A last-minute gift guide for naturalists

Some items Okanagan nature lovers would love to find under the tree this Christmas

Every once in a while a discussion comes up about the use of the word naturalist in our club name (South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club). On the one hand we don’t want to be mistaken for naturists — those who sunbathe in the nude — and on the other hand we don’t want to be seen as a group of only highly trained environmental professionals. In fact, neither of these descriptions fit our group. Yes, we do have some biologists as members, but we also have amongst our membership former realtors, airline flight attendants, teachers, office workers, housewives and other “just plain folks”.

I like to think that a naturalist is someone who loves nature and is interested in the natural world around them. I think that describes all of our club members. As to what they would wish for Christmas — well, on a grand scale, an end to oil spills, a federal environment minister who really cares about the environment and a South Okanagan –Similkameen national park, just for starters. Hard to fit those under the tree, so here are some more practical suggestions.

The Okanagan Valley is blessed with an abundance of good nature writers. Here are a few selections (all non-fiction) to choose from:

Okanagan Odyssey: Journeys through Terrain, Terroir and Culture — Award-winning Summerland author and ecologist Don Gayton gives us a totally different look at our valley. As one reviewer said, this is “science writing that is poetic, wise and — perhaps most importantly — accessible.”

Roadside Nature Tours Through the Okanagan — Without a doubt the Okanagan’s best known writer, biologist and all-round naturalist, author Dick Cannings never fails to deliver. A great guide for longtime residents and newcomers alike.

Up Chute Creek, An Okanagan Idyll — Melody Hessing’s book about her “adventures” building a home on the bluffs above Naramata will alternately make you laugh (her misadventures are hilarious) and cry (for the Okanagan long lost). One of my favorite Okanagan books.

Okanagan Geology South, edited by Murray Roed and Robert Fulton; 2011 — A sequel to Roed’s 2004 book Okanagan Geology which dealt mostly with the Central and North Okanagan, this book presents a fascinating story of the South Okanagan, from the bedrock geology to our water resources and geologic hazards. Well written and easy to read, it is meant for the layman.

The Okanagan Valley Birding Trail — An inexpensive but indispensable guide to the best birding spots in the Okanagan Valley. Put together by the four naturalists’ clubs in the valley.

All of these are available in our local bookstores.

Another great gift for bird-lovers is a bag of shade grown coffee. I’ve written about this before but it can’t be said too much; loss of habitat is the single greatest threat there is to survival of our bird populations. Who doesn’t laugh at the antics of hummingbirds as they zip around the feeders or marvel at the colours and song of orioles and other migratory birds? When these birds go south for the winter they need somewhere to live, and that habitat is fast being taken over by coffee plantations, banana plantations and clear-cuts of all sorts. You can help the birds by buying only organic, shade-grown coffee. Personally, I buy Kicking Horse — not only is it organic and shade grown, but it is also fair-trade so I know the farmers who grow it are getting a reasonable return. It is roasted in Canada. Yes, it costs more than sun-grown coffee but I think helping to save my feathered friends is worth it.

A donation to The Nature Conservancy of Canada, The Nature Trust of B.C., Ducks Unlimited Canada or Bird Studies Canada can help save valuable habitat here at home. All of these organizations have programs set up on their websites so that you can give a gift of an “acre” of land or “adopt” a badger or owl or other threatened species of bird or animal. The perfect gift for your favorite “naturalist” and you get a tax receipt so the government actually helps pay for your gift.

The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club meets on the fourth Thursday of the month. There is no regular meeting in December. Our next meeting will be Jan. 26. Tanya Luszcz of Partners in Flight will present a program on bats of the Okanagan. Meetings are held in the basement hall of the Penticton United Church on Main Street at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome.



Robert Handfield is past-president of the South Okanagan

Naturalists’ Club.