A volunteer from New Zealand on working at Le Nichoir
By Natasha Nicholson

TashWhen you step through the doors of Le Nichoir, you are met with either a hum of activity or the crowing of our educational bird, Kona – whichever is louder. This is a place where yesterday presented a different challenge from the day before that, and no two Mondays are the same. If variety is the spice of life, then this place has it in bucketfuls.

For over a year now I have been making the pilgrimage from downtown Montreal to Hudson to volunteer at the Centre. I have come a long way from day one, learning on the run (to be honest, I don’t run; it is more like a brisk walk). Between Wednesday and Friday the action levels are amped up to resemble a scene from a Die Hard film, yet the staff never cease to amaze me. They really are “Energizer Bunnies” that just seem to keep going no matter what, because what matters most is the care that our feathered patients receive.

With every day spent at Le Nichoir, I accumulate more memories and knowledge. Like always counting how many birds there are in a mesh cage before opening it at feeding time – there is always one little ninja that will make a break for it. Always be brave when plunging your hand into the bird food freezer: you never know what might be in the darkness. No matter how beautiful you think Northern cardinals are, their beaks are like vice grips and they will use them. When it comes time to release birds, you might just see some of the most spectacular aerial acrobatics of your life as they try to avoid capture; this obviously followed closely by the best part of the journey – watching them soar into the air.

The kindness and compassion that the people at Le Nichoir have seems to be endless, not only for the birds but for the public, with whom they are in contact on a daily basis. I am simply grateful that during my time so far here in Montreal, I have had the opportunity to work with such a unique group of people. Amid the chaos, this Kiwi far from her home country has managed to keep pace with the best of them and, along the way, has helped to rehabilitate some of Canada’s most alluring avian species.