A sandhill crane at the Masset Wildlife refuge. (Archie Stocker Sr. photo)

On the Wing: Interpretation of the natural world

By Margo Hearne

It’s summer on Haida Gwaii. A quieter time for sure, we have no off-island visitors as COVID-19 lurks out there somewhere. The Nature Centre at Delkatla, which depended on tourists, will have very limited opening hours this year.

The centre was built to help explain why Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary was restored to its original salt water system. What had been a thriving intertidal salt marsh had been blocked by a causeway for 30 years. A major fundraising effort was successful, a bridge was built and the salt sea rushed in. Within a few years, intertidal plants, fish and birds returned. The wintering waterfowl population went from an average of 74 birds in 1994 to an average of 1,644 in 1997, two years after the breach. Twenty-five years later, the figures are much the same.

Then the Nature Centre had to be built. It opened on Sept. 21, 2002 and the dedicated volunteers, who had worked so hard to raise funds to build the bridge, wanted to find a home for all the information about the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary that had accumulated over the years. There were boxes of history and mounds of paperwork. There still are. Nature centres need visuals; text doesn’t display well. However, having the files on hand provided the means to create displays that try to show very complicated natural ecosystems in simple ways.

Does attempting to put the natural world into a box-like building defeat its purpose?

In a way. Natural history museums often display what went before, and may even be constructed on the very habitat being interpreted at great cost to the wildlife and people that once lived there. (Something was always there before the city was built.)

But if we didn’t have a place to acknowledge that, and try to understand and respect what once was, we will carry on blindly in the name of ‘human achievement.’ Nature interpretive centres can help to explain that our world is not the only world on planet Earth; there are millions of other worlds, all busy as the bees that are in their world, working for their own tomorrow.

And meanwhile, in the natural world at this time on Haida Gwaii, forest birds are going crazy feeding youngsters, sandhill crane chicks seem attached to the feet of their parents and rain trickles down the windowpane. It’s summer on Haida Gwaii.

ALSO READ: On the Wing: Diatoms in Delkatla and the secrets of biofilm

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Subsea fibre optics running from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal Communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13.
Subsea fibre optics running from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
CityWest to refresh subsea fibre optics project

Fibre optics project to run cable from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii then south to Vancouver

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Most Read