Apr 272017
 

On April 26, I was extremely surprised and excited to hear a Whip-poor-will calling from the field out behind our house (7th Line Smith & Peacock St. area in Selwyn Township …. near the Otonabee River).  It was about 8:45 pm when I heard it, and it “sang” it’s classic repeating call for about 5 minutes (stopping for a couple short breaks).  It was a lovely mild evening…a couple bats were flying over our backyard, full choruses of spring peepers and chorus frogs were coming from a nearby wetland, a woodcock was peenting and flying around the field, and even some wild turkeys were gobbling from their nearby roost!  This was our first time ever hearing a Whip-poor-will in our area.

 

Whip-poor-will (Karl Egressy)

Whip-poor-will (on ground) and Common Nighthawk flying above – Wikimedia

 

Apr 262017
 

The ice left Stoney Lake on April 12 this year, which is a little earlier than I had anticipated this year. I have included the dates of freeze-up and ice-out for the past few years. I know I have older records and will send them along. Freeze-up in 2015 was an anomaly as the lake didn’t freeze until into 2016. In 2002 or 2003 we had a somewhat similar freeze-up – the difference being that Northey’s Bay had frozen in late December, but the main lake stayed open until about the 15th of January. Dennis Johnson, Northey’s Bay Road

Year   Freeze-up           Ice-out
2017     TBD                     12-Apr
2016     15-Dec                 01-Apr
2015     5-Jan, 2016         17-Apr

2014     13-Dec                  24-Apr
2013     13-Dec                  20-Apr
2012     26-Dec                  23-Mar
2011      27-Dec                 15-Apr
2010     09-Dec                  02-Apr
2009     13-Dec                  13-Apr
2004     14-Dec                  18-Apr

Tundra Swans on ice on Pigeon Lake – March 5, 2017 – photo by Rick and Marge Decher

Apr 262017
 

On the afternoon of April 23, Sylvia and I went for a walk in the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary. When up on the drumlin, where the Tree Swallow boxes are, we met two young women birders who said they had just seen what they thought was a Northern Mockingbird. Almost on command the bird appeared and flew away from us. My first for the County. Who said the Wildlife Sanctuary never had any interesting birds! That semi-open area is perfect mockingbird habitat, and I’ll be checking to see if it stays around.    Jim Cashmore, Peterborough

Northern Mockingbird – Gord Mallory

 

 

 

Apr 202017
 

One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is a sense of wonder in the natural world and how everything in nature can be explained by science and critical thinking. And nowhere is there a better example of the power of critical thinking than when it comes to evolution. Even though a full understanding of the mechanisms of evolution requires an understanding of genetics, children can usually grasp the essential components by age seven or eight. These components are variation (individuals in a population of the same species can vary somewhat in their traits), inheritance (traits are inherited from parents and passed on to offspring), natural selection (life forms with traits that help them to survive and reproduce are most likely to pass on these traits to the next generation) and time (major change usually takes thousands of generations or more).

Effective questioning 

Thoughtful questioning not only serves to clarify the components of evolution but also helps elicit a sense of wonder, curiosity and deeper appreciation of nature itself. Start by encouraging children to look in detail at the organism or behavior in question. Ask them to describe what they see and why they think the plant or animal looks or behaves that way. Always use the language of beauty and awe: “Isn’t a woodpecker amazing! Imagine yourself making a living this way!” Ask open-ended questions starting with “Why?” or “What do you think?” Encourage the kids to do the same. If they don’t know the answer, help them come up with a reasonable hypothesis — an educated guess. Model this yourself. Later, follow up with an Internet search. Remember that it’s perfectly fine to say “I don’t know” or “Scientists don’t have an answer yet.”

Pileated Woodpecker – Jeff Keller

Time activities

One of the hardest things for kids and adults alike to grasp is the concept of evolutionary time and numbers like a million or a billion. Counting can be helpful here. Ask a child to count to a 100. This might take 30 seconds if they count quickly. At that rate, counting to a 1,000 takes about 5 minutes, to 100,000 takes a day’s work (10 hours), to a million takes two weeks work, to 100 million takes five years work, and to a billion takes a whole working life. Imagine how long a billion years is!

