Looking back at 2017

On these first few days of 2018 I have been waking  up to a wintery scene at our home in south Nanaimo. The lake is almost completely frozen, and the nighttime temperature has come down to exactly what was needed to freeze the hummingbird feeders. Mild by Canadian standards, but when you are an Anna’s hummingbird, you can’t tolerate too much cold. (They can survive at surprisingly low temperatures, however. This article gives some insights on how.) Anyway, I thought it is time to take stock of my second full year as a pensioner.

Accomplishments. A while back this tweet appeared where people were encouraged to tweet 3 accomplishments they were proud of. Accomplishment tweet

Many did, but I don’t think it took off, perhaps because there was no specific hashtag associated with it. I didn’t respond because as a pensioner I didn’t feel that I had much to be proud of except staying alive (and reasonably healthy) for another year. But thinking back on it now, perhaps I accomplished a few things.

Birding: I have slowly improved my skills, but there is still a long way to go to claim any level of expertise. My backyard count reached 78, i.e., birds seen or heard without leaving our yard. Most of these were actually viewed from our living room! So no complaints there!

Bat and bird houses: My home-made bat house showed evidence of use, which was very satisfying. The bird houses on the other hand remained vacant, except for the European paper wasps, which seem to invade any structure that affords some rain shelter. Fortunately they are rather benign, so no stings yet. (By the way, I highly recommend “The Secret Lives of Bats” by Merlin Tuttle. Easy read, but loaded with good information.)

Mason bees: production is quite good. We had a bit more mite problems this year, but plenty of bees now in hibernation. We are trying to create a bee-friendly garden, and based on the numbers we had we have succeeded to some extent.

Retaining wall: finished tearing down the old termite-infested wall and replaced it with a 60 foot long terraced wall built from 10 foot long treated 6×6 inch timbers. My wife is happy with the result, so that is what counts.

Photography: Some mixed results to be fair. I certainly have some photos I am rather proud of, but I am still learning. I have done mostly nature photography, with the majority being birds and only some macro photography.Phidippus May 2017-3245 cropped I have sprinkled some results throughout this blog, but my better (or at least more interesting) attempts are posted on my Flickr site https://www.flickr.com/photos/bslindgren/.

Society activity: I did an extra year as Past-President of the Entomological Society of Canada due to the tragic illness that eventually claimed the life of my successor as president, Dr. Terry Wheeler. I also volunteered as part of the organizing committee for the 2018 ESC-ESBC-ESA meeting in Vancouver. Closer to home I have been part of a group that has resurrected a naturalist club in Nanaimo after the closest alternative, the Nanoose Naturalists folded in January of 2017.

Academic/science activities: I have volunteered at the Royal BC Museum sorting and identifying ants. It has been slow going, but I am at least getting some order in their completely unsorted specimens. I attended the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution meeting in Victoria, but have since been unable to attend any meetings, in part due to lack of funding. I gave three guest lectures (University of Victoria and two to Swedish foresters touring with Skogsresor), and served as Public examiner on a few thesis or thesis proposal defenses.

Travel: We have largely stayed around home, except for a few trips to visit our sons. Vancouver Island has so much to offer that there is little reason to go anywhere else. Two highlights of the year were both north of us. The first one was a kayak trip to Telegraph Grizzly mum and cub-8295Cove, which offered up fascinating invertebrates (comb jellies, Bryozoan colonies and zoea crab larvae along with the sea jellies) and a group of Dall’s porpoises that entertained us for 20 minutes or so. The second one was in association with one of my lectures to Swedish foresters. We were invited to go along on a whale and grizzly bear watching tour to Orford River in Bute Inlet. It was a trip of a lifetime and became my highlight of the year in terms of photography as well. In addition to whales, seals and sea lions, we were treated to a close-up performance by a bear sow and her three cubs. I am somewhat ambivalent about this type of tourism, but on balance I really think that people gain a better understanding of animals when they see them in real life. Television provides opportunities for everyone to get high quality insights, but many programs tend toward sensationalism, focusing on conflict, strife and predation, rather than the ‘normal’ existence of these majestic animals.

Reading: After my retirement I have taken up reading for leisure again. I have read mostly non-fiction books, and generally on topics close to my naturalist roots. Some of my blogs earlier this year describe my impressions of a few of those books. The highlight was probably reading about Alexander von Humboldt’s life. He has existed merely as a background name in my professional life, but after reading about him it is clear to me that he deserves much more than that. His demise may be yet another unfortunate fallout of Hitler’s existence, as anything German was shunted to the shadows following the two world wars. I am right now waiting to get the second book about Humboldt (Humboldt’s Cosmos) back from the liibrary so I can finish it.

May 12 2017-7869 croppedAncestry: I have been able to build a rather impressive family tree for myself and the Norwegian branch of my wife, stretching back to the 15th and 14th Century, respectively. In today’s world, so much information is literally at your fingertips, enabling us in so many ways. Right now we are waiting for DNA analysis results, as we received a kit each for Christmas. I don’t expect any major revelations, but I am looking forward to seeing my Neanderthal roots!

Social media: Too much exposure to the so-called President south of the 49th has created angst and obsession. Otherwise I have been fairly moderate in my use of Facebook and Twitter (the only interactive media I use), if I may say so myself. I briefly had 700 Twitter followers, which is remarkable given my fairly sporadic comments. Right now, I am sitting at 699!

Blogging: To say that it has been sporadic may be an exaggeration. It is probably more accurate to say that it is rare. I don’t have a huge following like some of my esteemed colleagues, probably because I blog more in the same sense that someone would keep a diary, rather than to reach out to a specific audience. The main idea is to enjoy it, so while the odd blog may be of interest to someone, the majority likely will not. And that is just fine with me.

Garry oak-8568 croppedThere may be other topics I could cover (for example politics, but I don’t want to go down that hole – suffice it to say that Trumpism defies any logic I can muster), but the above seems plenty for now. Until my next rare blog, have a wonderful and prosperous 2018.


About cinnabarreflections

B. Staffan Lindgren is Professor Emeritus at UNBC. Living in Nanaimo, BC. Jack of all trades trying to stay relevant.
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