Words and photos by Donna Warenko
We are hiking on the Alice Chambers Trail near Pinawa, Manitoba when Peter Taylor stops. “That’s a chestnut-sided warbler, and a veery. Do you hear them?” Yes, I did. Although Peter is equipped with his ever-present binoculars and camera, a visual escapes us this time.
As a young man growing up in the UK, Peter spent his youth as an avid wood pigeon hunter with his father and brother. Hunting slowly gave way to observing, and the binoculars and camera replaced the shotgun and rifle. Peter is now a renowned birder, naturalist and keen photographer.
Photo: Peter observes birds, butterflies and other animals and plants along Pinawa Trail, MB.
A temporary job as a research chemist brought Peter to Canada in 1972. He met a girl, Sharon, with whom he still shares all his adventures. They both lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick, until 1975, when they moved together to Manitoba. There, they both worked at Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) and have made their home ever since.
I ask Peter what made the Pinawa area special for him. “Pinawa’s location on the edge of both the Canadian Shield and the Prairies, combined with the rivers and marshes of the area provides habitat for a large diversity of species here.” Peter observes birds, butterflies and other insects, mammals and plants. He tells me he also has a soft spot for reptiles and amphibians. Just then, a common whitetail dragonfly flies past, while a river jewelwing damselfly flutters at the side of the Trail.
Photo: Fall colours along Pinawa Trail
The Great Trail has helped Peter forge an even deeper connection to the natural beauty surrounding his home in Pinawa.
“In the early days,” he tells me, “you had to walk through deep swamps. It was hard to get access to the bush.” He tells me a story of taking people out to a bog to observe rare orchids. Hardly anyone came back a second time. The Great Trail has changed that for Peter, and for all of us. Although the Trail avoids the wettest part of the bog, it’s much more accommodating and has created all-weather access to the area’s dense forest.
As we chat, Peter notices some morning glories, and leaves the comfort of the Alice Chambers Trail to get a better photograph, submersing himself in waist-deep reeds
When Peter’s career at AECL ended, an opportunity to live and work in France arose. When he called Sharon to confer, she did not hesitate to say yes. In 1998, just a week after the first time France won the World Cup, Peter was off to fulfill a 20-month contract at the Cadarache research centre, in the Provence region of France. After work, he and Sharon enjoyed exploring areas such as the Camargue wetlands of the Rhône Delta, a paradise for observing flamingos, storks, egrets and many other marsh and wetland birds.
Photo: Peter wanders through the dense forest along the Trail
Peter’s passion for observing nature has taken him around the world. Along with his binoculars and camera, he has traveled to Kenya twice, Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Venezuela, India, Brazil, Jordan, Thailand, Australia and all over North America and Europe.
Peter is generous with his knowledge. You may find his writing published regularly in several journals, including Nature Manitoba News, Blue Jay, and North American Birds. In 1983 he published a book on birds of the Pinawa region, which is still available in local libraries, and he edited The Birds of Manitoba, a 20-year project completed in 2003.
Currently, Peter and Sharon are retired and they still live in Pinawa. Peter sits on the Executive of the Pinawa Friends of the Trans Canada Trail and often leads hikes along the regions trail system.
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