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Bold: A guide to our own “backyard”

The Thunder Bay Field Naturalists Club have published a nature guide - and it’s selling out.

If the pandemic has you spending more time outdoors, the Thunder Bay Nature Guide is a must-have.

The 96-page book is the second edition produced by the Thunder Bay Field Naturalists. The first was published in 2008, and in 2016, then-outgoing president David Legge suggested updating the book. Four members formed a committee, and the project took nearly five years to complete.

The guide features 30 locations within driving distance of Thunder Bay, including 10 new locations not included in the first edition, such as Big Trout Bay Nature Reserve, Slate River Valley, which is a popular birding area, the Casque Isles Trail, and Matawin River. Each location comes with beautiful photos of the location and area fauna and flora, as well as a map and descriptions of how to get there and what species may be found there.

The book was a collaborative effort between club members and people outside the club. More than 10 writers and dozens of local photographers, both professional and amateur, contributed their work to the guide, says former club president Bruce Thacker, who worked on the guide. The club enlisted the help and expertise of Toronto book designer Ingrid Paulson to put all the material together into one attractive book.

Page nine of the book is dedicated to Guidelines for Successful Nature Viewing; “We stress that you really do have to be respectful in the natural setting,” Thacker says, “not only of other people that might be in the area, but of the natural environment itself.”

Instead of hiking around looking for rare plants or animals, choose a spot and remain still, observing the space around you. Binoculars and telephoto lenses are recommended for observing wildlife from a distance. “Once you have a little bit of experience, you know when an animal gets nervous from your presence, and at that point, you should be backing off rather than getting closer,” he explains.

Seven hundred and eighty-three copies of the guide were printed, and as of this week, there were less than a hundred left. Many copies were sold online, with contactless pickup in the city. One of the board members, Gene Kent, approached local retailers, who were only too happy to stock the books. (The list of local retailers can be found at https://tbfn.net/publications/nature-guide-to-thunder-bay/)

“It’s been very well received, we’re very happy,” Thacker says. “We’re talking with the printer now about a reprint.”

At $25, the book is affordable and makes a great gift.

Thacker says May is a great month for observing birds. “Some birds may even be starting their nesting,” he says, “and [there are] birds passing through going further north to their breeding grounds.”

“Towards the end of May, [there are] early forest flowers; flowers that take advantage of sunlight getting to the forest floor, before leaves come out on the trees and start blocking sunlight,” he adds.

“We are becoming an increasingly urbanized society. We don’t see ourselves as being part of nature, which we are,” Thacker says. “I think with the pandemic, and time spent at home, people are perhaps having time to reflect on their lifestyle and seeing that being outdoors in the natural area is of value.”

“And certainly there is plenty of research showing the benefits of being out in natural areas.” Families should instill in their children “an appreciation of the natural environment and the value it gives us mentally, spiritually and physically,” Thacker concludes.