The Origin of the Bug Walks

It was a cold January in Toronto when I received a call from San Diego inviting me down for a job interview. While the job was tempting, the climate was perhaps equally so. I soon found myself in a motel room by the ocean in Pacific Beach in the middle of a Santa Ana. My body was quite shocked. I had arrived on Saturday and planned to stay for about a week to survey the area since, while I had traveled extensively in the southwest before, Imperial Valley and El Centro were as close as I had gotten to San Diego. In the motel office I picked up a brochure for the Nature Center. It sounded interesting and wasn't too far away, so, early Sunday morning I pulled into the parking lot. A small group of people, each with a pair of binoculars, stood off in one corner peering intently at some bushes. I had arrived in time for one of Helen's Bird Walks! I spent an enjoyable morning checking out the upland area and the mud flats with this group, some of whom were volunteers. I was pleased to learn that the Center used so many volunteers since the practice was not common in my area of Canada and I had considered spending some time volunteering at the reserves operated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain.

Needless to say I got the job, and shortly after arriving from Toronto, had an interview with Maureen Witkowski, whom many of you will remember as the volunteer coordinator before Barbara. It seemed the Center had been looking (or waiting) for someone who had a primary interest in insects. For the past few years I had been studying and photographing the odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) of Ontario in my spare time. I had given lectures at naturalist meetings. I had even led a couple of odonate field trips to the Long Point area on Lake Erie. (While the groups were small, most of the people (including myself) lived over 100 miles away from this area.) I qualified.

Anyway, as Maureen and I discussed what I could do as a volunteer, the idea for a Bug Walk came up. The thought of going from a detailed study of one order of insects and an interest in another to bugs in general seemed rather daunting (especially since I had only been in the area about a month and didn't have a clue as to what was about), but we decided to give it a try. According to Maureen, Steve was somewhat incredulous when this idea was presented but certainly willing to try it. The first Bug Walk took place about a month later. I remember my apprehension - what if I couldn't find any bugs? The fifth successful season of Bug Walks has just finished. I certainly don't worry about finding bugs anymore - the participants are great at this.

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Ron Lyons (volunteer 1990-1999)
Chula Vista Nature Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910-1201