Popular bird watching site at Kelowna dump on hold due to pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Popular bird watching site at Kelowna dump on hold due to pandemic

American Avocets
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Chris Charlesworth
April 21, 2021 - 6:00 AM

For roughly the last 30 years, Chris Charlesworth has watched all sorts of birds thrive at the Kelowna landfill.

It's is a popular bird watching spot, due to its variety of scavenging birds, including gulls and eagles, in addition to various waterfowl and shorebirds like the American avocet, which only nests in a few places in B.C., Charlesworth, the owner of bird-watching company Avocet Tours, said.

Over the last year however, the landfill has been closed to bird watching due to the pandemic.

“It’s too bad, but obviously I understand why they don’t want extra people coming in… the kind of concern is they won’t let us back in after COVID,” he said, adding there are few landfills that allow bird watchers to view the birds.

In normal years, bird watchers would sign in at the front office, get an orange vest and use a parking area next to Alki Lake to see the birds.

“There was a spot for us there to stand and look. If you look back eight or 10 years ago, they’d pretty much let us go anywhere, we could just drive around in there,” he said.

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In a typical year, he’d visit the landfill two or three times a month.

Charlesworth said with higher water levels at Robert Lake and Alki Lake in recent years, he’s seen fewer avocets that would typically thrive on the shoreline.

“I remember times where we could see 50 or 70 avocets at the landfill and now if you go you might see 10 if you’re lucky,” he said.

Glenmore Landfill manager Scott Hoekstra said there was a lot of interaction with the public prior to COVID-19, so they decided to stop bird watching and will evaluate at a later date whether it will return after the pandemic ends.

As an example of how busy it could get, Hoekstra said a rare Russian duck was spotted at the landfill a few years ago and by the next day roughly 130 people from the Coast had flocked to the landfill to see it.

“Essentially we stopped all tours of the landfill that aren’t industry association,” he said.

With unique birds like the avocet at the landfill, he suspects that's the reason why bird watchers were allowed in when so few landfills offer that to the public but the decision was made prior to his arrival at the landfill in 2016, he said.

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