There is always plenty to see and experience at Laurier Woods located in the heart of North Bay, including the Annual Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Nature Festival.
The life of Louise de Kiriline Lawrence, internationally renowned naturalist, author, and nurse is celebrated annually on the third Saturday in August in the Laurier Woods Conservation Area at the end of Brule Street.
De Kiriline Lawrence lived west of Mattawa where she studied wildlife and ornithology.
“She is known as the Bird Lady of Pimisi Lake,” shared April McClellan, Vice-President Friends of Laurier Woods.”
She was also a nurse to the Dionne Quintuplets for a few years.
“But most of her time was spent on Pimisi Bay. She has a house that is still there today. You will see a (historical) plaque beside it if you drive down Highway 17,” explained Rick Tripp, President of the Nipissing Naturalist Club.
“She would just spend hours and hours with the birds near Pimisi Bay.”
The bird lover has a fascinating history and is considered somewhat of a trailblazer for women of her era.
“She wrote over 500 reviews, 17 scientific papers, and 5 books on birds and animals and contributed regularly to Audubon Magazine,” shared Friends of Laurier Woods, a non-profit charitable organization that helped to organize the festival, and whose members are dedicated to the preservation of vegetation and wildlife in the 240-acre Laurier Woods conservation area.
De Kiriline Lawrence passed away at the age of 98 in 1992.
Her written work is stored in the National Archives in Ottawa.
The festival, which tends to draw hundreds of people of all ages is not only hosted by the Friends of Laurier Woods, but is also held in conjunction with the Nipissing Naturalist Club and the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority.
“This festival is inspired by her love and awe of nature. She was very significant in bird identification, so that has been a very strong draw for the wetlands here which is a great bird-watching spot,” explained the Friends of Laurier Woods V-P.
The naturalist clearly wasn’t alone in her love of nature.
“Most recently I spoke with her biographer and she mentioned the precursor to our Naturalist Club was a Naturalist Club that was established by Louise,” stated Tripp.
Grandparents, parents, and children took advantage of the many free displays and hands-on activities Saturday.
Twelve-year-old Jeremie Corbeil is an avid birder.
“We set up a bird feeder at home a few years ago and there are all kinds of birds coming in and I just look them up in a bird book that I own and try to identify each species,” grinned Corbeil.
“Laurier Woods is a different habitat for them, there’s marsh and woods, all kinds of habitat. I would love to see the Northern Cardinal. They are nice red males. I have never seen one before.”
Joe Corbeil supports his son’s hobby.
“He loves birds, so we came to the festival to do a bird walk. We just go through the woods looking for birds,” said the older Corbeil.
“We’re also going to the different booths, and it has all been very interesting.”
The day included several activities including an edible and poisonous berry walk, an insect walk, a bird identification game, kid’s crafts, painted clay turtles, an invasive plants display, free nature books, and much more.
The festival was established in 2014.
“We hope that people will take away a sense of awe, and a connection to nature and feel a sense of responsibility and ownership over this really important land in North Bay,” shared the Friends of Laurier Woods V-P.
Rachel Sturge, a member of the board of directors for the Nipissing Naturalist Club shares similar hopes.
“It is to support nature, and get people involved and educated, learning more about the species around you, but also learning about the threats they face right now.”
And of course, recognizing a famous naturalist who lived in the area.