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"Hear" to See

Spring is seen as the beginning of a new year. Plants and trees burst into flower and leaf, and birds establish their territories, find a mate and raise a family. An important part of this process is the use of song.

Many songbirds are secretive in their movements, and viewing them can be a challenge. However, a chorus of distinctive songs is heard from April through June when the males sing to attract females and to establish territories. You are likely to hear these unique songs before you actually see the birds.

Songbirds include flycatchers, swallows, chickadees, thrushes, vireos, warblers, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds, orioles and finches. More than half of all living birds are songbirds.

In many marshland areas you may hear the wichity-wichity-wichity call of the Common Yellowthroat. The male is easily identified by his black mask with white upper border and under the chin yellow.

Also common in marshes is the loud, rattling chatter of the Marsh Wren. The call has been likened to that of an old fashioned sewing machine. This little bird has a dark brown unstreaked crown with a white eyebrow, and holds its tail up at 90 degrees.

At sunrise and sunset, you may hear a song of notes spiraling upwards in tone. This song belongs to the Swainson's Thrush, a common bird in forest edges. This greyish-brown bird has a conspicuous buffy coloured eye ring and spotting on all of its breast.

While in the forest you may hear the distinctive nyeep-nyeep-nyeep call of the Red-breasted Nuthatch. This call has been likened to that of an English taxi. This tiny bird is often visible moving down tree trunks head first. This is a short tailed bird with a black cap, a white eye strip and a rusty coloured breast.

In higher elevation forests you may hear a buzzy, off-key whistle. This is the call of the Varied Thrush, a robin-sized, reddish-orange bird. During the winter, these birds move into lower elevations and may visit feeders.

Common in many habitats, is the Song Sparrow's high-pitched sweet-sweet-sweet call followed by a series of trills and notes. This small bird is identified by its whitish breast with brown streaks and a dark central dot. It has a reddish-brown crown with a central grey strip, grey eyebrows and a white throat.

Web Page Accessible

Wildlife viewing information will soon be available on-line! In the next few months, British Columbia Wildlife Watch will have a web page linked through the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks home page.

Initially the web page will contain viewing information for the Lower Mainland Region, but will also include a viewing festivals and special events section that covers the province. Once up and running, information will be added for other regions.

All of the existing British Columbia Wildlife Watch bird checklists will be available. There will be specific information for each viewing site, including contact addresses, phone numbers, and, where available, home page and e-mail addresses.

Watch for it!

Birding Festivals - Across North America

Bird watching, also known as birding, is growing in popularity. As a result, there has been an explosion in the number of bird festivals and special events.

The latest directory of birding festivals produced by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the United States lists 70 festivals for all over North America, including 18 Canadian events. (Editor's Note - This information is now available through the American Birding Association web site.)

birding festival

(burd-ing fes' te-vel) n.

1. An occasion for celebrating the wonder of birds.
2. A joyous gathering of people who watch birds.
3. An opportunity to help local businesses through birding tourism.
4. A clever and effective way to promote bird and habitat conservation.

taken from 1998 Directory of Birding Festivals

Why are birding festivals so popular and why should you attend one? The following is taken from the 1998 Directory of Birding Festivals.

    If you have not yet been to a birding festival, you might be missing out on the most fun you can legally have with a binocular! Around the world, expert and novice birders are gathering at birding hotspots to celebrate spectacles of avian diversity and abundance. In Nebraska, it's a "foot deep and mile wide" river filled with islands of Sandhill Cranes. In Texas, it's the prospect of seeing an endangered Attwater's Prairie Chicken "strut its stuff". In Alberta, it's a blizzard of Snow Geese fresh from their flight out of Russia. No matter where you go, festivals offer the chance to flock with other birders, see unforgettable birds and learn from the masters.

    Birding festivals are growing in popularity because they offer birders the best of all worlds; unique birds and birding opportunities, guided tours, expert lectures, information seminars and lots of fellowship. Festivals are a terrific way to ... explore an area that you have never visited before. All the while, you will be promoting birds and their habitats as economic assets. Every meal you buy and each tank of gas you fill up will show local businesspeople that conserving birds is good for business. And if birds are good for business, then that is one more reason to conserve birds and their habitats.

