photos by Bill Bowman
More about Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills on Fred and Aleta’s web site
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 Julia CiprianiOn Saturday, October 1, well over 110 people met at MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre to participate in the MacSkimming open trails event. There were members of the general public, of OFNC, and of les Mycologues amateurs de l’Outaouais (MAO). The enthusiasm was palpable.
Yolande Dalpé and Brett Stevens led the foray. After exploring the woods of MacSkimming for a couple of hours, participants returned with baskets overflowing with mushrooms. It was a stunning harvest. The MAO group placed laminated images of mushrooms on the tables which facilitated grouping and the initial identification of the harvest. Yolande and Brett worked with the participants to identify mushrooms that were puzzling.
It was great to see such a large range of ages interested in fungi and engaged with the outdoors. The OFNC would like to thank the MacSkimming Centre team for welcoming us to their site.
compiled by Yolande Dalpé, Research Scientist (AAFC) & Director (Mycologues amateurs de l’Outaouais)
As Jeff reports, “We had many groups of warblers and ended up with 20 species of warblers for the day. My personal highlight was a group of warblers at Shirleys Bay that were coming to a puddle to drink. We had 6 Northern Parulas, 1 Tennessee Warbler, 1 Magnolia Warbler and 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler all attending the puddle at one time.
“We also saw 11 species of shorebirds, with the highlights being Sanderling and Short-billed Dowitcher. The species total for the day was 85.”
Sarma Vishnubhatla was kind enough to share her photos with us, and Jeff uploaded the list of species seen to eBird – if you have an eBird account, click here for the day’s checklist
The butterfly count is an annual OFNC event organized this year by Jeff Skevington. Working in groups or alone, participants patrol the same location – a 24-km diameter circle centred on Manion Corners – each year from about 9 a.m. to about 4 or 5 p.m. Data are submitted to the North American Butterfly Association.This year, the count got off to a delayed start when high winds on Saturday caused the organizers to postpone the event hoping for better conditions on Sunday, 3 July. They were rewarded with a sunny morning, with wind speeds of 7-25 kph, although it became windier later in the day. By 3 p.m., light rain was falling, ending the count early. A potluck dinner followed.
Many of our veteran area leaders were away this year, so coverage was below normal. The largest group included both experts and enthusiastic newbies: Jeff Skevington, Angela Skevington, Alexander Skevington, Rob Ellis, Li-Shien Lee, Derek Ellis, Julia Ellis, Celeste Cassidy, Elizabeth Gammell, Reni Barlow, Juliet McMurren, Gabriel McMurren, Sarma Vishnubhatla, and Lakshmi Vishnubhatla. Well know local butterfly expert Rick Cavasin covered two other areas with help from Ian Whyte.
The results were very good for the two groups that were out. Wetlands were dry as a result of the drought conditions in our area, so Sedge Skippers and related fauna were absent or not detected.
According to Jeff, “The Delaware Skipper is increasing its range and moving north. They were rare in our area a few years ago and are now regular on counts (you can see the change over time on the summary count sheet). The others are all regularly observed species.”
Thanks to Sarma Vishnubhatla for the photos of the participants above and to Reni Barlow for the gallery of butterfly photos below (be sure to click on them for a better view)!
by Roy John
Report of an Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club excursion on Sunday, 22 May 2016.
A dozen people went to Mud Lake to take advantage of the recent change from cold windy weather to lovely warm sunshine. This had brought in numerous, much delayed, migrants over the last few days.
As soon as we arrived at Mud Lake we were told that a rare Yellow-throated Vireo had been found in the woods. We plunged in and soon could hear it singing. It took a bit more effort to actually see it jumping around the tree tops, but we all eventually did. A little further in, the resident Screech Owl sat rigidly still for all to see. Dave Moore did his turkey call and pulled a Wild Turkey out of the woods.
We continued around Mud Lake, finding many new species. At the east fence we saw a Raccoon’s nose poking out the hole of a garbage skip, obviously trapped (the city were informed). So we had a beautiful morning with many good birds.
A number of species were strangely missing. Although we heard a Great Crested Flycatcher many times, we never could see it. We saw only a few Tree Swallows (a pair at a nest), but no others – very odd for Mud Lake. There were no Green Herons and only one Great Blue – yet Great Egrets were easy to find.
All in all, a warm, sunny day with 43 bird species seen (plus 4 heard).
