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Projects enhance oxbows’ reputation as birding hot spot
The Osoyoos Oxbows Area has long been considered a hot spot for birders who come to observe species of owls, bobolinks and many others.
Two recent projects have enhanced the reputation of this area to the north of Osoyoos Lake, underlining its international designation as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
On May 16, new information panels were unveiled at the kiosk on Road 22 where many nature lovers park to view the oxbows.
Secondly, ducks and many other aquatic birds are now making use of the oxbows, which were restored at the end of 2012 in a joint project by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).
A tour to one of the oxbows to see the completed restoration followed the kiosk official opening.
Oxbows are ponds that were once part of the meanders of the Okanagan River, but are no longer part of that river’s channel.
DUC dredged the badly silted oxbow remnants, reviving the ponds along the old river channel and creating a welcoming environment for birds.
Representatives of municipalities and conservation groups spoke at the May 16 official opening of the kiosk panels, praising the cooperation between numerous organizations and donors as well as praising the nature and birding experience itself.
The original panels, erected in the 1990s by the province, had aged, weathered and become out of date.
BC Nature took the lead on the new panels, securing more than $21,650 from Environment Canada to replace nine sign panels. A tenth panel was added with $2,000 in additional funding from DUC and the NCC.
Many other organizations made in-kind contributions to help develop sign content. Local naturalists and photographers contributed information and photographs.
Under the lead of Bryn White, program manager with the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program (SOSCP), landscaping around the kiosk is being improved. Native plants will be added when water is available.
Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells, Councillor Sue McKortoff, and board chair Mark Pendergraft of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) brought messages of congratulations.
While dignitaries were speaking to gathered conservationists, some observed a man climbing the girders of the bridge over the channel to photograph an osprey nest at close range while the anxious birds flew above him.
Conservationists confronted the man, telling him that harassing wildlife is an offence under the B.C. Wildlife Act.
The IBA designation, which was applied to Osoyoos Oxbows about a decade ago, offers no additional regulatory protection.
There are about 600 IBA sites across Canada and 10,000 worldwide.
BC Nature co-ordinates the IBA program in B.C. with support from Bird Studies Canada, Nature Canada and other organizations such as Environment Canada, the Province of B.C., naturalist clubs and other non-government organizations.
The goal of the program is to support efforts by local communities, landowners, individuals and organizations to ensure that birds can coexist with people in these areas.
Other local IBAs include Kilpoola Lake Area, Vaseux Lake Area, White Lake Area and Chopaka Customs.
Birds stop at these IBAs to rest during their long migrations or to stay and raise their young.