Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

A bond formed in nature

A grandmother’s legacy

Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

For the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) staff and loyal volunteers, the appearance of Denise Harris and her five-year-old granddaughter, Avery, at a Conservation Volunteers (CV) event was a welcome, but unsurprising, sight.

Avery attended her first CV event with her grandmother when she was only 18 months old. It was a butterfly catching event in Ghost Horse Hills and they have attended several every year since.

The pair attended a birdwatching CV event on May 24, 2018, and even among the 11 other volunteers, they were easy to spot. Avery ran across the meadows of the Kallal property, dressed in a bright pink shirt, with a pair of binoculars bouncing around her neck. Denise followed behind at a leisurely pace, sporting a neon orange vest and a matching pair of binoculars.

Avery was shy and stayed close to her grandmother as they walked along the property, scouring the skyline and surface of the water for birds. Denise hoisted Avery up on her shoulder and pointed out passing sightings and sounds that echoed through the wetlands. Avery listened and observed quietly from atop her perch, absorbing the information and environment around her.

"This is what she needs," said Denise. "Freedom. Exploration."

When Denise was younger, it was her grandfather that first taught her the importance of gaining a respect for nature. Years later, after retiring from her office job, she decided it was time for both her Avery to start spending more time outdoors.

"I want to give her a foundation," said Denise. Regardless of where her life takes her, Denise said that she plans to ensure that these values are still engrained in her granddaughter.

Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

Denise and Avery at a CV event (Photo by NCC)

As the morning went on, Avery's shyness wore away and she laughed openly and played hide-and-go seek with her grandmother in the long grass. Denise pretended to look for her granddaughter and upon “finding” her, she smiled and chased her playfully across the field.

"I feel her age again," said Denise. She said that she feels inspired by the awe and pure joy that she sees Avery experiencing when they spend time like this outdoors.

The CV event that day was deemed a success, with a total of 33 different species of birds spotted. After searching for birds all morning, the group gathered for a bird-banding demonstration by the Beaverhill Bird Observatory (BBO). The group was introduced to a tiny northern saw-whet owl named Ricky, who BBO brought along to show the volunteers.

Denise said that she's grateful that NCC allows children to come and participate in their events. She’s excited to continue to bring Avery out to volunteer events and to watch her connection with nature grow with every passing second spent learning and playing in the wilderness.

"I'm sowing the seeds of the future," said Denise.

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