Lois Hole, the former lieutenant governor of Alberta, was so beloved that a provincial park was established in her honor. An avid gardener and nature lover, she would have been pleased to know that Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park is one of the best places to see birds in Alberta. This beautiful 1800-hectare provincial park is located at Big Lake Natural Area in St. Albert, just eleven kilometres southwest of Holes Greenhouses, the business that Hole established and spent her life building.
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Lois Hole, the Nature Lover
Lois Hole Provincial Park is a great spot to see and learn about birds in Alberta and this would have pleased Her Honour. She once said: “If we hope to preserve our way of life, the first thing we must do is rediscover our respect for the land, the water, and the entire natural world. And if we do manage to regain that respect, then we must make sure that human beings never lose it again.”
Related: If you want to explore other hidden gem parks, read our post about Big Knife Provincial Park.
Big Lake, A Globally Significant Important Bird Area
If you want to see birds in Alberta, Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park is a good place to start. More than 200 recorded bird species have been seen on Big Lake and the wetlands that surround it. Big Lake is recognized as one of the most important waterfowl habitats in Alberta. As many as 26,000 birds have been seen during the peak fall migration period. In addition to a variety of species of ducks, you can see thousands of tundra and trumpeter swans in late October. The birds use the lake as a staging area. Big Lake also supports a large colony of nesting Franklin’s Gulls. There are also nesting colonies of eared grebes, black terns and other species. Shore birds can be seen at the north end of the lake as well as other species like red-winged blackbirds.
The Viewing Platform & Boardwalk at Lois Hole Provincial Park
Standing on the viewing platform at the eastern end of the lake is my favorite thing to do at this unique provincial park. You can access the platform off Riel Drive in the city of St. Albert or from Red Willow Trail along the south bank of the river. This spot near the mouth of the Sturgeon River is a great spot to see and photograph Alberta birds. The 1.27 km John E. Poole Boardwalk traverses the Poole Interpretive Wetland. It can be accessed west of Ray Gibbon Drive, across from LeClair Way. The boardwalk is also an excellent place to see birds in Alberta and is another highlight of the park.
Supporters of Lois Hole Provincial Park
Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park was established in 2005 with the support and protection of the Alberta government, but many other organizations work to conserve Big Lake. Ducks Unlimited and the Shell Environmental Fund supported the development of the boardwalk trail system in the park. The Big Lake Environmental Support Society (BLESS) has been working for more than 20 years on the conservation of the Big Lake wetlands. Their efforts helped inspire the government to establish this provincial park and they continue to support the conservation of Big Lake.
Related: Read our post about Birding in Belize at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
Seeing Birds in Alberta is Fun!
Bird watching is one of the fastest growing hobbies in North America. If you spend time watching the birds at Lois Hole Provincial Park, you’ll understand why. Identifying birds in Alberta is challenging and it’s fun. Capturing a perfect bird photo is a real test of skill. Once you get started, you’ll get hooked.
More Birding Adventures: Read our post about Birding in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.