This Kit is for the Birds!
A few years ago, Karen Devitt from Bird Studies Canada had a brilliant idea! Create a Birdwatching Kit that people could borrow to go birdwatching and learn about birds. She got funding from MEC, the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Vancouver and Vortex Optics to buy the supplies for these kits.
Each kit, pictured below, contains:
- A pair of Vortex Crossfire high-quality binoculars with soft case
- The National Geographic Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America
- British Columbia Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species
- A laminated birding guide with helpful tips and a backpack parts list
- A customer survey for your feedback
There was only enough funding for a few kits. Bird Studies Canada could lend them to people participating in their guided walks and for the annual Christmas Bird Counts that happen all across North America.
He developed it in response to a tradition prior to 1900 known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”. Hunters would choose sides and then go out and kill as many birds and small animals as they could for the day. The team that brought back the most carcasses, won.
A far cry from today’s environmental standards! But those were different times and long ago.
Chapman was concerned about the effects such actions were having on bird populations so he wrote an article for the Society’s journal, Bird-Lore, that proposed people go out and count birds rather than kill them.
More than a 100 years later, we’re still counting them! Such is the way of a good idea.
But binoculars and books can get expensive and not everyone can afford to own them. This is why Ms Devitt’s idea started to gain momentum. In 2018, the Stewardship Centre for BC offered to support the Delta, BC Bird Studies office. After a roundtable in August with over 150 people, the participants helped fund an additional 4 Backpack kits. These were shared with the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library as a pilot project to test the idea of lending them out to anyone through their local library. BC Nature also helped in this launch.
Since the start date in February of 2019, the kits have been signed out every day!
Some of the roundtable participants were city staff from Delta. The city of Delta, situated on the Fraser Delta, and a known bird migration route, the Pacific Flyway, has long supported efforts to appreciate birds. Hearing about the Thompson library success, Delta offered to support 4 kits for distribution through their local library.
Bird Studies Canada then learned that Delta’s library branch was part of a larger library network known as the Fraser Valley Regional Library. The regional library has a program, the Playground Program, that seeks to provide patrons with free access to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) related activities.
Faster than a speeding bullet, the 4 kits became 56 backpacks distributed across 25 library branches!
The Birding Backpack kit program was officially announced on July 13th at the Ladner Pioneer Library in Delta and was accompanied by a short video explaining the importance of bird watching and how these backpacks can help introduce new people to the joys of birding.
Want to borrow one? You only need a FVRL user card. The backpacks are part of their “floating collection”. If your branch doesn’t have one, just put in a request and the next available one is sent to your branch for you! If there is no other hold request, you can keep it for 3 weeks. If there is a hold, you get to use it for a week.
How great is that!
So I pass along this super idea and hope that you’ll pass it along to your community leaders and libraries, wherever you live. There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come and I believe this is one of those!
Do you want to take action for Canada’s birds? Visit birdscanada.org to explore opportunities and connect with them.
I hope you enjoyed this article and will share with your friends via the usual social media outlets.
Until we talk again,
Biology affects all of us everyday in big and small ways both subtle and dramatic. In biology4everyone, I explore current and complex biological issues to help you better understand them so you can take action to make the world a better place. Bonus: You might find biology fun and creative!
*Much of the information in this article was excerpted from this article on the Bird Studies Canada website. You can share that one, too!