The first Saturday of every month, for the past eight years, Joy Turner has led nature walks through Blackhawk Park. Though some might think these walks through the same trails would grow stale, to Turner, the woods are always in motion.
“It’s such a valuable, precious opportunity to see the turn of the seasons, to see the change,” said Tuner. “These Dutchman’s breeches were just buds in April, and now they’re done.”
She’s quick to point out what birds are active, even when they can’t be seen. She calls it birding by ear. Every few minutes, she pulls a bird book out of her bag and starts flipping through the pages. She seems to know them all noting the books put mnemonics to the different birds.
At several points, she stops the walk and points out the Pe-ter Pe-ter Pe-ter call of an unseen tufted titmouse. She shows real care for everything she spots, saying about the vulture gliding above the trees, “He must be having a hard time of it today, not much in the way of thermals for him to ride.”
She recalls her first walk, set up with a bird-watching club one February.
“There was this fluffy snow on the ground, it was gorgeous, and easy to walk through. Probably not the smartest day to be on the road though,” said Turner.
Even when the weather is nasty, she likes to say, “A short walk is better than no walk. Sometimes you can even just pull up your car, roll down the windows and see what you hear.”
The people she walks with frequently give her something new, too.
“Sometimes there’s a dozen of us, sometimes just a couple, sometimes it’s just me. And I think, ‘well, I’m here, I may as well go for a walk,’” she said.
Even outside of the walks, Turner is always excited to share the woods with anyone who will appreciate it.
Pointing to a handrail she and her husband built for a bridge on the trail, she explained some children were afraid to cross the bridge without something to hold onto and elderly walkers also had concerns. She’s charitable with newcomers to the park and commended the children that went through a few days before on cleaning up after themselves — even as she picks up trash from others along the trail.
When she finds a cluster of discarded mayapples on the ground, she just smiles and said, “It’s a tough temptation for a kid.”
To her, those ways of sharing nature with others is vital because people can’t appreciate nature if they don’t see it.
Most importantly for those who want to experience the woods themselves, Turner says to bring an open mind, eyes, ears and see what happens.
For those wanting to participate in Turner’s nature walks, the next one is 9 a.m. Saturday, June 8.