Nearby Nature Project: 2023 January

Our nearby nature experiences over the past month included the first extended deep freeze of this winter,. But we are presently enjoying an extended “vacation” from typical winter weather. So we’ve seen the Bow River go from totally frozen over, with ice dams, to ice blocks floating downstream on the current to wide open and flowing freely. With another polar vortex expected at the end of the month, we look forward to observing another freeze cycle.


I curtailed my news consumption over the Christmas holiday, prioritizing family time. But one headline did register with me…

COP-15 Adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

Key points of agreement at COP-15 include:

  • Effective conservation and management of at least 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and oceans by 2030
  • Halt human-induced extinction of known threatened species such that by 2050, extinction rate and risk of all species are reduced tenfold
  • By 2050, shift humanity’s “use” of nature/ecosystem services so that it’s sustainable for present and future generations
  • Valuing traditional (primarily indigenous) knowledge of nature fairly
  • Valuing genetic resources fairly and equitably
  • The need for some kind of funding mechanism

Despite not following COP-15 closely, it was clear to me that there is not (yet?) full alignment on how to achieve the 4 main goals and 23 targets.

One thing we do definitely need? A much deeper connection with nature, to foster the understanding that humanity is part of nature. And contact with nature is not the same thing as a true connection with nature…so I will keep writing these posts, with the aim of sparking at least one other person to cultivate that sense of connectedness.

Cultivating My Nature Connection

Book Review

book cover showing leaf for Forest Walking by Peter Wohlleben

I usually prefer wide open vistas (think ridge walk, mountain top or lake). But I do like a good forest walk, especially when the shade offers respite from heat or the trunks blunt an extreme wind chill. Plus, pretty much every hike to a mountain or ridge top includes a stretch through the forest. So when I spotted this book on the “grab and go” display at my local public library, I checked it out.

I echo the sentiment of this sentence from the introduction:

“To all who set out to explore a forest, may you find wonders and delights.”

I disagree with the authors’ assertion that this is a book for people to take with them when they go out walking in a forest. But it’s chock full of facts about North American forests. And it offers plenty of ideas to spark a sense of discovery on any forest walk – whether you’re new to the woods or a long-time friend of the forest.

I got a lot out of the front third of the book, which delves into the idea of forest as community, using all of your senses to immerse yourself in nature, and appreciating every aspect of trees – from roots to trunk and leaves to bark. A few of my favourite bits:

  • Two fascinating facts about aspens
  • The word matsukaze – “song of the pines”
  • How sticking to trails benefits nature AND you
  • The descriptions of marriage trees and nurse logs
  • How, just like human skin, tree bark gets rougher and more wrinkled with age

The next few chapters bring in other facets of a forest, including lichen & moss, insects, decomposers and the importance of decay. I gained ideas for things to watch for when walking in the woods.

We’ve hiked for more than three decades, starting with an “intro to hiking” course through a local university’s outdoor centre. So I found myself skimming the last half of the book. Chapter topics are varied: exploring the forest with children, getting out in any season, clothing and survival basics, watching for ticks and more. One statement that got me thinking? That one goal of any hike should be NOT to see wildlife! Hmmm….

All-in-all, I see value in this book for anyone who walks in North American forests. And I’m glad I made a few pages of notes to go back to a couple of times/year. Sometimes it helps to have a jumping off point to renew your sense of wonder when exploring a familiar landscape.

Nearby Nature Project: Practice

I finished “Forest Walking” very early in the month. So I’ve had several opportunities to apply some of the “wonder prompts” from the book. Here are just some of the things I noticed by looking at very familiar trails in Canmore through the lens of new information:

Twice this month, prompted by using all of our senses (hearing and sight), we spotted instances where woodpeckers have been hard at work setting up a standing (soon-to-be) dead tree for colonization by songbirds and insects. In once case, we even spotted the three-toed woodpecker at work!

Birdfeeder Update

Chickadees and nuthatches found our backyard feeder within a few days. After the elk vandalism incident, we hung a suet block holder in the original birdfeeder location. Since then, we’ve seen Clark’s nutcrackers (maximum three at a time), downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpeckers!

We continue to monitor for return visits by a scavenging coyote. There’s no way we want to habituate elk, coyotes or any other mammals to coming into a residential area for easy food.

So far, any scavenging magpies have stayed on the ground under the suet block. This is in sharp contrast to our very short-lived experience in Calgary, where magpies aggressively targeted songbirds after suet. And we’ve seen one raven walking through the yard, checking things out. Our resident squirrel was not happy about the raven, but didn’t try to chase it off like it does with the magpies.

We’re looking forward to another few months of backyard birdwatching we’ll take both feeders down in compliance with Canmore’s bird feeder bylaw. March 31st is the official date, but we’ll remove them earlier if we start seeing reports of bears coming out of hibernation in the Bow Valley.

Coming Up….

I’m considering two topics for next month’s “Cultivating My Nature Connection” segment: best-selling board game Wingspan (a family Christmas gift that we’ve already played several times) or another book, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. Have your say on what’s up next by leaving a comment. Thanks!

One thought on “Nearby Nature Project: 2023 January

  1. Mandy

    I will put Forest Walking on my reading list! Thanks! I got a photo of a Three-Toed Woodpecker a few days ago. It will be my Instagram #wildlifewednesday post this week.

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