by Julia Cipriani
Members of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club are as diverse as the taxa they study: from birders to botanists, highschool students to university professors, backyard garden admirers to conservation officers. The OFNC blog features profiles of members to showcase the incredible array of natural history enthusiasts. Whether you’ve just joined or are a lifetime member, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share your natural history story!
Many members know Diane as the champion for the Butterfly Meadow at Fletcher Wildlife Garden. Since 2002, she has worked with other very dedicated volunteers to create a beautiful wildflower habitat that supports a large number and variety of butterflies and other insects. For her efforts and commitment, she was recognized as the OFNC Member of the Year in 2008.
Diane’s interest in nature began very early. On summer weekends the kids piled into the car and their parents drove out into the countryside. They picked raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, and walnuts. When Diane was a young child, her father and brothers carried her on their shoulders through Mer Bleue bog to pick blueberries. They spent hours exploring the open spaces around Carlsbad Springs, walking the railway tracks, and searching for winged creatures in the open spaces around the Ottawa Airport and at Mer Bleue.
Using a net her mother made for her out of a clothes hanger, a broom handle, and sheer curtains, Diane netted and preserved her finds. She was enthralled with the discovery of butterflies and more excited by the rarer coppers and Baltimores. Her father created spreading boards with a surface of thin soft pine boards with spaces between to accommodate the various body sizes. The middle was Styrofoam with plywood on the bottom. Diane displayed her specimens, which she researched in the Golden Guides purchased by her parents.
Diane’s brother remembers the time they were chasing a particularly elusive butterfly. He watched her pause to capture something in a pill container. When they finally stopped, Diane showed him her find – a tiny green spider. He is still amazed that Diane had spotted it while concentrating on a butterfly that was zipping around, many yards away. The lesson learned was that chasing insects develops awareness and a keen eye.
Diane remembers good times in Gatineau Park with her cousins, swimming and hunting for frogs, toads, and turtles. The family made regular trips to the Experimental Farm where their mother introduced the kids to garden flowers, one of her interests. They learned the names of trees by matching leaves with the names on the tags of the trees in the Arboretum. Diane is very grateful that her parents introduced their children to the beauty and wonder of the natural world.
Diane had a wish list of insects she had read about and was determined to find. When asked what her fondest natural history moment was, she described a vivid memory of finding her first praying mantis when she was a teenager. Her passion for exploring the natural world and sharing her knowledge of it with others continued into her twenties. She bought every guide she could get her hands on and her first SLR camera in the late 1970s. In 2007 she bought her first digital camera. That purchase ended her collecting of insects; she caught them on film instead. She is a skilled nature photographer with an amazing capacity for spotting everything and anything. When she is out exploring, Diane always carries her camera and two or three lenses. Her photos have been published in book Papillons de Québec et maritimes by Louis Handfield and on the OFNC web site, and she’s a regular contributor to the FWG photo galleries.
When asked about her most memorable natural history moment, Diane describes the wonder of discovering her first walking stick, on the hub cap of a parked car near her workplace in Aylmer. For the next 15 years, she monitored the activity of walking sticks in that area.
Diane joined an entomology club and enjoyed sharing observations about rare or unusual specimens. She joined the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club in 1980. One of her fondest memories with the Club is her first trip to Pelee in the early 1980s. Another highlight was the publication of her five year study of moths of Larose Forest and receiving the OFNC’s Anne Hanes Natural History Award in 2012. Her article, Moths of the Larose Forest, appears in the January to March 2013 Trail and Landscape (volume 74, number 1).
When asked what she is most passionate about now, she immediately replied, “All things related to the life cycle, habitats and environment of the Lepidoptera family.” Given the opportunity, she would be a butterfly, flying, alighting and nectaring on flowers. Her favourite bird is the owl – quiet, beautiful and hard to spot. Her favourite international spots to observe natural history are Costa Rica and Arizona. Locally her favourite is the Larose Forest.
Diane is most generous with her commitment, her time, and her knowledge of natural history. Like her parents.
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!