Recently SONSI members met on a crisp, sunny morning for a day at the Royal Botanical Gardens. The day began at the Arboretum for a hike along some of the many trails with the hope of finding some peckish birds to feed.


A short walk, which became a cautious scale as soon as the icy path began to decline, led to success. Everyone was able to feed the chirping swarm of chickadees, along with a few downy woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatches.

SONSI member feeds downy woodpecker

SONSI member feeds downy woodpecker

Along to spy fallen seeds were red-bellied woodpeckers, sparrows, and a beautifully bright pair of cardinals, providing many opportunities for photographs.

From here the group reconvened in the RBG’s restaurant to warm up and catch up. After a typically successful meal, members ambled over to the Mediterranean gardens for some sketching.

The garden is always a heavenly experience for the senses, offering a number of mature specimens to capture, such as the bird of paradise tree (Strelitzia nicolai), and cork oak (Quercus suber). The adjoining gardens offer a wide variety of cacti, and seasonal plants, which for this visit consisted of a heady mixture of spring bulbs and blossoms.

After getting in a few sketches, and enjoying the benefits of the gardens, members dispersed. A few stragglers were able to visit another exhibit in the RBG, Savage Gardens and Nature’s Ninjas, featuring an assortment of giant sculptures of carnivorous plants and a selection of animals with interesting defensive adaptations. Though it was more akin to a freak show, the creatures on display were captivatingly beautiful. The most unusual award certainly went to the detailed video demonstrating the unique ability of the hag fish (Myxine glutinosa).

Not for the first time, the RBG provided natural respite in this seemingly endless expanse of winter.

– Elizabeth P.

See more photos of this event.