Fixer Upper in the Okanagan

With a little love, it could be a home again.

The idea is that species like Western Bluebirds …

… will maintain their presence in a grassland if bird houses are erected to replace lost housing options in lost tree corridors. Accordingly, when land is “developed” or turned into housing…

… erecting bird houses compensates for the environmental loss of grasslands. That’s the theory, based on studies a couple generations old now.

Truth be told, a recent study from the Similkameen shows that without specific types of wildflowers, including snow buckwheat …

… (and the insects that live by them), there are no birds. Houses make no difference. After 160 years of flower-munching tradition …

… there are very few flowers that can support a bird population over the season. But, by this time, the human houses have gone up, with full environmental accreditation. Part of the issue is even the well-meaning desire to stabilize eroding hillsides by planting fall rye or crested wheat grass…

Crested Wheat Grass for Soil Stabilization Along the Grey Canal Trail

… can contribute to the problem, as snow buckwheat prefers eroding slopes. This gravel pit, dug during road building for The Rise subdivision in Vernon, for instance:

The pit might be a blight, but this is the only buckwheat for a few kilometres. It’s enough to help support about a dozen cliff swallows and the zillion wasps that have moved in to fill the ecological niche abandoned by the birds. It’s a common thing in the Okanagan these days to complain about the huge numbers of wasps: more than ever before. Well, yeah. Without the birds. ¬†Luckily, wasps can be beautiful, too.


Still, those empty bird houses, environmentally-accredited as they are, illustrate how essential it is to renew environmental regulations. What made sense 10, 20 or 30 years ago make sense no more and, by the looks of it, gets in the way. In the end, it’s land use that’s the real issue. The rest is compromise. If compromise is what we can manage right now, then we need to update that compromise. The pair of bluebirds below are gone, and no offspring inhabit these grasslands.

The near-abandoned orchard that kept them going for a couple decades has been developed into a new farm, replete with weedkillers, fences, sown grass and exactly two species. Only the apples have flowers, and that is just, simply, not enough to raise the kids on, whether we apply human standards and fix up old shacks or not.

Only for humans is a house a home.

3 replies »

  1. I grew up on Bluebird Road in Kelowna, which allegedly was so named because they thrived there, but I never saw one, because they went before I was born, almost 65 years ago. I still haven’t ever seen one, and doubt now that I ever will. The same is true of the minnows that swam round our feet in Okanagan Lake until they suddenly vanished forever when I was 9, and now, where I live in Wales the cuckoos and the skylarks are heard less often. Bloody sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bloody sad, indeed. I’m going to hazard a guess that those minnows were young Kokanee feeding at the creek estuary, either creek spawners or shore spawners. Most of the shore spawners are gone. Heck, most of the shore, as a living system, is gone. The big spawning beds south of Summerland are covered in highway now. Anger at the senselessness of this stupidity and the search for hope is one of the things that has kept me going at this project. 2500 posts. That’s either a lot of anger or a little hope spread out a long way. I believe the minnows in Naramata late 60s were pike minnow minnows, aka squawfish (greasy fish), carp and suckers. Perhaps yours were, too. So maybe it wasn’t Kokanee you waded with but these as well. In that case, I suggest they were purposefully poisoned by sports fishermen. They did it elsewhere. The Nicola, for example. I’m sad to hear about. your skylarks and cuckoos.

      Liked by 1 person

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