DUCKS, GEESE, AND WATERFOWL
Wood Duck (photo above)
PHEASANTS, GROUSE, TURKEYS, ALLIES
CORMORANTS AND SHAGS
HERONS, EGRETS, AND BITTERNS
Great Blue Heron
GULLS, TERNS, AND SKIMMERS
Eastern Screech-Owl (photo at right)
Eastern Phoebe (heard only)
Great Crested Flycatcher (heard only)
CROWS, JAYS, AND MAGPIES
CHICKADEES AND TITS
THRUSHES AND ALLIES
Gray Catbird (photo at right)
Cedar Waxwing (photo below right)
NEW WORLD WARBLERS (11 species + 2 not seen or confirmed)
Common Yellowthroat (heard only)
(Magnolia Warbler – not confirmed)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
BUNTINGS AND NEW WORLD SPARROWS
CARDINALS AND ALLIES
TROUPIALS AND ALLIES
SISKINS, CROSSBILLS, AND ALLIES
Pine Siskin (very late)
Midland Painted Turtle
Spiny Baskettail (photo below)
By Barry Cottam
Nine presenters turned out on a messy winter’s night, with about a dozen more folks in the audience, for our 3rd annual members photo night event. Organizers Hume Douglas and Barry Cottam had some initial concern about the low numbers, but then were kept on their toes finding time for everyone to present as much as they wished.
The room at the Neatby Building had already been set up with tables and chairs, an arrangement we decided to run with. It worked well, giving people more opportunity to meet each other and share comments on the presentations. The evening began with new member Mary Ann Perron’s presentation on her research on dragonflies, supported by the OFNC under its new science research grant program. She produced some fascinating photos of dragonflies emerging, with various degrees of success, from their exuviae, and explained the value of dragonflies as monitors of water-way health. Owen Clarkin, OFNC’s resident expert on trees, shared his enthusiasm for the capabilities of his new point and shoot camera that enabled him to take identification-confirming photos on land that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Barry Cottam continued with the entomology theme, presenting on biodiversity in small spaces. He described a happy afternoon photographing insects on and around a single stump found behind his room at Wildsumaco Bird Lodge in Napo Province, Ecuador.
Jeewa Mendis brought us back to Canada with a series of short videos of local wildlife, including a family of four friendly skunks denning in her backyard. She ended with a video teaser, shot in Sri Lanka, for her presentation on March 19 at the FWG. Eden Bromfield took us on rambles from the Ottawa River to a Yukon national park to the Gaspe; his work emphasizes the play of light on ice and flowing waters and his keen interest in local flora.
We returned to the north, this time to James Bay with Rick Cavasin on his search for northern species of butterflies; his trip included a walk to Nunavut. (You had to be there!) Gordon Robertson gave us an entertaining overview of the fauna of the Galapagos Islands, seen on a boat tour that included all the islands. Gord Belyea had stories about bird encounters in Florida and Texas. He has a special interest in finding banded birds then reporting his findings to the sometimes elusive scientists who banded them, an important contribution to citizen science. The evening closed with several photos presented by Lorne Peterson, who introduced us to the concept of ‘equinoxing.’ Lorne explained that he saw the spring and fall equinoxes as processes by which light is shared locally and globally, from his backyard to the world itself.
And so another members photo night was filled with the varied interests and ideas of OFNC members, expressed through their combined love of nature and photography. It was after 10 by the time the organizers had finished up, worries about low numbers forgotten, happily looking forward to 2017.
by Richard Singhroy
Richard Singhroy is a student at the University of Ottawa. As part of the university’s Community Service Learning program, he has volunteered to report on several OFNC outings and meetings. On November 7, he joined the Geology Interest Group to look for fossils.
Now, it wasn’t digging for dinosaurs, but something equally interesting.
First a bit about Macoun Marsh. It is a small patch of trees near a tiny stream next to Beechwood Cemetery – a truly a beautiful place. The rocks that were brought to the marsh were quarried at Labreton flats next to the Ottawa River.
These limestone rocks are 458 million years old. They were formed during the upper Ordovician period. To give you some context, during this period, our area was almost entirely ocean, and most of the world’s land was a supercontinent known as Gondwana. Throughout the Ordovician period, Gondwana shifted toward the South Pole and much of it was submerged underwater. The Ordovician is best known for its diverse marine invertebrates, including graptolites, trilobites, brachiopods, and the conodonts.
Now for the good part. What did we find? Well, brachiopods were the first thing. Brachiopods are a phylum of small marine shellfish, sometimes called lampshells. They are not common today, but in the Palaeozoic period they were one of the most common types. They lived near the shore (littoral zone), but now they have been pushed into deeper water by competition from bivalve molluscs. Like mussels they have shells, but the shells do differ.
We also found sponges and coral fossils (see photos). These are more widely known than brachiopods.
