By Bailey Cooke
Every year, the Ottawa Field-Naturalist’s Club hosts an awards night to take the time to say thank you to those who have made major contributions to the club over the previous year. This year, the event will take place Saturday April 18th in the basement of St. Basil’s Church, at 940 Rex Avenue.
All members of the club are welcome to come out and support the many important members who help keep Canada’s oldest natural history club alive. Starting at 7:00 pm sharp, you can come down to socialize and munch on some refreshments to kick off what is sure to be a splendid evening. Browse the Macoun Field Club natural history exhibits, bid on items at the silent auction, and don’t forget to take the time to admire the beautiful art and photography displays that will be competing for the winning title.
At 8:15 pm, OFNC host Rob Alvo and President Fenja Brodo will say a few welcoming words, quickly followed by a brief chat about the Macoun Field Club Projects. Shortly after, the OFNC awards for 2014 will be presented.
The night will wrap up around 10:00 pm but not before the Despotic Natural History Trivia Quiz, remarks from the Ottawa Riverkeeper, as well as the announcement of the winners of the silent auction and the art/photography contest.
Come out and enjoy the night while celebrating this year’s award recipients:
Honorary Member: Ross Layberry
George McGee Service Award: Elizabeth Morton
Member of the Year: Natalie Sopinka
Mary Stuart Education Award: Tom Spears
Conservation – Member: Anouk Hoedeman
Conservation – Non-Member: Paul and Cathy Keddy
President’s Prize: Lis Allison, Bob Cermak
By Bailey Cooke
Bailey Cooke is a second-year University of Ottawa student in environmental science. This winter, Bailey is volunteering with the OFNC through the Community Service Learning program.
Ontario is home to 15 species of snakes, 8 turtles, 1 lizard, 13 frogs/toads, and 11 salamanders. But, with approximately 35% of Ontario’s amphibians and 75% of its reptiles listed as species at risk, chances of spotting some of these rare, hidden jewels are quickly decreasing. Threats, such as habitat loss, traffic mortality, and persecution are putting great pressure on these populations and are quickly leading to declines, and even extirpations.
David Seburn, an Ottawa-area atlas coordinator, came to discuss the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (or Herp Atlas) at the OFNC monthly meeting, Tuesday, March 10 at the Central Experimental Farm’s K.W. Neatby Building. The Herp Atlas, a program of Ontario Nature, seeks to document the status and distribution of the province’s amphibians and reptiles. It follows up on the Ontario Herpetofaunal Summary which began in 1984.
The Herp Atlas uses 10 X 10 km grid squares to map sightings of amphibians and reptiles, reported by interested citizens. Online maps are colour coded to illustrate which areas have recent sightings (green) and which areas have historical sightings (black dots).
Although the atlas is still actively collecting data, some preliminary trends have been noted. A few species appear to have increased their known range (based on the number of grid squares they have been reported from) like the Eastern Foxsnake (8%); this improvement was great news. However, the increased distribution of some species, like the Red-eared Slider (82%), was not as positive. Exotic to Canada, this turtle is most recognized as the typical “pet shop turtle” and is identified as one of the world’s 100 most invasive species. This increase in range is the result of pet owners dumping the turtles into local waters, which may affect native species through competition or the spread of disease.
Unfortunately, a number of species have been reported from fewer grid squares than historically. Both the Queensnake and the Blue Racer appear to have declined by about 70% and many other snakes and most salamanders have apparently declined by approximately 50%. Such declines, if real, are very disturbing news about the health of our amphibian and reptile populations. It is possible that these species have not declined so dramatically, but are just underreported, but without more observations it is hard to know for certain.
The data used to build the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas flow from a variety of partner organizations, researchers, and citizen scientists. In fact, the project is very dependent on sighting submissions from people in the Ottawa community. To contribute, you can report observations (past or present) of amphibians or reptiles online, via email, or by phone. You can also easily submit your data through an app on your smart phone. It is important to remember, however, when participating to respect the wildlife, park rules, legislation, and private property. Although much of the information is available to the public, the atlas does not share exact locations of species at risk with the public.
Telephone: 1-800-440-2366 (extension 243)
App: Ontario Nature – Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (easy to locate if you search for Ontario reptile in iTunes)
Coming soon: Keep an eye out for Google Fusion Maps, which will overlay the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas maps and allow you to discover which species have been spotted in individual 10 x 10 km grid squares across the province.
By Claire Elliott
Every month a dedicated group of OFNC bird enthusiasts meet at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden to discuss bird-related news in the Ottawa region and to plan bird-related events and conservation initiatives. If you have participated in a bird-related OFNC event, visited a bird feeder located in an Ottawa greenspace, or requested help with an ID from email@example.com, there is a good chance you have come in contact with the work of the OFNC Birds Committee.
