On most Monday mornings, come rain or shine, Tom Bearss and a group of Delta Naturalists are outdoors looking up, looking way up. As avid, hardy naturalists, this flock of devoted birders is out observing, photographing bird species or listening for birdcalls. Tom, Delta Naturalists’ Society president, leads this merry group of wanderers throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“I developed an interest in birding in the late eighties,” says Tom. “When I lived and worked in Ottawa, I found Sundays could be a boring, wasted day. Therefore, I signed up for an eight-week course to learn about birding. It was fascinating to learn so much about birds. People in the course were interested in nature and the environment, and when the class ended we started our own Sunday birding club.”
Tom is not new to wandering and travelling along migratory flight paths. He led an exciting international high-flying professional life before landing in the Delta area. While working for the federal government in a variety of positions over 30 years, one of his postings was as Trade Commissioner and Acting Canadian High Commissioner at the Canadian Embassy in Trinidad & Tobago. He also flew to locations including Geneva, New York City and San Diego to work on international trade issues, such as Free Trade Agreements, where he rubbed shoulders with presidents, diplomats and dignitaries. In his footloose and fancy-free 20s, this traveller also hitchhiked to destinations as far as Australia, Greece, Europe, India and Burma.
Today, as a dedicated community volunteer, Tom donates to many projects. One of his proudest charitable legacies is an Annual Golf Tournament that he organized in Trinidad to raise donations for a golf program for disadvantaged youth. Ambassadors and dignitaries take part in the event to provide golf equipment for youngsters. Tom also serves on the Board of Directors of the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad/Tobago and travels from Canada to Trinidad every October for their Annual General Meeting. This centre is a world-renowned nature and ecotourism destination.
“Trinidad/Tobago is a unique rainforest area with a diverse habitat,” says Tom. “Birds migrate from both north and south, so there is a high number of species. It’s a great birding environment. The Asa Wright Nature Centre is probably the best backyard birding spot in the world. For example, you’ll find 13 species of hummingbirds right in front of you on their famous veranda.”
When he isn’t watching a golf ball fly through the air, or returning from his latest international flight with Sandra, his spouse of 38 years, Tom is looking up to the sky to document bird-life in his newly adopted home nest of Delta. This area is located on an internationally recognized bird migration Pacific flyway - home to some of the finest feathered friends on the planet; millions of migratory birds stop over in Delta’s Boundary Bay.
In semi-retirement, Tom now devotes considerable time and talent to environmental groups including the Delta Naturalists’ Society - along with projects for preservation groups such as the Burns Bog Conservation Society and Birds on the Bay. Delta Naturalists’ Society is a natural history group involved in botany, wildlife, conservation and birding. It is part of the B.C. Nature network of more than 50 nature clubs throughout the province, offering activities such as birding outings, nature hikes, stewardship projects and speaker programs. Membership includes respected naturalists, environmentalists, biologists and interested citizens. Members tend to be charitable with their expertise and resources, and give generously to a variety of environmental causes.
“About 70 people are now members of our Delta group,” says Tom. “I find that Delta residents are very committed to protection of the environment. We also like to educate kids about nature and the environment. Our group provides display materials and hands-on activities on nature topics. Upcoming highlights include involvement with Earth Day events, a display at Boundary Bay Park on Father’s Day and co-ordinating a B.C. nature conference in Delta this fall.”
Tom credits Anne Murray, a B.C. naturalist, and Mary Taitt, a wildlife biologist, for being his “nature gurus” since he moved to B.C. five years ago.
To read Delta Naturalists Casual Birding blog with Tom’s own unique brand of playful wit, visit dncb.wordpress.com
For information about B.C. Nature groups in local areas, visit www.bcnature.ca
MAY 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND