I have been pursuing my passion for bird watching for the past 15 years and must say that it has given me countless hours of satisfaction and excitement. In the birding world we recently had both the book “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession” written by Mark Obmascik and followed by the movie “The Big Year” starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. These gave us the sense about what a high level and competitive nature bird watching has become.
While this may not be your expectation or goal, each of us can certainly find our comfort level within this pastime. For me, I really enjoy the notion of keeping a Life List and adding new entries whenever I can. When traveling to foreign lands I try to spend as much time as possible learning about the local species and creating a separate list, I now have Life Lists for Canada, Ireland and Mexico.
Recently I have been able to assist in various research studies about birds by participating in various projects some of which you may be familiar with:
National Audubon Society-Christmas bird count. This year is the 113th annual event and takes place throughout North America. All kinds and levels of birders are needed to cover the count areas to learn more visit the Audubon website and click “Find a Count Area”.
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology-Project Feederwatch. “FeederWatchers periodically count the birds they see at their feeders from November through early April and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. This data helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance”
Federation of B.C. Naturalists-Wildlife Tree Stewardship Program. In the South Okanagan the focus of the study has been the blue listed Lewis Woodpecker. Each monitor is assigned an area and then asked to visit previous nesting sites, which were marked using GPS coordinates, report on the activity and identify new nest sites. During July of this year I was able to identify 7 new sites and verify that there was successful breeding.
Bird Studies Canada-BC and Yukon Nocturnal Owl Survey. This program has been underway for the past 12 years and data from the surveys are used to monitor the distribution, abundance, population trends and habitat associations of different owl species www.birdscanada.org
Wild Research-Common Poorwill Study. Very little is known about British Columbia’s 2 species of Nightjars: Common Nighthawk and Common Poorwill.
Bird Studies Canada-Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory. This is a bird banding station which operates daily during August and September. My role was to extract birds from the mist nets and recording of data. Some extraordinary birds that I extracted this year included: Green Wing Teal (first ever recorded at the banding station), Virginia Rail, Cassin’s Vireo and Tennessee Warbler.
So rather just being a spring/summer pastime, one can extend this throughout the year. Depending on where you live you may find all sorts of research projects underway which need volunteers to collect and record data. I find that being involved is really “Time Well Spent” and furthers my appreciation and knowledge about birds.
To learn more about birding in the Okanagan contact Great Horned Owl Eco Tours