(Above: The Larks on an outing at Earth to Table Farm. Credit: Bronwen Tregunno)
The Larks started as a group of friends who belonged to a Monday morning hiking group, exploring hiking trails all around the Head-of-the-Lake every other week. Those of us who enjoyed birding would bring our binoculars along and not only pause to enjoy the scenery, but also to ID any birds we saw. This tended to slow up the group and was not too popular with those who liked a more energetic walk, so Joan Shewchun suggested that we have a birding hike on the alternate Mondays.
Louise Unitt and I organized these outings and I invited some lady friends who were more experienced birders (who I knew as members of the HNC) to come with us and help us find and identify the birds. Joan named us ‘the Larks’, teasing us that we didn’t get up early to go out at dawn to look for the birds.
Eventually we split off from the hiking group and this became an HNC activity with an ever-increasing number of members. We were delighted that this was so popular, aware that many women preferred not to go out on their own to some of the best birding spots that were fairly isolated.
We also expanded our territory for some extra outings to other places. These included HNC’s Short Hills Sanctuary, with our Sanctuary Director Frank Morley leading a marvellous nature hike, then we would stop at a winery for lunch afterwards.
Ruthven Park bird banding station is also a favourite place to visit, where Rick Ludkin and Nancy Furber always give us a great welcome and have lots to teach us about the migrants being caught and banded. We are thrilled to see the birds up close and hike around the beautiful grounds of the old mansion as we check the mist nets or do a census, finishing up with a picnic lunch with our friends there.
In the fall, we have visited the Owl Foundation a couple of times, and in May we will do a Birdathon to support Bird Studies Canada and the HNC. Some of us especially enjoy joining Peter Thoem’s migration bird census team to tally all the birds we see at three different areas of the RBG lands in the spring and fall.
We usually go out on a Monday morning, but sometimes there is an extra outing during the week, or we change the day if the weather is bad or the trails are too icy. We have a core group of about 20 women who come regularly on our outings, but usually there are only five to nine people out each time. The exception to this was on 3 November, when we joined forces with Colleen Reilly and the Pipits and had 16 in one team and four in another for the Alan Wormington Fall Bird Count.
We have made many good friends through this birding group and enjoy non-birding activities as well, such as the potluck lunches that Joan Wallace or Helen Colvin have hosted at their homes. These events are a special treat and often tempt out some of those we seldom see hiking with us!
Most of the Larks are very interested in the other creatures and flowers that we find along the way, and we have some very good naturalists among our members, which very much adds to the enjoyments of our outings, especially in the summer, when our migrant birds are in the boreal forest far away to the north and others are busy rearing their young and keeping out of sight. Whatever we find it’s always a pleasure to be out hiking with a group of friends.
We are delighted to have had many new members join us over the last few months. My thanks go out to our former HNC President, Bronwen Tregunno, for mentioning our outings in her monthly e-newsletter and to Bill Lamond for listing us in the “Dates to Remember” in The Wood Duck.
Many thanks also to those expert birders in our Club who have led hikes for us over the years, or pointed out a special bird when we have met them by chance on one of our hikes. It is marvellous to belong to such a friendly club of HNC members, willing to share their expertise with us.
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of The Wood Duck. Minor edits have been made to the original.