Nicola Naturalist Society – Spring events 2017

Evening meetings of the Nicola Naturalist Society are held 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.

Scroll down to see what is coming up from April through June 2017

For insurance reasons, our field outings are restricted to our members (visitors can join membership-for-a-day). To join the Nicola Naturalist Society click here: Membership Page


Thursday April 20th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Sarah Desrosiers – Sharing “Berried” Knowledge- the interrelationship between people and plants in the Canadian Arctic

Sarah Desrosiers is a local graduate student pursuing her degree at the University of British Columbia. She has worked with Inuit elders, youth and land users in the Canadian Arctic for six years. She is collaborating with communities to help document, preserve and promote traditional knowledge of plants for foods, materials and medicine. Sarah will discuss her involvement with a community-supported berry-monitoring program in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. She will also talk about the importance of building capacity for youth to engage with the local environment as a way for healing and well-being. This will be a very interesting ethnobotanical talk.

Sarah Desrosiers will explain the key role of berries in modern Arctic communities. Photos courtesy Sarah Desrosiers.


Thursday May 18th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Jo-Anne Hales – Habitat selection of the Great Basin Spadefoot on a disturbed landscape

Jo-Anne Hales is a professional agrologist and the Environmental Specialist for the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. She is also completing a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science at Thompson Rivers University studying the Great Basin Spadefoot (an amphibian species at risk) on the New Gold – New Afton Mine site. Come and hear about these charismatic little critters.

Great Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana) male calling. Photo: ©Lennart Sopuck


Field outings in the spring and summer:

Monthly Butterfly Hunts

Join Bob Scafe to search for butterflies in the Merritt area. Mark your calendar – these are the outing dates (all Saturdays):   April 29 Cancelled,   May 13,   June 3,   July 1,   August 5,   and  September 2.

For all butterfly hunts: Meet at Civic Center to car-pool and depart at 9.30 AM. Wear warm clothing, (layers), and dry footwear for walking in wet grass. Bring water, lunch, binoculars and camera.

April 29th Butterfly hunt:  locations – Fox Farm FSR, and Comstock FSR.      Vehicles suitable to cross cattle guards, gravel roads.  Most butterfly viewing will be on foot, from the road, with occasional ventures 10 m ( 30 ft.) into forest meadows (optional).  Expect to see:   Spring Azure Blue, Western Tailed Blue, Western Pine Elfin, Hoary Elfin, Stella Orange tip.  Possible sightings:   Silvery Blue, Freija Fritillary, Satyr Comma, Green Comma, Mourning Cloak, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell.

May 13th butterfly hunt:  locations – Douglas Lake Road, (1) Campground  (outhouses),  (2) Chapparon Lake, and  (3) Rush Lake. Paved roads, most of the way, some gravel sections, and cattle guards on DLR.  All butterfly viewing will be “park and walk” on generally flat surfaces.   Some areas may be damp.  Expect to see:  Freija Fritillary, Silvery Blue, Arrowhead Blue, Hoary Elfin, Western Elfin, Lorquins Admiral, Tailed Blues. Possible sightings:  Various Sulphurs, Boisduval’s Blue, Old World Swallowtails, Dreamy Dusky Wing, Painted Ladies (maybe).

Check out Bob’s butterfly and moth pages:

Know your butterflies and moths – Merritt BC

More butterflies and moths of the Merritt, BC area


Annual Sandhill Crane Search on the Douglas Lake Plateau

Saturday April 22nd – meet at 8 AM to car-pool at the Merritt Civic Centre. Bring lunch, binoculars, camera.    Each spring we head up to the Douglas Lake area to look for Sandhill Cranes. Thousands of these big cranes migrate through this area each spring, but it is a matter of luck to be there as they pass through or stay over to feed. In 2013 we encountered over 2,500 cranes but in some other years only 2 to 4. But there is a lot to see even if we see few cranes – lots of waterfowl, raptors, deer, coyotes etc.

Sandhill Cranes on the Douglas Lake plateau in 2013. Photo: © Alan Burger


GPS Workshop

Saturday May 27th, 10 AM – 12 noon. Room L017 at NVIT. Norm Hansen will lead a workshop on understanding GPS and getting the most from your GPS unit or phone. We’ll start off in the classroom and then head out to play with GPSs. Bring your GPS or phone along.


Blooms & Birds – Kane Valley Outing

Saturday June 17th, 8 AM – 4 PM. Meet at Civic Centre to car-pool. Enjoy the wildflowers at Hill’s Homestead and beyond, and the birds in the lakes and woods. Bring lunch, binoculars, camera, walking shoes.

Hill’s Homestead is spectacular in mid-June with many different plants blooming. Photo: ©Alan Burger


Other field outings are being planned for the spring and summer. Keep checking here.

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Merritt Christmas Bird Count – December 2016

An eventful Christmas Bird Count this year! Despite the recent frigid weather we had a record number of participants (36 people) and tallied a record number of individual birds (7,026, which is almost double our average count). The number of species tallied – 71 on the count day and three others in the count week – is also well above average and close to the record.

The full data set for this year’s bird count can be seen by clicking here: Merritt Xmas Count data 1995-2016

But the most exciting part of the count was the discovery of a really rare bird for B.C. – a Lesser Goldfinch. Sharp-eyed Vic Newton first noticed this unusual bird as he and the others in Liis Jeffries’ group were checking out the Colletville area. Vic’s daughter Jennifer then managed to get this good photo using her iPhone focused through a spotting scope. Various experts later identified this as a Lesser Goldfinch.

A male Lesser Goldfinch found on the December 2016 Christmas Bird Count in Merritt. Photo: © Jennifer Newton

There have been only about 20 records of this species in British Columbia ever. At this time of year it should be in Mexico, California or coastal Oregon. It was first seen among a flock of the American Goldfinches – a common resident of the Merritt area and a regular in the Christmas Bird Count. The discovery of this Lesser Goldfinch in Merritt caused excitement in the BC birding scene and many hard-core birders are likely to come to Merritt to tick it off. The bird was later seen by others in the week following the CBC.

