Bird Watching

Jan Montenyne

Calling all bird watchers! Diverse landscapes, always changing in colour and mood, provide a range of habitats for feathered friends, big and small. Gaze overhead at soaring eagles, listen to the lullaby of the loon, marvel at the brilliance of a bluebird, and keep your camera ready. Also be prepared to spot wildlife – different ecosystems (and sometimes our doorsteps) shelter a wide variety of species. It is not uncommon to see deer, moose, and black bear; more rarely, you may glimpse a cougar, wolf, or elk.

The first herald of spring is the arrival of summer birds. Mating calls send the birch sap running, as Canadian geese arrive in their honking formations, and blackbirds, both the yellow headed and red-winged, establish their nesting territories.

Blue skies provide a backdrop for lofty birds of prey: ospreys peering into the waves to capture their meal alongside fishermen, or red-tailed hawks searching the fields for a wayward fieldmouse or rabbit to invite to dinner. Mule deer, foxes and coyotes are common along roadsides (take care when driving). Sandhill cranes often nest in open fields and cutblocks.

Immediately you can enjoy watching jays, woodpeckers, chipmunks, squirrels, and curious chickadees will all welcoming you. As you are sitting around the campfire or stargazing in the night, you may encounter our nocturnal residents: the shadows of bats and flying squirrels, or the hoot of a great grey owl.

Unique and rare, Cariboo grasslands harbour inhabitants that are not found anywhere else. Open rolling expanses of bluebunch wheatgrass, with patches of big yellow balsamroot sunflowers, hide many vulnerable and endangered species. BC’s largest shorebird, the long-billed curlew.

Where can you catch the scent of wild mint on the breeze, watch the reeds dance above the water, or admire waterlilies laying on the surface like green plates serving up bright yellow flowers? Almost forty species of waterfowl can be found on South Cariboo lakes and wetlands.

Many migratory species live here during the summer months or pass through in the spring and fall during their annual passage. These include not only various ducks and geese, but also trumpeter and tundra swans, and the odd white pelican. The great blue heron is often seen quietly standing at the water’s edge. Lake and stream edges, known as riparian zones, are important to nesting birds such as loons and geese, as well as sensitive amphibians.

These zones impact the health of the water and creatures who live there; not only fish, but also beavers, otters and muskrats. Watch for moose peeking from among the willows and black cottonwood trees.