Category: Member activities


By Barry Cottam

Once again OFNC members got together to share their passion for nature and nature photography. And once again, we discovered the amazing range of interests and experiences Club members explore. We could have used even more time than the three hours scheduled for this event. Each presentation by the ten participants was interesting and informative and the photography was excellent. Organizers Hume Douglas and I never really know until the evening starts just how many presenters we’ll have and what they are presenting, but we’ve been more than happy with results every time.


Doug Luoma – hummingbird clearwing moth

In a way, this event is like a pot luck that always works out. Some club members love to travel while others find a world closer to home, sometimes right in their own backyard. And while birding is the most popular activity, our event reminds us of the many other aspects of nature we explore. Keith Wickens started the evening off at home and far away, sharing photos of shore birds from Mud Lake and New Zealand. He has a special interest in hard-to-identify juveniles. Bev McBride took us on a whirlwind world tour, from home here in Ottawa to the French Pyrenees, the Tibetan Plateau in the Qinghai province of China, returning via Alaska and the NWT. Bev is passionate about small plants that grow in cracks in rocks, many rare and difficult to identify: she would appreciate hearing any information about the plants shown here. Eden Bromfield is also interested in rare plants and fungi too. His presentation travelled through time and space, a seasonal trip through natural landscapes, with wildlife, such as

Eden Bromfield – eastern purple bladderwort

a grizzly in northern BC. We visited another north with Gordon Robertson, who explored birding spots around Edinburgh, Scotland; good thing he had a map! Jakob Mueller warmed us up in Cayo Coco, Cuba. His specialty is reptiles, but he started off with several fascinating Cuban endemic birds, including the Bee Hummingbird aka the world’s smallest bird, pictured here, a very difficult subject to photograph. He explained that birds are reptiles, too, before getting down to the lizards and snakes. Justin Peter’s video account of Demoiselle cranes took us to India, a highlight of a tour he had guided there last year. He told us the story of a field, famous for attracting these large birds in their thousands. Would they turn up or not – the tension mounted!

We criss-crossed Canada as well. In addition to mentions above, Doug Luoma captured memorable wildlife at Mud Lake in his 10-minute video. In addition to his photo grabs here, he showed rare footage of several species of nesting woodpeckers, including their various calls. Barry took us to his family home-away-from-home in rural eastern Prince Edward Island, focusing on the rich variety of arachnids there, including several species of crab, jumping and orbweaving spiders. He was surprised how many people admitted liking these critters… Owen Clarkin continued his explorations of the trees of eastern Ontario; showing the largest elms of the region and the rarer species. Lorne Peterson brought us back to his Ottawa backyard, filled with flowering plants from the FWG plant sales. These attract numerous pollinators, proof of the effectiveness of providing microhabitats for these threatened species.

As in previous blogs, participants share their favourite photos. They provide a taste of the evening’s images and stories. We look forward to more next year. Thanks, everyone!

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Youth Summit 2016: thanks for the opportunity

by Priya Nagpal

Experiencing nature up close. Photo by Daynan Lepore

Experiencing nature up close. Photo by Daynan Lepore

I am high school student from Ottawa. At my school I run the environment club with a group of friends and have been involved with environmental leadership. When I saw an application for a grant to attend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership, I decided to go for it and apply. When OFNC told me that I had received the grant and would have the opportunity to attend the summit I was excited; I could not wait!

The summit took place in Orillia and our facilities were surrounded by a beautiful forest. I was able to meet people from all over Ontario and learn about environmental initiatives taking place in their hometowns’ from school pollinator projects to community gardens. It was great to meet so many youth who share my interests

I was able to meet people from all over Ontario and learn about environmental initiatives taking place in their hometowns - from school pollinator projects to community gardens. Photo by Daynan Lepore

I was able to meet people from all over Ontario and learn about environmental initiatives taking place in their hometowns – from school pollinator projects to community gardens. Photo by Daynan Lepore

I attended a number of workshops ranging from different topics over the course of the summit. In “Livin’ La Vida Local” I learned about the impact of eating local and different programs put in place to making eating local easier. This workshop was hosted by Youth Council members who had faced challenges eating local especially while at university.