The Merritt Lesser Goldfinch on 21 December 2016, 3 days after our Christmas Bird Count. Photos: ©Alan Burger

Other unusual species found this year:

  • Wilson’s Snipe – 3 seen (only the third record over 18 years)
  • Chukar – 6 seen (3rd record for a count day)
  • Horned Lark – 35 seen (3rd record for a count day)
  • Western Meadowlark – 2 seen (4th record)
  • Canvasback – 3 seen (4th record)
  • A hybrid Barrow’s x Common Goldeneye (the white eye patch of this male was half way between the circle of the Common and the inverted comma shape of Barrow’s)

A Chukar – one of a covey of 6 found near Harmon Estates on the Merritt Christmas count. This introduced Himalayan partridge has fluctuating populations in our area. Photo: ©Murphy Shewchuk

Horned Lark at a feedlot near Nicola village on 18 December 2016. The pale plumage shows that this is a migrant from the far north and not the local breeding race of this species. Photo: © Rick Howie

Western Meadowlark – one of two found on the Merritt Christmas Bird Count, 18 Dec 2016. Photo: ©Rick Howie

Record high counts were reported for many bird species this year, including:

  • Common Loon – 5 seen (previous high 4 birds)
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 7 (6)
  • Bufflehead – 111 (45)
  • Hooded Merganser – 10 (6)
  • Ruffed Grouse – 9 (4)
  • Eurasian Collared Dove – 228 (115)
  • Northern Flicker – 45 (44)
  • Downy Woodpecker – 9 (6)
  • American Crow – 165 (139)
  • Common Raven – 193 (139)
  • Bohemian Waxwing – an amazing count of 2,009 birds with one flock of over 1,500 birds (previous high 1221 birds)
  • European Starling – 733 (563)
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 190 (135)

Part of the huge flock of Bohemian Waxwings, estimated to be 1,500 birds, in Diamondvale in the late afternoon. Photo: ©Jennifer Newton

Eurasian Collared Dove – this introduced species was unknown in Merritt before 2009 but is now increasing here and across southern BC. Photo: ©Alan Burger

Raptors were especially common this year with high counts for these species:

  • Bald Eagle – 74 (previous high 56)
  • Golden Eagle – 3 (close to the record count of 4 birds)
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 52 (previous high 26)
  • Rough-legged Hawk – 16 (previous high 10)
  • American Kestrel – 3 (previous high 2)

We failed to find any Merlin this year – the first time in 12 years that we missed this species.

One feature of this year’s count was the great variety in plumage types for the Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks. Groups often had to look very carefully to identify the species, especially since both of these hawks were often found in the same open fields. Here are a few samples of the hawks seen on the 18th.

Red-tailed or Rough-legged? This dark hawk presents identification problems, but the barred vent, bare legs and large head & beak indicate a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. Photos: ©Marg Kerridge.

A dark Red-tailed Hawk with the reddish tail indicating that it is an adult bird. Photo: ©Bonny Kozub

A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk (left) and a dark-phased Rough-legged Hawk (right) photographed in the same field near Quilchena. Note the diagnostic dark wrist patches on the Rough-legged Hawk. Photos: ©Alan Burger

A juvenile Bald Eagle in a snowy landscape. Photo: ©Carol Madryga

A pale Red-tailed Hawk photographed using a cell-phone focused through a spotting scope – a great way to identify birds. Photo: ©Jennifer Newton

The only owl recorded was this tiny Northern Pygmy Owl seen near Foxfarm Road. Photo: ©Glenn Dreger

Of course, part of the enjoyment of a Christmas Bird Count is being outdoors with good company and sharing interesting wildlife experiences.

Lynne, Katharine and Murphy among the frost-laden trees above Nicola Lake. Photo: ©Rick Howie

Gerry and Jack scanning the Nicola River for dippers. Photo: ©Carol Madryga

Creeping up on a Great Blue Heron at the Merritt settling ponds. Photo: ©Anne Pang

A cold-looking Great Blue Heron at the Merritt settling ponds. Photo: ©Anne Pang

Ducks in the mist at the Merritt settling ponds. Photo: ©Anne Pang

A Great Blue Heron takes off at the Merritt settling ponds. Photo: ©Anne Pang

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Nicola Naturalist Society – Winter & Spring Events 2017

Evening meetings of the Nicola Naturalist Society are held 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. Scroll down to see what is coming up from January through May 2017

To join the Nicola Naturalist Society click here: Membership Page


Sunday 15th January – Nicola Valley Swan/Eagle count with Wayne Weber
Meeting place & time:  Merritt Civic Centre at 08:30 to car-pool.

Each year there is a mid-winter count of swans and eagles in the Southern Interior of B.C., with participants from many areas. A few members of the Nicola Naturalists have participated in past years.
Because of increasing interest by birders, in 2017 and future years, Wayne is organizing a special outing with all NNS members welcome to join in.
Duration: About 8:30 AM to 4 PM. (The count should take all or most of the day). Please bring a lunch and a hot drink!  Leader:  Wayne Weber
Area covered: Nicola River from Merritt to Nicola Lake; entire shoreline of Nicola Lake; Nicola River from Nicola Lake to Spahomin (Douglas Lake); Nicola River up to Douglas Lake P.O.  (NOTE: The Nicola River from Merritt west to Spences Bridge will be covered by a separate group, and will not be part of the main field trip.)


