A Q&A with Ornithologist Catherine Jardine

We welcome many specialists on board our voyages, including world-renowned ornithologists. In travelling to some of the most remote regions in the world, many of our destinations are home to some of the rarest species of birds on Earth.

One of our resident Ornithologists, Catherine Jardine, has spent her life fascinated by the natural world, its critters and conservation. We had a chance to catch up with Catherine in between voyages and asked her a little bit about her passion for birding.

OOE: Tell us about how you became interested in birds.

Catherine: I was always interested in nature, but birds were a bit removed from the frog catching and bug-poking I did as a child. They are fast and small and a little harder to connect with until someone puts binoculars in your hands. Someone did that when I was 22 and working a field job in the Canadian Arctic. It felt like waking up; to realize that the world was filled with jewels that I’d been walking past my whole life. From then on I was hooked, bird watching added another level to any walk or boat ride and I’ve never had a day outside since where I ‘didn’t see anything’. There is always something to marvel at.

Kayaking in front the bird cliff with hundred thousands of Brunich's guillemots at Alkefjellet.
Kayaking in front of the bird cliff with hundred thousands of Brunich’s guillemots at Alkefjellet. Photo: Daisy Gilardini

OOE: You’ve been a Naturalist Guide with One Ocean Expeditions for five years. What is your favourite part of being on an expedition?

Catherine: That’s easy, I love the look on someone’s face when they’ve seen the animal they’ve been dreaming of their whole life. It’s a rare privilege to take a creature that previously someone only knew from TV, stuffed animals and prints on their PJs and help turn that into a living, breathing animal situated in a unique and fragile habitat. It lets me re-live the joy I felt at seeing these species for the first time. I’m always asking passengers what they’d most like to see, being the person who can then spot that for them and lock their eyes on their first orca, polar bear or penguin just makes my day.

OOE: What have been some of your favourite birds that you’ve encountered while on an expedition?

CJ: Penguins are, of course, the great equalizer, universally beloved by all; and I’m no exception. However, it’s the Procellariiformes (Albatross, Shearwaters and Petrels) that really get my heart pumping. Bird for bird, by some estimates, there are more seabirds on the planet than land birds (which makes sense considering the globe is 70% ocean). But, most birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts only gain access to this rich avian cornucopia for a few hours at a time on short little pelagic boat trips. What I love about being on the OOE ships is getting to spend days at a time cruising the high seas with these creatures of the wind. From the 12ft wingspan of the Wandering Albatross (the largest on the planet) to the tenacity of the 40g Wilson’s Storm Petrel, a bird the size of a granola bar cheerfully surviving the coldest and stormiest seas, this group of graceful ocean nomads never ceases to fill me with wonder.

Bird watching tour on expedition cruise in Antarctica with One Ocean Expeditions and famous ornithologists
Grey-headed Albatross   Image by Daisy Gilardini

OOE: Besides bird watching, what other activities would you recommend to someone who is interested in birds?

CJ: Seeing one of these critters is a rare treat, but that’s just the dessert. Understanding them is the meal. The birds we encounter on One Ocean trips live in some of the most extreme environments on the planet. The unique adaptations they have and their fascinating life histories are just as awe-inspiring as the animals themselves. I always recommend that passengers come to the presentations given on the ecology of these regions to learn about how these critters survive without the benefits of a cushy cruise ship. The other aspect I encourage is participation in citizen science activities on board, we work to collect data to help understand these populations and the conservation challenges they face, which is a fantastic way to both immerse yourself more fully and give back to conserve these regions.

OOE: What advice can you recommend to a novice birder who is joining us on the ship?

CJ: Let’s hang out! Spending time on the bridge or following your naturalist around like a little Adelie chick is one of the best ways to maximize how much you’ll learn and what you’ll see.

Watching from the Bridge.
Watching from the Bridge. Image: Daisy Gilardini

OOE: Which itinerary on the One Ocean roster would you most likely recommend to someone who is a keen bird watcher?

CJ: Ahhhhh……That’s so personal! If you want to see large species diversity then you can’t beat either of the Central America trips for sheer variety. But if you love a good massive colony of 200,000 King Penguins stretching out before you then you can’t beat South Georgia, despite it only having one songbird (the South Georgia Pipit). The wonderful thing about birds is their ubiquity. Every trip we do has unique opportunities to see rare species and mass colonial aggregations. It’s all good!

Thanks to Catherine for taking the time to speak with us. To join her on a voyage speak to your preferred booking agent or contact one of our sales team.