Toilet Paper Timeline: This is a fun way to help children visualize the massive amount of time that life on Earth has had to evolve. You’ll need a roll of toilet paper of 450 sheets (tear off 50 from a roll of 500), sticky notes and a long hall or open area outdoors. Explain that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and that life first emerged about 3.5 billion years ago. You might add that we don’t yet fully understand how life began, but scientists are getting closer and closer to the answer.

Toilet paper roll

If you are going outside, choose a calm day. Unroll the entire roll of toilet paper. Each square of toilet paper represents about ten million years. Write down each stage (see below) on a sticky note. Attach the sticky notes to the squares indicated. Take the kids on a walk along the timeline and discuss as you go. Be enthusiastic and use the language of wonder! Note: BYA = billion years ago; MYA = million years ago 4.5 BYA: Earth is formed, along with the other planets (square 1), 3.7 BYA: Earth’s crust solidifies (square 80), 3.5 BYA: first life appears in oceans (square 100), 3.25 BYA: photosynthesis begins in oceans (square 125), 2.4 BYA: oceans contain significant amounts of oxygen (square 260), 1.9 BYA: first cells with nuclei appear in oceans (square 310),  650 MYA: first multicellular organisms appear (square 385), 500 MYA: first land life (square 400 ), 250 MYA: massive volcanic eruption kills mass extinction of 96 percent of all life (square 425), 245 MYA: Age of Dinosaurs begins (square 426), 200 MYA: the first mammals appear (square 430), 150 MYA: supercontinent breaks up and continents drift apart (square 435),  65 MYA: Asteroid impact ends Age of Dinosaurs and kills 70 percent of all life  (square 444),  3.5 MYA: first early humans appear in Africa (last square, 3.6 cm from the end),  100,000 years ago: first Homo sapiens, our species, appears (last square, 1 mm from end),  10,000 years ago: recorded human history begins (last square, 0.1 mm from end)

More activities

1.  See your DNA: Believe it or not, it’s easy to see your own DNA, the recipe that makes you. Mix a half-quart (500 ml) of drinking water with 1 tbsp (45 g) of salt and stir until salt is dissolved. Transfer 3 tbsp (14 ml) of salt water into a clear glass. Swirl the salt water around in your mouth for 1 minute. Spit the water back into the glass. Cheek cells will be suspended in the salt water. Gently stir the salt water with one drop of clear dish soap. (Note: Soap breaks down the cell membranes, releasing the DNA.) In a separate glass, mix 7 tbsp (105 g) of isopropyl alcohol and 3 drops of food coloring. Tilt the salt-water cup and gently pour the alcohol–food color mixture so that it forms a layer on top (about 1 in. /2 cm thick). 8. Wait 2 ½ minutes. You should see small white clumps and strings forming. That’s your DNA!

2.  Camouflaged Eggs: The eggs of birds that nest on the ground (e.g., killdeer, ruffed grouse) are highly camouflaged, not just in colour but in pattern, too. These birds will also choose ground (e.g., dark sand instead of light sand) that offers the best match to the egg color and pattern. In other words, birds and their eggs have evolved to maximize camouflage. Species that nest in cavities often lay all-white eggs, since camouflage is not a concern. For this activity, you’ll need hard-boiled eggs and different colored markers or tempera paint.

Show the children pictures of real eggs from ground-nesting birds. Discuss the most effective colours and patterns. Visit a natural area where the eggs will be hidden. Ask the children to think about how to best camouflage their eggs. Each child then takes two to three eggs and uses paint or markers to colour and mark them. Have them hide their eggs in a designated area. Hide a few unpainted white eggs as well for comparison. Excluding their own eggs, how many can they then find in two minutes? Which were the best camouflaged?

Cedar Waxwing nest with eggs – Wikimedia

3. Adaptations Scavenger Hunt: For many plants and animals, spring is a time of mating and reproduction. Over millions of years, special adaptations have evolved to make this process possible. These include adaptations for attracting a mate, defending a breeding site and, in the case of plants, evolving ways to have their genes spread by the wind or by animal pollinator.

