Bird Month- our online programming!

We were super excited Sara was going to do walks with us this Spring, and when that couldn’t happen we asked Sara to embrace technology and bring the gardens to our homes.

In honour of Bird Week this guest post by Sara Ross takes us on a walk (a sit-spot actually) at Trillium North Park and Means of Production Garden. Who are the birds using these wonderful pockets of indigenous and art-material plants? And what are they up to?

There is so much good reading, listening and link-following ahead- get a cup of something and cozy up to a screen to be inspired when next you go to the gardens!

(note- if you want to watch these videos full screen, visit the EartHand Youtube channel to view them directly. Headphones recommended. Thanks to Ifny Lachance for tech support.)

“It’s waaaaaay spring! The leaves have arrived and most have already turned from yellow to green. Bird song fills the air, and in many places it is easier to hear because of the current slow-down. Friends have asked me… are there more birds this year? Good question! Lee’s see what we can see and hear.

I had a few technical issues while creating these video and sound recordings. As a result there are several places where video cuts out. One part of my story about the history of the salt marsh was lost altogether, so here are some additional notes that fill in the lost recordings and point towards further resources.”   ~Sara

Mean of Production Garden, May 6 2020

The Salt Marsh. History of Land/Place at Trillium Park

People have been living in Vancouver for 3,000 years, and in the Greater Vancouver area for 8,000. Before that there was a massive glacier, or a glacial river outflow in this place. A large area (see pic of map by Celia Brauer & Bruce Macdonald) including where Trillium North is now, and stretching to the base of the hill at Means of Production garden, was a salt marsh and intertidal zone called Skwahchays. At that time the marsh would have been home to so many wild creatures: birds, mammals such as elk and deer, crab and other shellfish and fish, plants that many of us would not even recognize for their diversity.

In the 1930’s the marsh was destroyed by being filled in to use as a rail yard.

In about 2007 remediation was started, and by 2014 the main tree plantings in the North part of the park were completed. Since then the area has been stewarded by Earthand Gleaners and friends, and we see the plants and trees… and associated birds are thriving.

map by Celia Brauer & Bruce Macdonald
Trillium North Park is located in the pinkish area just to the left of where the map says crab (I think). Khiwanah’esks ‘separated points’ is now Main Street. Burrard Inlet is the water to the north.

VIDEO: Trillium Bird Wander

Intro to Bird Language and a few stories about the birds that are here, including anna’s hummingbird, 4 species of sparrows, orange-crowned warbler, cooper’s hawk, european starling, crows, cormorants. Cooper’s Hawk photo credit: Laurel Dykstra.

More bird notes:

The main bird voice heard throughout this video is white-crowned sparrow.

On re-watching, at 6:38 I notice that a person walks behind me on the other side of the bushes. Shortly after that, the sparrow begins to alarm, and I suspect they are connected.

Birds seen or heard at Trillium North Park

  • crows (with nesting materials)
  • glaucous-winged gull
  • canada geese
  • tree swallow
  • white-crowned sparrow (singing a lot through video)
  • golden-crowned sparrow
  • lincoln’s sparrow
  • savanah sparrow
  • orange-crowned warbler
  • wilson’s warbler
  • american robin
  • house finch
  • anna’s hummingbird
  • cormorants (flyover)
  • european starlings
  • bushtits
  • northern flicker
  • killdeer
  • western tanager

VIDEO: 5 Voices of Birds at Means of Production

Intro to the 5 voices of the birds, including understanding baseline. Song, companion calling, juvenile begging, male-to-male aggression, alarm.

More bird notes:

10:58 – 11:08, when I’m talking about juvenile begging and starlings and crows what I hear on re-listening is a baby crow being fed by a parent.

11:43 and 11:52 we hear a loud sound comparable to the sound a sneaker makes on a gym floor. It’s the Anna’s Hummingbird doing an aerial territory display!

VIDEO: Invitation to Connection and Intro to Sit Spot

Starts with a nice audio of birds and pan of the beautiful gardens at Means of Production. Learn about Sit Spot. I focus on bird sounds in this invitation, but note that you can pay attention to whatever catches YOUR interest at your sit spot (except NOT your to-do list). Pay attention to plants as they unfurl, bud or develop seeds, insect visitors, clouds, birds, four-legged creatures, water, wind, whatever.

Birds seen or heard at Means of Production Garden:

  • ruby-crowned kinglet
  • warbling vireo
  • swainson’s thrush
  • house finch
  • black-capped chickadee (excavating a nesting cavity in Paulownia!)
  • european starlings (nesting)
  • orange-crowned warbler
  • yellow-rumped warbler
  • wilson’s warbler
  • yellow warbler
  • western tanager
  • goldfinch
  • anna’s hummingbird
  • crows (nesting)

Try a sit spot, a short How To:

What makes a good sit spot?

Choose somewhere that is very close to you, easy to access… so not more than 5 minutes walk from your house, ideally closer.

Pick a place where you feel safe, and where you can be alone without talking to other humans. It needs to have some nature, but does not need to be a super-wild space. Even sitting at your window is fine. Perhaps you can have a second spot that you visit less often which is more wild?

Visit your spot often at different times of day and seasons. While there, expand your senses and get curious. Working on hand-crafts at the same time is ok, providing you still have some attention free to be present to your sit spot.

Some people take notes or nature-journal while there if it helps you focus. Others save the note-taking until later or never. It is best if you can share your nature stories and observations with another person, but if that’s not possible it is valuable to share with your journal.

7 local birds that will help you study bird language

These birds spend all or most of the year here, and generally hang out fairly close to the ground. 

  • american robin
  • song sparrow
  • dark-eyed junco
  • spotted towhee
  • pacific wren
  • anna’s hummingbird
  • black-capped chickadee

Hear their different vocalizations such as song, companion, and alarm at Bird Language Audio Recordings


Bird Language Audio Recordings

How to Learn Bird Language in 5 Steps

Sit Spot Link (Wilderness Awareness School)

8 Shields

Wilderness Awareness School

History of False Creek Watershed

What the Robin Knows, Bird Language book by Jon Young

Helping Birds in local parks.
Please keep your dog on a leash except in clearly marked off-leash areas. Dogs harass birds and destroy nests.

Clean up fishing line and nets and any other plastic trash that you see in nature to prevent bird entanglement and ingesting.

BIO: Sara Ross is a Burnaby-based mother, cyclist, explorer, maker, care-taker of land, harvester & gleaner of wild plants, land defender. She loves birds, and loves the thrill of catching sight of a hunting cooper’s hawk on the wing. She is a former Lead Instructor at Soaring Eagle Nature School, and has worked, studied, and practiced with nature-connection & birds in this region for 20+ years. Sara has led the Crow Roost Twilight Bike Ride since its inception. Sara also runs a micro-business called Land Connection Medicine which features super-local & limited-edition plant medicine tinctures.

Sara Ross with copper and cherry blossoms, April 2020

Mean of Production Garden, May 6 2020

White-crowned Sparrow sings from favorite song perch at Trillium North Park, May 6 2020