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Sarah Simpson column: BC Bird Trail and new app offers loads of fun for birders

“A sudden rise in bird-watching took the world by storm in 2020”
There’s plenty of resources to help bird-watchers find birds around the Cowichan Valley. (Courtesy of the BC Bird Trail)

I was leaving my neighbourhood to come to work recently when something in a tree caught my eye. By golly, it was a hawk, right there above the sidewalk. Hawks are my favourite and always have been. I feel like they’re like me: a bit stout but only because they’re pretty darn powerful.

My mom and I used to spot hawks sitting on the fence posts that surrounded all the farm land in Delta when she would drive me to my sports practices along the highways.

My other favourite birds are black-capped chickadees and robins. I’ve always had a fondness for the chickadee’s songs and my mom maintains her father seemed to have a pet robin, so since I was little they’ve always been called Grandpa’s Pet Robin.

Anyway, this hawk was just sitting there sunning itself, it seemed. It’s tail feathers were out a bit, I hope just drying off, and not because the bird was injured. Truth be told we don’t see a lot of hawks in our neighbourhood. We’re more likely to see the eagles high overhead playing in the wind. And those two darn doves down the street. Doves aren’t my favourite, I will say that.

My family loves to watch birds. We even have a guide to North American birds in the door of our vehicle just in case we need to identify something cool on a hike or drive.

We were thrilled when we were visited by Lucy the leucistic hummingbird several years ago, too. I often wonder whatever happened to that tiny white bird….

Moving on.

I got an email the other day from a group looking to promote the BC Bird Trail. Now, I knew of the BC Ale Trail, a well-publicized map and marketing plan that promotes all of the craft breweries across the province, but the BC Bird Trail is new to me. I figured having a family of bird watchers, I ought to learn a little more about it.

It’s kind of the same as the Ale Trail, but a little bit more all-ages if you know what I mean.

“The BC Bird Trail provides locals and travellers, as well as budding and seasoned birders alike, with free, self-guided itineraries and resources to view and identify some of the most spectacular birds nature has to offer across B.C. — including in Cowichan,” said a press release issued by Sonam Ram, spokesperson for the BC Bird Trail.

There’s an app and everything and the part I like best is that it’s free.

Did you know 76 per cent of Canada’s bird species are found in B.C.? I didn’t.

The reason the BC Bird Trail marketers were reaching out is to promote the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail and the benefits of bird-watching in the winter. (They call it “birding” but I can’t bring myself to.)

Apparently this time of year is a great time to spot birds.

The BC Bird Trail marketers say COVID-19 has increased the number of folks scouting out birds significantly.

“A sudden rise in bird-watching took the world by storm in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic as people sought safe, outdoor hobbies and activities to try out, and it hasn’t stopped,” said Ram. “Called the ‘big birding boom’ birding continues to attract more enthusiasts each year, along with a younger, more diverse group of people than ever before.”

My daughter and husband sure seem to enjoy it. If I’m being honest, my cat really loves to watch the birds, but I think that’s for a different reason… My son and I could give or take it usually, but a new product will greatly increase our willingness to participate: a new app.

The BC Bird Trail app offers self-guided itineraries, an easy-to-use guide for tracking our bird watching progress, the ability to plan trips in advance based on curated recommendations by the experts at The BC Bird Trail and Destination BC, as well as recommendations for local attractions, restaurants, and the opportunity to track progress by earning points and badges.

(Who doesn’t love points and badges? I’m not even being sarcastic. If there’s a badge to earn, I want to earn it. Hey, I take pride in my accomplishments, even the small ones.)

I had a look at the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail website ( and learned it features Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Cowichan.

I clicked on the Cowichan portion of the site and was blown away by what I saw. It wasn’t just about birds, though they’re great. It suggested where to start your day (with the sunrise in Cowichan Bay), where to stop for coffee or a snack, where to shop, and other sites around the region to check out when you’re finished “birding”.

Of course, it also directed folks to the best spots to see birds: S’amuna/the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area, the Chemainus River Estuary, and Ladysmith Community Marina which features the largest nesting colony of Western Purple Martins on Vancouver Island.

Wow. I just learned something new! This BC Bird Trail is already paying dividends for me!

Now, where’s my badge?

Sarah Simpson

About the Author: Sarah Simpson

I started my time with Black Press Media as an intern, before joining the Citizen in the summer of 2004.
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