For the first time the Wilderness Area was represented at an International Ornithological Congress. The IOC takes place every four years and this year it took place from the 20th to the 26th of August 2018 in Vancouver, Canada. The Wilderness Area presented the two owl projects: the Ural Owl reintroduction project and the owl monitoring project. The presentations were attended by researchers from all over the world, such as Canada, USA, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Russia to Sakhalin, Japan, China, Portugal, Denmark, England, Italy, Finland, Austria etc. It was a pleasure that the Wilderness Area and its projects met with so much interest and appreciation from researchers from all over the world. Some owl researchers who also attended the World Owl Congress in Portugal in September 2017 were there to continue the professional discussions and to make plans for further projects.
The most extraordinary attraction right next to the city center of Vancouver is Stanley Park – with over 400 hectares Canada's largest city park and North America's third largest city park. Sights in Stanley Park include the Vancouver Aquarium, Beaver Lake and the Lost Lagoon, a former marine lagoon that was cut off from the sea in 1916 by road construction. The largest part of the park consists of a forest with about half a million trees.
The forest, which covers large parts of the park, is not the result of landscape architecture, but has grown naturally. Most parts are secondary forest and consist of tall Douglas firs, Western redcedars, Western hemlocks and Sitka spruces. At some places also pristine primary forest can be found. Therefore, a daily hike from the conference in the city with skyscrapers to a partially pristine, wild primary forest was possible - a great pleasure for someone coming from a Wilderness Area to experience primary forest even so close to a big city.
During the conference week, participants had the possibility to attend early morning bird walks to Stanley Park and even a night in sleeping bags in the forest of Stanley Park to listen for owls, observe bats, racoons, beavers during their late night and early morning activities with the silhouette of the big city in the background, and birds such as Canada Geese, Belted Kingfishers, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Pied-billed Grebes, Northern Flickers and more - even Orcas and Harbour Seals!
The conference week was overshadowed - in the truest sense of the word – by about 1,800 fires in British Columbia due to the drought with the peak of the fires one week before the conference - noticeable by smoke hanging over the city. The smoke spread over British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. On the day after the conference, the smoke cleared and suddenly the city, the sea, the mountains, Stanley Park and the famous beauty of the city of Vancouver was visible.
The tribe of the Squamish inhabited the forest of Stanley Park until the late 19th century. In 1792 Captain George Vancouver met the Squamish people as the second European during his exploratory tour. At that time the area was still an island. Meanwhile a peninsula, the area was a military area in the second half of the 19th century (from the Crimean War on a defensive alliance between the Squamish and the British against potential attacks of Russians and Americans, later military restricted area), which protected the forest against large-scale clear cuttings by the forestry companies operating there. After the foundation of the city of Vancouver in 1886, the first act of the city council was a petition to the government with the request to lease the restricted area and convert it into a park. In the 1880s, the Squamish houses were demolished by the city government due to an alleged smallpox epidemic and the Squamish were expelled. On the land of the former Squamish settlement, the subsequent opening ceremony of the park took place. In 1888, the official opening of the park took place, which was named after Lord Stanley, the then governor general. In 1988, the park was declared a National Historic Site of Canada.
In summary, the exchange during the conference week with researchers from all over the world with new project ideas and newly evolving collaborations was gratifying and successful, and the invaluable experience of the primary forest right next to the big city has broadened our horizon!