Matthias Bieber examines the wings of a Red-Shafted Flicker at the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory’s open house on Sunday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Video: A look at the inner workings of the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory

Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory opens doors to the public

By Brennan Phillips

Western News Staff

The Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory opened up on Sunday to give the public a chance to see the work that goes on during the fall migrations.

Around 100 visitors were treated to a tour of the restricted land where the bird observatory has set up their nets to catch the birds they then track. This year, the observatory had captured and banded 2698 birds by Sept. 21, just 51 days into their season. It’s not an easy task, especially with the limited crew available for the observatory.

READ MORE: Three billion fewer birds in North America than in 1970, study finds

“When we have really busy days, it can be hard to keep up with our schedule,” said head bander Matthias Bieber. “We’re checking the nets every 30 minutes, and trying to process the birds we do get as fast as we can, so when we get days with over a hundred birds that can be challenging.”

Visitors were able to see the researchers at the observatory gather the birds from the nets and then band them, from the small Common Yellowthroat to the loud Red-Shafted Flicker. On the board inside the observatory’s banding trailer, a number of species were marked down for having been banded in record numbers this year, whether as few as the seven Rufous Hummingbirds, to the 362 Yellow Warblers, so far.

With climate change and reports of bird populations struggling across North America, the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory and the Okanagan offers a little bit of good news.

“That study looks at populations on a larger scale, and that’s not happening at every location. Looking at the birds passing through here, we’ve seen quite a few species increasing in numbers, just over the last five years,” said Bieber.

“We can’t really say what’s happening in B.C., even the Southern Interior, because the numbers we track are just a tiny percentage of the birds out there. At least here locally, they’re doing pretty well right now.”

READ MORE: ‘Irresponsible’ people keeping raptors as pets in Okanagan and Shuswap

The Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory and Bieber still hope to bring back spring banding and night-banding for owls. During the early 2000’s, the observatory had been able to staff the observatory and band birds during their spring migrations back to and through the Okanagan, thanks to money from Interior Health to track any signs of West Nile Virus in the region. Any money donated to the observatory goes towards their efforts at tracking and banding birds.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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