Bill Dancer

Bill Dancer

Birds of a feather walk together

Chatty eccentrics welcome to join

A Tuesday birdwatching group that has been meeting in Oak Bay for more than 60 years, proves it wasn’t a bird brained idea to start with.

Considering some bird species, such as the bar-tailed Godwit, travel 11,000 kilometres as part of their annual migration, they must have some intelligence.

“People say crows have brains, but all birds have brains,” says Bill Dancer, who leads the weekly birdwatching group. “They are not dumb and they have a social side, which is nice to see too.”

The Tuesday Morning Birding Group has met at the foot of Bowker Place and Esplanade at 9 a.m., rain or shine, since the mid-1950s. The group ranges from 28 on a nice, warm day to four during a snowstorm. The average age of attendees is a little older and includes many retired folks, but younger people in their 20s are known to join as well.

Last year, the group spotted 240 bird species. The record was 242.

“Victoria is a very good place to see birds,” Dancer says. “We are on the migratory path for many of them.”

The group walks to various locations to birdwatch and they also organize trips to other areas such as Esquimalt Lagoon and Providence Farm in Duncan. The walks end at noon.

Dancer became interested in birds as a child living in England.

During the Second World War, he was sent to live with his grandparents on a country estate where there were frequent pheasant hunts and he became fascinated watching the birds.

Daniel Donnecke has been attending the Tuesday birdwatching group for about three years. He became curious about the creatures five years ago. He bought a pair of binoculars, a bird guidebook and out he went.

“I have always been interested in the natural world and natural setting,” Donnecke, 43, says. “When I moved to Victoria (in 1994), I really noticed the birds.”

Donnecke joined the Tuesday birdwatchers in order to learn more. He said the group is laid back, friendly and talkative, which he likes, but all that talking is frowned upon by serious birders.

“Most birders are ‘be quiet,’ so there is a social aspect with this group,” Donnecke says. “The guys who like to talk stay in the back and the real keeners stay up front.”

It isn’t uncommon for the group to see marine mammals such as sea lions, seals and even orcas as most of the birdwatching is done near the water. The group also attracts a diverse crowd with different expertise and interests, which adds to the experience. Donnecke says his knowledge of birds has greatly increased since joining the group as has his knowledge of flowers and fungi.

The group is always accepting new members and the first two walks are free. Membership is through the Victoria Natural History Society and is $30 a year. Family, senior and student discounts are also available.

“We tend to get a lot of characters which is always lovely,” Dancer says. “Eccentrics are welcome. Most birders are a bit eccentric.”

For more information, go to or call Bill Dancer at 250-721-5273 or email

Did you know?

The annual Victoria Natural History Society’s bird count on Dec. 14, 2013 brought out 219 people who spotted 144 different species.