Thursday 14 October 2021

Exploring Your Neighbourhood: Tips for Curious Urban Naturalists

the path to Innovation Place

“I would never dream of walking a woodland pathway or a riverbank or a sweep of Puget Sound shoreline without my binoculars. Now I had declared the sidewalk my path. That meant I had to carry my binoculars everywhere.” (Lynda Lynn Haupt, Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness) 
We don’t always have the time to visit a wilderness area, but that doesn’t stop us from exploring the nature which is all around us – even in the city. Here are just a few ideas to help you jumpstart explorations of your neighbourhood. 

Macro Explorations 
Invest in a magnifying glass or use the magnifier app on your phone to take a close look at the veins in a leaf, a snowflake, or an insect. 

Explore the cracks in the sidewalk. What plants can you identify? 

Lift up a rock. What do you find underneath? (Be sure to replace the rock once you’ve had a good look.) 

Seasonal Celebrations 
Go for an evening/night walk every month when the moon is full. 

See if you can guess when the first pelicans or other migratory birds will arrive back in your community. Saskatoon residents can participate in the annual Pelican Watch Contest

Mark on your calendar the first time you spot a robin, a prairie crocus, or other flowers in the spring. What is the last day you see a robin or prairie flower in the fall?
American Robin

Walk Differently 
Take a walk around your neighbourhood looking for natural objects that are somehow alike (the same colour, the same shape). 

Slow down and listen - what can you hear? 

Take a walk at a different time of day – early in the morning or late at night. Look for bats swooping over a river or lake at dusk as they search for insects. 

Take a close look at one or two trees. What kind of tree are they? What lives in the tree (bird nests, moth cocoons, insects, spider webs)? Feel the texture of the bark. 

What birds do you see the most frequently? Choose one and see what you can learn by watching the way it moves. 

Choose a small plot of land (in your garden or a nearby area) and visit it regularly. How many different plants, insects, and other animals can you observe in your small area? How does it change from month to month? What is the soil like? What kind of rocks can you see? Take photographs or record your findings in a journal. 

Draw a map of your neighbourhood and include your favorite natural features – the puddles where the pigeons take a shower, the rowan tree with its bright red berries.

Winter Explorations 
Don’t let snow and cold keep you indoors. There are so many ways to enjoy nature in winter – from snowshoeing and winter camping to pishing for chickadees and identifying animal tracks. 

Look for insects in the snow. 

Decorate a Christmas tree for the birds. What birds does it attract? Which treats are the most popular? 

Further Reading 
The Urban Bestiary, Lyanda Lynn Haupt 

Be sure to download Nature Companion, EcoFriendly Sask’s free nature app, to your phone for easy access to information about the plants, trees, or animals you spot on your walks (downloadable directly from the Nature Companion website). 

EcoFriendly Sask supports Saskatchewan environmental initiatives through an online publication, an events calendar, small grants, and the Nature Companion website/app. You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing by email (top right corner).