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.
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
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!
by Priya NagpalI 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 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.
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!
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!
by Sandy Garland
Note: Volunteers are needed. Please contact F.L.A.P. at Ottawa@flap.org or call 613 216-8999 to find out how you can help. If you find birds who have collided with windows, please get in touch immediately. If a bird hits one of your windows, please report it to F.L.A.P.
Migratory birds are literally hitting Ottawa this week and the Ottawa Wing of F.L.A.P. (Fatal Light Awareness Program) has been racing to keep up. As Anouk Hoedeman, who organizes the group, said “What a day! Nine dead birds documented downtown, including Hermit Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Dark-eyed Junco, then a whole flock out in Kanata. And now our first Woodcock, adding up to 30+ birds for the day. It’s time for Ottawa to adopt bird-friendly design guidelines!”
Anouk rides her bike up and down the streets of downtown Ottawa early every morning looking for birds that have flown into reflective glass or have collapsed from exhaustion after flying confusedly around lit-up buildings all night.The Kanata birds were spotted by Joe Wilson. He arrived at work this morning to find 15 or more dead kinglets and “another 15+ on the ground acting very listless… one just seemed to drop out of the sky.”
Unsure what to do, Joe posted that note on the OFNC Facebook page. Within minutes, Anouk’s husband, Alex DeVries, replied with Anouk’s cell phone number. But meanwhile, Cynthia Paquin, another very active member of our local F.L.A.P. group, replied that she would come right away. She asked Joe to please gather up the birds before gulls or building security got there first.
Anouk called ahead to the Wild Bird Care Centre, asking them to get ready for new patients. Staff at the centre are also participating in F.L.A.P., as they know what a problem bird collisions are in Ottawa. During migration, they see the results – over and over.
Cynthia arrived in Kanata to collect the dead birds and rush the live ones to the Wild Bird Care Centre. According to her Facebook post,“The final tally was: 6 live birds at the centre (a mix of golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets) – unfortunately not all survived the trip to the Wild Bird Care Centre. We’ll get more information soon, but a preliminary exam saw that a few may be releasable today, after a rest.
“The count of dead birds was 10 golden-crowned, 2 ruby-crowned, and 1 red-breasted nuthatch. While scouring the area, Joe and I heard many others in the trees near the impact site – so the total number that impacted the window (and either flew into the trees or were perhaps taken by a gull or crow before Joe found them) is likely much higher.” She found another ruby-crowned kinglet when she checked the building again in the afternoon.
Between the encouraging comments coming from other members of our Facebook group, Anouk thanked Cynthia, Joe, and the Wild Bird Care Centre for acting so quickly “Talk about teamwork!”
She also pointed out that tips on what homeowners can do to prevent collisions can be found here – http://flap.org/residential.php – and donations can be made to F.L.A.P. through the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club.
Anouk also remarked, “Feel free to ask your local municipal candidates if they would support Ottawa adopting bird-friendly building guidelines. Many other cities — including Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco and NY — have had them for a while.”
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)
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.
- 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 Hawks, quite 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.
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: http://northernredtails.wordpress.com/.
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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1480918358796602/
By Lucy Patterson, member of the OFNC
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.
Photos: Lucy Patterson
by Ian Whyte
On 10 September, I attended an OFNC birding outing at Mud Lake. Because I’ve found Snapping Turtle hatchlings trapped on the road by the filtration plant in previous years, I checked that location on my way home. The road in front of the filtration plant can be a death trap for hatchlings because of the curb. Hatchlings that try to cross the road cannot climb over the curb to get to the lake.
I found six hatchlings that day: three headed toward the lake as fast as a hatchling can and three awaiting death on the road – from exhaustion, a car or a Canada Goose. I put two of these at the lake’s edge. One was visible only through binoculars behind the fence (the door to the building was locked so I could not gain access). The next day, I found six more turtles: four were dead on the road, flattened, and two alive ones were set by the lakeside.
So, out of twelve turtles found, four were already dead, one has no future, four were rescued, and three were all right on their own.
May I ask that any OFNC member who goes to Mud Lake from now until mid-November please also take a minute to check for trapped hatchlings on the road in front of the filtration plant? The part of the road from the collection of old chairs to the fence across the road in front of the filtration plant is where checking is needed. Please put live turtles at the edge of the lake. I’d appreciate it if you emailed me with the details if you do this: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sarah Wray
Reprinted with permission from Trail & Landscape 2014; 48(1)
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.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.
By Natalie Sopinka
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:
- The Wild Bird Care Centre
- Wild Birds Unlimited
- The Innis Point Bird Observatory
- Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority
- Ottawa Duck Club
- Ottawa Riverkeeper
- Ocean Wise
- and more!
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
by Sandy Garland with much help from Rémy Poulin (OFNC) and Bill Petrie (IPBO)
Plans to install a webcam on an Osprey nesting platform with a live feed to the Internet took a leap forward this spring. Although wireless service is still not reliable, we are able to see photos of the active nest, which is located within the Lac Deschênes-Ottawa River Important Bird Area.
Ospreys and antennas
This project had its roots in the 1960s and 70s, when the Communications Research Centre at Shirley’s Bay installed Osprey platforms on trees to keep the birds from building their nests on the antennas being used for research projects. Over the decades, both platforms and trees deteriorated, until finally, the last tree supporting an Osprey nest fell down.
IPBO to the rescue
The Innis Point Bird Observatory (IPBO) became involved at that point. IPBO volunteers decided to build an Osprey nesting platform that could be lowered for banding chicks and to install a camera for public education purposes.
In fall 2009, they erected the platform on a 10-m pole extending about 1.5 m into the bedrock. In 2012, Ospreys began territorial marking and nest building, and the first chick was successfully fledged in 2013.
Time for phase 2: adding the webcam
Last summer, the IPBO approached the OFNC to see if the club would be interested in collaborating on this project. As Rémy Poulin of the OFNC’s Birds Committee says, “The OFNC’s Board of Directors agreed that it fell in line with the club’s goals of promoting the appreciation of Canada’s natural heritage and cooperating with, and supporting, organizations with similar aims.” Nature Canada also agreed to participate, and the three organizations recently signed a memorandum of understanding.
The OFNC is contributing to the costs of purchasing, operating, and maintaining the equipment, and will be providing live feed on our website. Most of this money will come from the Laurie Consaul Bequest, which was generously donated to the OFNC in 2013. Laurie was a professional botanist and part of the natural history scene in Ottawa for decades. She took part in the first Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and was a regional coordinator for the second one. She was also very involved in the Macoun Club and the Birds Committee. Laurie passed away in 2012 and the Board felt that supporting this project would be a very fitting tribute to her memory and a good use of her bequest money. The webcam will be known as the “Laurie Consaul OspreyCam” in her memory and in recognition of her contribution that made it possible.
What’s happening now and plans for 2015
IBPO volunteers installed the camera and it began operation on 20 April 2014. Currently, they are posting photos on the IBPO Facebook page and on Twitter (@InnisPointBO).
Accordng to Bill Petrie, “We are able to watch some video (with sound), but the Internet connection still needs some work.”
“We’ll be able to track the adults laying eggs and raising chicks,” he adds. “There will be a banding demonstration (date TBD) where people involved with this project will be able to see the nest and the chicks up close.”
Currently, the plan is to have live Internet feed embedded on the OFNC web site in time for the 2015 breeding season.