Community

About the Alouette Field Naturalists

The municipal hall and fire department buildings in downtown Maple Ridge, 1952. - Maple Ridge Museum
The municipal hall and fire department buildings in downtown Maple Ridge, 1952.
— image credit: Maple Ridge Museum

When Duanne Vandenberg joined the Alouette Field Naturalists in 1974, she was motivated by curiosity about our natural surroundings.

She could hear the songs of many birds, and wanted to learn more so she could identify them.

Now she is the president of the group, which studies local birds, animals, habitat, flowers and mushrooms. It is a strong supporter of preserving our natural environment.

The founders of the Alouette Field Naturalists are Wilma Robinson and her son Steve. She had been a keen observer of nature from her family home on Menzies Mountain (re-named Sheridan Hill) in Pitt Polder, where she overlooked the decline of nesting Sandhill Cranes.

Steve Robinson became interested in building nest boxes for wood ducks, earning a LIP grant from the federal government. With the help of donated wood from a lumber mill, he built 200 of the nest boxes.

Wilma and Steve Robinson decided to form a local group of the Federation of B.C. Naturalists, so they publicized a meeting in the upstairs room of the Maple Ridge Volunteer Fire Hall on 8th Avenue (now 224th Street).

Many people have lived in Haney long enough to remember the municipal hall, built in 1951, and the fire hall on what is now part of Memorial Peace Park. Both buildings were demolished in 1981.

Members of the Alouette Field Naturalists have been keeping an eye on the habitat for birds and animals in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge ever since the club’s origin in 1972. Each Sunday they plan an outing to local natural areas such as the Golden Ears park and the UBC research forest. They also travel farther afield to White Rock, Iona Island, and Minnekhada Regional Park.

One of the group’s best known activities is the annual Christmas bird count. They are joining groups from all over North and South America for the Audubon bird count. The story goes that the wife of an eager American hunter who joined in their annual Christmas bird hunt decided to inaugurate the bird count, in an effort to save species from extinction. Local club members also take part in the Manning Park bird count, held in the third week-end in June.

Members of the Alouette Field Naturalists take a keen interest in saving habitat that is threatened by unthinking development. They cooperate with other B.C. naturalist organization to add their voices to letters to politicians when needed.

As Vandenberg says, “As soon as one issue is settled, win or lose, another arises.”

Members have also been involved in investigating issues such as Blaney Bog, Codd Island, the Albion flats, Thornhill and Silver Valley. They also confer with councilors and other politicians over habitat endangerment. One issue that is being addressed is irresponsible use of off-road vehicles, a problem for wildlife and ranchers alike.

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