Weekly Bird Report for Ottawa/Gatineau Region
Every week, notable sightings data is packaged into a report and disseminated on the Ontario Field Ornithologist’s OntBirds email list, the OFNC website, and the OFNC Facebook page. If you are thinking about going birding in the Ottawa region, these reports are a great resource for finding local birding hotspots at any time of year. Due to increasing and widespread concerns regarding disturbance of wildlife and property, the OFNC Birds Committee no longer reports owl sightings on the internet, though reporting of all bird occurrences to the committee is encouraged for the maintenance of local records. Please direct your sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas Bird Count
Since the inaugural Ottawa event in 1920, the OFNC has participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Each December, the Birds Committee in partnership with Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais organizes the Ottawa/Gatineau chapter of the count. New and seasoned volunteers are encouraged to participate each year. The 2014 report will be available shortly on the OFNC website. As well, a write-up on the 2014 event appeared on this blog in late December.
The Ottawa Peregrine FalconWatch began in 1997 as an initiative to protect local nesting falcons and promote the recovery of the species. Each summer, volunteers monitor Peregrine chicks and wait for the young to make their first attempt at flight. Once the young birds gain their wings, volunteers ensure the safety of chicks, rescuing them after any crashes, returning the chicks to the nest, or if necessary seeking medical attention for the chicks. A detailed account of the last FalconWatch season can be found on the FalconWatch website.
Bird Study Group
The Birds Committee occasionally offers workshops and talks on bird-related subjects, including bird identification and biology. The most recent Bird Study Group meeting took place in early December covering winter bird field identification skills in preparation for the 2014 Christmas Bird Count. If you would like to be put on the email list for future Bird Study Group meetings, send an email to email@example.com.
The Ottawa chapter of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) was founded in 2014 by Anouk Hoedeman of the OFNC Birds Committee. This group aims to document bird-building collisions in Ottawa during spring and fall migration, while concurrently raising awareness of collision prevention and bird-friendly building design. For her work, Anouk was awarded the 2014 OFNC Conservation Award. New volunteers to FLAP are always needed. Please contact FLAP at Ottawa@flap.org if you are interested in getting involved this spring.
The Ontario Field Ornithologists’ Convention 2014
In October 2014, the Ontario Field Ornithologists held their annual convention in Ottawa. Many Birds Committee members actively participated in this event, leading field excursions and helping to contribute to the 152 species observed over the weekend. Recently, Birds Committee member Bob Cermak was awarded the OFNC President’s Prize for his contribution to the convention for organizing the OFNC-led field trips.
There are six winter bird feeders in the Ottawa/ Gatineau region that are maintained by the Birds Committee. Maps of the feeder locations can be found on the OFNC website. Stop by to enjoy some winter birds!
If you would like to learn more about the OFNC Birds Committee and their past and present activities, you are encouraged to visit OFNC birding and bird sightings webpages. Membership information on the committee can be found in the April-June issue of Trail and Landscape. Lastly, if you bump into any birds committee members at a meeting or on an outing, feel free to ask about the committee and its activities!
By Natalie Sopinka
The photo at the right captures only a fraction of the birds that died in one year in the Toronto area. The cause of the deaths? Collisions with buildings.
An incident in Ottawa last spring, in which a number of Bohemian waxwings died when they tried to fly through a glass passageway at City Hall prompted Anouk Hoedeman (of the OFNC’s Birds Committee) to do something. On December 3, she held a meeting to discuss forming a group dedicated to preventing, or at least reducing, such collisions. The initiative will be based on the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) in Toronto, which has offered its support along with Nature Canada and the local Wild Bird Care Centre.
There are two parts to the bird-building collision problem. During the day, reflective glass creates a misleading flight path that birds try to fly through. During the evening, birds are drawn to light emanating from higher windows; this can result in direct collisions or birds flying around the lighted area until they are exhausted. Solutions to these problems exist (e.g., non-reflective glass, turning off lights) and members of the new group are keen on publicizing them to prevent bird injuries.
The Ottawa group is still in the early stages of organization. The success of the FLAP Ottawa chapter will depend on dedicated volunteers collecting and recording information on injured/dead birds.
Want to get involved? Please contact Anouk via firstname.lastname@example.org. The chapter’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday January 13, 2014, 7 p.m., at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden Interpretive Centre.
For more information on the history, mission, and accomplishments of FLAP Canada, visit www.flap.org.