Get your binoculars ready (InfoNews)

Get your binoculars ready for the 216th annual Vernon Christmas Bird Count - InfoNews

For the Birds (Castanet)

For the birds
Castanet Staff - Nov 28, 2016
North America's long-running citizen science project gets underway again in December.

The annual Christmas bird count in Vernon takes place on Dec. 18.

Begun in 1900, “the count focuses on the winter bird population, which is different from summer, as many birds leave our area for warmer climes and other species arrive from the far north,” said Claude Rioux of the North Okanagan Naturalists' Club.

Information is collected by thousands of volunteer participants across North America and is used daily by biologists to assess population trends and distribution of birds. The results of all counts are submitted to Bird Studies Canada and collated for all of the continent.

The Christmas bird count is completed in a single day within a previously established 24-kilometre diameter area.

The naturalists club is inviting all interested people, new and experience birders, to take part and come equipped with binoculars or a camera.

To take part or for further information contact Peter Blokker, the North Okanagan's Christmas bird count coordinator by email: or telephone 250-545-8297.

NONC Celebrates 65 years

North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club celebrates 65 years of activity - InfoNews

Media Coverage Nov. 15/16

Media Coverage, November 15th

Global Okanagan



Ministry Announces Construction Go Ahead

Safety improvements drive Stickle Road intersection project
November 15, 2016

Following the results of an independent third-party safety study and extensive community engagement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is moving forward on improvements to the Highway 97 and Stickle Road intersection north of Vernon.

“Public engagement is an important part of this process and my ministry would like to thank everyone who provided their input at the three open houses and through feedback forms,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone. “Given that many of the comments we received indicated a preference for a traffic signal to be installed, the ministry asked an independent road safety expert to compare the ministry’s design with a traffic signal. While both improvement options were considered, the report concluded that a traffic signal is not supported as it would further increase the risk of rear-end collisions and delay traffic.”

A summary report of the ministry’s public engagement is posted on the ministry’s website, and a link is provided below. The report concluded that the installation of a traffic signal on a roadway where the posted speed exceeds 64 km/hr can provide an overall 5% reduction in crashes, however the frequency of rear-end collisions can increase substantially. In comparison, the restricted movement configuration can result in an overall 20% reduction in crashes.

The ministry received approximately 150 comments through feedback forms, email and mail. Since 2013, the ministry has listened to the public to find the best solution to the safety challenges at Highway 97 and Stickle Road intersection. Consultations have taken place with the City of Vernon, the regional district, local stakeholders and with the public.

The ministry’s proposed design improves safety and access at this intersection of Highway 97 onto Stickle Road by extending left turn lanes, installing acceleration and deceleration lanes and removing the left turn onto the highway. As well, there will be a new road to connect the south end of the Stickle Frontage Road to the end of 20th Street in Vernon. These improvements will:

    Increase safety by reducing the number and severity of collisions at the intersection.
    Maintain the flow of traffic along Highway 97.
    Maintain access to Stickle Road for residents and businesses.
    Provide consistency with the longer term plans for this corridor.

The proposed safety improvements are estimated to cost approximately $9.5 million. The ministry has estimated that a traffic signal would have cost approximately $7.8 million.

As part of developing the design for the Stickle Road and Highway 97 Intersection Improvement Project, the ministry conducted geotechnical and environmental investigations to ensure environmental considerations are identified and that impacts are mitigated. The mitigation plan includes improving fish habitat, planting native riparian vegetation, removing invasive plant species and installing bird and bat nesting boxes. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is engaging with local environmental conservation groups to identify potential further improvements.

In addition, the ministry will be rebuilding portions of the existing BX Creek corridor trail that are impacted by the planned improvements, to ensure existing access to Swan Lake and BX Creek are maintained.

“Improving safety is our top priority for the Highway 97/Stickle Road intersection,” said Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster. “The ministry’s design is the best option for protecting safety and it also will keep people and goods moving efficiently, so it’s important to construct this project for the benefit of local highway users and the travelling public at large.”

The ministry will work this fall to complete the detailed design for these improvements and anticipates tendering the project by early 2017.

