Award Winning Birding Naturalist in Merritt BC Canada
Dr. Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton Speak at NVIT Theatre
Birding study while backpacking and wilderness camping on the Trans Canada Trail across Canada
The opportunities of Birdwatching in Merritt BC has never been more clear. This past week Tourism Nicola Valley, EH Canada Travel, in partnership with the Nicola Valley Naturalist Society, hosted award winning naturalist Dr. Sonya Richmond and photographer Sean Morton right here in Merritt British Columbia Canada. Our guests shared their adventures, stories, tips and bird sightings from across the country while backpacking the Trans Canada Trail during a 1-hour presentation at NVIT (Nicola Valley Institute of Technology) on Thursday October 20th, 2022.
Birdwatching in Merritt BC with Dr. Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton
Dr. Sonya Richmond and Sean Richmond have a story to tell. A 4 year story in fact, studying people’s relationship with nature, while documenting bird species, on the 28000 kilometre long Trans Canada Trail. They tell their unfolding story on their blog called Come Walk With Us.
The TCT Starting Line
They started their journey in Newfoundland, Canada in 2019 seeking out bird species, and recording their findings as they backpacked east until they reached British Columbia, and Merritt BC. It was here in the Nicola Valley, they presented an impressive slide show presentation at NVIT about birds throughout Canada with commentary depicting the many geographical landscapes Canada enjoys, as well as, the ever changing wildlife species specific to each region. It was a lesson to behold. A lesson which opened eyes and ears for the first time. We share with you their presentation below.
Come Walk With Us
Our journey with the award-winning duo started with picking them up near the Trans Canada Trail in Penticton, BC. Certainly it was exciting to meet Sonya and Sean in person after so many years of e-connecting. The award winning naturalist and photographer have been sharing their backpacking, wildlife, birding and camping stories on their blog called Come Walk With Us, and through their social media channels for years now. Therefore you can follow their exploits and insights easily on social media, like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, by searching one of their hashtags #hike4birds and/or #comewalkwithus.
Stories on the Trans Canada Trail
It is a story of successes and challenges. Wildlife sightings and missed sightings. Sun and snow. Fires and smoke. Silence and noise. And, yes, there are many encounters with good people and, sadly, a few with bad people. However, it is their story on the Trans Canada Trail of personal growth while flying solo on the wings of birds. They will be the third group to have completed the Trans Canada Trail in history!
Who is Dr. Sonya?
Dr. Sonya Richmond is a friend, scholar, an awarding winning Canadian Naturalist, a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, as well as, member of the Explorer’s Club of Canada. Her awards include:
- An Inspire Award Winner – Universal Women’s Network (2021).
- Nature Inspiration Award Finalist – Canadian Museum of Nature (2021)
- Recipient of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society Expedition Grant (2021) and Research Grant (2022)
- Stan Hodgkiss Canadian Outdoor Person of the Year – Canadian Federation of Wildlife (2022)
- Ontario Federation of Ornithologist’s Certificate of Appreciation (2022). In my language “a person who studies or is an expert on birds”
And, my personal favorite, Dr. Sonya is a member of the award winning Canada Adventure Seeker Club. But then again I am a tad bias on this one.
Who is Sean Morton?
Sean Morton is a friend, scholar, a Member of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and an award-winning landscape and nature photographer whose work has been published in Broadview Magazine, Ontario Nature, Alberta Nature and the Bruce Trail Magazine among others.
Birdwatching in Merritt, BC – What We Learned
They even did some research about birding in the Nicola Valley. It was a treat listening to the naturalists about birdwatching in Merritt BC . Some of us got schooled, others an awakening and some… a gentle reminder of the perfect opportunities for birdwatching we can enjoy in our very own valley of birds. In other words… it totally makes sense now!
Birdwatching in Merritt BC Makes Sense
Merritt sits under the popular birding migration route called the Pacific Flyway attracting birds to the region every year. As a result, our lakes play a large part in attracting birds to our region to nest, feed and breed. In fact one of the largest IBA’s in Western Canada for protecting birds is located in the Nicola Valley. It is called the “Douglas Lake Plateau“. I believe the number of bird species identified in the valley is around 166. I am sure our friends at the Nicola Valley Naturalist Club can provide an exact count.
What is the Douglas Lake Plateau IBA?
An IBA is an “Important Birding Area”. The Douglas Lake Plateau IBA starts in Kamloops, BC in the north to Nicola Lake in the south, then extends east to Salmon Lake. The most notable bird sightings include the Burrowing Owl, Lewis Woodpecker, and Sandhill Cranes. However, did you know that the Douglas Lake Plateau is a migration and breeding ground for Sandhill Cranes? It is said that up to 10,000 Sandhill Cranes visit during the IBA during the spring and fall migrations. Wow right! In BC, the Douglas Lake Plateau is an important region to protect for migratory birds.
The Birding Industry in Canada
The opportunities of the Canadian birdwatching industry are many. The market is huge!
“30.7% (7,605,527) of adult Canadians went wildlife viewing while on an out-of-town, overnight trip of one or more nights.” Bird Canada
Consequently, birders tend to spend money in other areas of the community as well. Art, entertainment, cultural and historical attractions tend to compliment a wildlife viewing adventure. Research shows birders are also interested in other adventures like hiking, climbing & paddling; cycling; cross-country skiing & snowshoeing. Canadian wildlife viewers spend $1.3 billion on wildlife viewing adventures per year. Beginner birders spent an average of $330.68 per day, as compared with $549.38 by expert birders.
How Can We Better Promote Birdwatching in Merritt BC
What we learned includes how to start educating our locals, attracting more bird enthusiasts to the Nicola Valley and do a better job at involving our youth. It is apparent that screen time is at an all time dangerous level for our youth. Using programs like iNaturalist will help transform “screen time to green time” as it is similar to a video game but it involves the outdoors to play. To maintain and grow a specific tourism sector the youth have to carry the torch. If they do not, the torch just may go out.
Birding Library in Merritt
Therefore, an important note to end on. We have a birding backpacking program operated by the Nicola Valley Public Library. Who would of “thunk” it. Time to grow that program too. Our birds depend on it.
In conclusion we would like to thank Dr. Sonya and Sean for taking the time to visit with us and to educate some of us, including this blogger. The feedback has been very positive and you have left a big impression on the Nicola Valley. Thank you from all of us in the Nicola Valley including Melvina White (TNV), Tia Delaney (ENV Blogger), Alan Burger ( Nicola Naturalist Society ) and the Girard Brothers (Greg & Colin Girard) of Canada Travel Website.
Contact Dr. Sonya and Sean Morton
How You Can Donate: https://www.comewalkwithus.online/donate
Birdwatching in Merritt BC Canada
Birding Naturalist and Wildlife Photographer in Merritt BC Canada
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