By Kristian Rasmussen
They will be arriving in flocks, united by three things: birds, binoculars and bug spray. They are the bird watchers soon to swoop in for the Wings over the Rockies Festival, May 7th to 13th.
Veteran wildlife expert and long-time Wings participant, Larry Halverson, has already begun his adventures into the wetlands surrounding Invermere in preparation for the annual birding extravaganza.
“I love the outdoors,” Larry said. “Everything can be so new. It is a never ending process on learning about things.”
The avian aficionado is elated about the upcoming festival.
“The way that Wings Over the Rockies is structured is to get the community involved in recognizing what is in their backyard,” he said. “You have people coming from all over the country and even outside the country wishing they had something like this. The whole theme this year is Our Backyard: The Envy of The World.”
He hopes that the Wings Festival helps the Columbia Valley continue to receive the amount of recognition it deserves.
“When people realize what they’ve got they appreciate a lot more and respect it, and also stand up for it when it’s threatened. Part of the magic of the wetlands and bird watching for Larry is the simplicity of the adventure.
“Birding is something that doesn’t come with a great deal of cost,” he said. “Probably the most expensive thing is a pair of binoculars to observe the birds. You should also get yourself a field guide.
“You can get them from continent size down to provincial to reduce the number of birds. They will give you a range map of where the birds are found in the summertime. Myself, I pack a field notebook. I jot down the date, area where you’re birding, and the conditions.”
The field guide is invaluable for most birders.
“When you have the field guide you can go back and look up exactly what you saw. The guides often will have local checklists of all the birds that are found in the Columbia Valley.
“The nice thing about it is it gives you the time of year when the birds can be found.”
Bird watching can be a complex activity. The sport requires patience and a degree of knowledge about the species of bird being studied.
“There are a lot of different things you look for to start recognizing birds,” Larry said. “First of all you can go by their size or shape. You basically go by eliminating. Obviously a little chickadee is not the size of an eagle.
“You can also check their behaviour. The sound that they make is a great way too,” the conservationist added.
Larry has mastered a series of different calls to help him to recognize birds in all conditions.
“Birders use a lot of sounds for recognition, especially if you’re in deep forest. Some birds are very easy to pick up because they will actually sing their name. With other birds, I start to add memory reminders for their sounds.”
Larry has taken to recording a language to track ornithological orators.
“When you are out looking for owls you don’t often see them because they are nocturnal. I usually put some words to their calls. If you get something like a Great Horned Owl, which is nesting in the clay banks over by the bridge, it will go [Larry demonstrates]. When you think of the words, ‘Who’s awake? Me too!’ it really identifies the species.”
To learn more about Wings Over the Rockies, visit www.wingsovertherockies.org.