University and College Program
What VARC does:
The Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC) is a Registered Canadian
dedicated to wild bird research, conservation and education. It
conducts year round bird monitoring and banding and provides public
outreach to raise awareness of environmental issues particularly as
they relate to breeding and migratory birds.
In support of VARC’s mandate to raise awareness of environmental
issues, VARC encourages the involvement of college and university
students in a number of ways:
a) Site visits (see below)
b) Enrolment in our Bird Monitoring and Banding or Bird ID Workshops
(see our website)
c) Utilization of our data and facilities for research projects
(contact VARC directly)
Field trips to VARC’s Colony Farm Banding Station introduce
participants to the research techniques required for monitoring
migratory birds and the population ecology and ecosystem dynamics of
wild bird populations, in an age specific way. Visitors will learn
about bird migration; the various habitats and communities they
depend on during both spring and fall migration and the breeding
season; and the conservation actions required to protect these
habitats to ensure the long term survival of bird species
All site visits MUST be booked in advance. The structure of site
visits starts with a short talk when visitors arrive to tell them
who we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. If the group is
large we then typically split it in to 2 – one group accompanies our
net extractors on net rounds while the other group stays at the
banding station to watch the banding, take photos and ask questions.
We then supervise while each visitor gets the opportunity to hold
and release a bird. The groups are then switched.
At the end of the visit we give another short talk about habitat
conservation and the importance of safeguarding areas like Colony
Farm for breeding and migratory birds. We also provide visitors with
information on how they can help to make a difference.
In addition, we talk about creating bird friendly gardens and
campuses by preventing window strikes, and putting up feeders and
What time would it be?
Birds are most active at dawn so banding commences very early.
Visitors will be told what time to arrive based on the date they
book as sunrise changes throughout the year. It will be early though
(approx. 7 am) and we ask you to be prompt as this is a structured
program and visitors arriving late maybe asked to re-schedule. The
session will continue for approx. 2.5 hours. Families that arrive
early will be offered some craft activities for the children but are
requested not to crowd the volunteers working with the birds.
How many people can attend?
The optimum size for groups is 15 – 20. We don’t recommend any group
over 24 participants no matter what the age.
Should we schedule a back-up date in case it is raining that day?
This is always a good idea. We band Friday through Sunday from April
1st to October 31st (weather permitting) although we would prefer
groups to visit on the weekend as we have more volunteer help
available. We suggest scheduling the visit for a Saturday with the
idea that it can be moved to the Sunday if the weather doesn’t
We suggest visitors check the weather network for Coquitlam the
evening before to make sure POP is NOT above 60% when we are unable
to band as birds can quickly become hypothermic.
How do we get there?
A map is inserted below with directions to the banding station.
What are the facilities at the banding station?
We have a very visitor friendly set up with banding pagoda, picnic
tables, coat and backpack racks and a wilderness eco-friendly
washroom at the station.
Are there any costs involved?
In order to continue our work, VARC charges $20 per visitor – if
this is not affordable please email us to discuss. Tax receipts will
be issued for amounts over $20. (VARC is a Registered Canadian
Charity) A minimum of $250 is required to reserve the morning for
What should we bring?
• Warm clothing – Colony Farm is a low lying area and can be cold
even in the summer months and especially early in the morning
• Rubber boots or waterproof shoes – The banding station is in the
old field habitat and the grass can be quite wet especially in the
• Binoculars and cameras
• Water and snacks
How do we get to Colony Farm and the banding station?
Please note that we are closest to the Shaughnessy Street entrance
to the park, NOT the community gardens on Colony Farm Road which is
a 15/20 minute walk across the park. Please do NOT use GPS; it will
take you to the wrong entrance.
FROM THE WEST:
Take Highway 1 east. Take exit 44 for United Blvd/ British Columbia
7B E / British Columbia 7 E. Keep left at the fork to continue
toward Mary Hill Bypass. Merge onto Mary Hill bypass. Turn left at
the first traffic light which is Shaughnessy.
FROM THE NORTH / EAST:
From Lougheed Hwy, take the British Columbia 7 Business/British
Columbia 7B exit toward Trans-Canada Highway/Vancouver/British
Columbia 1. Merge onto Mary Hill Bypass and after about 5 km turn
right at the traffic lights. This is Shaughnessy St.
FROM THE SOUTH / EAST:
Take Highway 1 west –Before crossing Port Mann Bridge take Exit 44
for BC 7 toward United Boulevard. Keep right at the fork and
continue toward United Boulevard. Keep right at the next fork and
follow signs for United Bld S/ British Columbia 7B E and merge onto
United Blvd. Turn left onto the BC 7B E ramp and merge onto Mary
Hill Bypass. Turn left at the first traffic light; this is
Once on Shaughnessy Street, about half a mile along on the left hand
side (through one set of lights) is a pull-out overlooking Colony
Farm Regional Park (blue star on map). Park here. There is also a
small additional parking lot on the opposite side of the road.
Walk through the metal gate and down along trail and in to the park
– You will pass a pond on the right – 200 yards after the pond is a
metal gate on the right hand side with green and yellow garbage can
and a ‘Wildlife Habitat Area – Research Personnel Only’ sign - walk
through the gate (PLEASE CLOSE AND LATCH IT BEHIND YOU) and
follow the trail around to the banding station.
For further information please contact us by visiting our
We look forward to seeing you at the banding station!