Nearby Nature Project: 2023 April/May

Earlier in May, we experienced an abrupt change from winter to summer here in the Calgary area. Over the span of 5 days, all remaining snow in our yard melted, and the earlies perennials flowered! Things are stalled a bit right now, with cooler temperatures and much-needed rain.

News Feed

More on the Wood Wide Web

Just a few days after I hit publish on the March 2023 edition of Nearby Nature Project, I saw this interview with Suzanne Simard in the Spring 2023 issue of Chatelaine.

Considering a Bird Bath?

I’ve been thinking about putting in a bird bath. And my parents are, too, at their place in BC’s Okanagan Valley. Off the top of my head, I know regular cleaning and an ongoing fresh water supply are essential. I’ll also be studying this resource (pdf from All About Birds) before making a final decision. If you have tips and tricks for setting up/maintaining a bird bath, please share by leaving a comment.

Connecting with Nearby Nature is Essential for Prompting Behaviour Change

Long-time nearby nature researcher, Miles Richardson, has authored a book! Reconnection: Fixing our Broken Relationship with Nature came out at the end of April. It’s on my TBR (to be read) list. In the meantime, he outlines some of the key themes in this blog post.

UK Rewilding Initiative Brings Economic Benefits (More Jobs)

This 5 minutes news story from Channel 4 in England explores the jobs benefits arising from rewilding initiatives in England, Scotland and Wales. It’s got a very positive tone, but from where I sit, fails to address how the rewilding efforts will affect food production.

Cultivating My Nature Connection

I’m still reading Andri Snær Magnason’s On Time and Water. Watch for the review next month.

Nearby Nature Project

Due to other commitments, my participation in this year’s City Nature Challenge (April 28 through May 1) was limited. I submitted observations from a 2.5 hour walk in a nearby natural environment park, including a Great Horned Owl and two owlets. 🙂

One responsibility that took time and attention from citizen science? Gardening season! Yes, the last weekend of April I spent time in vegetable garden. I started by cleaning out leftovers from 2022. Winter came so abruptly that I didn’t have time to pull the sunflower stalks, till the beds and mix in slow-release fertilizer. So I did that one morning. With 4 small raised beds (approximately 1 m x 2 m), it didn’t take long.

In the afternoon, I planted. One bed was already full of garlic bulbs and onion sets, planted last October. They have been very slow to emerge. I wonder how many garlic plants I’ll get after a deer hopped the fence and dug up that part of the garden later in October 2022.

One bed is fully planted now, with beets, carrots, chard, green onions and sunflower seeds.

A second bed contains more sunflowers and carrots, plus a couple of short rows of kale and one of bok choy. The bok choy is a first for me, and it’s one of the only seeded crops that’s sprouted.

The final bed has some perennial strawberries at one end and two rows of seeds at the other – broccoli and carrots. Broccoli is another first for me. We’ll see how it grows. Following the recommendation on the seed packet, I’ve interplanted coriander. I did the same for my kale this year. And I really hope the companion herb reduces the amount of leaf damage due to cabbage moths or something similar.

So I’ve got about half of one bed left to plant, which will likely be planted with more green onions and carrots by the end of May. One resource I’ve found particularly helpful this planting season is this blog, which is all about Zone 3 gardening.

Elsewhere in the yard I have a planter with herbs I picked up at the nearest garden center. And I have a few planters prepped and ready to take vegetable seedlings that I’ve started indoors, next to my AeroGarden.

a tray of broccoli, tomato and pepper vegetable seedlings

I smile every time I think about our oldest young adult and partner, growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and assorted herbs in pots on their apartment balcony in North Carolina. And I smile even wider when I think about the gravity powered drip water system they engineered to help their micro garden flourish.

What about you? Are you vegetable gardening this year? If so, how does your garden grow?

Early Blooms

The only flowers to bloom in our yard so far are the cultivated crocuses and the tiny purple flowers of the perennial Pulmonaria.

small purple flowers and spotted leaves of a pulmonaria plant

Meanwhile, at my in-laws’ place in SE Calgary, there’s a rainbow of spring bulbs in full flower! They’ve shown me what’s possible when you don’t have an abundance of white-tailed jackrabbits hopping around eating the tulip buds before they have a chance to open. 🙂

Birding Update

Bird migration season is coming to an end in our part of the world. I regret we didn’t see any Mountain Bluebirds this spring. But we have seen a lot of bald eagles, including a sub-adult. We had the privilege of watching an osprey hunt (not very successfully) during our first kayak outing of the season. And we saw our first-ever red-naped sapsucker during our second bike ride of the 2023 season.

With the addition of our March and April bird photographs to my iNaturalist account, I’ve reached a cumulative 855 observations, covering 318 species. I look forward to adding more birds and pollinators as spring progresses, starting with World Migratory Bird Day on May 13th.

I continue to add the best of my bird photographs to this album on Flickr.

Coming Up

In addition to World Migratory Bird Day, I’m excited about three other citizen science projects happening now:

  • May Plant Count, organized by Nature Alberta, which runs from May 25-31 using iNaturalist to collect observations;
  • The Calgary Pollinators project, ongoing via iNaturalist, more here; and
  • National Lake Blitz, organized by Living Lakes Canada. Now in its third year, this is my first year participating and I’ll be periodically measuring water and air temperatures and observing vegetation and wildlife at Vermilion Lakes over the summer months.

Participating in citizen science projects is a fun way to cultivate a sense of connection with Nature, while learning more about local plants, animals and ecosystems. What kind of citizen science project appeals to you?

Leave a Reply