Nicola Naturalist Society – Fall and Winter events 2022-23

Evening meetings of the Nicola Naturalist Society are held once a month from September through May. We generally meet at 7PM on the third Thursday of the month in the Lecture Theatre of NVIT (Nicola Valley Institute of Technology) on Belshaw Road, Merritt. Admission is free to members. We have awesome raffles.

Field Outings are usually held in spring, summer and fall and are listed below. Members will receive e-mail notices too. Field trips are restricted to paid-up members (but visitors can sign up as a member for the day for a nominal fee).

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Thursday September 15th, 2022, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: AGM and Members’ Photo Night

Saturday September 24th, 2022: Mushroom outing with Michael Ebenal

More photos from this outing will be posted soon.

Photo: © Loekie van der Wal

Thursday October 20th, 2022, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Sonya Richardson and Sean Morton – Come Walk With Us

Dr Sonya Richmond is a biologist and researcher who has worked on many ornithological and conservation projects, and received numerous awards and grants for her work. Sean Morton is an award-winning landscape and nature photographer whose work has been published in numerous magazines. Together they have been walking across Canada on the Trans Canada Trail, starting in 2019 at Cape Spear, Newfoundland. While exploring Canada in this unique way they are also promoting awareness of our country’s open spaces and wildlife and the need for local engagement to conserve them.

We are privileged to host this intrepid couple and hear of their experiences and their passion to share and conserve wilderness and nature across Canada.

Thursday November 17th, 2022, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Rory Fogarty: Forestry, fire and fur: Understanding the factors driving the decline of Fishers in central BC.

Fishers (Pekania pennanti) are one of the least known of our native weasels (mustelids). Although they are found across much of British Columbia, they are seldom seen by casual observers. Rory Fogarty is a Registered Professional Biologist and graduate student at Thompson Rivers University who has been studying this secretive critter in central B.C. for the past 5 years. His presentation will focus on research to explain the distribution and decline of Fishers in the BC Interior. The work includes DNA-analysis of fur samples to identify individuals and determine population size and distribution. Come and learn more about one of our most charismatic mammals.

Saturday December 10th, 2022, 10-12 AM at NVIT (Room U011): Winter Bird Identification Workshop

Alan Burger will be leading this workshop covering common winter birds in the Nicola Valley and focusing on waterfowl, woodpeckers and finches. Should be useful for both beginner and experienced birders. Tune up for the Christmas Bird Counts! Open to Nicola Naturalist Society members only.

Quiz time! Can you identify this bird? It is found fairly regularly in the Nicola Valley in winter (in 19 of the past 23 Merritt Christmas Bird Counts). Answer is at the bottom of this web-page. Photo: © Alan Burger

Saturday December 17th, 2022: Merritt Christmas Bird Count

This will be the 24th Christmas Bird Count in the Merritt count circle. You don’t have to be an expert birder to participate – the count is done in groups and there are always one or more experienced birders in each group. So this is a great way to learn the winter birds in the Nicola Valley. To register please email:

A Northern Pygmy Owl. This species has been recorded in 11 of the 23 Merritt Christmas Bird Counts. Photo: © Alan Burger

Thursday January 19th, 2023, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Loretta Holmes and Dawn Brody: Burrowing Owl Restoration in the Upper Nicola Valley

Loretta Holmes and Dawn Brodie at the Upper Nicola Burrowing Owl Reintroduction Site. Inset Burrowing Owl (Audubon Society).

Burrowing Owls are one of the most charismatic of our local fauna. But this species almost disappeared from British Columbia as a result of loss of nesting habitat in the grasslands. For over a decade a dedicated group of biologists and volunteers has been working diligently to bring back this tiny owl as a local breeder. Loretta Holmes and Dawn Brodie have been working on this conservation project since 2014, in collaboration with the Burrowing Owl Society. They will describe the joys and tribulations of reintroducing Burrowing Owls in the Upper Nicola Reserve.

Sunday January 22, 2023. Field Outing – Tracking with Frank Ritcey

Meet at Lundbom – Guichon Grasslands Interpretive Sign at 10 AM. Bring snowshoes and appropriate winter gear – expect to be out for 2+ hours. Note that all field outings are restricted to paid-up NNS members.

Noted naturalist Frank Ritcey has once again offered to lead a winter tracking outing to look for wildlife signs and much more.

Frank Ritcey leading one of our previous tracking outings at Lundbom Common – December 2021. Photo: © Alan Burger

Sunday February 12, 2023. Field outing – Snow Bunting Shiver Sunday

Meet at the Merritt Civic Centre parking lot at 9 AM. Bring lunch, hot drink, warm clothes, binoculars, camera etc. We will not be doing long walks. High clearance vehicles or 4x4s. Note that all field outings are restricted to paid-up NNS members.

An annual tradition – we trek up to the Douglas Lake Plateau in winter to look for winter specialties like Rough-legged Hawks, Horned Larks, Northern Shrikes and ….. yes in most years we do find Snow Buntings. Also a great opportunity to see wintering mammals like moose, deer, coyotes and more. Plus wonderful winter scenery in the high grasslands.

Snow Buntings and Shiverers on a previous outing. Photos: Alan Burger

Thursday February 16th, 2023, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Veronica McKelvey – Overwintering behaviour of snakes in the B.C. Interior

Veronica McKelvey is a Master’s of Environmental Science student at Thompson Rivers University studying the overwintering behaviour of the Great Basin Gophersnake, Western Yellow-bellied Racer and Western Rattlesnake under the supervision of Dr. Karl Larsen. This is an opportunity to hear about some of our lesser known but important reptiles and how they survive the seasonal fluctuations in temperature and food availability.

Thursday March 16th, 2023, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Leona Shepherd – Wildfires and Climate Change

We all have first-hand knowledge of the devastation that wildfires can produce in the BC Interior. So how does the frequency and severity of wildfires relate to climate change, and what is in store for us as the planet heats up? Leona Shepherd is a graduate student at Thompson Rivers University researching these important issues. This topic is highly relevant and important to us all.

Thursday April 20th, 2023, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Carol Holmes, Susan Newton & Matthews (Vancouver Avian Research Centre) – Bluebird research in the Nicola Valley

The Vancouver Avian Research Centre runs the bluebird nest-box program in the Nicola Valley – several of our members volunteer for this program. In addition to monitoring and cleaning the nest-boxes the group also records breeding success of both Western and Mountain Bluebirds and bands the chicks for long-term research. Carol Matthews is the Director of Public Outreach for the VARC and will describe the work being done on bluebirds in our area and beyond.

Thursday May 18th, 2023, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: David Holden – Moths of the B.C. Interior

Our club’s resident moth aficionado Bob Scafe has already identified over 600 moth species around Merritt. There is definitely a lot of biodiversity in this group of insects in our area, and some fascinating and rare species. Come and hear more about these from Dave Holden – a moth expert and Western Survey Biologist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Bird Quiz: The photo is a Northern Harrier – probably a juvenile male.




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