Thursday January 19th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Tracy Wimbush (Nicola Tribal Association) –  Salmon and salmon habitat in the Nicola Valley

The Nicola River system is the breeding site of important stocks of salmon, some of which are seriously depleted and threatened. Salmon are an important focus for local First Nations in the Nicola Valley. Tracy Wimbush is the program manager for the Nicola Tribal Association. She also works closely with the Nicola Lake Steering Committee, BC First Nations Fisheries Council, Esk’kn’am Management Committee, and is the Mandated Representative for two bands on the Fraser Salmon Management Council. She has been actively working to conserve and rebuild the local Early Chinook Stock that return to the Nicola System. Her talk will be about the chinook and the work around them.

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Chinook Salmon heading to spawning grounds. Photo: NOAA Fisheries


Thursday February 16th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Frances Backhouse (biologist and author) –  “Once they were hats” The biology of beavers and their role in Canada’s history.   

[This presentation was postponed – we’ll try to schedule it later this year]

Frances Backhouse has published books on a wide range of nature topics, including owls and woodpeckers, and also on historical topics such as the women in the Klondike gold rush. Her latest book examines humanity’s 15,000-year relationship with Castor canadensis, and the beaver’s even older relationship with North American landscapes and ecosystems. This will be a fascinating presentation blending biology and history.

backhouse-beaver-book


Thursday March 16th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Bob Scafe – Butterflies and moths of the Nicola Valley, Part Two.

Bob is an active member of the Nicola Naturalists, a keen photographer and a very enthusiastic investigator of  butterflies and moths. Bob’s presentation on this topic was very popular so we’re getting him back with new photos and new information on these colorful insects. Bob’s documentation of our local butterflies and moths is a popular feature of the Nicola Naturalist Society website – check here and here. Come and see great photos and learn about these interesting members of the Nicola Valley area fauna.

Two-tailed Swallowtail butterfly. Photo: © Bob Scafe

Two-tailed Swallowtail butterfly. Photo: © Bob Scafe


Thursday April 20th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Sarah Desrosiers – Sharing “Berried” Knowledge- the interrelationship between people and plants in the Canadian Arctic

Sarah Desrosiers is a local graduate student pursuing her degree at the University of British Columbia. She has worked with Inuit elders, youth and land users in the Canadian Arctic for six years. She is collaborating with communities to help document, preserve and promote traditional knowledge of plants for foods, materials and medicine. Sarah will discuss her involvement with a community-supported berry-monitoring program in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. She will also talk about the importance of building capacity for youth to engage with the local environment as a way for healing and well-being. This will be a very interesting ethnobotanical talk.

Sarah Desrosiers will explain the key role of berries in modern Arctic communities. Photos courtesy Sarah Desrosiers.

 

Thursday May 18th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: To be announced – keep checking here

 

Coming up in the spring and summer:

Monthly Butterfly Hunts

Join Bob Scafe to search for butterflies in the Merritt area. Mark your calendar – these are the outing dates (all Saturdays):   April 29,   May 13,   June 3,   July 1,   August 5,   and  September 2. Meet at Civic Center at 9.30 AM unless another meeting spot has been arranged. More details to come – see our spring newsletter and this website.

Check out Bob’s butterfly and moth pages:

Know your butterflies and moths – Merritt BC

More butterflies and moths of the Merritt, BC area

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Nicola Naturalist Society – Fall Events 2016

Evening meetings of the Nicola Naturalist Society are held 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. Scroll down to see what is coming up from September through December 2016

To join the Nicola Naturalist Society click here: Membership Page


Thursday September 15th 2016 (7 PM at NVIT): Annual General Meeting and Members’ Photo Night.

We keep the business meeting short to leave plenty of time to view excellent photos of local wildlife and nature. See great photos on the big screen at NVIT!

A sample of NNS members photos coming up at the September meeting: Beetle (© Bob Scafe), Bighorn youngster (© Alan Burger), Mariposa Lily (© Cindilla Trent), Canada Geese (© Bonny Kozub).

A sample of NNS members’ photos coming up at the September meeting: Beetle (© Bob Scafe), Bighorn youngster (© Alan Burger), Mariposa Lily (© Cindilla Trent), Canada Geese (© Bonny Kozub).


Thursday October 20th 2016 (7 PM at NVIT): Dr. Rob Higgins: The Ants of British Columbia: Ecological Giants.

Ants are one of the most successful groups of animals on the planet. About 15,000 species have been described and they contribute more biomass to most ecosystems than any other animal group. Dr. Rob Higgins is an entomologist at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops – a keen naturalist and an enthusiastic speaker. He will describe this diversity of ants and the ecological roles that ants play in British Columbia. He will also talk about new arrivals – the fire ants – that are overshadowing our native species.

Formica aserva ants, a widespread species in Canada, with their pupae. Photo courtesy Rob Higgins

Formica aserva ants, a widespread species in Canada, with their pupae. Photo courtesy Rob Higgins


Thursday 17th November 2016 (7 PM at NVIT) T.J. Gooliaff (UBC Okanagan): Potential Range Shift of Bobcats and Lynx in BC.

T.J. Gooliaff is a graduate student at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. He is studying Bobcat and Lynx distributions in the BC Interior. Climate change is causing numerous species across the planet to shift their range to higher latitudes and elevations. Using historic harvest records and sightings, T.J. is analyzing whether Bobcats and Lynx are among those species moving northwards. He is also using photographs submitted by the public to map the current provincial distribution of both species. This will be a fascinating presentation on these elusive cats.

Bobcats in the Merritt area. Photos: © David & Corinne Pitt (left), Gerry & Jill Sanford (right).

Bobcats in the Merritt area. Photos: © David & Corinne Pitt (left), Gerry & Jill Sanford (right).


Thursday, 1st December (7 PM at NVIT). Documentary presentation by the Wilderness Committee, co-hosted by the Nicola Naturalist Society: Toad People.