Next we found an orthocone. An orthocone is a long straight shell of a nautiloid cephalopod. During the 18th and 19th centuries, all shells of this type were named Orthoceras, but it is now known that many groups of nautiloids developed or retained this type of shell. An orthocone is like a nautilus shell, but straight and uncoiled. It was previously believed that these represented the most primitive form of nautiloid, but it is now known that the earliest nautiloids had shells that were slightly curved.
I found the last to be the most interesting. Trace fossils are literally what you think they might be, a fossil that an animal left behind, like a footprint. I’m amazed how a path left behind millions of years ago can still be seen today.
I really enjoyed my morning and learning the geology of the distant past. The setting was nice and the fossils were very intresting. I would definitely recommend that you visit Macoun Marsh if you get a chance.
by Richard Singhroy
Richard Singhroy is a student at the University of Ottawa. As part of the university’s Community Service Learning program, he has volunteered to report on several OFNC outings and meetings.
On Sunday, November 1 at 8 am, a group of Ottawa Field-Naturalist Club members met at Andrew Haydon Park to do some birding. Birding is the act of cataloguing local birds. It is great for getting fresh air and learning about the different types of birds. Mark Gawn, who was leading the outing, has vast knowledge of birds and their migrating patterns. I learned a lot about birds and how to identify them.
A few tips on birding, it is a good idea to bring along a field guide to help you identify the birds and know ahead of time what birds you might find in an area. Because many birds migrate through our area, fall is a great time to find a large variety. It is also a good idea to bring a pair of binoculars.
We saw a number of migratory fall birds, probably the best known being the Canada Geese. We also saw Common Goldeneyes, which can be identified by their protruding forehead and the white spots under their eyes; they also have black and white feathers. We also spotted Red-necked Grebes, which can be identified by their red neck and needle-like beak. Depending on time of year the colour of the feathers can change.
At Ottawa Beach, we saw a few other birds, including a Bonaparte’s Gull. This bird lives in the boreal forest and can be identified by the white edges on its wings. Surf Scoters were also seen – a beautiful black and white bird.
After a hike in the forest and a stop to listen to the singing of American Tree Sparrows and other birds, we arrived at another site where we were hoping to see a King Eider. Unfortunately, we did not find one, although we DID spot a Black-bellied Plover, a Bald Eagle and its nest, a Northern Shoveler, and a Northern Pintail, just to name a few. There were large flocks of maybe 70 or more individuals. Most were White-winged Scoters and Black Scoters, but there where also Redheads, American Wigeons, Long-tailed Ducks, Gadwalls, and Barrow’s Goldeneyes.
In the end, I learned a lot about birds and how to recognize them. It was lots of fun; I would definitely recommend birding and will be doing it whenever I get the chance. All of the results were posted to eBird, a popular database that you can report your own results to.
by Lynn Ovenden
The Ottawa-Carleton school board’s MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre is a wonderful place just west of Rockland, with marshy shoreline along the Ottawa River, old meadows and ponds on the nearshore slopes, and a mature, upland mixed forest with lots of hemlock and beech. Once a year, staff invite the general public to visit the property and enjoy various outdoor activities. A feature of “Open Trails Day” which was October 3 this year, was a fall mushroom workshop led by Dr. Myron Smith of Carleton University.
The day began with cookies and hot drinks in a log cabin classroom in the deep forest of MacSkimming. About 50 people attended Myron’s opening talk about the growth forms of mushrooms, how to collect and learn about them, plus some cautions about eating them.
Then we more or less accompanied him on a very slow, two-hour walk through the forest, gathering one of this, one of that, asking questions, photographing, and generally enjoying each other and the old forest. We returned to the log cabin to eat our lunches and lay out the bounty… a few hundred mushrooms of many colours and shapes. With Myron’s help and several field guides, we examined them carefully and identified perhaps half of them to genus, if not to species level. The remainder would have required detailed keys, microscopic study and/or chemical tests to identify. We made the following species list and returned the mushrooms to the forest.
It was a marvelous day that left me grateful for life’s abundance. Our children have access to a beautiful and stimulating place for environmental studies. The enthusiasm of Myron Smith and MacSkimming staff for nature study, and mushrooms in particular, was contagious.
Finally, and most exciting to me, the forest yielded over 50 taxa that we could identify and who knows how many more that we could not. Myron noted that the 2015 species list is quite different from the list of mushrooms that people found on 4 October 2014 (see Mushrooms of MacSkimming). He looks forward to repeating the workshop next year to see what other mushrooms may emerge from this old forest.
|Mushrooms with Gills
Russula albidulaCorals and Earthtongues
|Mushrooms with Teeth
Hydnellum spongiosipesMushrooms with Pores
Piptoporus betulinus (Birch Polypore)
Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail)
Puffballs and Earthballs