Make up a list of common adaptations to look for and give each child a copy. Briefly discuss the purpose of each adaptation. Here are a some ideas: 1. brightly colored flowers (attract pollinators), 2. flowers with a strong scent (attract pollinators), 3. flowers with lines or spots on petals (guide pollinator to nectar), 4. a “catkin” flower (e.g., poplar) hanging like a caterpillar from the twig (easily jostled by wind, thereby spreading the pollen), 5. a bird chasing another away (defending nest or territory) 6. brightly colored male birds like a mallard or cardinal (attract a mate), 7. a dull-coloured female bird (camouflage on nest), 8. male birds singing (attract a mate, defend territory)

Visit an area where the kids are likely to find the flowers and birds in the list. They may want to use a camera to take pictures of the adaptations. Encourage them to add other probable adaptations that they see. Share and discuss.

4. Meet the Beast Within You:  In this activity, kids will learn about our remnant body parts and behaviors that link us to our distant past. Our ancestors needed these “vestiges” in order to survive. Our bodies still carry dozens of reminders of how we used to be millions years ago. However, humans are very different now. We no longer walk on all fours and don’t wear a thick coat of fur. Over time, we have evolved into the bare-skinned and big-brained creatures we are today.

Ask the kids to try the following: 1. Feel their coccyx at the bottom of their backbone. It is the remnant of a lost tail. 2. Using a mirror, look at their canine teeth. They were very useful to early humans for tearing tough flesh. Compare to those of a dog (show picture). 3. Using a mirror, have them make a big, toothy smile. Smiles were a way for early humans to scare away an enemy. Their meaning has changed! 4. Ask if anyone can wiggle their ears? Early humans could do this to help in hearing, just like dogs today. Because of a genetic mutation, only some people can do it now. 5. Have them put their arm in cold water until goose bumps appear. These bumps were the body’s way to erect the thick fur we once had. This made us look larger and more ferocious. Show a picture of a dog with its back hair raised. Ask why our hairy coats may have disappeared?

Coccyx (in red) (Photo by DBCLS)

Earth Day should be about more than picking up litter. Make it a celebration of our planet’s amazing biodiversity and the process behind life’s myriad forms – evolution.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 142017
 

Spring is springing forth at a rapid pace now – hard to keep up! I was so excited to see a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in the brushy trees near our house this morning -just classic and unmistakable -white eye ring and white wing bars, and he even showed a bit of red on the crown just to be sure! When he sang, I thought I was hearing a much bigger bird.

Jane Bremner, Warsaw

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a prominent eye ring. (Karl Egressy)

Apr 132017
 

Kids make great amateur scientists. They love to ask “why” questions. “Why is the monarch butterfly so colourful? Why does it start life as a caterpillar? Why does it migrate? Thanks to Charles Darwin, we now understand that questions such as these are entitled to an evidence-based answer – and it is the theory of evolution that provides the answer. To quote evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Rather than taking away from the wonder of nature, understanding evolution only adds to it. There are so many mysteries in nature that we’ve not yet solved.

Children merit a truthful and passionate introduction to the natural world around them, especially if we are to harness their innate curiosity. Once children get a sense of how evolution works – and eventually link it to themselves – their eyes light up with wonder. I remember one little girl in grade 4 saying, “You mean we’re animals!” Without a basic understanding of evolution, nature study – and much of biology – risks becoming the memorization of species names and facts.

Students watching Monarch emerge from chrysalis (Photo: Drew Monkman)

Unfortunately, there’s a perception among many parents and teachers that evolution is hard to explain, or that they’ll get something wrong. It’s really not that difficult at all. Conversations about evolution should be done in context. Allow the children to think the process through themselves. A discussion might go something like this. “Look at that animal over there. What is it? (a squirrel). Is a squirrel a bird, an insect or a mammal? (mammal). How do you know? (It has hair). Okay, well if we lived at the North Pole and we saw a squirrel, do you think it would have more or less hair? (more) Why? (to help it stay warm). So, if the weather here was to get colder and colder every year, what do you think would happen with the squirrels? (develop more hair). Well, you’re right, because there’s always a chance that when baby squirrels are born, some may have more hair than others. This will help these lucky ones to survive, find a mate and have babies. They don’t “try” to have more hair; it just happens by chance. Eventually, all of the squirrels may end up with more hair, since they might be the only ones to survive the colder weather.”