This new documentary focuses on the need for Endangered Species legislation in British Columbia and how threatened species like the Western Toad are not getting the protection they need in this province. Excellent footage and a strong message. By donation to the Wilderness Committee.

toad-people-final_640x640-300x300


Saturday 10th December 2 – 4 PM, NVIT Room L017 – Winter Bird Identification Workshop

Do the birds at your feeder sometimes confuse you? Do you need to brush up on identification for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count? Come to the bird identification workshop led by Alan Burger. This will focus on birds likely to be seen in and around Merritt in winter.

American Goldfinch in winter plumage. Photo © Bob Scafe

American Goldfinch in winter plumage. Photo © Bob Scafe


Sunday 18th December. Merritt Christmas Bird Count

You don’t have to be an expert birder to participate in our Christmas Bird Count. It is a great way to get to learn the local winter birds – each birding group has at least one experienced birder. Followed by a festive potluck for participants. If you are interested in participating and not already on the contact list send us an e-mail  nicolanaturalists@gmail.com

A male House Finch in winter, Merritt, BC. Photo: © Bob Scafe

A male House Finch in winter, Merritt, BC. Photo: © Bob Scafe


Coming up in 2017:

Thursday January 19th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Tracy Wimbush (Nicola Tribal Association fisheries biologist): Salmon and salmon habitat in the Nicola Valley

Thursday February 16th 2017, 7 PM at NVIT Lecture Theatre: Frances Backhouse (author of the recent book on beavers): “Once they were hats” The biology of beavers and their role in Canada’s history.

More presentations in March, April and May.

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Outing with Vermilion Forks Naturalists – 5 June 2016

On a beautiful warm spring day 16 members of the Nicola Naturalists joined with 12 members of the Vermilion Forks Naturalists (Princeton) for an excellent day of hiking and naturalizing on the Seven Half Diamond Ranch. This location is about half way between Merritt and Princeton and has beautiful lakes, small ponds, grassland, forest and much more. We enjoyed spring wildflowers, numerous singing birds and several broods of goslings and ducklings in the ponds. Huge groups of Western Toad tadpoles were found in the shallows of Batstone Lake and nearby was a large and colourful Western Terrestrial Gartersnake – no doubt preying on the tadpoles. Below are some photos from participants.

Many thanks to Jim and Heather O’Connor of the Seven Half Diamond Ranch for allowing us to roam your beautiful property. To see more about this guest ranch click here: Seven Half Diamond Ranch.

To see the full list of birds and other animals recorded click here: Critter List 5 June 2016

A good turnout from our 2 nature clubs at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. Photo: © Anne Pang

A good turnout from our 2 nature clubs at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. Photo: © Anne Pang

Exploring Batstone Lake on Seven Half Diamond Ranch. Photo: © Anne Pang

Exploring Batstone Lake on Seven Half Diamond Ranch. Photo: © Anne Pang

Part of the mass of Western Toad tadpoles in Batstone Lake. Photo: © Bonny Kozub

Part of the mass of Western Toad tadpoles in Batstone Lake. Photo: © Bonny Kozub

One of the many butterflies we encountered on 5 June at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. Photo: © Anne Pang

A Boisduval’s Blue (Icaricia icarioides), one of the many butterflies we encountered on 5 June at Seven Half Diamond Ranch. Photo: © Anne Pang

A pair of Lesser Scaup (male left, female right). Photo: © Bonny Kozub

A pair of Lesser Scaup (male left, female right). Photo: © Bonny Kozub

This Tree Swallow was nesting in a hollow in an aspen tree - possibly an old woodpecker nest. Photo: © Bonny Kozub

This Tree Swallow was nesting in a hollow in an aspen tree – possibly an old woodpecker nest. Photo: © Bonny Kozub

A beautiful Red Columbine flower (Aquilegia formosa). Photo: © Deb Stowell

A beautiful Red Columbine flower (Aquilegia formosa). Photo: © Deb Stowell

Several pairs of Killdeer breed next to the lakes and ponds on the ranch. Photos: © Bonny Kozub

Several pairs of Killdeer breed next to the lakes and ponds on the ranch. Photos: © Bonny Kozub

Cows are part of the ecosystem at a working ranch. Photo: © Bonny Kozub

Cows are part of the ecosystem at a working ranch. Photo: © Bonny Kozub

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Winter/Spring Programs – January to May 2016

Evening meetings of the Nicola Naturalist Society are held 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. Scroll down to see what is coming up from January through May 2016

Thursday, January 21st 2016. 7PM at NVIT. “Staying Safe on Both Sides of the Glass” – Frank Ritcey (WildSafeBC)

Frank Ritcey is the Provincial Coordinator for WildSafeBC, based in Kamloops. Run by the BC Conservation Foundation this program focuses on how we can minimize our impact on the wildlife we observe and keep ourselves safe at the same time. Frank was raised in the wilds of Wells Gray Park by his pioneering mother, Clara Ritcey, and Park Biologist father Ralph Ritcey. Frank’s love of nature has been with him his whole life and he still spends much time filming and studying nature. Frank often contributes to CBC’s popular North by Northwest show.

There are over 100,000 black bears in British Columbia and encounters between humans and these bears are common. Photo: ©Alan Burger

There are over 100,000 black bears in British Columbia and encounters between humans and these bears are common. Photo: ©Alan Burger


Thursday, February 18th 2016. 7PM at NVIT. “The Wonderful World of Butterflies” – Bob Scafe

Bob is a director of the Nicola Naturalist Society and one of our most prolific nature photographers. Lately, he and his wife Bev have become interested in butterflies and moths – getting to know and identify the local species. Bob will give us an introduction to the rich butterfly fauna of the BC interior. Later this spring he has promised to lead a few butterfly field trips so this presentation is a valuable primer. We’ll have lots of great photos too!

