Submitted by Ross MacDonald
Every spring a miracle occurs in the Columbia Valley. As if by magic, birds arrive from distant overwintering locations, bears awaken, and butterflies and bees appear as crocuses burst forth like slow fireworks. Soon bighorn ewes will show off their new lambs and fledglings will be everywhere. Since 1997 the Wings Over the Rockies Nature Festival has helped residents and visitors discover the revelatory sensation of witnessing migratory and resident bird activity through expert-led events and presentations. COVID-19 has forced Wings to take a sabbatical for 2020. Thankfully nature doesn’t take sabbaticals.
Nature-watching is one of the best activities for our well-being. In addition to the benefits of exercise, learning about wild plants and animals is a rewarding and inexpensive lifelong hobby. All you need to get started are your eyes and ears augmented by binoculars, a guidebook and hiking shoes. As you gain identification skills consider helping science in the annual spring and Christmas bird counts. On May 9, 145 bird species were documented.
The Columbia Valley is one of the best places in the world to see nature. It is full of accessible habitats, such as waterways, grasslands or forests. Birds are also in our yards and neighbourhoods.
Three local photographers and Wings supporters offer these nature viewing tips:
•“Don’t crowd wildlife; if an animal is changing its behaviour you are too close,” Pat Morrow advises.
•“Let them come to you,” says John Niddrie who anticipated an osprey soaring along the Hoodoos escarpment to get his close up photo (see cover).
•Ross MacDonald used his vehicle as a blind to photograph bighorn sheep above the wetlands. “Be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are using binoculars or a camera. It’s easy to trip, or trample a rare plant, or drive a bird from its nest, only to have predators claim the eggs soon after you’ve walked on.”
Planning has already begun for the 2021 Wings festival but in the meantime take some time to recharge in our remarkable nature. Wings has created a free Bird Checklist, with a map of birding hotspots, downloadable from www.wingsovertherockies.org using the Birds and Environment link.
Photo by Ross MacDonald