Volunteer and interpreter

Volunteer and interpreter

South Okanagan conservation group invites public to bird observatory

Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance is inviting the public to visit their bird observatory at Vaseux Lake.

For the second year, the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance is inviting the public to visit their bird observatory at Vaseux Lake.

On Sept. 25, from 9 a.m. to noon, visitors will be able to watch bird capture and banding, examine different types of wings and go for a walk along the dyke to observe birds in their natural habitat.

Vaseaux Lake is an important area for bird migration, with a large number of birds passing through on their way south, and a large number of species. According to the observatory blog (vlbo.wordpress.com), 207 birds of 21 species were banded in the week of Sept. 12 to 18 alone, along with recapturing 49 previously banded birds of 11 species.

Though the bird banding station has been in operation since 1994 and is the only one in the southern interior, outreach co-ordinator Margaret Holm said it is not well-known.

“There is one paid bander and there is a bunch of very hard-working volunteers. We do a very good job and we contribute a lot to science with very little money,” said Holm, explaining that the length of time the station has been in operation means they have collected significant data on how bird populations have changed over time.

Birds face a number of threats on their annual migrations, she said, starting with habitat changes. Migrating birds need to find food and rest patches, taking many rest stops on the journey south. Birds from the north and central part of the province also funnel through the Okanagan Valley on their way south to the U.S., Central and South America.

“As time moves on, we are developing land more, so there is less natural lands,” she said. Even agricultural lands don’t supply as much food source, with pesticides reducing the insect populations birds feed on.

The Bird Migration Day focuses on three themes: bird adaptation to migration, bird conservation issues and threats, and bird banding. Visitors will see how birds are caught in fine mist-nets before they are banded and set free. In addition to the open house, OSCA also offers an ECOstudies school program that complements the Ministry of Education’s science curriculum and will have schools from Summerland to Osoyoos attending the program later this month and into October.

“After the great success of our pilot project last year we are thrilled to be able to offer a school and public program again this year. Thanks to the support of Nature Canada’s Naturehood Initiative and Environment and Climate Change Canada we were able to develop the program even further and have a commitment of funding from them for the next two years,” said Janet Willson, OSCA chair.

The Migration Day open house takes place 9 a.m. to noon at the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory. 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 the kiosk parking lot just south of the site or at a roadside pull-out just north of the site. The event will run rain or shine.

For more information contact Jayme Friedt at ecostudies@osca.org.