Many of us are excited to get outside and enjoy BC’s super, natural landscapes this summer, but did you know it’s also a great time to explore the world of birdwatching? For avid birders, fall and spring are typically the most active seasons, but there is still a lot of great birding to enjoy during the summer months.
Why Go Birding in the Summer?
If you’re already wanting to spend a lot of time outside this summer enjoying the weather, exploring parks, or going camping, you’re already halfway started on a birding adventure! That’s one of the best parts of birdwatching; you can do it nearly anywhere, at any time. It can easily become a part of any outdoor activity you have planned—all you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open.
The extended daylight hours of the summer also mean more time that can be spent birding. Forests, marshes, shorelines, and even the sky can come alive with birds in the summer.
There are also birds you’re more likely to see in BC during the summer than other times of the year, like some of our many raptor species.
- If you’re spending long amounts of time outside in the hot summer sun, make sure to bring plenty of water!
- Applying sunscreen and wearing a hat are great ways to protect yourself from the sun.
- Spending time by the ocean? Be sure to keep an eye out for sandpipers and other shorebirds.
- Parks might be busier, so consider heading out first thing in the morning if you want to avoid crowds and have nature to yourself.
- Mornings and evenings are prime birding times in the summer.
Summer Tip for Photographers
With the “golden hour” of sunrise happening earlier than you might ever want to head out birding, a nice consolation is that the summer weather can make for some “easier” photos.
For example, more light means you’ll be able to use a faster shutter speed to capture action. Keep an eye out for birds hunting for food or interacting with each other and try to use that extra light to freeze the movement. Also, capturing birds in flight, which is notoriously difficult in photography, can often be easier to try on bright, sunny days.
Summer Birds You May See
One of the most exciting parts of BC birding in the summer is the abundance of raptors. It’s always amazing to be able to witness raptor hunting behaviours in person, like a Northern Harrier hovering above a field or an Osprey plunging into the water. There are many birds of prey species that are more plentiful around BC in summer.
Migratory raptors, like Turkey Vultures, come all the way up to BC from South America. These vultures can often be seen “kettling” (circling in groups of a few birds to hundreds) in the sky before flying back south at the end of summer.
Other raptors like Broad-winged or Rough-legged Hawk can sometimes be spotted soaring in late summer in search of hot air thermals to help them get higher in the sky to look for food.
Shorebirds are another common sight during the summer, especially sandpipers. On the BC Bird Trail, check out the estuaries of the Central Vancouver Island Trail, along the Fraser River in the Fraser Valley Trail, and all along the shores of the Richmond Delta Trail, especially Boundary Bay and Iona Beach.
While mostly known for being migration season (spring/fall) birds, lots of exciting and colourful warblers can be seen throughout the BC Bird Trail in the summer, including Common Yellowthroats and Yellow, Townsend’s, Orange-crowned, and Yellow-rumped warblers.
See something darting over water or a field in the summer? It might be one of the several swallow species we have in BC! Barn, Tree, and Violet-green are the most common in many areas of BC, with Bank, Rough-winged, and others making appearances less frequently.
Rufous Hummingbirds are feisty migratory hummingbirds that breed throughout much of BC and even up into the Yukon and Alaska. During the winter they fly way down to Mexico. You’ll see them buzzing around flowers and feeders, squabbling loudly with our resident Anna’s Hummingbirds as they battle for food and territory.
Are you up for the flycatcher challenge? These small birds come in a variety of species that can be found in the summer months in BC, but the trick is they all look incredibly similar! Make sure you’re equipped with a good field book, or better yet, do some research ahead of time and listen to their calls and songs which can help in identifying them from each other. Good luck!
If you’re new to birdwatching and are curious about how to approach it, check out our Responsible Birding blog post to learn all about how to navigate nature and be mindful of the well-being of the birds we venture out to see.
For more information about the latest provincial health orders, visit https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/restrictions