Tagged: Monthly meeting

Stories from Australia’s waves, caves, and animal graves

by Natalie Sopinka

On April 8, OFNC members met for the third time at the new meeting location at the Central Experimental Farm. Murray Citron recited his first-ever published poem (in Trail & Landscape!) which captured all elements of an Ottawa spring: wind, snow and sun. On that note, as spring temperatures rise, so do the number of OFNC events and excursions! All upcoming events are posted on the OFNC website.

Anouk Hoedeman updated attendees on the work of the new Ottawa Chapter of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP). Volunteers are urgently needed for pre-dawn patrols and for picking up and transporting injured birds to the Wild Bird Care Centre. If you are interested in getting involved, you can read more about FLAP Ottawa here or email flap@ofnc.ca.

The evening’s speaker was Dr. Kathy Conlan, a scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Kathy, an expert in marine benthos and advocate of Antarctic research and conservation, shared in photographs and storytelling her recent travels to Australia with mineralogist Dr. Joel Grice. During a year-long sabbatical, Kathy and Joel embarked on four trips that took them to diverse habitats, from mangroves and rain forests to salt lakes and lava tubes.

Upwelling brings nutrient-rich water to the ocean surface promoting phyto- and zooplankton blooms. Photo: Google

Port Lincoln
Their first stop was along Australia’s southern coast – the Bonney and du Couedic submarine canyons, which are important to Australia’s fisheries because they channel seawater from a depth of a kilometre (or more) up to the surface. This “upwelling,” which happens when strong summer winds move surface water offshore, provides the phytoplankton in the nutrient-poor surface water with all the nutrients they need to grow and multiply. When phytoplankton “bloom,” zooplankton bloom too. Fish aggregate and feed on the zooplankton before being caught by fishers.

Kathy’s job on her sabbatical was to see whether these canyons also benefited the animals that live full time on the sea floor; her studies indicate that they do and that “upwelling is an important way of renewing ocean richness, rather like turning over the garden in the spring.” Kathy is quite fond of the animals that live on the sea floor, in particular species of the genus Jassa, which she has classified. She was surprised to find Jassa slatteryi in Port Lincoln as it is native to North America; the species may have crossed continents via ship ballast water. The gulfs in this area are teeming with sea grasses that support shrimp fisheries and are home to cuttlefish, leafy sea dragons, and bottlenose dolphins.

Flinders Range and Coober Pedy
Next Kathy and Joel traveled inland through Flinders Range encountering spectacular fauna including emus, eastern grey-kangaroos, rose-breasted cockatoos (or galah) and laughing kookaburra. The next stop was Coober Pedy, noted for their opal mines. Kathy found an opal potch, dull in comparison to jewelry or precious opal because the internal structure of the potch is less “organized” and does not diffract light the same way. Some inactive mines have been turned into underground campgrounds, one of which Kathy and Joel camped in.

Naracoorte and Tantanoola Caves
Heading southeast, Kathy and Joel were drawn to the World Heritage limestone Naracoorte Caves. Eroded by ground water the caverns were excellent traps for terrestrial creatures for 500,000 years. The perished megafauna were much larger than they are today and bones from over 100 species have been found to date. Nearby are the Tantanoola caves with stalactites that look like “falling caramel.”

Underground camping in Coober Pedy (left) and the Tantanoola Caves (right).

Underground camping in Coober Pedy (left) and the Tantanoola Caves (right). Photos: Kathy Conlan

Kathy scuba diving with a grouper on the Great Barrier Reef.

Kathy scuba diving with a grouper on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Oak Beach Productions, Port Douglas, Australia

Undara and the Great Barrier Reef
When Mount Undara erupted the lava radiating from the mountain flowed like molasses. The outer surface of the flows cooled forming a crust, and hotter liquids continued to flow underneath the crust, “like water in a hose.” When all the lava had flowed through, tunnels remained. Kathy and Joel walked throughout the lava tubes, which can flood during rainstorms.

The tour, and talk, ended with a diving session on the Great Barrier Reef. We saw cleaner shrimps, goby, lionfish, Moorish idol, humphead wrasse, leaf scorpionfish, seahorses and clown fish hiding among the magnificent fan, stony, zoanthid and soft corals. Sea turtles passed overhead and grouper said hello, before Kathy bid members good night.



Year in review: 135th Annual OFNC Business Meeting

By Natalie Sopinka


Diane Lepage holding award from Nature Canada for OFNC’s volunteer efforts during the 2013 BirdLife International Congress.

With over 30 members in attendance at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Interpretive Centre, the 135th OFNC Annual Business Meeting was called to order by President Fenja Brodo.

Some notable sightings were discussed first including a merlin enjoying a feast of pigeon and playful house finches bathing in a divot of ice.

Fondly remembered were Bob Bracken, one of the most formidable birders in Ottawa, Gordon Pringle (Birds Committee), and Violetta Csazak.

Rob Alvo shared his Christmas Bird Count successes during a recent trip to Arizona. For members traveling in the future, he highly recommends checking out Birding Pal to meet up with local birders wherever your destination may be.

Committee updates

The Awards Committee reviewed the 2012 recipients who are featured in the latest issue of The Canadian Field-Naturalist (CFN 127(4)).