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly. Photo: ©Bob Scafe

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly. Photo: ©Bob Scafe


Sunday, February 21st 2016. 9 AM – meet at the Civic Centre parking lot to carpool. “Sunday Snowbunting Shiver

Our annual winter outing to the Douglas Lake highlands to look for Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, owls, raptors and other birds of the high grasslands. Bring lunch, warm clothes and binoculars.

Snow Buntings feeding on roadside seeds on Pennask Lake Road, December 2015. Photo: ©Alan Burger

Snow Buntings feeding on roadside seeds on Pennask Lake Road, December 2015. Photo: ©Alan Burger


Thursday, March 10th 2016. 7PM at NVIT. “Antarctic Wildlife – Life in a Changing Environment” – Alan Burger

NOTE THE CHANGE IN DATE FOR THIS MEETING

NNS President Alan Burger regularly goes to the Antarctic as a naturalist/lecturer on small adventure-tourism vessels. In 2015 he completed a 31-day voyage from New Zealand to the Ross Sea – the deep south – and along the West Antarctic coast. He visited many areas where people seldom go. In January-February 2016 he was in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia. Global climate change is affecting the Antarctic and its wildlife but sometimes in unexpected ways. Enjoy many photos of wildlife and spectacular scenery.

Emperor and Adélie penguins share an ice floe in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Photo: ©Alan Burger

Emperor and Adélie penguins share an ice floe in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Photo: ©Alan Burger


Thursday, April 21st 2016. 7PM at NVIT.    “Heritage Trails in southern BC: history, nature and restoration” – Kelley Cook.

Kelley Cook is an active member of a group publicizing, maintaining and restoring some of the historic Hudson’s Bay Company trading routes across the mountains of SE British Columbia. Many of these trails are within easy access from Merritt. Kelley’s presentation will cover both the human history  and the nature to be seen on these scenic trails. A talk to get us fired up for the spring hiking and naturalizing season!

Hiking one of the historic Hudson's Bay Company trails to Palmer's Pond. Inset: Kelley Cook and her dog out on the trail.

Hiking one of the historic Hudson’s Bay Company trails to Palmer’s Pond. Inset: Kelley Cook and her dog out on the trail.

Map of the historic trails in the North Cascades Mountains of British Columbia. Courtesy Kelley Cook.

Map of the historic pack trails in the North Cascades Mountains of British Columbia. Courtesy Kelley Cook.


Saturday, April 23rd. Spring outing to the Douglas Lake grasslands. Meet 08:00 at Merritt Civic Centre parking lot to carpool.

The Nicola Naturalists, along with the Kamloops Naturalists, are responsible for monitoring the Douglas Lake Plateau Important Bird Area (IBA). Each spring we do an outing during the migration of Sandhill Cranes. The fields around Douglas Lake and Chapperon Lake are important staging areas for these birds and we sometimes encounter thousands of cranes stopping over to feed. The area is also rich in waterfowl, raptors and other wildlife. Bring your binoculars and lunch and join Tom Willms and Paul Willms for a visit to this interesting area. Note the early meeting time – early is better to see cranes.

Sandhill Cranes (both Lesser and Greater forms of the species) at Douglas Lake Ranch, 21 April 2013. Photo: © Bob Scafe.

Sandhill Cranes (both Lesser and Greater forms of the species) at Douglas Lake Ranch, 21 April 2013. Photo: © Bob Scafe.


 

Thursday, May 19th 2016. 7PM at NVIT. “Bio-Energy in British Columbia and the Merritt Green Energy Project” – Nathan Dyck (Merritt Green Energy Project)

As everyone knows, the multinational energy company Iberdrola is building a bio-energy plant in Merritt. Nathan Dyck is the the Environmental Manager for this project. He has a broad knowledge of bio-energy and has studied many issues relating to this in B.C. Nathan and his colleagues will give a presentation on the issues facing bio-energy generation in Merritt, and in the province as a whole. People have many questions about bio-energy and the Merritt Green Energy Project – here is the opportunity to find out more.


Keep checking our website for more spring and summer outings. Put these on your calendar:

Sunday June 5th: Joint outing with the Vermillion Forks Naturalists (Princeton) to Seven Half Diamond Ranch. We will explore this scenic ranch with lots of wetlands, wildflowers, birds, amphibians and more. Meet at 09:00 Civic Centre parking lot – bring lunch.

Saturday June 18th: Joint outing with the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club (Kelowna) to Kane Valley and Hill’s Homestead. Featuring spring flowers, great birding and more. Meet 09:00 Civic Centre parking lot – bring lunch.

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Merritt Christmas Bird Count – Sunday 20th December

The Nicola Naturalists organized the Merritt Christmas Bird Count on 20 December 2015. This count has been running since 1995. Here are some of the highlights of our count day.

For a complete list of birds seen (and in previous years) click here: Merritt Xmas Count data 1995-2015

This was a record-breaking count. We set new records for:

  • Number of participants (34 in the field and 3 feeder-watchers)
  • Number of field groups (8)
  • Number of species (74 – our previous record was 70 species in 2001)

The excellent weather (mostly sunny, not too windy and around 0C) made it a very pleasant and rewarding day.  The total number of birds (3,074) was about average over the 17 years that the Merritt count has been done.

Great weather on the Merritt CBC - view across Nicola Lake. Photo: ©Rick Howie

Great weather on the Merritt CBC – view across Nicola Lake. Photo: ©Rick Howie

Scanning for birds on the frozen edge of Nicola Lake, 20 December 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Scanning for birds on the frozen edge of Nicola Lake, 20 December 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Two new species were added to the Merritt CBC list – Wood Duck (3 seen) and White-throated Sparrow (1). With most of Nicola Lake ice-free it was a good year for waterbirds. We got four species of grebes (Horned, Pied-billed, Red-necked and Western) and a couple of Common Loons. Canada Geese (305) and Mallards (506) were once again in abundance. A single Tundra Swan was found (only the second record for a Merritt CBC) and Trumpeter Swans were in record high numbers (57).  Only one lonely American Coot was seen on the count day on Nicola Lake.

