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SEE AS BIRDS DO

21 March, 2022

SEE AS BIRDS DO

SEE AS BIRDS DO

Birds of a feather stick together and Malahat SkyWalk is proud to be part of the BC Bird Trail, specifically the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail.

Encompassing Cowichan, Nanaimo and Parksville-Qualicum Beach, this route includes ocean, estuary, riverside, marshland, forest and alpine habitats – a wide variety of birding hot spots nestled along the Salish Sea.

Bring your binoculars and stop at Malahat SkyWalk to spot Pileated Woodpecker, Great Horned Owl, Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Bushtit and Varied Thrush within the Douglas fir and arbutus forest along our elevated TreeWalk or soaring alongside our Spiral Tower.

At 250 metres above sea level, sweeping views from the lookout are spectacular and include Mt. Baker, Finlayson Arm, the Saanich Peninsula, and islands in two countries.

Malahat SkyWalk not only connects you to the sights, sounds and smells of nature, but supports the important work by visiting birders and “citizen scientists” committed to migration monitoring to assess the environmental health of our area.

Visit our eBird page to follow along! Birders enter when, where, and how they went birding, and then fill out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing. eBird is among the world’s largest biodiversity-related science projects, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed annually by birders around the world.

Malahat SkyWalk has developed a relationship with local, award-winning birding expert Ann Nightingale, who visits regularly. Nightingale and her fellow birders have spotted everything from Bald Eagles to the Steller’s Jay, British Columbia’s official bird. Call it legend or luck, but on a recent outing they even spotted a Peregrine Falcon and had a very special up closeup-close encounter!

Ann has been birding for 25 years. She is dedicated to the understanding, conservation and promotion of birds and has received numerous awards for her efforts. She is a licensed bird bander and active volunteer for Rocky Point Bird Observatory in Victoria, BC.

We invited Ann to share some of her expertise and tips with guests of Malahat SkyWalk interested in birding.

“Birding in any season brings rewards, but spring is a favourite time of year for birders,” Ann says.

It's when birds really become more active. There's a bit of a ‘changing of the guard’ going on as birds that spend their winters on Vancouver Island start to head north, and the migrants that have been wintering in Central and South America start coming back.

For example, there can be a big uptick in swallow sightings and the first Rufous Hummingbirds of the year are reported in late February and early March.

“One of the ways that people can really connect to nature is to follow the change in season with their ears, especially in the first hour or two after dawn,” she continues. “Put on your jacket, grab a coffee, head outside, and just listen!”

In Spring, American Robins are everywhere and among the noisiest birds are the thrushes. In a forested area like Malahat SkyWalk, you may still hear the ‘referee whistle’ call of the Varied Thrush.

You don't even have to know which birds are making which sounds. Just relax and absorb the soundscape. It's a fantastic way to start your day, and add to your morning experience at Malahat SkyWalk.

You can expect to hear changes over the next three to four months, as birds select mates and territories, raise their young, and for many of them, prepare to migrate south.

If you continue this practice in your own yard, favourite park or at Malahat SkyWalk, you will soon get to recognize individual birds.

“That's right,” Ann adds. “Most birds are very site loyal, meaning that many of the birds you are sharing space with are the very same birds that were there last year and will be there again next year.”

“Learning this was life-altering for me,” she concludes. “I had always thought birds were more or less random, but that's not the case. I've had several people tell me that when the Rufous Hummingbirds return, they'll stare in the window until the feeder they were expecting is put up. We have banded hummingbirds that have still been returning to the same feeders up to eight years later.”

At Malahat SkyWalk, we can’t think of anything more rewarding than welcoming the same birds – and visitors – back again, year after year.

Photo credit: Ann Nightingale