As we explore and enjoy the super, natural beauty of British Columbia and the birds that call it home, we should be aware of our potential impacts on the environment. Through learning and supporting local conservation efforts, we can all play an important role in ensuring the health of our local nature, making sure it sticks around for everyone to enjoy. In this Field Notes series, we’ll take a look at conservation organizations along the BC Bird Trail. Let’s start with some within the region of the Central Vancouver Island Bird Trail.
Learn about important areas and species they are trying to protect and find out about current or upcoming projects that you can get involved in!
Nature Trust of British Columbia
A non-profit land conservation organization that protects the natural riches of the province by building a treasury of wild natural areas that conserve iconic and important species at risk. You may recognize some of these local organizations that manage the protected lands for the Nature Trust of BC. In Cowichan: the Somenos Flats and Cowichan River Estuary, in Parksville-Qualicum Beach: Englishman River Estuary, and in Nanaimo: Morrell Nature Sanctuary, Buttertubs Marsh, and the Nanaimo River Estuary.
BC Nature – Federation of British Columbia Naturalists
“Know Nature and Keep it Worth Knowing”. BC Nature is a federation of local nature clubs, representing over 53 local nature clubs throughout BC. They work to protect and educate naturalists, the public, and decision-makers about the natural history of British Columbia, including its biodiversity, species at risk, and parks and other natural areas. Some local clubs along Central Vancouver Island include the Arrowsmith Naturalists, Comox Valley Naturalists Society, Cowichan Valley Naturalists, and Nature Nanaimo. Members of local clubs get together to help restore marshes, monitor bird life, take care of natural areas, provide nest boxes, remove invasive species or help run nature houses.
BC Field Ornithologists
BCFO is a not-for-profit, charitable organization whose members are birders and ornithologists, novices to experts, that is committed to the study, preservation, and enjoyment of British Columbia’s wild birds. Their Young Birder program gives young birders who are interested in getting involved with birding a mentorship by an expert, adult birder to advance their ornithological skills and interests through field trips to exceptional birding locations in BC.
Cowichan Valley Naturalists
An entirely volunteer-run organization, the Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society (CVNS) works at providing public education, advocacy, conservation, and environmental stewardship. They conduct coastal waterbird surveys, provide free educational programs to the general public, and offer guided introductory nature walks of the area. Help out by volunteering or supporting them with a donation.
Cowichan Bring Back the Bluebirds Project
This species recovery project brings together a suite of project partners, landowners, and citizen scientists with the goal of re-establish a breeding population of Western Bluebirds on southeastern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands. This project works to restore bluebird habitats, build nestboxes, and re-introduce bluebirds to the region from healthy populations in Washington State. If you’d like to support this project, you can follow this link to donate.
Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre
This volunteer-run nature centre is located in Hecate Park at the west end of Cowichan Bay Village, overlooking the Cowichan Estuary, a 400 hectare estuarine ecosystem and internationally designated Important Bird Area (IBA). Their centre provides opportunities for visitors of all ages to learn about the estuary, the bay, and the watershed through informative interactive exhibits and fun hands-on activities. They also have school programs and summer science camps.
Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society
The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society (SMWS) has been advocating for and acting as stewards of, the S’amunu/Somenos Conservation Area (SSCA) since 1986. They aim to preserve and enhance the ecological integrity of the Somenos watershed through public education, restoration, advocacy, and scientific research. Visit their Open Air Classroom for learning, rest, exercise, and wildlife watching.
Current projects include the Clean Water Action Project which works with landowners and community partners to address water quality issues in both Somenos and Quamichan Lakes, the Community Steward Program which offers regular opportunities for community members to gain experience and training with ecological restoration and monitoring techniques and to learn about the diverse ecosystems of the SSCA, and the Project Nest Box, which since the early 1970s, has provided breeding habitat for native cavity nesting bird species, specifically Tree Swallows and Violet-green Swallows, and collects data on these nesting birds. Learn about current volunteering opportunities.
Affiliated with B.C. Nature and Nature Canada, the Arrowsmith Naturalists were founded in 1970 with the goals to know, enjoy, and preserve nature. Monthly meetings bring members up-to-date on activities and give them opportunities to share information. A variety of topics are presented from some who are experts in their field, and topics range from environmental issues to world travelogues. The Arrowsmith Naturalists take part in the Christmas Bird Count as part of the North American National Audubon Society count, and currently have stewardship of the Englishman River Estuary to help with invasive plant removal and more.
Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region
Established in 1996 and designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in the year 2000, this biosphere region includes the Mount Arrowsmith area and down to the east coast of Vancouver Island, including Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Coombs, Englishman River Estuary, and that whole stretch from just north of Lantzville/Nanaimo. They work towards promoting the conservation of biological and cultural diversity in addition to economic and social development. Past events include an annual BioBlitz intended for beginner BioBlitzers that wish to learn how to identify plant and animal species. They also provide youth workshops for elementary and high school students (COVID-dependent), as well as at-home activities.
Formed in the fall of 2017 by a small group of dedicated volunteers, Nature Nanaimo now has approximately 120 members who share a love of nature and a desire to protect it. Their mission is to foster an interest, appreciation, and enjoyment of nature, and promote the conservation of healthy, natural ecosystems in the Nanaimo region. Become a member and join a network of British Columbia naturalists and enjoy regular guided nature walks. Past club projects include building nest boxes for Purple Martins, taking on the management of the Buttertubs Marsh, shore cleanups, and efforts to remove invasive plants such as Scotch Broom.
Morrell Nature Sanctuary
Owned by the Nature Trust of British Columbia, the Morrell Nature Sanctuary is leased and managed by the Morrell Sanctuary Society for Environmental Education, a non-profit organization managed by volunteers who maintain the park and organize many programs for school children and the public. They also offer on-site school and seniors’ programs, as well as summer day camps. Learn more about volunteering with them.
These are just a few conservation efforts on Central Vancouver Island. Explore your local conservation efforts and learn about how you can support the birds and ecosystems near you.