Tales from the Wild Side -staying busy in COVID

Henry Miller
RRVFN past-president

RRVFN managed to participate in many activities during 2020 in spite of Covid 19. It wasn’t a problem to practice physical distancing as the activities were outdoors and in some cases, were performed by a minimum of individuals. A snapshot of the club’s activities follows with the details of our projects and hikes found on our website at rrvfn.org.
After the cancellation of the Owl Identification workshop, the club proceeded with two projects; tree planting and birdhouse monitoring. The Stewardship council had donated about 1000 trees to us which were planted in the spring. Several of the residents who had requested trees preferred to plant them themselves due to COVID 19, but club volunteers put in the rest at predesignated farms. Two bluebird trails were set up and monitoring revealed that 99 tree swallows and 30 bluebird nestlings were fledged.
Several activities took place in late winter and during the summer. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing were enjoyed near Northwest Bay in February on a great day of relaxation in the outdoors.
In July a trip to Sable Islands Provincial Nature Reserve on Lake of the Woods was planned to find as many species of dragonflies as possible. But naturalists cannot pass up opportunities to record birds or plants so they recorded other species as well. The highlight of the day was the discovery of a dragonfly which has never been listed in our area before, the Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)
The month of August found a small group hiking in the area of Wasaw and Boffin Lakes looking for more birds and dragonflies. They later travelled on to Emo where they gathered the exuviae of dragonflies from the river. One of the exuvia was that of the Arrow Clubtail, another new record for the district. Another hike in September was enjoyed by club members where they walked around Point Park, visited one of the islands by the Causeway, continued on to the Rocky Inlet ski trails in search of different birds and ending the day with a boat trip to an island on Rainy Lake. Overall 32 different species of birds were recorded for the day with the highlight of the day being a flock of Golden Crowned Kinglets observed along the ski trails.
The club has recently agreed to monitor the Oak Grove property for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Four of our members who journeyed to Lake of the Woods to first check out the area in August, recorded many species of dragonflies and 47 different species of birds along the way.
Why keep records of the different species? The data obtained makes a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the abundance of flora and fauna of our country. Our club is not the only one collecting data, with hundreds of other clubs all over Canada, the US and other countries doing the same thing. Other methods of gathering information include events such as the Feeder Watch, the Spring Owl Survey, and the Christmas Bird Count. Individuals not associated with clubs also contribute to the data collection.
Not everything the club does is fun or exciting. The Peat Moss Interpretive Trail (locally known as the Bog Walk) requires continual maintenance: plant identification signs are put out in the spring and taken down again in the fall, there is always garbage to pick up and grass between the boards to cut, and repairs to the walkway are sometimes needed. Meetings are also necessary to carry out the business end of all clubs. Normally ours are held three to four times a year, but this year we’ve had only one since the onset of COVID. The Annual General Meeting was held in September, with just a few masked members in attendance where the Constitution was approved, business items discussed, and an election was held. Interim president Henry Miller announced his retirement; Ilka Milne was then elected president, Mike Hammond – vice president, Henry VanAel – remains as treasurer, and Gaby Emond – stays on as secretary.
All in all, it has been a productive year.