The Stellar’s Jay eats seeds and insects, and is also fond of peanut butter and…baby birds. They are known to raid nests and are especially partial to Hummingbirds. Photo Nienke KlaverThe Stellar’s Jay eats seeds and insects, and is also fond of peanut butter and…baby birds. They are known to raid nests and are especially partial to Hummingbirds. Photo Nienke Klaver

COLUMN: Exploring the world of birds

Plenty of information is available for aspiring bird watchers

Do you ever venture outside to explore the world of birds?

Maybe you sit quietly among the trees or in a backyard and watch patiently. It can become a bit of an obsession. I have always been fond of birds, but never to the extent of being a serious bird watcher.

That rush of excitement when you spot a bird of prey circling high in the sky, the hushed voices when you see a robin sitting on her nest, slowing the car down as ducks cross the road.

Birds are everywhere in our community, we should get to know them a little bit better.

Start by visiting the library to choose a book on bird identification.

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We have the quintessential Birds of Interior B.C and the Rockies, by Richard Cannings. If you could only read one book on the subject, this would be the one to pick. It fits in a backpack, identifies over 250 bird species with beautiful colour photos and gives information on the best binoculars to buy.

Bringing binoculars is fun, but not always necessary.

Pack a snack, water bottle and head outside. Keep in mind there is etiquette to follow, birds are sensitive creatures. Don’t approach nests closely, keep voices low and avoid sudden movements.

From the book, The Art of Mindful Birdwatching, by Claire Thompson, there is a section on finding a “sit spot.” Thompson says: “If you want to get up close and personal with birds, you must sit and remain still for at least 20 minutes. After that time, the birds you spooked on your arrival begin to relax and return.”

Take a stroll through the wooded areas in Summerland and find a sit spot.

The Adams bird sanctuary is a small ecological reserve where you might spy a dark-eyed junco, song sparrow or a western screech owl. I have been a few times but have yet to see an owl.

Of all the birds in our area, owls might be my favourite. I had the pleasure of listening to two owls late one night, flying around the neighbourhood.

I searched the Internet to find meaning in their back and forth calls, apparently they were looking for a place to nest. When I peeked out the window to spot them in the night sky, a black shadow with a huge wingspan flew by.

In his book, Birding for the Curious, by Nate Swick, the chapter on finding owls states that they are “famously active at night, but you can find them in their daytime roosts if you’re lucky and know what to listen for.” Do you know what to listen for when looking for owls in the daytime?

It’s another ubiquitous local bird, the crow.

According to Swick, crows will vocally attempt to drive an owl away (called “mobbing”) by making it uncomfortable in its hiding place.

Crows are noisy birds to begin with, but now we know what they are up to!

If you would like to start exploring the world of birds in our community, drop by the library to check out our selection of birding books. Quietly and with no sudden movements, see if you can spot all the quail that live in the library. Happy birding!

Caroline McKay is the community librarian at the Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.

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Summerland Review