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NatureSpeak Articles

Breeding Bird Atlas update

More than 300 bird species breed in B.C., more than in any other province in Canada. Sixty-five species breed nowhere else in Canada and, for several other species, B.C. holds the majority of the world population. We know this from checklists and other reports, but prior to the development of the Breeding Bird Atlas in B.C. the actual birds and where they nest have never been accurately mapped.

The Atlas is a seven-year project to determine the distribution and relative abundance of birds across British Columbia. B.C. joins other provinces and states that are already developing their own atlases or are in the process of doing so. For example, Ontario has just completed its second atlas 20 years after its first. The Ontario Atlas has documented huge drops in some insect-dependent species and a lot of neotropical migrants, our song birds.

The B.C. Atlas will help to document changes and help us pinpoint areas we need to conserve and help quantify reasons for population changes. Thus, the atlas is an important research tool.

Here is how the Atlas works: the province is divided into regions, which are further divided into 10 X 10 km squares. Each square is surveyed through its various habitats to try and identify all the birds in the area. All work is done by volunteers, except for the Atlas Director and his staff. A regional coordinator is in charge of data collection for each area. Whistler is part of the Squamish-Whistler region, where I am the coordinator, and abutting it is the Pemberton area, going from Gold Bridge to Harrison Lake. Part of the job of coordinator is recruiting volunteers to take an atlas square, or report possible sightings in any area.

Anyone can contribute to the atlas if they think they may have seen possible nesting birds. How do you know? You may see the birds around all the time, perhaps carrying nesting material or entering a cavity. You also may see birds carrying food or feeding young. It is really helpful for visitors to more remote areas, especially the alpine, to let us know what sightings they have.

If you are unsure of what you have seen, take a photo and describe to the coordinator what you have seen. Better still, take a bird walk and learn a bit more about the natural world. There is a Breeding Bird Survey outing in Pemberton June 6th (see below). The Whistler Naturalists have a monthly walk, generally the first Saturday of the month at 7 a.m., which meets at the foot of Lorimer Road by the Valley Trail. Squamish has its monthly count each month on the second Sunday at 7 a.m. which meets at the Brew Pub. There is also a beginner bird walk on the third Saturday of each month (please check the paper for details).

Have you ever seen a dipper on a mountain stream running around under water to find food? How about a ptarmigan that spends all its life in the alpine changing its plumage from winter white to summer brown? What about a woodpecker with yellow on the back of its head or grey-crowned rosy finches up the mountain? Do you ever see or hear owls at night? We need to hear about these hard to find birds.

To report a sighting let us know the date, approximate time, plus - most important, the location.

How can you send in your observations? Either by e-mail to the regional for Pemberton for Whistler-Squamish, or by paper (request a casual observation form). Better still, join up to Register for the Atlas. You can reach the Atlas to register or to learn more at .

Upcoming Events:

Breeding Bird Survey Outing in Pemberton - Saturday June 6 th , 8 a.m. Come out for one of the highlights of the birding year. Meet at One Mile Lake parking lot by 8 a.m. sharp. We'll continue from there to various points around Pemberton and finish before noon. For details, contact Bob (604-932-8900; ).

Monthly Bird Walk - Saturday, June 13th, 7 a.m.

Meet at the west end of Lorimer Road near the entrance to Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. This walk is open to all interested in birds and is led by birding experts who compile a detailed inventory list on year-round bird activity.

Written by: Heather Baines


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