. “One day, we decided to take care of the birdhouses in the Parc de la Promenade-Bellerive,” he said.
He, Bergeron and Couillard have already installed 75 for tree swallows. The city gave them authorization to attach the little houses on street lamps and lets them ride around the park at the end of the season to clean them.
“The only salary we get,” said Clavet, with a delighted smile, “is when a swallow comes and builds their nest there. When people walk in the park, when they ask questions –that’s when we appreciate our work the most.”
Clavet had the idea of reaching out to troubled young people in the neighbourhood to build new birdhouses.
“We got the teens at the Centre jeunesse Mont Saint-Antoine involved,” he said. “They really helped us out, and we were able to show them the beauty of the neighbourhood.”
In 2016, the birdhouses were almost 80% occupied. They discovered the ones that were occupied at the end of September, when they were cleaning them. Clavet takes note of statistics to better understand birds’ habits, and shares his observations on his Facebook page.
“Happiness has no price,” he said, philosophically. “And you find it in the little pleasures.”
Grand défi Québec oiseau
From May 1 to May 31, bird watchers are invited to take part in the Grand Défi in two different ways. By observing, in teams, the various species that live or pass by a specific location, or by observing them in various locations. Live observations will be published on Twitter with the hashtag #GdefiQO