A female house sparrow perches on a branch at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island in Delta.

A female house sparrow perches on a branch at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island in Delta.

Watching wildlife is good for the soul

Spring is here – get out and enjoy nature.

Most of us get excited about seeing animals in the wild.

Passengers on the ferries crowd to the railings when orcas are spotted.

Glimpsing a coyote hunting voles in a farm field enlivens the morning commute.

The sight of two bald eagles engaged in a talon-clutching, death-defying aerial roll inspires awe in the beach walkers below.

It is usually the larger or cuter animals that get noticed, those belonging to what environmentalists wryly call the “charismatic megafauna.”

Sometimes rarities attract attention, like the northern hawk owl that spent much of this winter on Westham Island, near Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary, gathering its very own crowd of paparazzi.

Yet many other wildlife live in our neighbourhood and may go unnoticed.

Short-tailed weasels hunt in the marshes outside the dyke, muskrats swim in the ditches, and Yuma bats flutter around freshwater ponds on summer evenings.

Everyone recognizes the larger birds around us, like great blue herons and bald eagles (although those all-brown, young birds sometimes send people running to a field guide). The more than 300 other bird species that can occur in the delta are easily overlooked by those unfamiliar with their habits and features.

That is where the gentle art and skill of bird watching comes in.

Where others might see a muddy field with a flock of ducks in it, birders can readily identify the stylish plumage of the northern pintail, jewel-coloured green-winged teal, and the pale stripe on a wigeon’s head.

An attentive observer will see a well-camouflaged snipe flush from the marsh, and pick out wintering golden-crowned sparrows from a flock of their white-crowned cousins.

Recognition of bird songs and calls is a skill that needs practice and concentration.

The range of sounds is remarkable, from the profoundly deep, resonating call of grouse, to the high-pitched calls of the kinglets, soon lost to aging ears.

Recent research shows that happiness is closely aligned with paying close attention to a task, and that our distracted-attention society can drive us to stress and burnout.

An hour or two spent in nature, going for a walk and being absorbed in observation, will relieve us of many of the burdens of modern life.

The mental challenge of really listening to birds, of trying to study the intricate patterns on a butterfly’s wings or a dragonfly’s tail, or spotting a well-camouflaged otter resting on a rocky shore, all provide our brains with new connections.

Spring is an excellent time to get out there and enjoy nature to the full.

Anne Murray is a naturalist and author of two books on local nature: A Nature Guide to Boundary Bay and Tracing Our Past – A Heritage Guide to Boundary Bay, available at most bookstores; visit www.natureguidesbc.com

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia’s (CFSEU-BC) Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) has arrested a man who was on the run for nearly a decade. (File photo)
9-year search for international drug trafficking suspect ends with arrest at YVR

Khamla Wong, charged in 2012, taken into custody Feb. 24 by BC-CFSEU

Pixabay image
Surrey council moves to update city’s telecommunication antennas policy

But councillor says health and safety protocols are nearly 40 years old

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
National Police Federation members slam Surrey police transition to Surrey Board of Trade

During virtual meeting, bargaining unit representatives say municipal force ‘not a done deal’

Boosh Food founder Connie Marples (right) delivers some Boosh Food items to Christine Mohr, CEO of Options Community Services, in December, 2020. Boosh Food has just moved their operations to Cloverdale. (Photo: Moonraker PR)
Boosh Food moves to Cloverdale

‘Plant-based comfort food’ company moving to 65A Avenue

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Court makes public ‘abbreviated’ reasons for judgment in Surrey Six slaying appeals

Six men were murdered in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Shaelene Keeler Bell. (Facebook)
Candlelight vigil planned for Chilliwack mother missing for four weeks

Virtual event to ‘spread some light’ for 23-year-old Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read