British Columbia

New book reveals best places for B.C. birdwatching

Longtime bird lover, Richard Cannings, and his son, Russell Cannings, have put together a new book of their favourite spots to birdwatch in British Columbia.

One top spot: Salmon Arm Bay. 'It's never a dull moment there,' says author

A Swainson's hawk surveys the Nicola Valley. Birdwatchers and biologists Richard Cannings, and son Russell Cannings, identify the Nicola Valley as one of the best places for birdwatching in B.C. (Best Places to Bird in British Columbia)

A new book from a father-son birdwatching team identifies 30 British Columbia locations that are a must on the bucket list for bird lovers.

Biologist Richard Cannings and his son Russell Cannings have put together a new book called Best Places to Bird in British Columbia, and it includes a collection of personal anecdotes, useful notes for birdwatchers, and beautiful photographs.

According to Richard, there are certain vantage points in the province where specific birds can be seen that cannot be viewed anywhere else.

Vancouver Island a birder's paradise

The South Coast of Vancouver Island is one of those places.

"There are a lot of species that you can only see in B.C. off Vancouver Island," Richard explained to North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

Richard identified Clover Point in Victoria as a place to spot rare tufted puffins. He also noted that Victoria International Airport is the only place in North America where birdwatchers can find skylarks. 

"Victoria is famous for its milder winters so it is one of the most accessible places where we can get real sea birds," said Richard.

Anna's Hummingbird is a breed easily accessible for viewing on Vancouver Island. (Liron Gertsman/Best Places to Bird in British Columbia)

'Picnic table effect'

Richard likens Port McNeill on the north end of the island to Patagonia, Arizona, where large groups of birdwatchers gather regularly.

The 'picnic table effect' refers to a sanctioned viewing area in Patagonia where rare birds have been discovered simply because so many avid birders frequent the area.

"When you go to see some bird that is expected, then you tend to see other rare birds," said Richard.

According to Richard, more and more birders use Port McNeill as a jumping off place to small coastal islands where they might catch a glimpse of a white-faced ibis, among other breeds of sea and shore birds.

Top marks for Salmon Arm Bay

Salmon Arm Bay, in the B.C. Interior, also gets high praise from Richard, who describes the area as the best birding in B.C.

According to Richard, the region "combines the wonders of Interior birding with a lot of song birds, a great list of summertime breeding birds [and] a tremendous migration of shorebirds." 

"It's never a dull moment there," said Richard, adding that the birds in this particular bay can perform beautiful water dances.

The Nicola Valley grasslands are home to hawks, ducks, horned larks and sharp-tailed grouse that make it a top spot for birdwatchers. (Best Places to Bird in British Columbia)

'Magical place' for birders

For spotting grassland birds, like horned larks and sharp-tailed grouse, Richard recommends the Nicola Valley.

"Every birder has to go through the Nicola Valley to view these species," said Richard.

The small ponds in the valley also make it an ideal place to identify duck breeds. 

The area is also a good place to spot Swainson hawks.

Family ties

The book not only acts as an ornithological guide, it also provides personal anecdotes from the father-son team. 

Like his father, Russell is also a biologist and in 2012, was named Canada's top birder by Maclean's magazine.

The duo also co-authored the 2013 book, Birdfinding in British Columbia.

With files from North by Northwest


To hear the complete interview, click on the audio labelled, Thirty best places to birdwatch in B.C.

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