All Things Natural: Spring returns migrants to the region

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre answers your questions about nature and encourages youngsters to enter its weekly photo contest.

While springtime generally offers an abundance of nature to enjoy being outside for, it is a particularly interesting time of year for birds.

The spring migration is well under way with migrants returning and/or passing through daily. This is the time of year that our resident (i.e., over-wintering in the Okanagan) bird species share their place with migratory birds returning to find suitable breeding habitats and locations. If you can get outside early enough in the morning you will be rewarded these days by the dawn chorus of predominantly male songsters’ serenade.

Q: I understand that dandelion is a tremendous source of pollen for bees but what good are they to humans?

A: Besides being a brilliant looking flower, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) offers an incredible amount of health benefits to humans. Fresh dandelion greens, flower tops, and roots contain valuable constituents that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing, and health promoting properties. Dandelion acts as a tonic and gentle diuretic to purify your blood, cleanse your system, dissolve kidney stones, and otherwise improve gastro-intestinal health.

Dandelions can cleanse your skin and eliminate acne; prevent or lower high blood pressure; lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half; eliminate or drastically reduced acid indigestion and gas buildup by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods; prevent or control diabetes mellitus; and, at the same time, have no negative side effects and act selectively on only what ails you. Dandelions are particularly rich in vitamin-A, C, potassium, iron and calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin, and are a good source of protein.

If you like the taste of morel mushrooms then try dandelion flower tops dipped in seasoned flour or cornmeal (salt, pepper, thyme, oregano), and fried in olive oil.

Q: What do I do if I find a baby bird?

A: As difficult as it may be, oftentimes the best thing you can do is leave a baby bird alone and try to reduce neighborhood hazards.

Many species of birds leave the nest and spend several days on the ground before they can fly. This is a normal and vital part of their development. They are cared for and protected by their parents and are taught vital life skills (finding food, identifying predators, flying) during this period. Taking these birds into captivity denies them the opportunity to learn skills that they will need to survive in the wild.

If you find a fledgling, it should be left alone or at the most, placed into a nearby shrub. Adult birds are cautious after any type of disturbance, and it may take several hours before they approach the nestling. During this period it is essential that humans not approach the nestling. A baby bird may seem helpless and vulnerable, but many do survive even in the most urban of locations.

While it may feel safer, removing young birds from the wild usually reduces their chance for survival. Infant mortality is high among young birds, and the strongest, healthiest chicks will survive even without human assistance, no matter how cute and helpless they may seem.

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All Things Natural is a public education and community engagement project of the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society that is aimed at promoting public enjoyment and increasing awareness and appreciation of nature in the Okanagan.

The project includes a nature-themed photo contest, an online searchable database, as well as this bi-weekly column in The Morning Star newspaper. More than 30 nature-oriented organizations have expressed interest to contribute and share information with the public through this initiative. Both within the newspaper column and the database, which is currently in development, you will find seasonally and regionally relevant nature-related information presented as questions and answers. Nature in the context of this project includes all forms of nature (geology to astronomy) as well as nature-related human activities (e.g., recreation, bird watching, hunting, etc.) and nature-sustaining economies (e.g., agriculture, forestry, tourism, etc.). Nature also includes traditional animal and plant uses and legends.

If you have a question of nature that you’ve always wanted to know, please send your question via e-mail to askanaturalist@gmail.com. Answers to your questions will be sent back to you, will be posted on the Allan Brooks Nature Centre website, and may also appear in a future column.

The photo contest is currently open to youth 14 years and under. Please encourage youth in your life to get outside, embrace their sense of place, ask questions of nature, and capture nature-themed photos that could be entered into the contest. Enter the photo contest by submitting up to three images every two weeks to atn.photocontest@gmail.com and include the photographer’s name and age and a title for the photo(s).

The All Things Natural project has been funded in part by generous support from the Telus Thompson-Okanagan Community Board.

All Things Natural is written by Aaron Deans, executive director of the Allan Brooks Nature Centre Society.