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Peachland bird counters seek out Northern Pygmy Owls

Spring bird watching tour organized by Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance

Peachland forest preservation advocates will be out in force this weekend in search of surviving Northern Pygmy Owls.

A rare species of bird found in B.C., documented sightings of the Northern Pygmy Owls, or lack of them, will offer some observation about the habitat loss in the local watershed.

The bird watching tour, the third annual, will be hosted by the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) on Saturday, June 3, starting at 9 a.m.

Participants will gather initially at the Hardy Falls Regional Park parking lot, rain or shine, to start their birdwatching endeavours, then move to higher ground up Princeton Avenue into forested areas above Peachland.

PWPA chair Jack Gerow says the Peachland watershed has been ravaged by industrial activity which has contributed to the destruction of wildlife habitat.

“Peachlanders don’t want to see these critical birds suffer the same fate as the owls on the coast and on (Vancouver Island),” said Gerow in a news release promoting the event.

“So we need to get a handle on what their populations are doing. A family-friendly bird watching field trip is the perfect activity to get this done.”

READ MORE: Pygmy owl bird watching tour in Peachland will be a hoot

While the Northern Pygmy Owl will be the star of the show, bird watchers will also be seeking out other species of birds, from small songbirds to raptors such as ospreys and eagles.

Taryn Skalbania, co-founder of the PWPA and outreach chair, said bird watching is a galvanizing public event because many Okanagan residents have adopted what has become a popular pastime of being able to identify birds flying around their yards.

“We have done many events in recent years, done watershed tours, but none have had that touchy-feely kind of response as the bird watching counts the last two years,” Skalbania said.

But besides the fun aspect of counting birds and being outdoors, Skalbania said the underlying purpose is vital to their grassroots organization – to protect the Peachland watersheds from further clear-cut logging degradation.

“It is just insane that we clear-cut forests first and then consider the habitat impact,” she said.

Skalbania says the PWPA believes the loss of birds or other wildlife in any watershed is a ‘red flag indicator’ that the balance between logging and preserving an ecosystem has shifted too far towards harvesting timber.

With the aggressive public profile the PWPA has adopted in recent years, Skalbania says their message has reached the B.C. Legislature as a reference point in MLA debates, to the point where the PWPA was invited to meet with BC Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship officials later this month, to be represented by Skalbania and communications chair Alex Morrison.

“We will continue to see what we can do to protect our existing watersheds and stop any further degradation,” Skalbania said.

To learn more about the spring bird watching tour, check out the PWPA website

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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