Sign of the times in Coquitlam gets people thinking about nature

People are writing down the animals and birds they see during their walk along the dikes at DeBoville Slough

The beauty of nature is stunning to behold along the dikes at DeBoville Slough. For walkers, many with dogs in tow, the forests of tall trees noisy with birdsong, and the quiet waters of the slough provide the kind of peace that only nature can provide.

But what if your pleasant stroll is interrupted by the noisy flight of a great blue heron or you spot an otter, or even an ambling bear in the distance? What then? 

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For many people, witnessing the natural life around them is a momentary distraction. But thanks to a creative project by members of the Friends of DeBoville slough, people can now write down the names of birds and animals they see on a chalkboard so that others can look for the creatures and the Friends can keep track of what species are found in the area.

“It’s proven pretty popular,” said Friends past president David Mountenay, whose wife, Myrna Mountenay, came up with the idea.

For the past few weeks since the chalkboard was installed at the kiosk on the Coquitlam-maintained north dike, people have been writing down what they see. 

The results make for an enjoyable, although perhaps not always accurate, read.

Walkers may not know exactly what they see when they spot a bird or other creature; sometimes the eye sees one thing and the brain another. It’s enough to start an argument or two among avid bird watchers.

But it’s also educational.

For example, someone has written that they’ve seen a coastal painted turtle, a rare species that many are trying to protect. In fact, the only turtles in the slough are red-eared sliders, an introduced species that are purchased in pet stores but can become very large when released into the wild, according to Mountenay.

“It’s more the spirit of the thing and to get everyone involved,” he said of the chalkboard initiative.

There are a number of species that live in and around the slough, and walkers have been recording several of them. Mountenay visits the area, and collects the information.

Besides bears, herons, wood ducks, eagles and dragonflies, people have also spotted otters, which make their home in the wetland.

Friends of DeBoville Slough president Jeff Rudd said he’s pleased to see people taking an interest in the wildlife around them.

“The purpose of the group is to get people interested in nature and this is part of that,” Rudd said.

As the group continues to monitor the area, it would also like to remind dog walkers to keep their pets leashed so as not to disturb nesting ducks in the grasses, and to let smokers know that smoking is not permitted and throwing cigarette butts on the ground is dangerous to wildlife. As well, a burning cigarette but could start a grass fire when the region heats up this summer.

Said Rudd: “This is a natural area, we like to look after it.”

And keep track of it.

• For more information about the Friends of DeBoville Slough, visit fodbs.org.

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