The year began with our AGM in January. Our Executive changed somewhat, with Rob stepping down from his position as BC Nature Rep after a two-year term. Wendy stepped down from her position as Member-at-Large and was elected as the new BC Nature Rep, while Janice was elected to the now-vacant Member-at-Large position. Gretchen was elected to a second term as Treasurer and the remaining Executive members continued into the second year of their respective terms.
We had an encouraging increase in memberships in 2020. We currently have 93 memberships and 141 individual members. Sue R. managed our membership records for several years, but has recently moved out of the area, leaving this position vacant. We would like to extend our appreciation and thanks to Sue for her dedication to the Rocky Mountain Naturalists over the past three decades and we wish her well in her new home. Hasi has graciously volunteered to take over the management of our membership records.
Your Executive had many discussions in 2020 about what kinds of activities would be safe to offer and protocols for participation were developed. In the spring we cancelled all activities from late March until early June, when strict provincial health orders were in place, and we did so again in November. The most recent restrictions are ongoing and will continue until infection rates drop and provincial orders are eased or lifted. This has affected many of our activities and has forced us to become creative in how we approach this “new normal”.
In order to comply with provincial public health orders and out of an abundance of caution, only four of our six usual bi-monthly meetings were held. The March and May meetings were cancelled. When COVID numbers went down over the summer, we were able to hold our July meeting at Reade Lake again, using protocols such as social distancing, a contact list and an RSVP required for participants, prior to attending. In September we once again held an outdoor meeting at Idlewild Park in Cranbrook, utilizing the same protocols. By November, infection rates were rising again but we were able to have a virtual membership meeting using ZOOM for the first time.
Communications and Outreach
Susan W. continues to be the editor for our quarterly newsletter. Four excellent issues of The Kestrel were published online, with reports on outings and articles on a variety of subjects. Sincere thanks to Susan for the time and effort she puts into every issue and a big thank-you also to the many contributors of articles and photos. We have an interesting and informative newsletter that we can all be proud of!
The Rocky Mountain Naturalists Facebook page has grown a little more since last year, with 215 members. Dianne continues in her role as Administrator of this closed group and the page is active, with members adding photos and articles of interest as well as ongoing online conversations about a variety of subjects.
Dianne is also the Administrator of the Rocky Mountain Naturalists website, which can be visited by both members and non-members. Forms on the website have been used for inquiries and comments, dues payments and registration for events such as the Christmas Bird Count. Thank-you, Dianne, for your expertise and your time and effort spent on keeping both the website and Facebook page up to date.
We have had a number of queries and proposals from individuals and organizations over the past year. These include subjects such as:
- Dark Sky Initiative
- Logging on private land
- Fossil Repository at Cranbrook History Centre
- Kootenay Dirt Bike Association proposal for trail development at Ta Ta Creek
- Requests for support of individual projects
The Executive has discussed and responded to all inquiries. A letter was sent to Premier John Horgan supporting the designation of a Fossil Repository at the Cranbrook History Centre. A detailed response to a proposal by the Kootenay Dirt Bike Association was sent to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development and the RDEK.
RMN birders were out all year, in groups and individually, while still adhering to public health orders.
Early Morning Birding was in full swing from early January to the end of March, when this activity was temporarily suspended. Birding continued on Wednesday mornings in early June and was suspended again in November. Thank-you to Jim, who is responsible for organizing the group’s outings and reporting results.
For the first time in many years, we were not able to hold Little Big Day as a competitive team event. A small group of birders worked together to create a new COVID version of LBD, the “Rocky Mountain Bird Blitz (LBD 2020)”, where individuals and small family groups or buddies could bird within the East Kootenay boundaries within a 24-hour window on May 23rd. All the lists were counted and totalled to try and match or beat the totals of previous years and, although there was no count-up potluck, a good time was had by all. Thanks to Greg for coordinating this event.
