Birding isn’t only about spotting rare species. It can be equally enjoyable spending time seeing how our more common birds behave, like this American Robin feeding on native Red-osier Dogwood berries. Jennifer Blyth photo

Saanich parks are for the birds!

Discover this popular pastime and get to know your feathered friends

Are Saanich’s parks for the birds? Definitely!

Of course, they’re also for people and other wildlife too, and that’s one reason they’re a terrific place to learn more about our feathered friends.

And while you’re expanding your Natural Intelligence in your local park, you might just discover a favourite new pastime and a passionate new community keen to share their knowledge.

To learn the “how-to” of beginner birdwatching, we checked in with Saanich’s Darren Copley, an active local birder.

“Birdwatching is so accessible. We have resources everywhere, and it makes walking through a park totally different,” Darren says.

Because Saanich is on the Pacific Flyway migratory bird route, we’re treated to a vast array of birds, in addition to our year-round populations, but as a “go anywhere” hobby, birding also makes travel more interesting, he notes.

  1. Get a bird’s eye view. While you can admire birds from anywhere, a good pair of binoculars will let you view them up close and in focus. While you’ll likely spot birds at just about any Saanich park, good choices include Rithet’s Bog in Royal Oak, Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, Bow Park and King’s Pond, at the top of the Cedar Hill Golf Course, along with winter-flooded areas like Panama and Viaduct Flats. “Wetlands are some of the most important ecosystems we have,” Copley says, noting that depending on the time of year you could see as many as a dozen species of waterfowl including Mallards, Buffleheads and colourful Wood Ducks. Or, try large natural spaces like Mt. Tolmie and Mt. Douglas Parks (where rare treats like the small bluebird-like Lazuli Bunting have been spotted by a lucky few).
  2. There’s an app, a book and a checklist for that! Bird watching apps are a great way to identify exactly what bird you’re looking at, right from your smartphone; good choices include eBird Merlin Bird ID and iNaturalist. For those who prefer paper, local bookshops will likely have many options. The Victoria Natural History Society has compiled a checklist of local birds, including the time of year you’re most likely to see them, making it easier to pinpoint the species you’re viewing. Visit the Swan Lake Nature House to pick up yours.
  3. Birds of a feather… As you learn more about birds, their needs, and the threats to them, such as loss of habitat, cats and window strikes, visiting your Saanich park can offer insight into areas where they thrive. Are there ways you can support local bird populations in your garden, perhaps by planting native species, or plants that provide food and habitat?

To learn more about birdwatching in Saanich parks and beyond, look for opportunities through Saanich Recreation and Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary (hosting guided birdwalks Sundays at 9 a.m.), in addition to community resources like the Victoria Natural History Society and the Rocky Point Bird Observatory. Or, just pick a Saanich park and start exploring!

READ MORE: Have fun, get messy and explore!

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