The best part of attending a birding or wildlife festival is that you don't need to be an expert! There are lots of fun activities for you and your family to participate in. Some special activities are only organized during the event.

A Success - Bald Eagle Festival

The 1997 Harrison Chehalis Bald Eagle Festival was a great success, due in part to dry weather, a large number of event volunteers, and the involvement of new organizations and businesses. An estimated 900 individuals took part in this 2nd annual event.

See you at the 3rd annual event planned for the weekend of November 28th and 29th, 1998!

New Signs - Pitt-Addington WMA

Eight new interpretive signs are now installed at the Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area in Pitt Meadows. The signs were funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.

Two of the signs provide general information about the management area, including a detailed map showing the boundaries of nearby parks and conservation holdings. Two others focus on the wildlife viewing highlights, and on tips to improve your viewing experience.

The remaining four signs focus on the common and unique wildlife species of the area, and on the common marshland plants. They contain interesting facts and tidbits of information that will give you a greater understanding of the importance of maintaining and protecting this management area.

Economic Value of Watching Wildlife

29% of British Columbia residents watch, feed, photograph or field study wildlife, spending almost $400 million each year within the province

The above is just one of the findings of a new study into the economic value of wildlife activities in British Columbia. Funded by Forest Renewal British Columbia, this study complements previously completed studies. The survey results make it possible to place a dollar value on wildlife habitat that may be at risk due to competing land uses.

Activities at Home
In 1996, 2.3 million residents, or 77% of the population (aged 18 years and older), participated in wildlife activities around the home, cabin or cottage. This included watching, studying and photographing wildlife, putting out special bird feed and maintaining plants and shrubs for wildlife. Expenditures on these activities were estimated to be $122 million.

Indirect Activities
Indirect activities are defined as outdoor activities where an individual happened to watch, feed, photograph or field study wildlife while away from home, but the main purpose of the trip or outing was not related to wildlife.

An estimated 1.7 million provincial residents, or 57% of the provincial population participated in indirect activities. These participants enjoyed almost 74 million days in these activities, and spent almost $108 million.

Direct Activities
When the primary purpose of a trip or outing was to watch, feed, photograph or field study wildlife, it was classified as a direct activity.

An estimated 863,430 provincial residents, or 29% of the population, participated in direct activities in 1996. This is approaching twice the number of participants estimated in a similar study for 1983.

These individuals spent an average of 20.6 days participating in direct activities in 1996, generating 17.8 million days. Participants spent an average of $453.60 per year, or $22.00 per day on their direct wildlife activities.

Almost $400 million was spent on direct activities, including equipment (29%), transportation (29%), food (21%), accommodation (13%), and other items (8%). The participation rates and expenditure levels vary between regions. However, almost 44% of the $400 million was spent by Lower Mainland residents that make up 56% of the provincial population.

It is very important to note that this study did not include the participation number or expenditures by non-residents, or tourists.

Sunshine Coast - New Bird Checklist

A new bird checklist is now available for the Sunshine Coast area of the Lower Mainland Region. As of the end of 1997, 271 bird species have been recorded within the checklist area during the past 26 years, including the only Canadian record of the Xantus's Hummingbird.

The checklist area is defined as the Sunshine Coast Regional District, and includes the mainland stretch from McNab Creek and Port Mellon to Earls Cove and Egmont. It also includes offshore areas such as Keats, Gambier, Thormanby and Nelson Islands, and the inland waterways of Sechelt, Salmon, Narrows and Jervis Inlets to their surrounding heights of land.

Unlike previous checklists for specific Lower Mainland Region viewing sites, this one is a bar graph checklist where the likelihood of observing a species is shown for each week of the year. Also, the order of birds listed is based on the most recent checklist published in July 1997 by the American Ornithologist's Union.