A pair of Trumpeter Swans on Nicola Lake, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

A pair of Trumpeter Swans on Nicola Lake, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Canada Geese fill the air at the Merritt municipal settling ponds, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Krystal Woodward

Canada Geese fill the air at the Merritt municipal settling ponds, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Krystal Woodward

Raptors were also plentiful, especially eagles attracted to several deer carcasses within the count circle and we ended up with record highs for both Bald Eagle (56) and Golden Eagle (4). Among the eight Rough-legged Hawks we encountered was a stunning dark-phase bird – looking quite different to the pale-phase hawks we normally get.

Light and dark phases of Rough-legged Hawk near Quilchena on the Merritt CBC. Photos: ©Corey Burger

Light and dark phases of Rough-legged Hawk near Quilchena on the Merritt CBC. Photos: ©Corey Burger

Not all our local species are doing well. The numbers of chickadees (2 species) and nuthatches (3 species) continue to be low, as they have been for the past few years. The loss of many big Ponderosa pines due to the mountain pine beetle seems to have caused a reduction in the numbers of Pygmy Nuthatch, which are often found in these trees.

The dramatic increase of the introduced Eurasian Collared Dove has been a feature of our CBCs since they were first recorded in 2009. But the count this year (63) is well below the maximum (115 in 2012). Perhaps their numbers are stabilizing? At the same time we’ve seen a marked decrease in the native Mourning Dove. This year’s count (55) is well below the average over 16 years of 110 birds. The closure of a popular feed-lot within the count circle is at least partly to blame for this decrease in Mourning Doves.

A Marsh Wren was recorded – only the second time we’ve had this species on our count. Several other species seen on count day are not usually found on the Merritt CBC. These include American Kestrel (2 seen), Ruffed Grouse (2), Great Horned Owl (1), Pacific (Winter) Wren (1), Gray Jay (3), White-crowned Sparrow (6), and Pine Grosbeak (48).

Female or immature Pine Grosbeaks, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Carol Madryga

Female or immature Pine Grosbeaks, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Carol Madryga

A major highlight of our count day was the post-count dinner at the Coldwater Hotel. Our group has become too large for a pot-luck in someone’s house and the hotel did a great job to give us a good dinner and a cheery setting to exchange our count-day tales.

Hungry birders gather in the Coldwater Hotel after the Christmas Bird Count, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Hungry birders gather in the Coldwater Hotel after the Christmas Bird Count, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

 

More photos from the Merritt Christmas Count below:

Barrow's Goldeneyes on the upper Nicola River below Nicola Lake, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Bob Scafe

Barrow’s Goldeneyes on the upper Nicola River below Nicola Lake, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Bob Scafe

Loads of waterfowl at the Merritt municipal settling ponds. Photo: ©Krystal Woodward

Loads of waterfowl at the Merritt municipal settling ponds. Photo: ©Krystal Woodward

Bohemian Waxwings, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Bob Scafe

Bohemian Waxwings, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Bob Scafe

Sunny skies at the Quilchena Golf Course, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Sunny skies at the Quilchena Golf Course, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Northern Shrike - one of 8 found on the Merritt Christmas Bird Count. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Northern Shrike – one of 8 found on the Merritt Christmas Bird Count. Photo: ©Corey Burger

Canada Geese at the Merritt municipal settling ponds. Photo: © Krystal Woodward

Canada Geese at the Merritt municipal settling ponds. Photo: © Krystal Woodward

Birding on the south side of Nicola Lake, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: Alan Burger

Birding on the south side of Nicola Lake, 20 Dec 2015. Photo: Alan Burger

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Nicola Naturalist Society fall programs – 2015

Our evening programs are on the third Thursday of the month, at 7 PM in the lecture theatre at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT), Belshaw Road, Merritt. Field outings are for members only (we can sign up visitors as day-members). Scroll down to see what is coming up from September 2015 through February 2016

Thursday September 17th (7PM at NVIT): Annual General Meeting and Members’ Photo Night.

We keep the business meeting short to leave plenty of time to view excellent photos of local wildlife and nature. See these photos on the big screen at NVIT!

Bighorn sheep between Merritt and Spences Bridge. Photo: © Ruth Tolerton

Bighorn sheep between Merritt and Spences Bridge. Photo: © Ruth Tolerton

Sunday September 20th (meet at 9AM at Merritt Civic Centre): Grasslands birding

We’ll look for interesting migrants (pelicans, cranes, waterfowl, raptors and more) in the Douglas Lake Plateau grasslands. Bring lunch, binoculars and clothes to match the weather.

Gray-crowned Rosy-finches - uncommon migrants through the higher grassland areas near Merritt. Photo: © Alan Burger

Gray-crowned Rosy-finches – uncommon migrants through the higher grassland areas near Merritt. Photo: © Alan Burger

Thursday October 15th (7PM at NVIT): Aaron Coelho and Dr. Wendy Gardner –Waning Wetlands: Declines in Semi-arid Grassland Ponds due to Climate Change.

Aaron Coelho is an Environmental Consultant, based in Kamloops and Dr. Wendy Gardner is a professor at Thompson Rivers University specializing in grassland ecology, range management and ecosystem restoration. Together they studied the impacts of climate change on surface water in BC’s semi-arid grasslands. The loss of grassland ponds will impact ranching, wildlife and entire ecosystems. This fascinating research is highly relevant to the future of the Merritt area.