RMN birders were invited to participate in the Kootenay Bank Swallow Survey. Birders made a number of observations over the spring and summer months, which were forwarded to the project coordinator, who added them to the Survey’s database.
Our annual Christmas Bird Counts required some changes in procedure to comply with the current COVID restrictions. Cranbrook and Kimberley counts both had good turnouts. Cranbrook’s CBC was held on December 26th and attracted 19 field counters and 13 feeder counters. Kimberley’s CBC was held January 3rd and had 15 field counters and 8 feeder counters. Other details can be found on our website. Thank-you to Dianne, who organized and reported on these events.
Marianne coordinated activities involving our Bluebird Trail project, with 23 active routes and 30 volunteer monitors. Our Club holds a membership in the Southern Interior Bluebird Trail Society.
Dianne monitors the Skookumchuk Prairie IBA (Important Bird & Biodiversity Area).
Projects and Special Events
Our annual Winter Social was held on February 23rd. Twenty-three hardy RMNs participated in a hike up Wycliffe’s Lone Pine Butte followed by a pot-luck dinner attended by 31 naturalists and graciously hosted by Sandy and Hasi.
Responsibility for organizing the 2020 Baynes Lake bat count passed to residents of the area. Several RMNs joined in the June count, which reported 472 bats. Thanks to Scott for reporting on this count.
Several of our most popular annual activities were suspended in 2020 because of COVID restrictions. Turtle Day, Club Camp and our summer social all had to be cancelled.
The turtle monitoring project at Elizabeth Lake continues under the stewardship of Greg and Katrin, who have done an excellent job repairing fences, constructing and placing cages to prevent predation, rototilling and weeding the beds and monitoring the nests. Two groups of RMN members spent two days removing invasive weeds from the area.
The recipient of the $1000 Mildred White Scholarship was Adelina Morello. There was no formal presentation at the College of the Rockies, due to the COVID restrictions.
The Elizabeth Lake Committee had a number of meetings and conference calls with Chris New, Director of Community Services for the City of Cranbrook, to discuss plans for future improvements at Elizabeth Lake. Chris submitted applications for funding in the fall of 2020 but there has been no confirmation of grant money at the time of this report. Chris retired at the end of the year, so we will continue our discussions with his replacement.
The Elizabeth Lake Committee was contacted by Ariana McKay, Terrestrial Habitat Biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development, regarding remediation and possible improvements to the contaminated Chevron/Parkland site adjacent to Elizabeth Lake and Jim Smith Creek. Your Executive has agreed to a limited partnership with the Ministry, Ducks Unlimited and the BC Wildlife Federation to provide feedback on Ms. McKay’s plan for habitat improvement and a possible small wetland to be created on the site. There will likely be no further activity for the next year or two, as the site will be monitored for contaminants.
Compared with 2019, our scheduled outings were far fewer in 2020. There were 9 outings last year in addition to Early Morning Birding, the winter social hike and two weed pulls. Reports on those outings can be found on our website. Hopefully, when restrictions ease, we will once again be able to join our fellow naturalists in exploring our beautiful region.
I will be stepping down now from my position as President to become Past President. I would like to thank my fellow Directors for their support, initiative, hard work and willingness to take on sometimes difficult issues, especially in such a challenging year. It has been my privilege and honour to work with such an exceptional group of people during my term. Thank-you also to the members, whose interest, knowledge and engagement have made it so much fun to be a part of this Club. I look forward to many more years of learning and making new friends.
Two of our Executive members will also be stepping down at this time and I would like to acknowledge them. Virginia, our Past President, and Jim, our Secretary, will complete their terms today. Thank-you, Virginia and Jim, for your leadership, your candid and honest feedback on a range of issues, your dedication and the time you’ve spent on your Executive duties. It has been a joy to work with you both and I will miss you at our Executive meetings.
As we begin a new year, we look forward to returning to a less restricted way of doing things and to new adventures with our fellow naturalists. I will leave it to your incoming President to lead us into 2021.
Respectfully submitted by
20 January 2021