In a nutshell, evolution can be explained to children like this: 1. All creatures struggle to survive and have babies, but many fail. 2. Creatures born with a helpful trait (e.g., a longer bill) are more likely to survive and have babies. 3. Parents pass on the useful trait(s) to their young. 4. Over time, these new traits can lead to a new species – one that can only have babies with its own kind.

Human origins

Eventually, the question of human origin will come up. You might say something like this: “In Africa, there were once primates (e.g., monkeys, lemurs and apes) that were similar to modern day chimpanzees. They became separated into two groups. One continued to live in forests, spent a lot of time in trees and usually walked and climbed on all fours. The other group moved into more open fields and had to spend more time on the ground. Over time, the second group started acting differently like walking upright, which is better for seeing long distances above the grass. Over about seven million years (it takes about three days to count to a million, non-stop) the differences between the groups increased, until the second group became more or less like we are today, and the first group became chimpanzees. That’s what evolution is: if living things find themselves in a new environment- let’s say living in fields instead of forests – they change over time in order to survive. As for humans, we evolved to have big, smart brains in order to “think” our way to meeting our needs. For example, we began to build tools and to develop language. Scientists have found fossils of many of our human ancestors.” A great video to watch with children eight or older can be found by Googling “Khan academy + human evolution overview”.

Model of Homo erectus, an early species of human – Wikimedia

If kids ask about explanations that don’t align with evolution, tell them not to accept what others say – even Mom and Dad – but to focus on evidence. This includes fossils, the amazing similarities in the fetuses and bodies of humans and all other vertebrates and the similarities in the genes, which you can explain as the recipes for making plants and animals. Tell them that when scientists look at chimpanzee genes, they are practically identical to those of human genes. We even share more than half our genes with bananas! Kids are great critical thinkers if you give them a chance.

Activities

1. Small changes: This activity shows how small changes over time make a big difference. Draw a simple bug on the first page of a stack of paper. Then pass the paper on to another person and have them draw the bug as exactly as they can. They should move the original to the bottom of the stack. Have them pass their copy onto the next person who will try to reproduce the bug. Don’t forget to hide the previous version under the stack. Do this at least ten times. Compare the original to the “evolved” bug. Was there much of a difference? All it takes is a small change (mutation) in each generation to create huge change over time. Think of how birds evolved from dinosaurs!

2. What’s bugging you? Here’s an interactive story about bugs, which can help young children understand the concept of evolution. “Let’s say I release 100 bugs onto a green lawn. Fifty are green and 50 are brown. Now, which bugs do you think will best be able to hide from enemies like bug-eating birds? (Most kids will say green ones.) So, if I go back in a few years, would I find more green or more brown bugs? (green again). And, what color will the babies of the green bugs be? (green). That’s right. Just as your mom or dad passed on a certain trait like your blue eyes, the parent green bugs will pass on the green color to their babies. (Now comes the tricky part.) Let’s say some green bugs that usually live on green lawns get blown in a storm to an island where there is mostly brown sand. Life will be hard. However, once in a rare while, a pair of these green bugs might produce a brown baby. This is because little mistakes sometimes happen in how an animal’s body makes a baby. Do you think those rare brown babies would escape enemies more easily? (yes). And, if the rare brown bugs live a little longer because they can hide better, do you think they may have more babies than the green bugs? (Most kids will agree.) What color would most of the babies be? (brown.)

As the years go by, brown bugs will become more and more common. Color isn’t the only thing that might change, however. Because a sandy habitat offers fewer places to hide, the babies that are born with other good traits for hiding — once again because of a mistake in how the parents’ body makes a baby — would end up surviving more easily. Such a trait might be bigger, stronger front legs that are good for digging hiding spots in the sand. Now, let’s say that hundreds of years later, there is another huge storm. Some of the brown bugs get blown off the island and end up on the grassy lawns where their ancestors came from. Would they have trouble surviving? (Kids should say, yes.) Well, that’s not the only problem they would have. Other than eating, what else do all animals do? (Prompt someone to say, “have babies.”) Well, imagine a male brown sand bug meets a female green lawn bug (or vice versa). She might just chase him away or completely ignore him. She won’t want to make babies with him because, being brown and having huge front legs, he looks so different. At this point, we can say that the green lawn bugs and the brown sand bugs have evolved into two different species. Just like horses and zebras!)