Grassland ponds, such as this, provide critical habitat for many rare species, as well as watering holes for ranchland cattle and wildlife. Photos: © Aaron Coelho

Grassland ponds, such as this, provide critical habitat for many rare species, as well as watering holes for ranchland cattle and wildlife. Photos: © Aaron Coelho

Saturday October 17th (meet 10AM at the Grasslands Interpretation Kiosk, Lundbom Common): Joint outing and hike with the Vermillion Forks Naturalists (Princeton).

An opportunity to meet with naturalists from a neighbouring BC Nature club. We will have options for both an easy hike in the grasslands and forests or a more leisurely visit to ponds and lakes, with lunch together. Lundbom Commonage is always an interesting place for birds, scenery and interesting plant life.

View of the Nicola Valley from Lundbom Common. Inset: Brewer's Blackbird male. Photos: © Alan Burger

View of the Nicola Valley from Lundbom Common. Inset: Brewer’s Blackbird male. Photos: © Alan Burger

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 7TH (meet 10AM at the highway INFORMATION CENTRE at the junction of highways 5 Coquihalla and 97C Connector) – Field outing: Mushrooming with Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is a graduate student in Biology at UBC Okanagan and Nicola Naturalist members will remember her enthusiasm and knowledge of mushrooms and other fungi at our March 2015 meeting. Fall is peak mushroom season – come and learn more about local mushrooms – edible and not.

The fruiting bodies of Armirilia sp. fungus emerge above the ground to release spores. Photo: © Murphy Shewchuk

The fruiting bodies of Armirilia sp. fungus emerge above the ground to release spores. Photo: © Murphy Shewchuk

 Thursday November 19th (7PM at NVIT): Chris Gill – Guns, Traps & Poisons: Island Conservation in the 21st Century

Islands support fragile ecosystems and are the nesting sites for huge numbers of seabirds. Invasive alien species, such as rats, are one of the greatest threats to these sensitive locations. Chris Gill is a wildlife biologist from Salmon Arm and the founder of Coastal Conservation. He has been working for 15 years on island restoration in Haida Gwaii, BC where invasive rats, raccoons and deer are a major threat. In 2014 Chris received the prestigious Parks Canada CEO Award of Excellence for the Night Birds Returning program – recognizing his excellent work in restoring breeding populations of birds on these islands. An important conservation success story.

Islands in the Haida Gwaii archipelago are important nesting areas for many seabirds, but rats and other introduced mammals cause devastation unless controlled. Photos: © Chris Gill

Islands in the Haida Gwaii archipelago are important nesting areas for many seabirds, but rats and other introduced mammals cause devastation unless controlled. Photos: © Chris Gill

 

Saturday December 12th (1 – 3 PM at NVIT classroom L017): Winter Bird Identification Workshop

Alan Burger will lead this workshop – tune up your birding skills before the Christmas Bird Count, or just to help identify those birds at your winter feeder.

One sparrow is a common year-round resident and the other is a winter visitor to the Nicola Valley. Can you identify these? Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the identities. Photos: © Alan Burger

One bird is a common year-round resident and the other is an uncommon winter visitor to the Nicola Valley. Can you identify these? Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the identities. Photos: © Alan Burger

Sunday December 20th (all day): Merritt Christmas Bird Count

You don’t have to be an expert birder to participate in this annual event – in fact it is a great opportunity for beginners to join more experienced birders to improve birding skills. Be part of the world’s largest citizen science program – now in its 116th year and run by the Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada. If you are interested in participating please get in touch before the count day – phone 250-378-2468 or e-mail nicolanaturalists@gmail.com.

Merritt birders using park benches to get a better view while scanning Nicola Lake for waterbirds. Photo © Corey Burger

Merritt birders using park benches to get a better view while scanning Nicola Lake for waterbirds. Photo © Corey Burger

A male House Finch - one of the species commonly found in the Merritt Christmas Bird Count. Photo © Bob Scafe.

A male House Finch – one of the species commonly found in the Merritt Christmas Bird Count. Photo © Bob Scafe.

Coming up in the new year:

  • Thursday January 21st (7PM at NVIT): Frank Ritcey (WildSafe BC) – Safety and Management of Wildlife
  • Thursday February 18th (7PM at NVIT): Bob Scafe – The Wonderful World of Butterflies
  • Monthly meetings in March, April and May – details to come

Mystery bird identities: Song Sparrow (left) is a year-round resident and American Tree Sparrow (right) breeds in boreal subarctic areas and visits our area in winter.

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Amphibian Outreach in 2015

The amphibian monitoring project run by the Nicola Naturalist Society and our professional partners Biolinx Environmental Research is in its fifth and final year in 2015. Our volunteers are continuing to visit some new sites to check for frog and salamander breeding and also monitor some of the major breeding sites discovered in the earlier years. We are also building on our experience to help others develop similar projects and help spread the word on amphibian conservation.

Training with BC Parks and others

On May 8th 2015 our amphibian project coordinator Andrea Lawrence showed 10 BC Parks rangers our Western Toad monitoring and mitigation project at Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park, as part of their spring field training. The Nicola Naturalist Society worked  closely with BC Parks to develop and monitor a culvert and tunnel system to allow Western Toad metamorphs (toadlets) to safely cross the busy campsite road. This system seems to be working well and responsibility for maintaining the system is now with BC Parks, hence the information outing with Andrea. To see more on this project click here: Kentucky-Alleyne Project

BC Parks personnel learnabout the Western Toad project at Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park.

BC Parks personnel learn about the Western Toad project at Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park – 8th May 2015.

Toadlets on the move along the wooden funnel-fence. The structure worked well to guide them safely to the tunnel and under the road.  Photo:  © Kristiina Ovaska

Toadlets on the move along the wooden funnel-fence. The structure works well to guide them safely to the tunnel and under the road at Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park.   Photo: © Kristiina Ovaska

On the same day Andrea also guided three members of the Central Okanagan Land Trust to several breeding ponds in our amphibian monitoring area. They were keen to learn methods for finding, identifying and monitoring amphibians. They want to apply similar methods to their conservation lands in the Okanagan.

