by EVAN MATTHEWS
With spring just around the corner, the birds will soon be singing, and watchers watching.
In their new book, Best Places to Bird in British Columbia, birders Richard and Russell Cannings point to Valemount as a good spot to bird watch.
“The Rocky Mountain Trench is an important migratory corridor for birds, as well as being the gateway to the Rockies,” says Richard Cannings.
He says the mountains act as a boundary between east and west species, so the diversity is especially great around Valemount.
Mount Robson specifically, according to the Cannings, is one of the best birding sites in B.C., which the book acts as a guide through.
Mount Robson Park offers some of the best mountain birding on the continent, with the nice mix of eastern and western birds, and valley bottom and mountain top species thrown in, he says; and Cranberry Marsh — the R.W. Starratt Wildlife Management Area — is a great place to see waterfowl, as good wetlands are rare in the mountains.
Valemount is home to some of the region’s most unique and rare species such as Blackpoll Warbler, White-tailed Ptarmigan and White-winged Crossbill, according to the Cannings team, while also being a habitat to some of the more common species we see regularly such as Swainson’s Thrush, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler and Hammond’s Flycatcher.
The Cannings’ guide to birding provides information about the region’s native species, information maybe not otherwise highlighted, such as the fact that Rusty Blackbirds nest in pond-like marshes, and that their populations have dropped by over 90 per cent in the last 40 years.
The mountains flanking the highway are spectacular, but don’t really prepare you for the sight that you encounter around a corner a few kilometres east—the face of Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, a vertical wall of rock 3 km high (over 9,000 feet). This view is reason enough to visit Mount Robson; the diverse bird fauna makes the trip even more worthwhile. — Excerpt from Best Places to Bird in British Columbia, written by Richard and Russell Cannings.
The Cannings’ birding guide includes photos, information relevant to identifying the species a person would see, and gives the reader insight to the Cannings’ perspective on the nature surrounding Valemount.
“The diversity, the wetlands, dry forests, valley bottoms, mountain peaks and the scenery all make Valemount’s nature notable,” says Richard.
Russell Cannings has been birding since childhood, growing up in the Okanagan Valley. He has experience as a field biologist throughout the province, but has since completed a history degree at UBC and an education degree at the University of Vancouver Island.
He now lives on New Zealand’s North Island working as a high school teacher.
Richard Cannings is a biologist, birder and nature writer.
A lifetime resident of the Okanagan, he is a founding director of the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance and a member of the national board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.