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By James Casey, Fraser Estuary Specialist, Bird Studies Canada

When did you take your first look through a pair of binoculars? Did they help nurture your curiosity for the natural world? Binoculars allow you to experience nature with an almost magical intimacy. But unfortunately, not everyone has access to the tools that can enhance their experience in nature. In February, Bird Studies Canada and partners launched a new borrowing program at the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library in Kamloops, BC to put these tools in the hands of more aspiring nature enthusiasts. Anyone with a Thompson-Nicola library card can now borrow a Budding Birder Backpack, which includes a backpack, Vortex binoculars, a bird identification guide, and a laminated introduction to using binoculars.
The kits were launched with the help of BC Nature’s President, Alan Burger, and Melissa Lowenberg, Manager of Community Libraries and Engagement at the library. The first four kits were loaned almost immediately with a waiting list 12 people long. Those living in the region can visit the library’s Budding Birder Backpack webpage for more details.
Many enthusiastic players were involved in bringing this idea to life. A number of partners have come together to support the concept since Karen Devitt (Bird Studies Canada’s BC Project Coordinator at the time) dreamed up the idea over a year ago. The Stewardship Centre for BC helped nurture the idea into a legacy project of those who gathered for a Stewardship Roundtable on birds held in Vancouver in August of 2018. Generous support from Wild Birds Unlimited’s Vancouver store, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and Vortex Optics was key to making the kits affordable. These community partners are thrilled to know this program is helping connect people to nature. It is our hope that the program can continue for many years and grow to support the “fledging” of many more new birders.
There are already two other libraries in BC interested in the kits and a number of other venues that have expressed interest in a similar program. Efforts are ongoing to provide more kits to these various venues in BC. All financial donations for budding birder kits will receive a tax receipt. If you are interested in supporting this effort, please visit birdscanada.org/buddingbirder. The program is being driven through partnerships in BC and is focused on that province, at least for the time being.

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