Kids are fascinated by living things and why they look and behave as they do (Photo: Drew Monkman)

3. Paper circles game: This is a hands-on version of part of the story above. It shows how nature “decides” (natural selection) who survives and has babies. Using a whole punch, make 50 sand-brown and 50 grass-green paper circles. You might want to use paint sample cards. Sprinkle 20 of each colour on a green lawn. Give the children maybe 30 seconds to remove as many of the little circles as they can (but only one at a time). Then, count the number of circles of each colour that were picked up. For every circle that remains on the grass (20 minus number picked up), add 3 or so of the same colour. This represents reproduction. Repeat the activity for a couple of more “generations”. The children will see how the “population” on the lawn shifts towards the colours that are hardest to see. You can then try the same activity on sand.

Next week, I’ll provide more activities and thoughts on teaching evolution. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than helping kids understand the reason for our Earth’s huge diversity of life!

 

Apr 062017
 

When I used to hear the words ‘brook trout’, the image that came to mind was a pristine lake in Algonquin Park. Well, that image has changed. What I now see is a tiny stream running along Rye Street in this busy commercial and industrial sector of southwest Peterborough. As surprising as it may sound, this branch of Harper Creek is an urban coldwater stream and home to a native brook trout population – an ecological gem that no other urban area in the entire province can claim. And, if wasn’t for the work of a 15-year-old boy, we would know far less about these fish.

A female Brook Trout on her redd in Harper Creek – Don McLeod

Harper Creek originates in Stenson Park, which is located just north of Stenson Boulevard. One branch of the creek can be seen flowing adjacent to the CPR rail-line on the east side of Harper Road. Another flows through the ditch along the north side of Rye Street. Both are cold water streams which eventually discharge into Byersville Creek and on into the Otonabee River.

The south tributaries flow through Harper Park, a 60 hectare (150 acre), municipally-owned, protected natural area. Roughly speaking, the Park is bordered by Westview Village condominiums and Holy Cross high school to the north, Harper Road to the east, Ramblewood Drive to the west and Fleming Drive to the south. Much of the park, as well as parts of the surrounding area, form a wetland which was recently designated as Provincially Significant. These wet meadows, forested swamp and marsh provide habitat to many locally-unique species of native plants and animals. The wetland is particularly significant because it contains numerous areas of groundwater seepage and coldwater springs which flow into Harper Creek. The bad news, however, is that Harper Park and the creek itself are under threat from multiple developments in the area, including the OLG casino and associated road development.

Bowman Study

The Harper Creek brook trout population is entirely wild; in other words, it is free from interbreeding with hatchery fish. This alone is a rarity. It is believed that the very substantial groundwater flow and coldwater springs have allowed the fish to persist in the creek despite channelization of some sections (e.g., along Rye Street), industrial development, storm sewer outflows and the dumping of fill into the stream bed.

Up until recently, this population was never systematically studied. We don’t know, for example, how it has reacted to the many pressures listed above. Now, new developments along the stream such as the casino are likely to create additional stressors such as increased water turbidity (e.g., suspended solids like silt), increased artificial lighting and periods of more salt in the water from winter road maintenance.