There was also a workshop about emotional intelligence that I really enjoyed. Matt Tod, the speaker, talked about what emotional intelligence is and how to become aware of it. In this interactive workshop, we learned what the qualities of a good leader are. This provided us with many tips to improve our leadership skills to become better environmental leaders at home.

During our weekend in Orillia an Aboriginal leader from the local community joined us. He brought all of us together with his captivating stories by the campfire and shared many important lessons.

An Aboriginal leader from the local community brought all of us together with his captivating stories by the campfire and shared many important lessons. Photo by Daynan Lepore

An Aboriginal leader from the local community brought all of us together with his captivating stories by the campfire and shared many important lessons. Photo by Daynan Lepore

I also went canoeing one morning on Lake Couchiching. It was wonderful to be out on the calm water in the early hours. Some students went on a birding hike and others braved the cold water and went for the polar dip.

Overall the summit gave me some ideas for my environment club and showed me different ways to protect the environment. Thanks OFNC for this opportunity!

It was wonderful to be out on the calm water of Lake Couchiching in the early hours. Photo by Daynan Lepore

It was wonderful to be out on the calm water of Lake Couchiching in the early hours. Photo by Daynan Lepore

A First-timer’s Experience at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

By Jessica Sutton

Jessica Sutton is a 2nd-year University of Ottawa student in Environmental Studies and Biology. This fall Jessica is volunteering with the OFNC through the Community Service Learning (CSL) program.

As a child living in Peterborough, I would often visit family in Ottawa, and we were frequent visitors of the Arboretum but unaware of the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, which is located in the same area. Earlier this Fall I went to the garden for the first time. As a 2nd-year university student with a study focus on environmental studies and biology, I was excited to view the garden as a project to preserve native biodiversity in Ottawa.

I was fascinated by the ways in which the members of the OFNC have set up specific areas throughout the garden. These areas attract different types of plants and animals, supporting a diverse array of species in a relatively small amount of land surrounded by urban development. Take for example the Old Field, which contains grasses and wildflowers in an early succession stage. The Old Field is maintained in this state by mowing every few years. This type of habitat can occur naturally in the wild via forest fires. Keeping this section of the garden in the early succession state provides animals with a long-term habitat – volunteers also monitor any changes in species and habitat structure that may occur. Other interesting features were the “insect hotel” and the various brushpiles that provide shelter for many creatures, especially squirrels and chipmunks.

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden is simply a beautiful environment. Whether you go to admire the biodiversity of this natural oasis or to walk the trails and enjoy the fresh air, there is something for everyone. Being at the centre of the city, it is a close-to-home place that still provides the “outdoorsy” feeling.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first experience at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. I must admit that I lived a short bus ride away from the area for over a year without knowing about it, but now I can enjoy it! If you have not yet visited the garden, I highly recommend it – for its sheer beauty and maybe to gain a little knowledge while you’re at it!

A closer look at Red-tailed Hawks in the Ottawa/Gatineau area

By Jon Ruddy

The Red-tailed Hawk is the quintessential hawk – it’s big, powerful, graceful, and beautiful.

Eastern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis ssp borealis)

Adult Eastern Red-tailed Hawk. Photo: Brenda McRae

Adult Eastern Red-tailed Hawk. Photo: Brenda McRae

Our local breeder, the Eastern Red-tailed Hawk is a familiar sight along roadsides. Anyone who has ever driven along the 416 has most likely seen these gorgeous birds “teed up” along stretches of highway where plenty of rodents can be found in adjacent fields. Eastern Red-tails can be seen year round here in the Ottawa/Gatineau area. They breed in a variety of habitats but tend to be most associated with open areas, such as fallow fields or agricultural areas with nearby trees for nesting.