Birds of the Sunshine Coast - A Checklist was compiled by Tony Greenfield, and was printed with funds generously provided by Shell Canada Limited's Shell Environmental Fund. Tony also prepared checklists for Porpoise Bay Provincial Park and Sargeant Bay Provincial Park, two viewing sites on the Sunshine Coast.

British Columbia Festivals and Special Events

There are many wildlife viewing festivals and special events held in British Columbia, and the number is growing each year. The following celebrations are planned for the next few months.

Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area Osprey Festival
April 24 - 26, 1998

    Explore Creston Valley, which supports Canada's densest population of Ospreys - more than 60 nesting pairs. Over 260 other bird species are possible, including Forster's Tern and Western Grebe, and fmigrating White-fronted Goose. Enjoy captivating Osprey viewing, silent auction, nature talks and walks, a bird-a-thon, wildlife art show, detective hunt and much more.
    For information write Box 640, Creston, B.C. V0B 1G0 or phone 250-428-3260.

Wings Over the Rockies Bird Festival
May 4 - 10, 1998

    One hundred miles of Columbia River wetlands, flanked by grasslands, forest and alpine tundra, lure more than 250 species, including Lewis's Woodpecker, Long-billed Curlew, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Osprey and American Dipper. Enjoy guest speakers, workshops, field trips, book fair, children's festival, canoe and raft trips, art displays, music and more.
    For information write P.O. Box 338, Invermere, B.C. V0A 1K0, phone 888-342-3210, or visit the festival home page.

Golden Festival of Birds and Bears
May 10 - 16, 1998

    Celebrate spring migration and the end of winter hibernation! Over 250 bird species share the habitat of grizzly and black bears. Guided field trips, workshops, float trips and an arts and crafts show will fill your days with exciting birding and "bearing".
    For information write P.O. Box 1320, Golden, B.C. V0A 1H0 or phone 800-622-4653.

Salmon Arm Grebe Festival
May 15 - 18, 1998

    Experience 300 Western Grebes doing their unforgettable courtship dance! Field trips, workshops, arts, concerts and crafts will keep you entertained. Over 260 bird species possible.
    For information write P.O. Box 55, Salmon Arm, B.C. V1E 4N2 or phone 800-661-4800.

Return of the Osprey Festival
May 23 - 24, 1998

    This weekend event is held at Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver. It is organized by WBT Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia. While the main focus of this event is the return of nesting Osprey to the area, there are many birds to be seen. Binoculars and scopes are available for use on site. There are many special displays, and nature walks are offered.
    For information write #124 - 1489 Marine Drive, North Vancouver, B.C. V7T 1B8 or phone 604-924-2581.

Bird Tracks

Indian Arm Provincial Park

    Accessible by boat only, this recently established park contains opportunities to view a wide range of wildlife, including many marine species such as Harbour Seal, water birds (grebes, loons, goldeneyes and scoters), Mule Deer along the shorelines, and Chum Salmon in the Indian River estuary. The forests are home to chickadees, woodpeckers, bats, squirrels and owls. This scenic fjord also offers excellent opportunities for scuba divers.

Minnekhada Regional Park

    Located in northeast Coquitlam, this park contains a variety of habitats including high rocky knolls, fresh water marshes, deep coniferous woods, stands of alder and birch and bushy thickets. A diversity of birds visit the park including hawks, owls, grouse, waterfowl, herons, woodpeckers and a variety of songbirds. A healthy population of Northern Flying Squirrel inhabit the park, many using special nesting boxes placed throughout the park. Birding is good year round, but spring is particularly good for frog and bird choruses.

Boundary Bay Regional Park

    This park is located on the western shore of Boundary Bay, a wildlife management area of international significance to migrating and wintering birds. Spring and fall migration periods are especially good for viewing. This park contains a range of habitats, including salt and fresh water marshes, tidal mud flats, grassland, sand dune and sandy shorelines. There are several trails, a boardwalk and two viewing structures. A British Columbia Wildlife Watch bird checklist is available.