The Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory is located about 4 km south of Okanagan Falls, BC. It’s easy to drive past the indistinct pull-out on the west side of Highway 97, as I have done so many times, or even to confuse it with the Vaseux Lake Wildlife Centre which is 2.5 km further down the highway. This very special place is discreetly tucked into protected marshland at the north end of Vaseux Lake and for about three months of the year (August 1st to October 15th) researchers come together at sunrise to monitor bird migration in that area.
Despite its seemingly secretive location the public is welcome to visit the observatory and there are even volunteer opportunities. We visited the observatory with a group of home learners for their interpretive school program which was really fun! The children were grouped and rotated through several stations where they learned about birds, migration and the process of catching, banding and observing birds. They learned that birds are caught in mist nets that are strung throughout the area. These nets allow researchers to collect the birds for banding, measuring and weighing. All this information is written in the daily census which will eventually join a greater national census to monitor the status of birds in Canada.
As my children were learning about all these interesting things I walked along the Okanagan River channel with my youngest, carefully peaked at the mist nets (which my youngest kept trying to touch) and tried to discreetly sneak into the various tents to watch the activities. Our group was fortunate to see an elusive Virginia Rail while we there, as well as many other smaller birds. It was lovely to see the researchers and volunteers share their passion for birds with the children and it was a very special opportunity to see birds up close. The observatory is only open for a few more days this year, so if you have a moment do check it out.