In the last three years, however, our knowledge of the Harper Park brook trout has increased a great deal, thanks largely to the work of 14-year-old Jacob Bowman. Jacob has had a personal interest in brook trout all his life. In 2014, when he was just 12, Jacob started studying the Harper Creek trout as a Peterborough Regional Science Fair project. In addition to making regular observations of the fish themselves, he sampled water temperature, water depth and the presence of invertebrates at various locations throughout the Harper Creek system. He found that the northern branch along Rye Street had the narrowest annual range of water temperature (9.5°C) and was both the coldest section in summer and the warmest in winter. Harper Creek, within the boundary of Harper Park, had the second narrowest temperature range (12.5°C), ranging from 3.5°C in winter to 16°C in summer. All other sections of the creek system had a far greater range. For example, during the extreme heat of July 2016, these sections reached temperatures of 20°C, which is close to the maximum temperature trout can cope with. At the same time, however, the northern branch was only 15°C. This was the coldest of all sites measured, and trout were observed here over the entire course of the study. Other sections of the creek system have less stable water temperatures and levels, which have led to highly variable occupancy by trout.

Jacob Bowman sampling invertebrates in Harper Creek in January, 2016. The local teen has been studying the ecology of Harper Creek since he was 12. (Photo by Jeff Bowman)

As Jacob has demonstrated, brook trout are highly sensitive to water temperature, especially when it comes to spawning and egg incubation. The fish spawn any time from October to late November and usually choose shallow, gravel bottom sites, where spring water keeps the eggs well-oxygenated and relatively warm during winter. Prior to hatching, the eggs will need two to three months of development. They emerge from the eggs in February to March, but an egg sac is still attached. In this “alevin” stay, the fish remain in the protective gravel of the redd (nest), and all of their nutritional needs are provided by the egg sac. The sac slowly shrinks and the “fry” start swimming up from the bottom in March or April.

Water from natural springs is warmed by geothermal heat from the earth. This will keep spring-fed creeks at water temperatures of between 5 and 10C, in contrast to surface water creeks which often see temperatures in winter drop to 0 C. Without this warming effect, successful egg development in brook trout is not possible.

From a water temperature perspective, the northern branch is the highest quality trout habitat that Jacob assessed in the Harper Creek system. Trout in this branch are buffered from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. This allows them to save energy and enjoy enhanced survival compared to other sections of the creek.

New study  

Jacob’s work has proven to be the catalyst for more research. The Peterborough Field Naturalists and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters are now partnering with Trent University to conduct a new, two-year comprehensive study of Harper Creek brook trout. The study will use a technique known as fish telemetry, in which acoustic tags are implanted in the fish. The tags are small, sound-emitting devices that allow the detection and/or remote tracking of fish in three dimensions. The study will begin this spring with the tagging of 20 brook trout Each trout will carry a radio tag weighing less than one gram, which minimizes impacts on the fish’s behaviour. Harper Creek brook trout are quite small, averaging only 7 inches – too small for anglers to keep. The research will be conducted by Scott Blair, a Trent graduate student.

The study will track the brook trout’s seasonal movements and habitat use. Parameters such as water temperature, salinity, turbidity, prey availability and the abundance of other fish species will also be monitored. All of this information will be used to create a habitat model as well as identifying how human impacts are, and will be, affecting the fish. Like Jacob Bowman’s study, the researchers will be able to identify the most valuable brook trout habitat, project the potential impact of planned developments in the area and inform mitigation measures to protect this valuable population.

You or your organization can collaborate in this research, too, thanks to a program called “Fund and Follow a Fish”. Two options are available. You can fund an individual fish by covering the cost of its $200, hand-made tag, or you can simply make a donation in any amount to the research effort in general. By covering the cost of a tag, you will be connected directly to an individual brook trout. You will receive a picture of your fish; information about its gender, length, weight and unique traits; data about where and when it moves within Harper Creek; and a copy of the entire study when published. A picture of you and your trout – you can give it a name! – will be posted on the Harper Park website. Most importantly, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your funding will help researchers reveal the hidden life history of the beautiful ‘brookies’ in Harper Creek. At a time when approximately 80% of the brook trout populations in Southern Ontario have disappeared, you will be helping the Trent University team gather information that could help conserve brook trout in other communities. Go to peterboroughnature.org/harper-park/trout-study/ for detailed instructions on how to make your donation.

Recommendations

The Harper Creek system is small, isolated and fragmented. It is often difficult for the various sub-populations of the fish to move from one section of the Creek to another. Harming any of the trout populations – and especially ones of high quality such as along Rye Street – will reduce the overall population size and increase the risk of all Harper Creek brook trout disappearing.

