Geoffrey Newell

Geoffrey Newell

Oak Bay teen brings a competitive side to birding


Geoffrey Newell’s enthusiasm for birds reaches into art and imitation

Geoffrey Newell was just seven years old when he first fledged his interested in birds. It was the movie Winged Migration and his father’s own biology background that sparked what would become a life-long passion.

For those who have attended Geoffrey’s frequent birding tours with the Friends of Uplands Park and now the Capital Regional District, it’s no surprise the avian expert has been doing this most of his life. Those who haven’t seen the Oak Bay resident in action, however, might be surprised to know Geoffrey is only 17.

“I would say my favourite bird is the Pileated Woodpecker,” he says. “You find them in mature forests, they are about as big as a crow and have a red crest, and just their size for a woodpecker is pretty spectacular.”

It’s also one of the first birds Geoffrey began drawing from memory as a young boy – a talent he developed so far that he was noticed – and became friends with – renowned Canadian wildlife artist Fenwick Lansdowne. Lansdowne, who also lived in Oak Bay, died in 2008 but told Geoffrey he reminded him of himself as a young artist. It was a defining moment for the young man, who keeps his sketchbook fresh with intricate colour drawings.

“Probably two of the best places you can go to see some incredible birds are Martindale Flats and Island View Beach,” says Geoffrey. “If you are looking for specific birds, like owls, any thick forested area, like Francis/King Park, will offer great viewing.”

Geoffrey has now found 280 species of birds in Victoria – a number that officially separates him from fellow birders who take the activity more casually, although his younger brother Jean, 15, is only 10 finds away from catching up to his brother.

“These boys really don’t do any recreational activity just for fun,” says their mother Brigitte Newell. “I see that they are both perfectionists, and competitive and want to be the best at everything. … My trick for finding ways to support them both is that they do the same things, together.”

Despite their competitive nature, both boys also excel at karate, their father David Newell a biology teacher at Mount Douglas Secondary school, specifies the activities don’t negate each other – and act as bonding experiences.

“When we travel for karate, we are also travelling to see the birds, so it’s wonderful,” says David. “Geoffrey and I are really looking forward to seeing the different species in Columbia.”

Finding some of those species was a little easier before the Geoffrey’s voice changed. He was able to imitate whistles and calls, from his favourite woodpeckers to ravens and oyster catchers. Though he grew out of that talent, the home-schooled Geoffrey hopes to continue his karate career into his mid-20s, and intends to take biology in university. Meanwhile, he’ll be leading his birding tours a few times throughout the summer between championship karate competitions.

“In order to do what you are passionate about, you really need the support of your parents, and I’ve been extremely lucky in that way,” says Geoffrey. “To go birding, you do need some equipment: binoculars, I use 10x50s, a telescope for ocean birds, a field guide and a camera – because you never know when a rare bird might appear.”

Go on your own birding trip with Geoffrey and the Friends of Uplands Park Sunday, July 28, 8 a.m. or and Sunday, Aug. 11, 8 a.m. at the end of Cattle Point in the large parking lot. Geoffrey will also give a birding lesson for the Capital Regional District on Sunday, Aug. 18, 9 a.m. at Witty’s Lagoon in Metchosin.

Did you know?

Perhaps better known around the region for being the older of two karate superstar brothers, Geoffrey Newell has quickly put the Island on the map with his athletic skills. Both he and brother Jean will compete for Team Canada at the Pan-American Karate Championships in Columbia this August. That is only the icing on a seven-year award-winning career that has seen Geoffrey listed as a “rising star” in the international karate scene, an Olympic hopeful and the teacher of dozens of youth who hope to turn out just like him.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Police Department vehicle outside the headquarters building. VicPD (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested after Victoria restaurant worker punched, thrown to the ground

Police say woman was found lying on the sidewalk with non-life threatening injuries

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
ATM at North Saanich high school torched during early morning break-and-enter

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school

Victoria police are investigating after several vehicles were smashed and a basement was flooded along lower Cook Street March 2. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police investigating smashed vehicles, flooded basement on Cook Street

Police seeking witnesses, footage of several ‘mischief’ incidents

Victoria Police Department vehicles outside the headquarters building. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police investigating sudden death in Beacon Hill Park

Police, paramedics responded to a report of an unresponsive person early Wednesday

Hundreds of child care spaces will be available in Greater Victoria in the coming two years. (Unsplash)
More than 300 child care spaces opening in Greater Victoria in next two years

Province announces spaces in Victoria, Sooke, Saanich and North Saanich

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforecment, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

t
Province invests $2M in three Vancouver Island food hubs

Hub network provides shared-use processing facilities to small agri-businesses

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

Most Read