Volunteer Spotlight: Gary Yankech

Photo: Gary Yankech

How long have you been a FLAP volunteer?

I have been a FLAP volunteer since 2011.

In what capacity do you volunteer?

I am a bird rescue volunteer. I patrol the buildings in the Scarborough Town Centre area and have recently starting patrolling buildings in Markham.  

What initially drew you to volunteer with FLAP?

I have always been interested in nature and photography. I have a keen interest in not only photographing nature but learning as much as I can about the species that I encounter. As a teacher and educator, the opportunity to learn more about birds is very important to me, as is educating my students about FLAP and what they do for bird study. 

Bald Eagle. Photo: Gary Yankech. You can see more of Gary’s amazing photography on his website: https://gynaturephotography.smugmug.com/

What keeps you motivated?

It is always exciting whenever I come across a new bird species. It is a special moment and an opportunity to learn something new. Also, anytime I rescue and release any bird, I feel a sense of accomplishment and stewardship.

Can you tell me about a particularly memorable or rewarding experience?

Last year, I brought my first bird to the Toronto Wildlife Centre. I have been really lucky; I have always been able to capture and release birds successfully on my own. But, this time, I knew this Red-breasted Nuthatch needed help. I took it to the Downsview rehab centre. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the staff. I knew the bird was in good hands, despite its injuries. I felt confident they would do their best for this bird, one life that could be potentially saved is far better than one tragically lost. It gave me great satisfaction that I was able to help the bird.

What’s your favourite bird and why?

I don’t really have one, I love seeing all birds! But when I find dead hummingbirds, their delicate and beautiful nature always touches my heart.

What would you tell someone who was thinking about volunteering with FLAP?

My own children have seen the work I do, collecting and processing dead birds, and releasing rescued birds! They have learned how precious life is. They are not afraid to see dead birds now. Their curiosity has now fostered an appreciation for life and nature, and the connections we have to nature, both positive and negative. My sons, who have helped me patrol for FLAP over the last few years, have been inspired to join FLAP this year. Volunteering for FLAP will change one’s perspective on the impact we all have on nature and how we can make a difference and save a bird’s life!

Interested in volunteering with FLAP? Check out our volunteer page for more information.