Volunteers working at the banding station at Vaseux Lake cataloguing migrating birds captured in mist nets. Photo courtesy David Wilde

Bird Migration Day offers close-up on birds

BIrd Migration Open House is for more than just birders.

For the third year, the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance is offering the public a chance to learn about the important work going on at the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory.

Visitors to the annual Bird Migration Day open house will be able to see birds being banded, go on a guided walk with nature interpreters and learn about birds and bird migration.

A common yellowthroat, one of the myriad species that populate the Okanagan Similkameen.(Photo courtesy Matthias Bieber)

The Okanagan is a bird watching hot-spot in Canada and is an important summer nesting area for many species. Birds that have bred in the boreal forest and northern parts of B.C. also funnel through the Okanagan Valley on their way south to the USA, Central and South America, using Vaseux Lake area as a migration stopover to refuel on insects or seeds.

The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are truly special places in the world, said Jayme Friedt, spokesperson for OSCA, with spectacular landscapes and amazing wildlife, wonderful outdoor recreational activities and an amazing climate.

“It’s also incredibly, biologically unique with vast diversity in wildlife and habitat.,” said Friedt. “As our communities have grown over the years, those habitats and species that depend on those habitats have been threatened to the point that the Okanagan-Similkameen is recognized as one of Canada’s most endangered natural systems.”

Events like this open house give people an opportunity to get out in nature, to explore, discover and experience those spectacular places that surround us.

“We think that people can’t help but fall in love with these natural spaces and that will make them want to work towards preserving and protecting them.,” she said.

With the Bird Migration Day, that means getting a chance to see, up close, the important work being done at the bird observatory as the birds are collected from the mist nets and taken to the bird banders, who carefully record the birds’ characteristics.

“You actually get to see the species up close, to see the chats and the warblers. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the different aspects of birds,” said Friedt. And as exciting as this time of year is for birders, Friedt said it can be even more exciting for the layperson to see birds up close and to learn a little bit more about what kind of species live in and migrate through the valleys.

The Bird Migration Day focuses on three themes: bird adaptation to migration, bird conservation issues and threats, and bird banding. In addition to the Bird Migration Day open house, OSCA also offers the fall ECOstudies school programs to regional schools.

“The programs really give the public and school children the chance to explore birds up close and watch bird banding in action,” said Janet Willson, OSCA chair, who also noted ongoing support from Nature Canada’s Naturehood Initiative and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“For many of the kids that take part in the school program, it is the only opportunity they get to get out in the wilderness,” said Friedt. “Those experiences in nature can be life-altering for kids. So much so, there is a move to provide more learning opportunities within the educational system. Nature can have a huge impact on people.”

The open house takes place Sept. 24 from a.m. to noon at the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory, located three kilometres south of Okanagan Falls. The site is rustic with uneven terrain and narrow pathways (not wheelchair accessible). There is a portable washroom on site. Parking is available on the west side of Hwy 97 at a roadside pullout just north of the site. Watch for signage and volunteers to direct you to the parking area. The event runs rain or shine. For more information contact Jayme Friedt at 250-488-9894 or oscaecostudies@gmail.com.

Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory is one of nine migration monitoring stations in B.C. and the only station in the dry southern interior, established in 1994 by the Canadian Wildlife Service which operated a bird banding station there until 1998. In 2000, following a two-year hiatus, OSCA reestablished the station and has been monitoring bird migration ever since. A member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network and the Canadian Bird Banding Program, OSCA contributes data collected at VLBO to a worldwide database that monitors bird population trends and supports efforts by scientists and conservationists to overcome threats to bird populations.

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