Friday, June 13, 2014

"Western Teenagers" Big Weekend Report!

First off--If anyone is still periodically checking this blog to see if something new has been posted--my sincere apologies! I haven't updated since October after being fairly active previously. Things have been busy but I know I really should get on top of this. You can expect a final Borneo post and a "Winter 13/14" summary, as well as an upcoming Arizona summary.

Now... who are the "Western Teenagers" and where did they come from???

First some background:

Traditionally I form a team of 3-5 for the Okanagan Big Day Challenge--where we usually bike and walk around the South Okanagan in an attempt to see as many species as possible in one day and raise funds for bird conservation via the Baillie Birdathon. 

One of the fondest memories I have of birding was back when I was 11, and my Dad and others colluded to bring together a few young people to form a "big day" team. In those days most big days were driven and of course young teens can't drive so generous birders like Don Wilson and Dave Fraser would drive myself and a few other young birders (usually Ryan Tomlinson of Kelowna and Gabe David of Victoria) around the South Okanagan. This was the first time I had birded with similarly keen or even keener birders my age, and it greatly aided to stimulate my growth as a birder and naturalist, even though this was a once-a-year event. Our drivers also served as birding-gurus in those early years as I can still remember Don teaching us what a Townsend's Solitaire call-note sounded like, or how to separate Hammond's from Dusky Flycatcher by primary-projection. Really, it was just a lot of fun.

I'm 27 now and continue to try and network and get out birding with others my age or younger but I notice that it's still fairly rare for teen birders to have similarly aged and keen companions, even in Vancouver where there are several of them--the connections just haven't been made in many cases. Young Naturalist Clubs are fantastic in offering a variety of outings for young people interested in nature, but for the kids that are REALLY keen and are already becoming as skilled as some of their adult mentors, I think there is room for more enrichment, and more specifically--opportunities to network with other birders/naturalists their age. The adolescent period is a time when many young birders decide to continue birding or become busy with other things. I think making connections with similarly-minded peers can help a lot in keeping that interest in nature strong, which usually leads to broader interests in biology and conservation issues as a whole---which is obviously something that is very important in this day and age--particularly for the next generation.

As a small step in this direction, and also to fulfill my own selfish desires to have a fun weekend with young birders, I started sending out emails to the young people I knew of around BC, to see if they would be interested in heading to the south Okanagan for the May long weekend for several days of birding with other young people. Of course their parents' would have to OKAY it as well. Things started off small with the 4 or 5 keen birders I was already well acquainted with. As I looked into this however, I discovered more and more young teens in various communities who were immensely keen about this idea and in the end I had 11 birders between the ages of 9 and 17 take part in the weekend's events including 3 girls (a rare demographic as many of you know)! Most hail from the Vancouver area but there are also kids from Victoria, the Sunshine Coast, Kamloops, and Kelowna. There were a few others that wanted to come but couldn't get there for various logistical reasons.

So here they are! Day 1 (Saturday), birding the famous Rd 22 area north of Osoyoos. From left to right: Liron from Vancouver, Logan from Kelowna, Khalid from Burnaby, Josh from Vancouver, Isaac from Kamloops, Timmy from Vancouver, Tim's dad Jeff, Jordyn from Penticton, Isaac's dad Darryl, Rebecca from Victoria, Rebecca's dad Warren, Kai from Egmont, Jordyn's mom Colleen, and Rick from Pender Harbour (Sunshine Coast). Hopefully I got/spelled those right? Anyway, it was awesome to see everyone hitting it off and having a great time birding the Okanagan. Lifers were being oggled left right and centre and it was a heck of a lot of fun.
The group is beaming after a close encounter with a male Black-chinned Hummingbird at Inkaneep Provincial Park in Oliver.
Sunday was BIG DAY day! Unfortunately I had to fly to Arizona for a tour in the mid-morning but I was at least able to join the "Western Teenagers" for some night owling where we heard Western Screech, Northern Saw-Whet, Great Horned, and Flammulated Owls. The team started the morning waaay up in the hills above Okanagan Falls then worked their way down to Vaseux Lake. The afternoon was spent around White Lake. This photo was taken at the start of the Dutton Creek Rd in the "Venner Larches" area up in the hills. This is where I had to depart but it sounds like the boys did really well! 133 species and enough to win the coveted Flammulated Owl award for most species on the Okanagan Big Day Challenge. By all accounts it was a fun day for the kids and their noble drivers!
Here George Clulow presents Logan, Khalid, and Liron with the BCFO 2014 Young Birders Awards!
Part of the "Western Teenagers" and their award for top species total!
In addition to being a fun weekend of birding and getting to meet like-minded young people, this birdathon also sought to raise money for bird conservation efforts as well as the local Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory. With several donations still being process, the Western Teenagers have thus far combined to raise over $1,800!

There is still time to donate, so consider pledging to one of the members at this LINK.

A big thank you again to all of the parents for allowing and encouraging their kids to take part in this fun event, and special thanks to those parents that offered to drive!

Looking forward to making this an annual event!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Fantastic report, Russ!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write this, and it turned out excellent.

    Cheers my friend!


    P.S. Sorry; my last comment didn't work.