Field notes from Okanagan crew member Alex Thomson

As a Conservation Youth Crew member with The Nature Trust of BC, I had the opportunity to join the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory and their scientists for a day of bird banding.

The Yellow-breasted Chat fits the definition of a migratory bird – “a bird that travels from one place to another at regular times often over long distances.” While migratory birds are protected by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, many species, including the Yellow-breasted Chat, remain at risk.

Dense bushes at Vaseux Lake are prime habitat for the Chat

The Yellow-breasted Chat is a riparian shrub specialist, living mainly in dense rose bushes like the kind naturally found in the Okanagan. Unfortunately, due to human activity, agriculture, and development, about 87% of
their prime habitat has been reduced. This has led to the Southern Mountain population in BC to be designated as an Endangered Species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

On a Friday in September, I worked with the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory banding station with the Bander-in-charge, Matthias Bieber and banding assistant, Anna Skurikhina, both excellent teachers with extensive bird knowledge. Every day from August 1 to October 15 this dedicated birding team checks 14 mist nests (sheer netting used to catch birds) every twenty minutes from sunrise until noon.

Matthias Bieber banding a Yellow-breasted chat

hat day we caught, banded, and released some amazing species. Most exciting for me was the Yellow-breasted Chat, but we also found a Pine Siskin, Common Yellowthroat, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Song Sparrow among others. We stumbled upon a Pacific Tree Frog that was hiding out near the banding tent as well as a pesky Short-tailed Weasel and two White-tailed Deer. The banders say they have also seen an American Black Bear, an American Beaver, a moose, and several species of snakes near Vaseux Lake.

While the Nature Trust’s first priority is acquiring land to protect critical habitat for wildlife species, we actively restore habitats. By planting riparian shrub species, such as Wild Rose we are restoring and enhancing wildlife habitat for species at risk such as the beloved Yellow-breasted Chat.

The Nature Trust of BC has conserved 1195 acres of habitat around Vaseux Lake.