One weekend in February changed the way I saw birding, and I owe, in part, my full commitment to birding to The Great Backyard Bird Count. Bold statement? Maybe, but in 2006 I saw a link to a website that appealed to my inner birder. The website said I would be helping out by keeping track of the birds that I saw over four days during a weekend in February and best yet, I would get to call myself a citizen scientist! It felt like I was back in university, fighting the good fight and at the same time, take my birding to a whole new level. This all led to the world of eBird, but that is for another story. I hope this article will spark a little something in your inner citizen scientist and you join me with over a 140,000 other folks on the four day event held February 12-15.
We can talk to someone half way around the world while watching a live image of them. A doctor can let you know what ails your internal organs by taking a 3 dimensional image without so much as making a nic in your skin. And now, there is a program that can tell you what North American bird you are looking at with a couple clicks of the mouse! Have you ever seen a bird and thought, “I wish I knew what kind of bird that is?” I know I get at least one call or email a week asking me “what bird is this.” Well, technology has caught up with that need. The Cornell Lab has come up with a new and fancy identification program called Merlin Photo ID, that lets you upload a picture and with a couple clicks of your mouse, will tell you which bird you are looking at. If that isn’t as good as a CAT scan machine, I don’t know what is.
Not only is Vancouver one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it also boasts world class bird watching. This country is spread out over a multitude of Micro ecosystems, from the spectacular snow-capped mountains to the north, to the farmlands in the south and east. All of it is transected by the mighty Fraser River meandering through marshland, multi-armed, to the Pacific Ocean to the west. This little portion of heaven is also one of the major stops on the Pacific Flyway giving it one of the best spots for migration birding. It rarely freezes solid along the coast in the winter months, which makes it one of the only spots in Canada for winter birding of terrestrial migrants. Vancouver is solidly in the Temperate Rain Forest as well as having areas that are in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island. These two environmental facts give it an average yearly rainfall difference of 55 inches. In the south, near the border, there is just 45 inches of rain contrasting with the 99 inches that fall along the mountains to the north, all of which is located within an hour’s drive. If you are looking for an amazing birding experience, Vancouver is one of the world’s best and as a bonus, you will get the amazing scenery thrown in for free.