Steeves/Trail Mix: Let’s give Mother Nature a hand

From restoring and conserving habitat to maintaining trails, there's lots we can do to make it possible to continue enjoying natural areas.

Lewis's Woodpecker

Lewis's Woodpecker

To begin with, the Lewis’s woodpecker has a limited range, centred on the Okanagan Valley, where considerable development has taken place in recent years, reducing its habitat.

And if that weren’t threatening enough for a bird who relies on cavities in ponderosa pine, Douglas fir or black cottonwoods to build its nests, the fact that the incredibly invasive, introduced starling also likes to nest in those cavities is like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

As a result, this colourful woodpecker is now a threatened species, estimated at a population of fewer than 1,000 birds now in B.C.

Unlike many woodpeckers, the Lewis’s actually forages for insects in flight instead of pecking for them in the bark of trees.

However, it does drill nest cavities in large trees as most of its cousins in the woodpecker family do.

Where many of our local woodpeckers are mainly black and white with spots of red in various places, the Lewis’s has black upperparts that have a greenish sheen. It also features a rosy belly, grey collar and upper breast and a red face framed in black.

He’s one of our larger woodpeckers, though not nearly as large as the distinctive pileated woodpecker, who is actually the size of a crow, nor quite as large as the familiar red-shafted flicker.

The Lewis’s is a migratory woodpecker, returning to the Okanagan in May each year and nesting from mid-June to Late July, and that’s why Lisa Scott, regional coordinator of the Wildlife Tree Stewardship program is asking for help locating Lewis’s families right now.

Although they are aware of a few nest sites in the Central Okanagan, they would like to locate more, and now is the time, while the birds and their young are still hanging around the nest trees.

That information goes to federal and provincial biologists responsible for management of the species, and local landowners or managers are given advice on how best to manage the habitat to protect this disappearing species.

The WiTS program is a voluntary program to conserve wildlife tree habitats through volunteer monitoring of wildlife trees and bird activity, landowner agreements and community education.

Other birds of concern who rely on wildlife trees include the flammulated owl, western screech owl, white-headed woodpecker and Williamson’s sapsucker. The bald eagle, great blue heron and osprey also require wildlife trees.

To record a sighting, contact Lisa at: or call her at 250-404-0115.

More help wanted

The Friends of the South Slopes is looking for individuals, organizations or companies willing to adopt a trail in the Myra-Bellevue provincial park area.

These trails are used for hiking, running, mountain biking and horse riding.Ken Wiklund of FOSS says what’s needed is a commitment to sponsor a trail and keep it in good condition.

The main tasks involve removing foliage that’s blocking the trail, or trail brushing, and re-grading sections to prevent erosion from water.Normally 10 to 20 man-hours work a year would be needed, but not all parts of a trail need to be brushed each year and not all erosion control projects need to be done in any one year.

Each sponsor will be provided with an assessment of the work their trail requires, along with instructions on how to complete the tasks, if needed. Some specialized tools are also available from the group.

Businesses would be recognized for their sponsorship with the company name on a signpost at the trailhead.

Government cutbacks have made it necessary for everyone to pull together to maintain such parks, Ken explains, or declines in trail conditions will result.

There are 47 trails in the area with a combined length of 92 kilometres. FOSS president Al Bischoff says there are still affects from the 2003 wildfire that tore through that area, with trees still falling on trails and increased damage from erosion with fewer tree roots to stabilize the soil.

If you’re able to help out, contact FOSS at: and for more details on the program, go to the website at:

Outdoors writers

At the risk of breaking an arm patting myself on the back, I must say I am the proud recipient of a top award from Ducks Unlimited Canada for a Trail Mix column I wrote last year about the value of wetlands.

As a member of the Outdoors Writers of Canada, I was one of 37 who received first to third place awards in a number of categories, including this special award from DU, a favourite non-profit organization of mine.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News


Kelowna Capital News