I wondered if my hair stood straight up in the strong wind as a trip member scampered ahead to photograph our group’s early morning wildlife walk. As the photographer – Pat Morrow – had filmed the first ascent of Mount Everest by Canadians, I knew his images wouldn’t miss any unflattering details.
I wasn’t scaling the world’s highest mountain but exploring one of its largest remaining wetlands on a tour offered by Wildsight, a Kootenay-based conservation organization. Taking the outing was a way to break out of my pleasant rut of soaking in hot pools or shopping when I visited the Columbia Valley in British Columbia.
Instead, I found myself at Ritchie’s Point – a Canadian Wildlife Management Area northwest of Invermere – watching a muskrat out for a swim, its wake underlining the appearance of several common mergansers. An eagle appeared overhead, the strong upper winds made it appear it was suspended in space. “You can see white spots on its belly and wings,” said Cam Gillies, co-owner of Eagle-Eye Tours and our trip leader, “only immature Bald eagles have white on their belly.” And Gillies would know. With a Ph.D. in forest birds, he had lots of wildlife knowledge to share with our group of 16 nature lovers.
Wanting to move people off the couch and into the outdoors, Wildsight has enlisted several nature experts such as Gillies to lead tours of the Columbia Valley. “We try to do something different,” explains director Baiba Morrow, “we did a trip in a voyageur canoe and we have done hikes. We want to reach out to people and get them to slow down a bit.”
Judging by the pace I kept, they were meeting their goal. The three-hour tour of Ritchie’s Point yielded sightings of 28 species of birds and the muskrat, but didn’t strain my aerobic capacity. I was able to see the parking lot the entire time although the steady elevation drop towards the valley bottom helped the line of sight.
Wildsight is hoping their efforts will also bring new life to the area by increasing support for the animals and wild spaces found in the Kootenay region. Having sampled their tours, I will be going again, bad hair-day or not. Find the latest Wildsight events in Kimberly, Golden, Invermere, Creston Valley and Elk Valley at www.wildsight.ca
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This tour with @tweetwild is a must-do for any animal & outdoor adventure lover. Click to Tweet.