This weekend Cranbrook will be the feathery focal point of British Columbia, and the talk will be all things avian, as the British Columbia Field Ornithologists touch down in town for their annual general meeting.
The British Columbia Field Ornithologists (BCFO) is a province-wide organization made up of birders and professional ornithologists a blend between public birding and science.
George Clulow, President of the BCFO, spoke to the Townsman about the upcoming meeting, and also the recent production of the BC Breeding Bird Atlas — one of the most significant such publications in the world. Though he’s from the Lower Mainland, Clulow was on a pre-convention birding expedition in Southern Alberta.
“We bridge a number of areas — hobby birding, birdwatching and the more scientific side of things as citizen scientists,” Clulow said. “We run birding trips for members, but we also participate in gathering information for other groups.”
“The British Columbia Breeding Bird Atlas — which has just been completed and has just gone online — is one example writ large. The production of the atlas has been a massive undertaking, Clulow said.
“A lot of our members contributed field work, and as an organization we also supported it financially. We weren’t the biggest supporter, because government was involved as well.”
“It’s a huge thing. There’s so much data in there — information produced by government, by business, by conservationists, by preservationists …”
The work has been years in the making.
“The field work was done between 2008 and 2012 — and then all the compilation and all the maps and graphs and all of the write-ups for each of the species was done between 2012 and now,” Clulow said.
“Also, because the whole document was partly funded by the federal government, it had to be translated into French, so it’s bilingual — it’s probably the most notable bird atlas in the world, being bilingual.
Clulow said British Columbia has the highest diversity of breeding birds out of any province or territory in Canada. The atlas accordingly covers about 320 species of birds. It can be seen online line simply by googling BC Bird Atlas [click here to go directly to the site ]. It will come up right away, Clulow said.
The BCFO represents about 290 members, 89 of whom will be at the AGM’s Saturday night banquet. But first, there will be the birding areas of the East Kootenay to explore.
The BC Field Ornithologists hold their AGM in a different location around the province, choosing Cranbrook this year in anticipation of checking out the unique habitats of the area. “Most of our members have not birded the Rocky Mountain Trench,” Clulow said. “It’s very attractive from that point of view, to get to areas that very few of us have birded in before.”
On Friday night, the meeting is generally given over to socializing and exchanging birding stories. Starting 5 a.m. Saturday morning the delegates head out birding. Following lunch what’s called the technical sessions take place. This particular time in Cranbrook there will be a presentation from Bird Studies Canada about the Breeding Bird Atlas. Following the presentation will be the AGM proper, with elections, passage of various motions, “the typical kind of stuff that an annual general meeting does.”
A keynote speaker at the Saturday evening banquet will be Jared Hobbs, who is a notable B.C. specialist in owls.
Clulow stressed that a “key dimension is that we couldn’t do all our field trips without the support of the local group — the Rocky Mountain Naturalists.
We’re delighted to come to Cranbrook, we’ve had a lot of help from the locals and we’re looking forward to it tremendously.”