Are you an avid birdlover? Then Rocky Point Bird Observatory wants you!

WatchRocky Point Bird Observatory is celebrating 25 years as an avian research outfit, focused on bird conservation through monitoring, research, and public education.

Rocky Point Bird Observatory (RPBO) is celebrating 25 years on southern Vancouver Island, and has been a proud member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN) since 1994.

Kim Beardmore is the president of the non-profit organization. “We’re an avian research outfit that is all about bird conservation, and we do that through monitoring programs, and through research, and through public education,” says Beardmore.

“To date, we’ve banded more than 10,000 owls, and more than 99,000 other birds. We have about 150 active volunteers, and last year they gave us 9,000 hours of their time,” Beardmore adds proudly.

An avid birder who moved to Victoria from Ontario, Jennifer Armstrong discovered RPBO online.

“I moved here not knowing the places, not knowing the ‘hotspots,’ not knowing the birds, so I was looking for a group of like-minded people to hang out with, and go birding with.  I joined a Rocky Point birdwalk, and it started from there.”

Armstrong would highly recommend RPBO to any passionate ‘birders’ on southern Vancouver Island. “The people are really dedicated to what they do, and they come from different backgrounds, so, in terms of volunteering, whatever suits you: research, education, or just a bird-watcher.”

“I have always been passionate about wildlife,” says banding intern Ashlea Veldhoen, “and birds were really the gateway for me. I find it fascinating that such tiny little animals can migrate such long distances.”

Alison Moran is in charge of ‘The Hummingbird Project,’ started in 1997.

“We’re quite a broad project,” says Moran. “We actually have banders all over BC, and some in Alberta, and so on. We band about 3,000 hummingbirds a year, looking at how they migrate, how they use the habitat, research into diet, research into pesticide contamination, because we need them to be a vital part of our ecosystem.”

Throughout the fall, RPBO volunteers are busy at night, banding owls.

“We started this in 2002,” says Ann Nightingale, RPBO board vice president, and a volunteer with the organization for 23 years. “It has exceeded any of our expectations. When we first started we weren’t sure we’d even catch any owls, and in our first year we caught 200!”

So what does RPBO hope to learn from these nocturnal creatures.

“The size of the population,” says Nightingale, “how old are the birds, what sex are the birds, what size are they, how healthy are they?”

Nightingale wants to encourage any passionate bird-lovers with time on their hands to consider volunteering with RPBO.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” says Nightingale. “It’s science, and it’s actually hard work, and it means going out, and spending seven hours a night catching the owls, recording the data, and making sure that all of what we do is worth troubling the owls. Keeping the birds safe is our first priority.”

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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