The Birds Committee had a busy year working on the new Ottawa-Gatineau birders’ checklist, volunteering countless hours to the 2013 BirdLife International Congress, preparing for the 2014 Ontario Field Ornithologist’s Annual Conference to be held here in Ottawa, and initiating a local chapter of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP).

The Conservation Committee is back in action with Owen Clarkin leading the troops.

Members of the Education and Publicity Committee were thrilled with sales of OFNC merchandise and have launched several new items including a bookmark and a lens wipe.

The Excursions and Lectures Committee was rebranded as the Events Committee. With over 50 events organized in 2013, this year is also sure to be filled with many exciting hikes, workshops, and socials. Stay abreast of upcoming events by visiting the OFNC website.

CFN issue 127(4) - complete with videos of lynxes

CFN issue 127(4) – complete with videos of lynxes

The Publications Committee was applauded for publishing five issues of CFN in 2013, bringing the journal back on schedule! See another new issue here.

The Macoun Field Club held a number of field trips throughout the area. Read about the adventures of young naturalists here.

As always the Fletcher Wildlife Garden was teeming with activity, from invasive plant removal to soil and social science research.

New business

In light of upcoming changes to the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, a committee has been formed to amend the OFNC Constitution and By-Laws. Once completed, drafts will be published online and in CFN and Trail & Landscape.

The OFNC will be updating its website; let us know what you want and don’t want to see on a new site. Send your thoughts and feedback to Lynn Ovenden (bigskies@xplornet.ca).

Meeting minutes will be published in an upcoming issue of CFN. For those members on Twitter, the business meeting was live-tweeted via the OFNC Twitter feed. Follow OFNC on Twitter!

Turkey vulture vomit and memories of Lac Deschênes

By Natalie Sopinka

At the November monthly meeting members were treated to an overview of the Ontario Nature Youth Summit by OFNC ambassador Sarah Wray, and amazed by Bruce Di Labio’s ability to recall memories of birding at Lac Deschênes.

Sarah Wray attends youth summit
When she’s not playing soccer and basketball, you can find Sarah Wray, a grade 10 student at Nepean High School, volunteering in the FWG’s Butterfly Meadow. This year Sarah was sponsored by the OFNC to attend the 4th annual Ontario Nature Youth Summit held at the YMCA Geneva Park in Orillia. Sarah enthusiastically shared her stories and photos from the summit with OFNC members at the meeting.

During the summit Sarah learned how to identify edible mushrooms and medicinal plants and take photographs of wildlife from unique and unusual perspectives. She also found out which birds of prey vomit. Sarah’s new favourite bird, the turkey vulture, will vomit when under the threat of predation in hopes their regurgitated stomach contents will distract the predator.

The summit’s keynote speaker was Canadian filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart, whose words inspired and motivated Sarah. Sarah told OFNC members that it’s “not just polar bears” that need our attention; we must also consider the many small-scale and local conservation issues that need to be addressed too. Find out more about the summit here!

Youth Summit attendees. Photo: Brendan Toews

Youth Summit attendees. Photo: Brendan Toews

Bruce Di Labio’s work at Lac Deschênes
Bruce Di Labio is tackling local conservation issues through his work on the Lac Deschênes IBA (important bird area). The large lake, comprising various habitats (e.g., grasslands, deep waters, mud flats, rapids), is a valuable feeding and resting stop for birds that travel between James and Hudson Bays and the Atlantic shores. Over 350 species have been recorded in the Lac Deschenes IBA, with several new species spotted since 2011 (e.g., razorbill, violet-green and cave swallow).

Merganser family at Lac Deschênes. Photo: Don Hackett

Merganser family at Lac Deschênes. Photo: Don Hackett

Bruce started birding at Lac Deschênes when a bicycle was his only mode of transport and a pay phone call to alert fellow birders cost 10¢. At the meeting, he took OFNC members on a journey through his meticulously kept records. He first observed Arctic terns in Lac Deschênes on June 11, 1972, their distinctive short legs perched on log booms. Armed with 10-pound Tasco binoculars, Bruce observed over 2000 red throated loons circle frantically through the air on a foggy day in November 1984. An army of 2500 black scoters flew in on October 21, 1987 and an epic 11 000 brant on May 26, 2011. Be sure to check out Bruce’s Lac Deschênes birding spots: Britannia Point, Britannia Pier, Dick Bell Park and Shirleys Bay. More on Lac Deschênes here!

Continuing bird records will ensure Lac Deschenes remains an IBA. Although the Bird Status Line is no longer in service due to operating costs, members can still submit counts to the OFNC (ofnc@ofnc.ca) and Bob Cermak (sightings@ofnc.ca).

The meeting ended with Bruce receiving one of the OFNC’s new lens wipes. The lens wipe attaches to your camera, binoculars, hand lens and glasses. Lens wipes are on sale now for $8 each or 2 for $15. Also available are handcrafted maple hiking sticks donated by Gillian Marsden ($20 each).

Compact and expanded form of the new lens wipe. Makes a great stocking stuffer!

Compact and expanded form of the new lens wipe. Makes a great stocking stuffer!