Leaders of the Okanagan Land Trust came to learn about amphibian monitoring from the Nicola Naturalists. Note the lumps of Columbia Spotted Frog eggs in the pond (arrow). Photo: Andrea Lawrence.

Leaders of the Okanagan Land Trust came to learn about amphibian monitoring from the Nicola Naturalists. Note the clumps of Columbia Spotted Frog eggs in the pond (arrow). Photo: Andrea Lawrence.

 

Merritt children learn about toadlets and species at risk

On July 28th 2015 Nicola Naturalist members Andrea Lawrence and Alan Burger guided a group of 14 Merritt children around the Kentucky-Alleyne Park toadlet project, and talked to them about frog biology and conservation. The kids were in a week-long “Species at Risk” camp run by the Royal B.C. Museum and the City of Merritt. In our area two amphibian species are considered to be at risk: Western Toads, listed as “Special Concern”  and Great Basin Spadefoots listed as “Threatened.

Instead of talking about these animals in a classroom setting, the children were bussed to Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park to have a first-hand experience with Western Toads and to see the conservation program initiated by the Nicola Naturalists there. At the park, Andrea and Alan explained the lives of Western Toads and introduced the kids to the tiny thumb-nail sized toadlets. The kids got to see for themselves the toadlets moving along the guide-fence and passing safely under the road in the culvert.

NNS amphibian project coordinator talks to the children at Kentucky-Alleyne park with the Western Toad breeding pond (West Pond) behind. Photo:  Alan Burger

NNS amphibian project coordinator Andrea Lawrence talks to the children at Kentucky-Alleyne park with the Western Toad breeding pond (West Pond) behind. Photo: Alan Burger

Inspecting the toadlet fence at Kentucky-Alleyne park.  Photo:  Alan Burger

Inspecting the toadlet fence at Kentucky-Alleyne park. Photo: Alan Burger

Participants at the "Species at Risk" camp watch as tiny toadlets enter the culvert to cross the campsite road. The camera strapped to the tree automatically monitors their numbers.  Photo:  Alan Burger

Participants at the “Species at Risk” camp watch as tiny toadlets (not visible in the photo) enter the culvert to cross the campsite road. The camera strapped to the tree automatically monitors their numbers. Photo: Alan Burger

 

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Spring programs – April-June 2015

Our evening programs are on the third Thursday of the month, at 7 PM in the lecture theatre at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT), Belshaw Road, Merritt. Scroll down to see what is coming up from April through June 2015

Thursday 16 April 2015, 7 PM at NVIT: Bill Merilees – Wildflowers.

Few people are as well qualified to talk about BC’s wildflowers as Bill Merilees. Along with the legendary C. P. Lyons he is the co-author of the popular plant guide: Trees, Shrubs and Flowers to Know in Washington and British Columbia (Lone Pine Press). Bill is a retired professional biologist with a long history of nature writing, hands-on interpretation and nature photography. A great speaker and just in time for the spring flowers.

Bill Merilees has updated and added many photos to the classic field guide created by Ches Lyons.

Bill Merilees has updated and added many photos to the classic field guide created by Ches Lyons.

Sunday 19 April, 9 AM Outing to the Douglas Lake grasslands. A visit to the high grasslands and the Douglas Lake Plateau Important Bird Area (IBA). We hope to encounter migrating Sandhill Cranes and there will definitely be lots of waterfowl, raptors and other interesting birds. Meet at 09:00 at the Merritt Civic Centre for carpooling. We’re likely to be out 4-5 hours. Bring a lunch, warm clothes and of course your binoculars and field guides.

Sandhill Cranes (both Lesser and Greater forms of the species) at Douglas Lake Ranch, 21 April 2013.  Photo: © Bob Scafe.

Sandhill Cranes (both Lesser and Greater forms of the species) at Douglas Lake Ranch, 21 April 2013. Photo: © Bob Scafe.

A Merritt Library Event: Thursday 23rd April 2015, 6-8 PM at the Merritt Public Library. Dr. Don McLeod: Mars and Black Holes .
Please pre-register at the Merritt Public Library for this event  (250-378-4737).

A Merritt Library Event: Thursday 7th May 2015, 6-7:30 PM at the Merritt Public Library. Darrel Finnegan, Superintendant of Merritt City Public Works Department: Go with the flow – Merritt’s wastewater. This will cover ” the full circle” — beginning with where the water supply comes from and ending with the treatment of biosolids and returning it to the ground.
Please pre-register at the Merritt Public Library for this event  (250-378-4737).

 

Thursday 21 May 2015, 7 PM – at NVIT: Bob Scafe – Travels in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Bob Scafe is a Naturalist Society director and one of our club’s keenest photographers. Bob and his wife Bev recently traveled through Vietnam and Cambodia and will share their experiences with the local people, wildlife and places that they visited. Something tropical and exotic – this will be fascinating.

A Black-crested Gibbon and baby. Photo:  © Bob Scafe

A Black-crested Gibbon and baby. Photo: © Bob Scafe

Close-up of a working Asian Elephant.  Photo: © Bob Scafe

Close-up of a working Asian Elephant. Photo: © Bob Scafe

 

Wednesday 17th June at 7 PM (venue to be announced). Kyle Blaney: North American Photo Stories.  [Note that this is on Wednesday not our usual Thursday]

Kyle Blaney is an avid nature photographer from Belleville, Ontario who has extensively travelled all over North America. He is visiting our area while on a photo/camping trip from Ontario to Vancouver via Northwest Territories. In this presentation, Kyle shares his favourite photos, discusses where they were taken, and talks about his photography techniques.

Grizzly Bear, Khutzeymateen, B.C. Photo © Kyle Blaney

Grizzly Bear, Khutzeymateen, B.C. Photo © Kyle Blaney

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