Naturespeak 

Fall and Meadowlarks?

By Shirley and Michael Thompson

Whistlerites would be hard pressed to remember when we last had such an extended period of dry, sunny fall days. We have been amazed at the dazzling displays of colour in our maples, cottonwoods, dogwoods, and grasses. Even the tall fireweeds stayed around long enough to show off their display of fluffed seed-bearing puffs. The recent winds, however, have done their thing, scattering seeds far and wide and filling our ditches with red, gold and bronze-coloured leaves.

Nature seems to be winding down and with it, most songbirds have left us. But maybe not all. Two or three weeks ago at Green Lake, Michael observed five shorebirds feeding (or at least searching) on the sandbar at the outlet of the River of Golden Dreams. Wait a minute! Why do they have yellow breasts like warblers? Feeding and looking like shorebirds with longish bills, in shorebird habitat, it was puzzling. Just then, along came Karl Ricker with his bird book and we determined that they were, in fact, Western Meadowlarks completely out of their natural drier habitat!

These marvellous singers are about robin-sized, and feed on insects and some seeds in open fields. Breeding range is the southern part of all provinces from Ontario west, and very rarely in Quebec City (honeymoon destination!). They are short-distance migrants – some winter in southern B.C., while others move to the U.S. as "snowbirds!"

Taxonomically, they are not larks at all, but brightly-coloured members of the Blackbird family. Watch for them next spring, and enjoy their music!

Upcoming Events :

Saturday, Nov. 2nd — Whistler Bird Walk, 8 a.m . Meet at the bottom of Lorimer Road near the entrance to the Catholic Church. Novices and newcomers welcome. Call Michael Thompson (604-932-5050) for details.

Tuesday, November 5th — Whistler Astronomy Club Inaugural Meeting, 7:30 p.m., MY Place Boardroom.

Everyone welcome. For more information contact Carol Legate (stars@nemy.com; 604-938-8090).

Thursday, Nov. 14th — Chris Czajkowski, Author of "Life of a Wilderness Dweller" and "Log Building for the Single Woman", 7:30 p.m.

The Whistler Naturalists hosted Chris Czajkowski two years ago and ever since people have asked us to bring her back. Chris is a very entertaining speaker who single-handedly built a cabin in the Chilcotin wilderness, 30 kilometres from the nearest road. She’s written four books, is a contributor to Harrowsmith, and was a regular correspondent with Peter Gzowski’s Morningside on CBC Radio. Chris will present her story, illustrated with her great slides, and also have her nature-themed artwork and books for sale. Members $3; non-members $5; children free. Location TBA.

Thursday, Nov. 28th, 6:15 to 7 p.m., MY Place — Whistler Naturalists Annual General Meeting . The Whistler Naturalists encourage people interested in getting more involved to join us for our third AGM. New board members welcome. For more details, contact Bob Brett (604-932-8900; snowline@direct.ca).

Thursday, Nov. 28th —Andy MacKinnon, "Lessons from the Temperate Rainforests", 7:30 p.m. MY Place.

Andy MacKinnon, best known as the co-author of "Plants of Coastal BC", is an incredibly energetic and entertaining speaker. A mycologist by training (specializing in mushrooms and other fungi), Andy has studied and monitored temperate rainforests through his senior position with the B.C. Government. His presentation will describe the unique attributes of temperate rainforests (including those in Whistler) and the challenges in managing them for a number of uses. He will focus on his current work in assessing the opportunities and risks of harvesting non-forest timber products (for example, mushrooms and plants for the floral trade). Admission by donation.

NatureSpeak Submissions Welcome! This column is edited by the Whistler Naturalists but written by local naturalists like you. So if you have something to say about nature in Whistler, why not put it down on paper and publish it in this space? Submissions should be 500-600 words and, if possible, include an image to accompany the column. We welcome submissions on any natural subject: To submit a column, contact Bob Brett (604-932-8900; snowline@direct.ca).

Sightings: To report noteworthy bird sightings any time of year, please contact Michael Thompson (604-932-5010; email: redpath@telus.net).

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