A section of Harper Creek runs in a ditch along the north side of Rye Street in Peterborough (photo: Drew Monkman)

 

Like many people in Peterborough, Jacob is concerned about the anticipated impacts from the proposed casino development and the Harper Road realignment. Any development in the area needs to maintain or enhance the connectedness of creeks in the system as well as the overall amount of cold water (including groundwater) habitat accessible to the trout.

One option may be to leave the northern branch where it is, and to plant native trees and vegetation along the edge to further protect the creek from disturbance. Failing this, it may be possible to redirect the stream to within the protected natural area. Success, however, will depend primarily on intercepting groundwater sources. Failure to do so will lead to the loss of this trout population and possibly all of the Harper Creek brook trout. And, if you’re wondering about Jacob’s science fair project, he ended up winning in his category and bought himself some fishing equipment. You won’t find him fishing in Harper Creek, however!

To see more pictures of Harper Park fish and wildlife, go to donaldmcleod.com/Stories

 

 

 

Apr 062017
 

Happy spring! Today, April 4, there were 2 Osprey on the nesting platform in Young’s Point.  Most of Stony is still frozen but there were pair of absolutely resplendent Common Loons dancing and calling. Rob Welsh, Stoney Lake 

This morning, April 5, I heard my first Common Loon (Upper Buckhorn Lake near Six Foot Bay).  I thought I heard one a couple of days ago, but sure this time. Antonia Sinclair, Buckhorn

Ospreys on Selwyn Road – Jeff Keller

Common Loon (Karl Egressy)

Apr 052017
 

Three recent studies point to just how broad, bizarre, and potentially devastating climate change is to life on Earth. And we’ve only seen one degree Celsius of warming so far.

Source: The Guardian   Author: Jeremy Hance    Date: Wednesday 5 April 2017

Climate change is rapidly becoming a crisis that defies hyperbole. For all the sound and fury of climate change denialists, self-deluding politicians and a very bewildered global public, the science behind climate change is rock solid while the impacts – observed on every ecosystem on the planet – are occurring faster in many parts of the world than even the most gloomy scientists predicted.
Given all this, it’s logical to assume life on Earth – the millions of species that cohabitate our little ball of rock in space – would be impacted. But it still feels unnerving to discover that this is no longer about just polar bears; it’s not only coral reefs and sea turtles or pikas and penguins; it about practically everything – including us.

Three recent studies have illustrated just how widespread climate change’s effect on life on our planet has already become.
There has been a massive under-reporting of these impacts. “It is reasonable to suggest that most species on Earth have been impacted by climate change in some way or another,” said Bret Scheffers with the University of Florida. “Some species are negatively impacted and some species positively impacted.” Scheffers is the lead author of a landmark Science study from last year that found that current warming (just one degree Celsius) has already left a discernible mark on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species’ genetics, seasonal responses, overall distribution, and even morphology – i.e. physical traits including body size and shape.

Woodland salamanders are shrinking in the Appalachian Mountains; the long-billed, Arctic-breeding red knot is producing smaller young with less impressive bills leading to survival difficulties. Marmot and martens in the Americas are getting bigger off of longer growing seasons produce more foodstuffs, while the alpine chipmunks of Yellowstone National Park have actually seen the shape of their skulls change due to climate pressure.

Click here to read entire article

Apr 052017
 

Source: The Conversation: Academic rigor, journalistic flair   Date: April 5, 2017  Authors: Gretta Pecl: Deputy Associate Dean Research, ARC Future Fellow & Editor in Chief (Reviews in Fish Biology & Fisheries), University of Tasmania; Adriana Verges, Senior Lecturer in marine ecology, UNSW  Ekaterina Popova: Senior Lecturer in marine ecology, UNSW; Jan McDonald: Senior Scientist, ocean modelling, National Oceanography Centre

Last year in Paris, for the very first time, English sparkling wine beat champagne in a blind tasting event. Well established French Champagne houses have started buying fields in Britain to grow grapes, and even the royal family is investing in this new venture.

At the same time, coffee-growing regions are shrinking and shifting. Farmers are being forced to move to higher altitudes, as the band in which to grow tasty coffee moves up the mountain.