Identifying features:

  • Big, stocky hawk with long, wide wings, and a long, broad tail (both juveniles and adults)
  • Patagial bars along the leading edge of its wings (both juveniles and adults)
  • Belly band across lower breast (both juveniles and adults)
  • Brick red tail visible at great distances (adults)

Northern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis ssp abieticola)
In early to mid-October, when the leaves are changing colour and the air is beginning to get crisp, Northern Red-tailed Hawksquite unlike our local breeders the Eastern Red-tails, are on the move southward. Northern Red-tails are heavily-marked with a darker base color, showing blackish belly bands composed of globular markings; they often show well-marked throats, streaking on their upper chests, and very thick patagial bars.

Adult Northern Red-tailed Hawk. Photo: Jerry Liguori  

Adult Northern Red-tailed Hawk. Photo: Jerry Liguori

Northern Red-tails are presumed to breed exclusively throughout northern spruce-fir forests and are also thought to be strongly migratory, wintering, principally, from the Great Lakes eastward throughout the northern states and southern Ontario.

Northern Red-tailed Hawk blog
Renowned North American hawk expert, Jerry Liguori, and I have teamed up to create a blog dedicated to the study of Northern Red-tailed Hawks. The site is filled to the brim with information on the identification and natural history of these enigmatic Red-tails. We’d love to have you drop on by! Here’s the link:

OFNC 2014 Greenland Road Hawkwatch
In mid-March 2014, a small group of fearless birders met along Greenland Road to watch for hawks. It was only a hair above one degree – so cccooold! We tallied a big, fat, zero for hawks and eagles. I thought to myself “well, there goes THAT idea; they’ll never come back.” Somehow…people continued to show up, and in increasing numbers, although I couldn’t help but notice a direct correlation between observers and temperature! Over the following 5 weeks, we had some laughs, saw hundreds of Turkey Vultures, scores of hawks, and tallied 12 Bald Eagles and 2 Golden Eagles.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. 2014 Greenland Road Hawkwatch details here:

Postcard from Greenland Road, Ottawa, Ontario: Good times were had by all! Osprey photo: Brent Eades

Postcard from Greenland Road, Ottawa, Ontario: Good times were had by all! Osprey photo: Brent Eades

Mud Lake Fall BioBlitz

By Lucy Patterson, member of the OFNC

Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens)

Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens)

On September 12-13th, 2014, Nature Canada held a fall BioBlitz event at Mud Lake. Its goal was to locate, identify, and photograph as many living things as possible within a 24-hour period. The event was part of a larger effort to learn about local biodiversity and catalogue changes over time in population patterns. Mud Lake is a key location to hold a Bioblitz because it lies within an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is a local patch of wilderness right in Ottawa’s west end.

The event included a series of walks guided by local naturalist experts that were open to the general public. Each walk focused on a different group of species: songbirds, waterbirds, vascular plants, mosses and lichens, reptiles and amphibians; and trees, shrubs and grasses.

I took part in the “reptiles and amphibians” walk on Saturday afternoon which was led by Bill Halliday and Julie Châteauvert. Dressed in full-out rain gear, the eager participants braved a steady downpour to look for turtles, frogs, and salamanders around Mud Lake. We flipped rocks and logs to look for salamanders and leopard frogs on the lake edge.

On the way back, we scanned the road near the filtration plant for baby snapping turtles. Next, we took the trail up the hill to look for garter snakes. We saw a number of old snapping turtle nests in the loose rock, complete with crumpled eggshells, but spotted no living creatures save a couple of black-capped chickadees. Due to the unfortunate weather conditions, we did not see very many reptiles or amphibians, but the walk was enjoyable nevertheless. Fingers crossed that the weather cooperates for the spring BioBlitz in 2015!

You can see what species have been surveyed during previous BioBlitz here.

During your next visit to Mud Lake if you spot a hatchling snapping turtle on a road please move turtles to the lake’s edge and contact Ian Whyte.

On the lookout for hatchling snapping turtles.

Photos: Lucy Patterson

My Experience at the Ontario Nature Youth Summit 2013

By Sarah Wray
Reprinted with permission from Trail & Landscape 2014; 48(1)

Sarah Wray describes her experience at the 2013 Youth Summit

Sarah Wray describes her experience at the 2013 Youth Summit

In September 2013, I was sponsored by the OFNC to attend the 4th annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit focusing on biodiversity and green solutions. It was held over a weekend at the Geneva Park YMCA in Orillia. 104 youth participated in this event, the biggest turn out yet! On arrival on Friday evening we were divided into our color teams to get ready for the great team challenge the following day. After dinner and getting to know our teammates we headed off to bed looking forward to a fun filled day on Saturday.

