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‘Everybody loves the otters’: Shuswap photographer enjoys sharing ‘what’s really going on’

Ron Banville’s affection for Salmon Arm bird sanctuary finds following on Facebook

Ron Banville’s perception of Salmon Arm’s wharf and bird sanctuary has broadened substantially since he retired and took up photography.

For the past 40 years, Banville has admired the city’s Marine Peace Park and the scenic beauty it offers. But it wasn’t until he retired about five years ago that he began paying close attention to “what’s really going on” at the park’s wharf and in the protected bird sanctuary where some 230 species of birds have been spotted.

That new level of focus was gained through the lens of a camera, which Banville has used to capture many memorable moments.

“I went this morning and watched the osprey catching fish – because it has three babies in the nest by the railroad tracks,” said Banville. “When they grab a fish, the eagles come and take it away from them. There’s always something going on.”

Though he does not consider himself a professional photographer, Banville has developed a following on the Facebook group Shuswap Everything Friendly Goes, where he shares his latest images.

“I’ve talked to a lot of (birders) who follow Shuswap Everything Friendly… They’re following my pictures because they know they’re daily pictures. So if they see grebes running on the water, they all jump on the bus and they head here,” said Banville. “That’s how they can tell when the grebes are here or the pelicans are here.”

Recently, Banville’s photos of some resident otters sunning themselves at the wharf created a buzz.

“The otters we have, they were born maybe four years ago, two babies, two pups, and we’ve seen three of them off and on summer and winter,” said Banville. “The pictures I posted the other day, that’s the first time I’ve seen the four of them together in four years. This four has been around for a while. In the winter you’ll catch them sliding in the snow. They’re the most loved animal in Salmon Arm. Out of all the birds, the eagles, the osprey, everybody loves the otters.”

While he too enjoys watching and photographing the otters, Banville is equally fascinated by the many bird species that live at or frequent the sanctuary. He has a particular fondness for the pelicans.

“There’s about 40 of them that come every year,” said Banville, explaining how during one outing he spent three hours just observing them. “They play games, they fight, they fish together, they groom, they’re the most fascinating bird, they’re really fun to watch.”

Grebes are another favourite photo subject for Banville. He explained how years back he would see people at the park with expensive looking camera gear and would ask them the secret to photographing grebes dancing on the water. Banville said he received numerous replies, but none of them worked. Over time, he figured out the secret on his own.

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“You hear them chirping, the noise they make, and you’ll see two of them swimming towards each other real fast, and when they get about six inches apart they’re laying on the water with their face and they throw water at each other with their beaks,” said Banville. “When they do that, get ready, they stand and run every time.”

Banville said he used to be into hunting and fishing, but now he finds photography “10 times more fun.”

“My fun is getting home and putting all my images on my computer to see what I got in the last couple of days, and if you get that jaw-dropping image, that’s what makes it all worthwhile,” said Banville.

But it’s Banville’s love of nature that has him returning to Marine Park and the bird sanctuary almost daily, and also taking trips to Jasper and Banff to enjoy time outdoors.

Banville discovered his passion not by watching birds, but by seeing the excitement of other bird watchers.

“When I was retired and got into photography, I saw the bird club there (Marine Park) and they were all over 80 years old, they were all seniors, and they had their telescopes, and they were acting like little 10-year-old kids at Christmas time,” said Banville. “I was watching that thinking, ‘Wow, what’s making them so happy?’ The love of nature, the love of birds. And I thought, ‘I want some of that.’

“And now I understand more because you pay attention, you find out what’s really going on here and what birds come first and why they come… There’s a lot of locals that have been doing this for 40 years and they know their birds, they know everything. I wish I got into it a long time ago.”
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