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  • Dave Barnes

Nature’s Children

As one might have expected, AFFI’s weekly Nature Walks with Dave have been taken over by the children. This week’s case in point is young Oliver and his grandma, who arrived at Crow’s General Store with a specimen in hand, or more precisely, in a box. “Mr. Deadly is his name,” pronounced the young naturalist, “and he died after crashing into our window.” Mr. Deadly was an Ovenbird, I explained, a warbler that nests on the ground in mixed deciduous forest and builds a nest camouflaged by a roof of grass and leaves. It’s September, and migration is underway; insect-eating warblers are on their way south to warmer climes. Ovenbirds are pretty cool birds for teachers to know, since their song is powerful and memorable, a strident, repeating, “teacher, Teacher, TEACHER …” increasing in volume … quite remarkable among Manitoba birds. Its nickname is the Teacher Bird, of course. The other kids and adults crowded round and admired Oliver’s find; he certainly enjoyed the spotlight and our appreciation of his efforts.

Down the trail we went, and it wasn’t long before Oliver and another child naturalist by the name of Michaela made the wildlife sighting of the evening. Just past the creek outlet of the pond, after I and most of the adults had walked on by deep in conversation, the kids spotted a Leopard Frog perched on a log as plain as day. They stopped to observe, and Michaela’s mom held Mr. Froggie for a photo shoot. Such excitement! Then Mr. Froggie took a great leap, seemed to disappear into Oliver’s pocket, and somehow removed his 25-cent piece! The consternation was palpable, as Oliver asked that his quarter be found and returned to him. Curiously enough, a loving and observant AFFI photographer was able to find that quarter after searching through her vehicle back at Crow’s … miracles never cease.

On the more serious side, Nathanael, a youth of 12 years of age, has proven himself to be a remarkable wildlife observer. Nathanael has come along on at least three Nature Walks so far, and two times he has spotted a Great Blue Heron fishing for frogs in the marsh. We adults all appreciated observing this handsome predator through my binoculars, but without Nathanael’s skills we might have missed it entirely. Kids love animals, learning, and exploring … it’s in their nature. And by expressing themselves passionately, kids prove to be among our best teachers, too. Need a reminder that life is beautiful? Bring your children along on a Nature Walk with Dave; they are sure to find something memorable.

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