Born on March 31, 1954 in Penticton, Richard Cannings holds an Honours BSc in Zoology and a MSc in Biology. He has worked as a Consulting Biologist and has received several awards including the Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award in 1997 (with his twin brother Sydney) and B.C. Biologist of the Year in 1996. Richard (Dick) Cannings was the curator of the Cowan Vertebrate Museum at the University of British Columbia for 15 years and is now a consulting biologist living in Naramata, BC. Cannings supplied the text for White Rock photographer Graham Osborne's Vancouver Wild: A Photographer's Journey through the Southern Coast Mountains (Greystone, 2006). While teaching field ecology at UBC and working as a consulting biologist in Naramata, he wrote The Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder's Life (Greystone, 2007) followed by Roadside Nature Tours Through the Okanagan (Greystone 2009) about the diverse geography, flora, fauna and landmarks of B.C.'s most-visited wine country.

2014 marks the release of a revised edition of British Columbia: A Natural History of Its Origins, Ecology, and Diversity with a New Look at Climate Change (Greystone $34.95) An expanded edition of an award-winning book, this guide features more geological history, fresh details, additional illustrations, photos, sidebars and revised maps. Canning provides an authoritative reference offering up to date information on the effects of climate change and its impact on BC's biodiversity.

Richard Cannings was elected MP for the riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay in the 2015 Canadian federal election.

Best Places to Bird in British Columbia by Russell Cannings and Richard Cannings (Greystone Books $22.95)

Review by Briony Penn

If you are new to birding and want a guide for exploring the hot birding spots of B.C., then Best Places to Bird in British Columbia-with some slight reservations-is your book.

Not surprising, given that the primary author is listed as Russell Cannings, third generation of the famous Cannings naturalist family from the Okanagan. Co-author is Russell's dad Richard (Dick) Cannings-pretty busy these days in Ottawa as Member of Parliament for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, advocating for protection of more natural areas across the country.

I couldn't find much fault with the selection of the top thirty best places to bird in British Columbia.

The sites are distributed geographically so that they catch both the most accessible southern hotspots (where most readers live) and representatives of the northern ecological regions.

Locations and routes are laid out clearly for car travel and all-other than Triangle Island, which is off limits to just about everyone-can be reached easily by roads with some gentle degrees of hiking, like Cathedral Provincial Park, south of Princeton and Keremeos.

Cannings and Cannings confess their personal bias for Okanagan
sites since they are long-term grassland dwellers, hailing originally from a Penticton orchard, but their choice is justified because these critical transition zones include birds from both southern and northern ranges.
In their desire to select sites close to roads, the Cannings have left out the hot birding spots on the central and north coast. This conspicuous absence also reveals my bias as a coastal naturalist. The ferries, after all, are the coastal highways. Accessible to the public, ferry travel offers great birding opportunities, especially in spring and fall.

The ferries weave in and out between open sounds, like Queen Charlotte Sound, where you can glimpse pelagic (open ocean) seabirds (and maybe even an albatross), and enter sheltered channels off Fitz Hugh Sound, where you can stop off at places like Hakai Protected Area.

In a day, you can view birds on exposed white sandy beaches, sheltered lagoons, rocky shorelines, river estuaries, and upland bogs. Add in a night in Waglisla (Bella Bella), Klemtu, or Hartley Bay, and you can observe some phenomenal congregations of migrating and nesting birds-the coastal sandhill cranes calling from their nesting sites close to the ferry terminal in Bella Bella, for a start-while supporting local Indigenous ecotourism.
I would have substituted Hakai for Triangle Island, if for no other reason than the $6,000 price tag to charter a boat to get to spectacular Triangle is a little unrealistic.

Best places to Bird in British Columbia is billed as featuring "local experts, insider knowledge and specialty birds,"; and that is what it delivers in an old school "birder"; approach. As with all the Cannings' family books, the natural history accounts are based on deep and long-term relationships with the birds and the landscape.

I counted up the number of species in the excellent index at around 275, which means that at these thirty spots you can see well over half of B.C.'s birds with a high degree of reliability and, with a few exceptions, from easy places to access.

The 2011 checklist of B.C. birds is at 506, but that figure includes all recognized subspecies and all exotics with established breeding populations. To spot them would require some expert sleuthing of this province in remote areas.

One small question I had concerned authorship. The book has two authors, but I wasn't always clear who was writing-Cannings Senior or Junior. The context sometimes answered the question, but it felt more like Senior than Junior.

And, as I reflected on the many road trips required, I had one recurring concern. If the Best Places to Bird in British Columbia is to attract beginners, it isn't going to work for the non-car-owning millennials. The millennials I know are going to be a little suspicious of conservationists incongruously charging around in fossil-fuelled cars to tick off birds without considering their own impact on these same birds from climate change. A short discussion of automobile impact could easily have gone in the Bird Ethics section.

Personally, I would love to hear more from millennial birders sharing their passion for the diversity of birds in B.C. through a twenty-first century lens. How are we going to keep the connection to our fellow avian cousins within a sharing economy and a fossil-fuel free world? This might be the subject for another book.

If anyone is up to that challenge, it is the Cannings
family. 978177164166

Briony Penn's The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize in 2016. She lives on Salt Spring Island.


BOOKS: (with Sydney Cannings)

Birds of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Royal BC Museum, 1987). With Robert Cannings.

British Columbia: A Natural History (Greystone, 1996; revised 2004; revised 2014)

World of Fresh Water (Greystone, 1998)

Mountains and Northern Forests (Greystone, 1998)

Life in the Pacific Ocean (Greystone, 1999)

The Geology of British Columbia (Greystone, 1999). Geology of British Columbia: A Journey through Time; with Sydney Cannings and Joanne Nelson (Greystone Books 2011) 978-1-55365-815-3 $24.95

The B.C. Roadside Naturalist (D&M 2002) 1-55054-902-2

The New B.C. Roadside Naturalist: A Guide to Nature Along B.C. Highways (Greystone Books 2015) $22.95 9781771000550


The Rockies: A Natural History (Greystone, 2005)
Birds of Southwestern British Columbia (Heritage Group, 2005), with Tom Aversa and Hal Opperman
Vancouver Wild: A Photographer's Journey Through the Southern Coast Mountains (Greystone, 2006), with photography by Graham Osborne.
The Enchantment of Birds: Memories from a Birder's Life (Greystone, 2007).
Spotted Owls: Shadows in an Old-Growth Forest (Greystone, 2007) $39.95 978-1-55365-241, with photography by Jared Hobbs
Roadside Nature Tours through the Okanagan: A Guide to British Columbia's Wine Country (Greystone, 2009) $24.95
Flights of the Imagination: Extraordinary Writing About Birds (Greystone 2010). Editor.
British Columbia: A Natural History of Its Origins, Ecology, and Diversity with a New Look at Climate Change (Greystone 2014) $34.95 978-1-77164-073-2
Birds of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest (Heritage House 2014) $28.95 9781927527566
Best Places to Bird in British Columbia (Greystone 2017) co-author Russell Cannings $22.95 978-1-77164-166-1


Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award 1997 (For 1996)
BC Biologist of the Year (1996)
Lieutenant Governor's Silver Medal - Best History Book (1996)
Canadian Science Writer's Award (1996)

[BCBW 2017] "Natural History"