If you have ever been driving along a Cape Breton back road and happened across a petite woman lying on the side of the ditch photographing a small delicate flower, than you have undoubtedly witnessed naturalist Bethsheila Kent hard at work. You might have likewise joined her for an interpretive forest hike or an adventurous birding tour. If you have, then you will be familiar with her sense of humour, her keen observations and knowledge of natural history and her contagious delight in the diversity of life abundant in Cape Breton.
Bethsheila Kent grew up following her father up and down the hills of Cape Breton, discovering and learning about the natural environment of this unique part of the world.
“My father was a great wanderer and a great lover of the plants and animals of this fabulous place that we’re so privileged to live in, and as a child, I pretty much followed him around wherever we went and listened to all of the things he told me.”
As she matured, she continued to explore and broaden her knowledge and understanding of Cape Breton’s ecology, geology and biology, both outdoors and through study.
“If something flies in front of my face, I have to know exactly what it is. I don’t know why…it’s cellular!” says Kent of her interest in natural history.
As a natural history guide, she interprets everything from the ground up, including the four different types of bedrock that create the island; the unique soils they influence; the plants, trees, fungi and other vegetation that take root in a variety of habitats; and all of the bugs, animals, birds, and fish that call Cape Breton home. Bethsheila Kent believes that to be a whole and well-rounded person, we need to be comfortable with and know the environment outside of ourselves. Here in Cape Breton, we are lucky to be surrounded by nature and wilderness and we have wonderful opportunities to learn about it, and from it.
For those wanting to start an exploration into nature, Kent advises “not to be intimidated”. She encourages people to go out into nature with a field guide and to start by getting to know one or two species. She also suggests asking questions of those who may know more about plants and animals, and to look up information on the internet or in books, but not to be daunted by the amount of information out there. “Don’t be overwhelmed, and don’t give up. Keep going, because it is so totally worth it.”
Bethsheila Kent is leading a Natural History Series this summer, hosted by the Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust. You can attend her second presentation “Fly Away Home: Birds of the Bras d’Or” on Wednesday July 27th, 2011 at 7pm. Admission is free, but donations will be gratefully accepted in support of the Bras d’Or Lakes and Watershed Interpretive Centre. The presentation will take place at the Interpretive Centre located at 532 Chebucto Street in Baddeck. Those interested in attending are encouraged to call ahead to reserve a seat 902-295-2675. Rideshare from Sydney may also be available.
The third presentation in the series, “Forest Floor: World of Wonders”, will take place on August 24th, 2011. Please visit the Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust website for more details.
The Bras d’Or Preservation Nature Trust is a non-profit charity that works to protect and conserve ecologically important land in the Bras d’Or Lakes watershed, and to educate the public about the unique cultural and ecological history of the lakes.
Tours with Bethsheila Kent can be arranged through her website: www.naturewalks.ca