Nearby Nature Project: 2022 October

I’ve neglected writing for my Nearby Nature Project since my last post in July. That’s mainly because we’ve been out hiking, biking, kayaking, walking and otherwise enjoying time spent with Nature. My ongoing pursuit of pollinator/bird/wildlife-friendly gardening (while still having some fruits and vegetables to harvest) has also been a priority.

get down and dirty in a veggie garden

But with our extended summer finally coming to an end, I will get back into a more regular rhythm. A few action items to consider:

  • Depending on where you live, it’s time to “water in” your trees and shrubs to give them the best chance of thriving through the winter; I’ve also spread slow-release fertilizer and bone meal around the drip line of my fruit trees
  • If you use garlic and onions in your cooking, I’ve found them to be some of the easiest crops to grow; now’s the time to plant garlic for harvest next summer and I’m trying some fall-planted onions this year, too
  • It’s almost birdfeeder season in Canmore and we’re going to try a bird feeder here for the first time; since we have squirrels in the yard, we found a spot at least a meter away from any tree branch and dug in a tall (2.5 meter) metal support to hang a squirrel-proof birdfeeder from November 1 through March 31 and we’ve got a good supply of black oil sunflower seeds ready to go; now’s a good time to do some research and advance preparation if you’ve been thinking about a bird feeder
  • Are there other gardening/yard things you do each fall to help Mother Nature’s flora and fauna through the upcoming winter season?


One Hour Nature Walk for Stress Reduction

The key finding from a small scale study (n=63) recently published in Molecular Psychology? A one hour nature walk calms the amygdala (the part of our brain that controls fight/flight). This study used fMRI technology to scan for changes in the brain. If you’re looking to minimize the long-term negative mental/physical negative health effects of stress, try walking in a nearby park, along a river pathway or through a nature reserve. While this study assessed before/after a one hour walk, other studies have found even 10 minutes in nature can reduce stress.

Ecosystem Services

WARNING: climate anxiety trigger, skip to next section if needed. As an accountant, I’ve long been aware of the idea of ecosystem services – water for drinking; forests for timber, paper products, erosion control and carbon storage; oil & gas for vehicle and jet fuel, home heating, power generation, plastics, asphalt and more; pollinators for food crops; plants for fibers, food, medicine and more; wetlands for water purification; and much more. In terms of accounting and financial statements, ecosystem services are generally non-quantified externalities. In other words, they don’t show up as expenses on the income statement.

This recent article from the BBC considers a few approaches to mandating offsets for using ecosystem services – roughly similar to the idea of carbon taxes charged for burning gasoline and natural gas, here in Alberta. The article also touches on a few scenarios that contemplate human-engineered replacements for ecosystem services.

Cultural Ecosystem Services

Unlike the provisioning and regulating ecosystem services touched on in the previous section, I don’t remember coming across the term Cultural Ecosystem Services until recently. This study out of the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science–Global Leadership Initiative at the University of Tokyo, is a systematic review of peer-reviewed literature that aims to identify the specific means by which non-material aspects of Nature contribute to human well-being.

As a layperson, I’m finding the 22-page research paper quite challenging. This article in the Washington Post highlights key takeaways.

Cumulative Effects of Development on Grizzly Bear Movement through the Bow Valley

Close to home, the Bow Valley cumulative effects modeling work undertaken by researchers at Yellowstone-to-Yukon has been published as an open-access peer-reviewed paper in Environmental Management. Key findings? To best support wildlife, the approval process for new developments should consider project-specific environmental assessments PLUS cumulative development effects. The surprise finding? If people truly support human/wildlife coexistence, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and opt out of using/proliferating rogue/pirate recreational trails, especially in wildlife corridors.

Cultivating My Nature Connection

We continue to look for birds when we’re out and about. It’s an opportunistic hobby – in other words, it’s an add-on to something we’re already doing. We’ve got a couple of birding books, but when it comes to recognizing bird sounds, a lot of songs and calls still stump us. One thing that’s been helpful? The Merlin Bird ID app. We slowly getting to the point where we make our best guess and then fire up the app to get confirmation (or not).

Nearby Nature Project This Month Quarter

I already mentioned our continued interest in bird photography. Well, we had a once-in-a-lifetime bird photography opportunity – on our wedding anniversary! It was a bald eagle, hunting from down in the water. I wrote about it as part of a blog post published just a few days afterwards, but want to share some more photos from this unique sighting.

Here’s from when we first spotted the bald eagle.

bald eagle landing atop spruce tree

Then it took off, but we didn’t see it land again. We were going to head for the dock and finish our kayak outing, but then we heard that distinctive piping note that eagles made. So we turned back and paddled around a bend and saw this!

The eagle was IN the water. We suspect it was hunting the ring-necked ducklings we’d seen a short while earlier. I did some research after we got home, and this is fairly rare behaviour. The eagle risks getting water-logged feathers, in which case it will not be able to take off. Because eagles don’t have webbed feet, this one used its powerful wings to navigate – change direction and move a bit.

After several minutes (we had no good sense for how much time passed, maybe 4 or 5 minutes), it took off.

It flew low, straight to a dead spruce tree about a hundred meters away. Enroute, it flew directly above two of the ducklings it had been hunting. The eagle landed on a standing dead tree, where it spread it wings part way to dry the feathers.

We watched it turn its head this way and that, stretching its wings a bit and then letting them droop, for maybe 5 or 6 minutes. Then we turned and paddled away, with a very special memory to mark our wedding anniversary.

Coming Up…

I’m currently reading Ice Walker, A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic by James Raffan. Watch for a review in the next instalment of Nearby Nature Project.

What are you doing to deepen your connection with Nature? Let me know by leaving a comment. I’m always interested in new ideas/projects to support Mother Nature.

3 thoughts on “Nearby Nature Project: 2022 October

  1. Mandy

    I echo Susan’s reply: “What an incredible post.” Congratulations on the bald eagle encounter. I have been thinking about a bird feeder this winter too. Can you provide more details on your “squirrel proof” set-up. Is there really such a thing? Also, what is “watering in?” I am planning to focus on winter wildlife photography this upcoming season, with a special focus on wolves! Why don’t you join me?

    1. We’ll see if the bird feeder is Canmore-squirrel proof!! We bought the tall pole at Lee Valley in Calgary about a decade ago. The feeder itself is called the Squirrel Buster Plus Wild Bird Feeder and it’s held up really well over the 10 years or so since we bought it. I’ve learned to only put sunflower seeds in the feeder because if you use one of the wildbird mixes, it contains a bunch of wild grass and other seeds that I didn’t want growing in the flower bed below where we hang the feeder. As for “watering in” it helps support drought-stressed trees that will be further stressed by drying chinook winds. You water mature trees at their drip lines for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes at a low flow, BEFORE the ground freezes, in an attempt to get some water saturation in the ground around the roots. It works better in clay-heavy Calgary soils that it does in Canmore, where the water seems to run straight down deep into the ground. Winter wolf photography sounds challenging – in terms of finding them, photographing them without disrupting their movements and in terms of staying safe while doing so. I will definitely consider joining you at least once.

  2. Oh my gosh. This was an incredible post. The pictures have left me in such awe of the beauty of this beautiful bird. For this time to be captured in photos by someone who understands the beauty does not escape me. That you were both there at this time and on your anniversary and that you took the time to circle back, just to see this and to chronicle it is truly incredible. Thank you. Thank you..

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