The evidence that climate change is affecting some of our most prized beverages is simply too great to be ignored. So while British sparkling wine and the beginning of the “coffeepocalypse” were inconceivable just a few decades ago, they are now a reality. It’s unlikely that you’ll find many climate deniers among winemakers and coffee connoisseurs. But there are far greater impacts in store for human society than disruptions to our favourite drinks.

Dramatic examples of climate-mediated change to species distributions are not exceptions; they are fast becoming the rule. As our study published last week in the journal Science shows, climate change is driving a universal major redistribution of life on Earth.

These changes are already having serious consequences for economic development, livelihoods, food security, human health, and culture. They are even influencing the pace of climate change itself, producing feedbacks to the climate system.

Species on the move

Species have, of course, been on the move since the dawn of life on Earth. The geographical ranges of species are naturally dynamic and fluctuate over time. But the critical issue here is the magnitude and rate of climatic changes for the 21st century, which are comparable to the largest global changes in the past 65 million years. Species have often adapted to changes in their physical environment, but never before have they been expected to do it so fast, and to accommodate so many human needs along the way.

For most species – marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species alike – the first response to rapid changes in climate is a shift in location, to stay within their preferred environmental conditions. On average, species are moving towards the poles at 17km per decade on land and 78km per decade in the ocean. On land, species are also moving to cooler, higher elevations, while in the ocean some fish are venturing deeper in search of cooler water.

Why does it matter?

Different species respond at different rates and to different degrees, with the result that new ecological communities are starting to emerge. Species that had never before interacted are now intermingled, and species that previously depended on one another for food or shelter are forced apart.

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Apr 032017
 

My wife, Mathilde, spotted a Virginia Opossum in our backyard on the evening of March 24 at around 9:30. We saw the white face and body by the light from our livingroom windows. It
was eating a pomegranate that she had set out for some robins.

Ralph Colley

Opossum on Johnston Drive, south of Peterborough – Mary Beth Aspinall – Feb. 2014

Apr 032017
 

On March 23 at about 5 pm, I used a hooting call to lure in this fabulous Barred Owl. To our surprise, a female also showed up. They quickly mated, and then hung around for a bit before going their separate ways. We were in the vicinity of Sandy Lake

Susan

Barred Owl – March 23, 2017 – Sandy Lake – Susan

Apr 022017
 

April 2 – I heard a Wilson’s Snipe quietly calling in the marshy area on the Parkway trail, east of Chemong, directly underneath the WalMart parking lot. Also, 3 Northern Leopard Frogs hopping along the new not-yet-opened road that skirts east of the airport as well as 3 Killdeer in the adjacent fields.   Marilyn Freeman

Wilson’s Snipe – Greg Piasetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2 – Cottonwood Drive this morning, we heard a couple of Eastern Phoebes calling. It must be spring! Rob Moos

Eastern Phoebe (David Frank)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 30 – Two Great Blue Herons flying over the Cavan Bog and another north of Whitby.  John Fautley

March 30 – I saw my first Great Blue Heron today. It was flying north over the Otonabee River near Lakefield. Annamarie Beckel

Great Blue Heron – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 64 third year Trent ecology students surveyed the Otonabee River from Lakefield to south of Lock 19, on March 24th.  From 9:00 am to 10:30 am, they did 8 stations north of Trent and from 1 pm to 3 pm, 8 stations south of Trent. Susan Chow

Here are the results: Bufflehead 95, Canada Geese 141, Common Goldeneye 6, Common Merganser 8, Gadwall 1, Greater Scaup 1, Hooded Merganser 86, Lesser Scaup 7, Long-tailed Duck 5, Mallard 369, Wood Duck 3

Long-tailed-Duck – Mar.22 2014 – Little Lake – – DJ McPhail

 

Male Gadwall (photo from Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 17 and 18, there were 50 to 60 Bohemian Waxwings flying back and forth between the conifers along the Otonabee River and two Siberian crab apple trees. The birds were just north of the Ninth Line.

Susan Chow

Bohemian Waxwing – Cow Island – Jan. 24, 2015 – via Sylvia Cashmore