A mother Western Grebe and grebettes in the Salmon Arm Bay. (Pat Hutchins photo)

A mother Western Grebe and grebettes in the Salmon Arm Bay. (Pat Hutchins photo)

50 trees to be planted in Blackburn Park marking Shuswap Naturalist Club’s anniversary

Initial plantings to mark Earth Day on April 22

Fifty trees for 50 years.

The Shuswap Naturalist Club celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, the club will be planting 50 trees at Blackburn Park, a legacy for the club that promotes the value of trees in the environment.

The club’s Gillian Richardson said the plan was to plant the trees in the spring with help from students with the South Canoe outdoor school. However, due to the current health emergency, she said the club will do a token planting of a few trees on Earth Day, April 22, with the remainder on hold until fall.

“We planned a summer party, too—a Nature Day in Marine Park—with birding and nature-related activities,” said Richardson. “When social activities are up and running again, our plans will go forward.”

The Shuswap Naturalist Club was formed on Dec. 8, 1970, its first meeting was held at the library. Members discussed fees, frequency of meetings, outings and plans for what would become the annual Christmas bird count.

“We received a congratulatory letter on the formation of our ‘up-country’ club from Elton A. Anderson of Federation of BC Naturalists (better known as BC Nature),” said Richardson. “He mentioned, in particular, our good choice of name that represents the district, and our low fees to build up the club at first.

“With that, the Shuswap Naturalist Club (SNC) became part of the family of B.C. natural history groups.”

The club’s primary goal continues to this day: to provide opportunities for persons interested in natural history to meet and exchange information.

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Some things have changed though. The club currently has 100 members who meet in the Salmon Arm Secondary library the first Tuesday of the month except for July and August.

The first Christmas bird count yielded 61 species and 2,328 individual birds, said Richardson. The 2019 count turned up 67 species (the average is 72), but a much healthier 6,880 individuals.

“It’s interesting to note that 38 observers participated in 1971, while just 27 birders collected the higher numbers in 2019.”

A number of Club projects stand out, from trails to nest boxes, the monitoring of threatened species to supporting future naturalists.

The club invites you to walk along the Frank and Doris Kime Nature Trail located west of the Marine Park wharf in Salmon Arm and maintained by SNC members for a clear view of another of this city’s treasures: the bay.

“The Kimes were avid naturalists in this area for 30 years,” noted Richardson.

In September 2003, Peter Jannink Nature Park was dedicated in memory of the District of Salmon Arm gardener and keen birder.

“The SNC initiated restoration in 1998 of the landfill site on the bay,” Richardson explained. “Together, this park and the SABNES Nature Trail now boast 92 nest boxes. They were part of a nest box renewal project undertaken last year by club members to enhance nesting for swallows and other songbirds, many species of which are in critical decline in the ecosystem.”

Since the 1980s, the club has monitored Western Grebe activity in the bay. Richardson said the bay is now the last nesting site in B.C. for these elegant waterbirds.

“Their spectacular courtship dance draws viewers each spring from around the world.”

In 2006, the SNC established a financial award for a university student studying environmental sciences and planning a career in environmental conservation and protection. The Shuswap Naturalist Club Award is available to students at Thompson Rivers University’s Bachelor of Natural Resource Science program, with priority given to students from the Shuswap area.

Richardson said when social activities are up and running again, the SNC’s plans will go forward. In the meantime, you can find more information about the club, its activities, outings and more at shuswapnaturalists.org.

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