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Rocky Point Bird Observatory tracks bird migrations

Rocky Point Bird Observatory has been a proud member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network since 1994.

Members track bird migrations around the southern tip of Vancouver Island, adding essential information about population trends of various species.

Ann Nightingale is the past president of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, and she’s still very much involved with the organization.

“We love birds, because they are a part of our planet, they’re part of nature. They’re so diverse,” Nightingale explains.

Lead educator of the organization, Andrea Neumann, says “I still feel like I’m learning more every day, and every single time I go out.”

“There’s so much to learn when you love birds. There’s always a new one to see.”

Volunteer Bob Addley explains what it takes to become a passionate bird watcher.

“Passion and enthusiasm yes. You have to be a very patient person. You need to have good attention to detail, because with some birds it’s one or two feathers that make the difference between one species and the next.”

Volunteer Ashley Veldhoen remembers when she caught the “spark” of passion for birdwatching.

“It started in college. I was out doing an ‘outdoor adventure skills’ kind of course, and we had a unit on birds,” she said. “There was something about the way the professor presented the material.”

“We were looking at gold finches, and he was describing how they have a certain way of flying, an undulating pattern, and after that I started looking more at the flight patterns of different birds, and realizing that they really are different.”

The volunteers monitor local bird populations.

“We’ve seen huge declines in bird populations around the world. The estimate is that we’ve lost half of the world’s birds in the last 60 years,” says Nightingale.

“By monitoring, we’re getting a big picture of what’s happening to the bird populations in Canada.”

More than 380 species of birds have been detected in the Victoria area, and more than 300 of them have been seen around Rocky Point, in Metchosin, where the organization was founded in 1994.

Rocky Point is a military base.

“Back then,” explains Nightingale, “When security was a little less strict, certain people were allowed to go onto the base and look for birds.”

“It’s the southern tip of Vancouver Island, so birds that are heading south often will stop there before they make the leap across the strait, or if they’ve started across the strait and haven’t quite made it, they come back to there.”

Rocky Point Bird Observatory is always looking for more volunteers, and has a walk coming up on Feb. 11.

“We have a lot of seasonal bird banding,” says Neumann, “And our migration monitoring and our owls overlap, so we need people really early in the morning, and really late at night, so especially September and October, it can be hard to cover all those shifts.”

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