|What VARC does
The Vancouver Avian Research Centre (VARC) is a Registered Canadian
Charity 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 educate youth, VARC has developed an
Avian Environmental Education program for schools and youth groups
which provides an engaging educational experience, fostering
awareness and appreciation of birds and the environment.
Depending on the group involved, VARC offers several parts to its
1) Site visits to its banding station (all ages)
2) Information on creating Bird Friendly Campuses and Gardens
3) Information on what children can do to help birds and the
*VARC is a volunteer organization and does not currently have the
resources to provide ‘in-school’ support but offers tools and
information to assist teachers and youth leaders.
The program includes a field trip to VARC’s Colony Farm Banding
Station where students are introduced 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. Students 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.
The structure of group visits starts with a short talk when students
arrive to tell them who we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing
it. We then typically split groups 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 child 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 each child
with information on how they can help to make a difference.
In addition we talk about creating bird friendly campuses and
gardens by preventing window strikes, and putting up feeders and
What time would it be?
Bird banding is a very early morning activity – we start at dawn and
continue until mid-morning depending on capture rates. Bird activity
is highest in the period immediately following dawn and then dies
down as the morning progresses so it is best to get your group to
the station no later than 8.00am but the earlier the better.
What age group is appropriate?
Because of the environment and to ensure the welfare and safety of
birds this is more suitable for children over the age of 6. We
recommend that the younger the participants the smaller the group
and the lower the adult to children ratio – we cannot provide any
supervision, that must be your responsibility. The optimum size for
younger groups is 10 – 12 children. We don’t recommend any group
over 20 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. The station is normally operational each
week on two weekdays and both Saturday and 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
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 $10 per visitor – if
this is not affordable please email us to discuss. Tax receipts will
be issued for amounts over $10 per person (VARC is a Registered
Canadian Charity). A minimum of $100 is required to reserve the
morning for your group. Please use the button below to pay the
minimum when booking – any additional people can pay at the station.
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!