Jasmin Dobson holds a warbler at the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory (Photo by NCC)
Located in the remote and beautiful Tatlayoko Valley, the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory (TLBO) was established by the Nature Conservatory of Canada (NCC) in 2006 to monitor migratory bird populations in the valley. The banding station is active in August and September. Volunteers come from across Canada and around the world to join NCC biologists as they observe and track the thousands of birds that pass through this key migration corridor. Since 2006 TLBO has banded more than 14,000 birds and cataloged 186 species in the valley.
In addition to the fall activities, volunteers also come for ten days in the spring to band the multitude of tiny hummingbirds on their northward migration.
TLBO contributes its data to the Canadian Migratory Monitoring Network, part of a world-wide database that monitors bird population trends and supports efforts by scientists and conservationists to overcome threats to bird populations.
About the banding station
The lagoon at Tatlayoko Lake Ranch (Photo by Brenda Shaughnessy)
TLBO operates on NCC's Tatlayoko Lake Ranch, a 939-acre (380-hectare) conservation property that is at the heart of our conservation work in the Tatlayoko Valley.
Banding and identification activities take place in a special banding building that helps protect birds and banders from the elements, taking the edge off the cold mountain mornings. Beginning at sunrise each morning, mist nets are set up at key points around the ranch to catch the birds. After carefully removing the birds, volunteers assist the banders to record each bird's details, attach a small band around its leg and then release the bird to continue its journey.
A late-night project to band northern saw whet owls started at TLBO in 2013 (Photo by NCC)
Certified professional banders ensure all bird banding is done in accordance to best practices that minimize disturbance to the animals.
Starting in 2013 we began a late-night capture and banding of northern saw-whet owls.
The crew also conducts a daily census of birds in the area. Swans, raptors, owls and many other species not normally caught in the mist nets are counted and recorded during census.
Slideshow: TLBO in pictures
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Lazuli bunting (Photo by Steve Ogle)
A cedar waxwing caught in a mist net. (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Cedar waxwing (Photo by Chris Chutter)
The banding hut (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Chris Chutter shows visitors how to weigh the birds. (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Children releasing a bird (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Magnolia warbler (Photo by Laura Cardenas)
Identifying the bird (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Flicker (Photo by NCC)
Chris Chutter talks to a volunteer (Photo by NCC)
White winged crossbills (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Northern saw-whet owl (Photo by NCC)
Tatlayoko landscape (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Sandhill cranes (Photo by Steve Ogle)
American white pelicans (Photo by Steve Ogle)
A grizzly and her cubs (Photo by Laura Cardenas)
Snowshoe hare (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Moose (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Glorious lake view (Photo by Steve Ogle)
Visiting and volunteering at TLBO can be an amazing experience for the whole family. Conservation Volunteers join the TLBO team for week-long stints in August and September, helping with all aspects of the research at the observatory. Your morning will be dedicated to assisting at the station, working directly with the birds and the professional banders who will teach you everything you need to know to handle the birds with care and collect all the important information.
Volunteering at TLBO is not only a unique summer experience; it also allows you to contribute to a growing body of international data that aims to evaluate the health and population trends of migratory birds. This is a family-friendly facility for anyone who likes adventure, natural history and the wild outdoors.
To request information about becoming a TLBO volunteer, please contact:
Peter Shaughnessy, Tatlayoko program manager
The Tatlayoko Valley can be hard to get to, but it's well worth the effort. The valley is a 10-hour drive from Vancouver, or three hours from Williams Lake. [see Google map]
White-winged crossbills, Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory, British Columbia (Photo by Steve Ogle)
The Daily Blog: Tatlayoko Birds
Stunning pictures, funny stories and daily bird counts are posted August through October on the TLBO blog, tatlayokobirds.wordpress.com. Follow the daily adventures of our banders and volunteers as they work to tag and document the thousands of birds moving through the valley. Wildlife encounters are guaranteed each day, and readers will learn all about the natural history of the birds and other creatures of Tatlayoko.
NCC generates a variety of reports on the ecology of Tatlayoko, including bird surveys, grizzly bear population reports, hydrology reports and more.
Established in 2006, TLBO aims to monitor and assess bird migration patterns over a period of at least 10 years. The data gathered will be used to evaluate the success of NCC's local conservation strategies. Our findings are submitted to the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network as part of an international program to evaluate migratory bird population trends over long-term periods.
TLBO is also committed to engaging the local community as well as out-of-area interest groups such as schools, workshops and university researchers.
About the Tatlayoko Valley
Tatlayoko Lake vista. Photo by Sally Mueller.
The Tatlayoko Valley flows out to the Pacific, creating a geographic corridor between the Chilcotin Plateau and the west coast. Each August and September, as birds journey south on their autumnal migration, many use this corridor to bypass the formidable ice fields and peaks of the Coast Mountains.
They pass in large numbers through the Tatlayoko Lake Ranch, stopping in the property's large riparian and wetland area to rest and refuel. These factors make the area an attractive one for monitoring bird migration.