On Saturday I had 3 workshops; “Snapshot Biodiversity”, “Foraging Foods from Forests and Slimes”, and “Scales and Citizen Science”. In Snapshot Biodiversity I learnt how to take pictures in different settings and really think about what it is you are trying to capture and portray. My favorite workshop on Saturday would be Slimes, Scales and Citizen Science since it was very hands on with going and looking for reptiles and amphibians in the back fields of Geneva Park. I learnt a lot about myths and issues that concern specific species and cause humans to impact their population numbers.

In the evening there were a number of university presentations introducing us to different programs and opportunities for the future. We also watched the movie Sharkwater which shows the problem of shark finning and how the disappearance of sharks would cause a huge reduction in the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere. During the team challenge the green team (which I was in) won the cheer competition for creating a green protest.

On Sunday I had 2 more workshops; “Medicinal Plants of Ontario” and “Birds of Prey”. Birds of Prey was my ultimate favorite workshop since they had real birds and I learnt a lot about their lifestyles.

Filmmaker and conservationist, Rob Steward, talks about his struggle to get Sharkwater into production

Filmmaker and conservationist, Rob Steward, talks about his struggle to get Sharkwater into production

Sunday was also the day ROB STEWART, the renowned filmmaker and conservationist came to give us an insight on his journey and future projects. It was really interesting to hear about his struggles and how many times his movie Sharkwater got rejected but then managed to overcome these set-backs. One really interesting fact I learnt was that to keep our earth from getting hotter we would need to leave 80% of all known oil reserves in the ground and convert to more renewable energy.

This Youth Summit has changed me since I’m a lot more aware of some of the threats and concerns on many species not just well known but more low key species in Canada and how if change isn’t made now there will not be green future. I hope to continue pursuing my interest in the environment and possibly look towards a career path in environmental studies. My thanks to the OFNC for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and letting me pursue my interest in a greener world.

Editor’s note: Sarah is currently a Grade 10 student at Nepean High School, very active in competitive soccer and numerous school activities, and an enthusiastic volunteer at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.

Nature Canada’s Bird Day Fair 2014

By Natalie Sopinka

A special visitor to the OFNC booth

Can you spot the special visitor to the OFNC booth?

On Saturday May 31st Nature Canada held its 2nd annual Bird Day Fair at Andrew Haydon Park and members of the OFNC were on hand to celebrate our avian friends. Mark Brenchley, Natalie Sopinka, Julia Cipriani and Anouk Hoedeman manned the club’s booth greeting numerous visitors, including a parrot! The day was filled with bird banding demos, falconry, bird walks, face painting, nest-building and live music. Numerous organizations participated in the event including:

At mid-day, several talks were given on topics ranging from bird brains to bird feeders. Dr. Adam Smith from Ottawa Bird Count impressed the crowd with his bird stats. Did you know there are 2 million birds living in Ottawa and the most common species is the American Robin? There are approximately 160 000 robins in the nation’s capital!

Eric Garrison from Wild Birds Unlimited reminded us that feeding birds is good for the birds (health, reduced predation, population stability) and good for us (birding).

Dr. Julie Morand-Ferron from the University of Ottawa talked about her research on local chickadee populations. Dr. Morand-Ferron’s lab studies how urban and forest chickadees learn and socialize. Nature Canada’s Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl (lead organizer of the Bird Day Fair) shared numerous ways humans and birds can harmoniously cohabit cities. Also from Nature Canada, Alex MacDonald gave a brief introduction to various online tools, such as eBird, Naturehood and Tweet of the Week, that connect us with nature and when used by citizens provide valuable information scientists use to monitor birds in the wild (also known as citizen science).

The Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s Great Blue Heron joined the festivities as well and was quite popular with the children and adults alike!

Photos by: Mark Brenchley and Natalie Sopinka