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New arrival? Here’s how to settle in…naturally

A column by Dianne Bersea
A group of appropriately attired naturalists on the look-out for spring song birds. Sightings are added to the day’s list for possible contribution to bird population research. (Dianne Bersea photo)

~Column: Dianne Bersea

For most of us, starting over in a new community is challenging. Me? I was looking for opportunities to meet my new neighbours, human and wild, from the minute I moved to the South Okanagan fourteen years ago.

Although keen to make new friends, I felt especially concerned about encounters with natural entities like cactus, rattlesnakes and poisonous vegetation. Cactus was easy. Don’t wear sandals and remove cactus spines with a stick, not fingers. Long game, know where to look!

A similar policy applies to rattlesnakes! Thankfully there are good resources for important nature introductions.

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre rattlesnake program addressed specifics. Fortunately, I’m not in the demographic where foolishness leads to problems. I’m in later years, a teetotaller, with no inclination to show off for my buddies. But, always treat rattlers with respect. They require seasonal and locational awareness. And, don’t sit on a rock or log without checking underneath first!

“Leaves in three, leave them be,” gave me a poison ivy alert as it’s found along trail and road edges, often at bare ankle height!

Additional nature wisdom and new friends came with weekly South Okanagan Naturalists excursions. Friendly binocular slung folks introduced me to the birds, gave me lessons in dry land navigation and, shared the unexpected diversity of Okanagan flora and fauna.

Did you know the South Okanagan is one of the most diverse natural areas in BC, harbouring many endangered species? Sadly there are endangered species throughout the province.

That information energized me to find, see, and support nature in whatever way I can, resulting in some surprising discoveries. My first Great Horned Owl, an owly, focused bird, seemed undisturbed by my unintended proximity. I was equally thrilled by the appearance of an American Avocet, an orange, black, white stilt walking, long beaked shorebird passing through on migration.

Another treat…a GPS directed, hinterland grasslands adventure to find a lily so rare, I’m sworn to secrecy permanently. I’m fascinated too by the marvelous insects that slither, creep, crawl, flit and flutter.

Continued revelations come with thanks to the annual Meadowlark Nature Festival’s walking, hiking or biking tours to special natural areas, often with access to otherwise protected or private areas.

Even if just a brief exploration off-road, wonders await. It’s such a refreshing and affirming way to make friends of all kinds and all ages. Recent research indicates nature and forest walks to be stress-reducing, health restoring endeavors…sun or shower, winter, spring, summer or fall.

It’s an excellent way to feel comfortable in a new community too. And good fun to share discoveries…a new trail, wonderful view, special time of year, or when certain trees are flowering.

One good friend insists on outdoor rambles when the mock orange trees are in extravagant bloom. We all lean in for its wonderful scent. There’s even been a flurry of phone calls to arrange a wetland visit some morning. We’re all in for a wonderland of colourful butterflies, dragonflies, birds and spring flowers. I’m looking forward to that!

The vocal and surprisingly often seen, Great Horned Owl, is always an awe-inspiring sight, especially when it turns those large yellow eyes on you. It can be found throughout BC in almost all types of landscape. Jodi Forster photo
A sought after sighting, a Fritillary, a small type of butterfly, is a frequent visitor to Showy Milkweed, a popular food source for pollinators. (Jodi Forster photo)
Wetlands, lakes and nearby gravel roadsides often yield a wonderful array of dragonflies and their kin, in this case an eight-spotted skimmer. (Dianne Bersea photo)
A precious Lyall’s Mariposa Lily, discovered by a land surveyor after whom it’s named, is so rare, its location is a closely guarded secret. (Dianne Bersea photo)
The vocal and surprisingly often seen, Great Horned Owl, is always an awe-inspiring sight, especially when it turns those large yellow eyes on you. It can be found throughout BC in almost all types of landscape. (Jodi Forster photo)