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Oak Bay 13-year-old brings birding class to the shores of Bowker Creek

Armed with a large camera, Adam Ross frequently asks his parents to drop him off in the middle of nowhere.

At least that’s how it seems to dad Stephen Ross.

While it seems random, Stephen Ross knows Adam always has a plan. A birder at heart, the 13-year-old usually finds a fellow ornithologist in his travels, after all they’re looking for the same things. The Lansdowne student is also independent, intelligent and carries his dad’s cellphone.

Now in Grade 7, he started birding four or five years ago inspired by a walk with Liam Singh at Swan Lake nature sanctuary. Singh, who also started birding as a youngster, remains a big name across the region as both a birder and an artist.

Adam enjoys watching different birds, has a keen interest in how they fly as well as how they interact with each other and the environment.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay society shares thrill of finding fish fry swimming in Bowker

He started shooting them about a year ago; one good photo under his belt and Adam never looked back. He kits out with binoculars, backpack, ballcap and a Canon several times a week. Uplands Park is a favourite birding site, primarily because he can make the trip there on his own before school if he times it right. His hobbies include lawn bowling at the Oak Bay club and boating – though the latter has significant ties to birding.

The photos added a whole other layer, Adam said. There’s nothing like perusing a photo of 10,000 gulls later and finding little details.

A bird chase in Tofino provides a good example of the value added by images to study later. An osprey evading a raven without confronting it head on seemed odd at the time, inspection of the photos later revealed the osprey’s talons already occupied – with takeout.

Last year he embarked on learning to band birds with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.

“Having people teach me felt really good and I wanted to do that for someone else,” Adam said, seated in the Glenn Atkinson outdoor classroom behind Oak Bay High on a relatively sunny spring day. Despite being in Grade 7, Adam is a longtime volunteer with the Friends of Bowker Creek Society.

READ ALSO: Out of the streambed gravel comes harbinger of waning pollution in Oak Bay creek

Adam recalls working with the group in his years as a cub scout, but Stephen recalls further back, maybe fourth grade, when Adam asked him how hard it would be to plant 1,000 trees.

They figured out it wasn’t easy, but still sought guidance from the Bowker group, Peninsula Streams and others to learn about the plants, sourced pots and soil from the community and Oak Bay parks, and cultivated native species to give back to the community. Many still line the creek bank where Adam now leads walks, starting at the duck pond footbridge.

Adam has two more counts this month, May 15 and 29. The roughly 90-minute bird count/walks are open to society members only. Memberships are $10 available at or ahead of the walk.

Christine van Reeuwyk

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Christine van Reeuwyk
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