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Politicians turn eyes to the sky in support of feathered friends

May 18 2012
Dave Allinson of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, left, View Royal Coun. John Rogers and Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson get ready for the Canada Baillie Birdathon at Portage Park on Thursday. 

Dave Allinson of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, left, View Royal Coun. John Rogers and Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson get ready for the Canada Baillie Birdathon at Portage Park on Thursday.

Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

Binoculars and bird books are taking the place of meeting agendas and files for some Greater Victoria mayors and councillors this week.

Birdwatchers from the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, a bird monitoring and education organization in Metchosin, have thrown out a challenge to municipal politicians to start counting their feathered friends.

"This is a lot of fun for us and I hope it is a lot of fun for the mayors and councillors," said Jeremy Kimm, the observatory's fundraising director.

The aim is to pit municipalities against each other to see who can spot the most species and raise the most money through pledges.

The Rocky Point group takes part every year in the crossCanada Baillie Birdathon, a fundraiser to support research and conservation of wild birds. Money raised through the municipal challenge will be split between the national and local organizations.

The Rocky Point Bird Observatory is part of the Canadian migration monitoring network and, in addition to identifying migrating species such as the Northern saw-whet owl, conducts banding programs.

The municipal challenge will run until June 15 and, so far, confirmed birders include Sooke Coun. Kerrie Reay, Metchosin Coun. Moralea Milne, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, View Royal Coun. John Rogers, Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson and North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall.

"The feedback so far has been good and we're hoping it will become an annual event," Kimm said.

Apart from the fundraising aspect of the challenge, there is also the thrill of birding, he said.

"It's a great time to be out there. A lot of things get lost on migration and turn up in places they shouldn't," he said.

This month's unusual sightings include three Swainson's hawks at Victoria International Airport, four black-necked stilts at Panama Flats and two Wilson's Phalaropes, also at Panama Flats.

"It has been quite an exciting week," Kimm said.

> On the web: rpbo.org/birdathon.html

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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