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Field naturalists planning to adopt highway, track wildlife


Cleaning up a portion of Highway 11 and keeping track of local wildlife populations are just two of the projects the Rainy River Valley Field Naturalists are tackling this year.

The club is committed to encouraging conservation and wise use of the environment, noted Bill Morgenstern, who was elected president at the group’s annual meeting here last Wednesday.

Morgenstern said the group—made up of 26 people from across the district—has committed to a number of projects during the upcoming year.

“We’re adopting a portion of the highway to clean up,” he said, noting their section will stretch from the Noden Causeway east to Armstrong Road.

“It’s a highly-visible area and it’s really important to keep that stretch looking good so we, as a community, have a good image,” Morgenstern stressed.

He noted that stretch of Highway 11 definitely is in need of some extra attention.

“Some people use those islands to dump personal trash and lawn clippings,” he said. “We’re hoping if we adopt that area, it will cause people to think about dumping.”

Meanwhile, the group also is concerned about keeping track of local animal populations. A wildlife walk planned Jan. 26 beginning at the Eighth Street ski trails here is just one of their upcoming activities.

“People have been seeing a lot more lynx this year,” Morgenstern said. “They’re native to the area, but they’re usually hard to see.”

Morgenstern thinks the increase is due to an increase in snowshoe hares, which also are more prevalent this winter.

Club members also noticed some interesting changes while participating in the Christmas bird count, an annual event where people across Canada and the United States spend an entire day in December recording the number and types of birds they see.

“This year there were more hawks in the district than ever before,’’ Morgenstern said. “We’ve never seen any before and we saw seven this year.”

But sighting hawks wasn’t the only surprise local bird watchers found.

“What blew us away was that we saw a belted kingfisher at Pither’s Point,” Morgenstern enthused. “Normally those guys go south a long, long time ago but with the open water, this bird was still there.”

Morgenstern noted birds are an excellent indicator of environmental and habitat changes, which is why the group is focused on keeping track of them.

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