To view the independent consultant’s report, click here:

Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure webpage on Stickle Road :

Trivial offer for lost wetland

Trivial offer for lost wetland
Kate Bouey - Nov 15, 2016

Photo: Darren Handschuh

There is disappointment over the Transportation Ministry's decision to proceed with its Stickle Road plan, and not just for those who wanted a traffic light at the intersection with Highway 97 north of Vernon.

A major part of the plan to will see 20th Street extended from Stickle to behind the Rona store.

“We are disappointed that the 20th Street extension will go ahead,” said Harold Sellers of the North Okanagan Naturalists Club. “In our minds, it is a bad concept because of the wetland that will be lost and the damage to natural and recreational features.

“It is also an unnecessary road because other roads are being planned to serve the residential developments that are coming soon to the east side of the creek.”

Sellers said he had written to both the ministry and the City of Vernon on Monday, just ahead of the announcement that the road plan would proceed.

“Our request was that lost wetland be replaced by either a restored wetland or a new, constructed wetland in another location. That is wetland for wetland.

“We also pointed out that responses of installing bird and bat houses, shrub plantings and invasive species removal, are not adequate and are in fact trivial gestures. We doubt that there will be anyone to maintain these once they have been installed.”

While the club supports the remediation of the BX Creek channel on the west side of the highway, Sellers insisted it is not enough.

“We hope the ministry will still consider our request to replace lost wetland with new or restored wetland elsewhere,” he said.

“We are willing to consider a contribution of funds, as well as volunteer efforts, towards a project that meets our objectives. At this point I believe we can have further discussions with the ministry.”


NONC Asks for Restored Wetland

Letter of November 13, 2016
North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club to the Hon. Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation & Infrastructure and Mr. Akbul Mund, Mayor of the City of Vernon

Dear Mr. Minister & Mr. Mayor:

Recently a site visit was organized by Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure staff, for interested parties, to the BX Creek Wetland, proposed site for the extension of 20th Street. The North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club (NONC) appreciates the consultative action by Ministry staff.

One point of discussion has been Ministry-led projects in compensation for natural habitat losses as a result of the 20th Street extension.

The North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club views actions, such as shrub plantings, invasive species control, bird and bat boxes, to be inadequate. These are actions that would have very short term impacts and raise questions of maintenance and sustainability.

NONC requests the Ministry and the City to commit to replacement of lost wetland with restored or new wetland habitat. This should be at a location in the City of Vernon, or at least within Greater Vernon. It should be either the restoration of an existing wetland that parties agree is deserving of restoration or a newly created wetland at a site and on a scale also agreeable to all parties.

NONC is willing to commit funds to such a project. We will also contribute advice and assistance on an in-kind basis. We would be happy to have further discussions with the Ministry, the City and other stakeholders.

Thank you for your consideration of our request and offer.

Sincerely yours,

Harold Sellers

Habitat Created for Rock Wrens

Bird habitat preserved in Vernon
P.L. McAllister

Special to The Morning Star, 3 November 2016

At the beginning of the trail to Vernon’s Middleton Mountain steps, you might notice a tall pile of large rocks on the north side.

The developer, Aldebaran Homes, has used heavy equipment to create a pile of large rocks as a habitat for an uncommon bird, the rock wren.

In the spring, naturalists monitoring bluebird boxes were alerted to the loud ringing sound of a rock wren perched on a rooftop in this area.

There were in fact two rock wrens and the pair sang from rooftops, excavators and tall rocks throughout the season.

Because of the proliferation of houses and condos marching up and around all sides of the park would endanger any nesting of this uncommon bird, an attempt has been made to preserve some disappearing habitat.

The North Okanagan Naturalist Club, Keith Pinkoski, Regional District of North Okanagan parks manager, and John Jacobsen, Aldebaran Homes development manager, collaborated on this project.

Of the five different species of wrens in the Vernon area, the rock wren and canyon wren are uncommon to rare.

These two wrens are expanding their range north and are specialised for only certain kinds of rocky habitats.

The rock pile has been placed by the Middleton steps in the hopes that the rock wrens will return from their migration south in spring 2017 and consider this the right habitat for breeding and nesting.

The North Okanagan Naturalists Club would especially like to thank Aldebaran Homes for their interest in saving wildlife.

P.J. McAllister is with the North Okanagan Naturalists Club.