COVID-19 blues got you down? Backyard birding in the Okanagan and Kamloops can offer some much needed colour - InfoNews

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COVID-19 blues got you down? Backyard birding in the Okanagan and Kamloops can offer some much needed colour

The Western Tanager is being sighted regularly in the Thomspon and Okanagan as more and more people take up the hobby of birding during COVID-19 pandemic isolation.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ YouTube
May 10, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Kamloops and Okanagan residents are discovering backyard birding, which is brightening up the COVID-19 landscape.

Penticton South Okanagan-West Kootenay  MP Richard Cannings, is a biologist who has written several books on birding, and since the pandemic has noticed an appreciable increase in the pastime among many who have never done it before.

“A lot of people are staying home, working in home offices and gardens, and they have more of an opportunity to look outside. It’s this time of year when we have birds going through the backyard in their bright coloured plumages,” he says.

He's been getting a call or a Facebook notification at least once a day for someone asking what type of bird they saw, what books to use and where to go beyond the backyard to safely watch.

Cannings says Western Tanagers are one of the birds people are seeing a fair bit.

“They are brightly coloured birds with yellow bodies, black wings and red faces. You don’t notice them in summer because they are up singing on treetops, but this time of year they ware lower down, in shrubs and backyard bushes,” Cannings says.

Another popular bird seen this time of year is the White crown sparrow.

“They come through the valley by the thousands in late April and early May. They go through in a blast on their way to northern B.C.,” he says

They are distinguished by their ‘referee head’ which is marked in black and white stripes.

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese have also been filling local airways in past weeks.

“It’s a good time to look for birds. I see all sorts of interesting things looking out my kitchen office window. It’s hard to concentrate on work sometimes,” Cannings says.

The other morning Cannings says someone reported seeing a Marbled godwit, something rare to this part of B.C.

“I’ve never seen one before, but they took a picture, and that’s what it was,” he says.

He says birding is something anyone can do, anywhere, with a minimum of equipment.

“It doesn’t matter how big your backyard is,” he says, For those just getting into the hobby, he recommends one of his own guidebooks, “Birds of the Interior B.C. and the Rockies,” as the content is specific to the interior of the province.

A Sibley Guide to Birds is a good standard guidebook snd reference for all North American birds.

Cannings also recommends a pair of binoculars, but cautions, “you get what you pay for,” in terms of quality.

Locally information is available through the Facebook group, 'British Columbia Birds.'

Online resources include the eBird app which allows birders to track birds they see in addition to exploring other birder’s sightings, and Merlin Bird ID, which will give the name of the bird observed once the user provides a description.

The White crown sparrow is common this time of year in the Thompson and Okanagan regions, identified by its
The White crown sparrow is common this time of year in the Thompson and Okanagan regions, identified by its "referee head."
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ YouTube

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