Sep 302017
 

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) (1)
– Reported Sep 29, 2017 07:56 by Iain Rayner
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

American Pipit (Anthus rubescens) (8)
– Reported Sep 29, 2017 07:38 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

American Pipit (from The Crossley ID Guide of Eastern Birds)

Sep 262017
 

I was walking in Burnham Woods on the evening of September 1 and came across these strange creatures all over a young beech sapling.  I could see them all rocking back and forth. Strangest sight. Sue Paradisis

Note: After a bit of research, I discovered they are a kind of woolly aphid called Beech Blight Aphids. Click here for more information. D.M.

Beech Blight Aphids – Sue Paradisis

Beech blight aphids 2 – Sue Paradisis JPG

Sep 262017
 

Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a marked decline in the number of Red Squirrels and a steady increase in the number of Gray Squirrels on our property. This year that imbalance may change. For the first time that we are aware, we have had two broods of Red Squirrels rather than just the one.

Back in May, an adult Red Squirrel was seen transferring her young family from a birth site in one tree to a nest cavity in our signature tall White Pine. The trunk separates into two part well above ground level, possibly providing a more commodious home. By May 21, five young were darting back and forth from the nest, exploring their immediate surroundings. It was most entertaining!

By the last week of May, only one youngster was still staying close by the nest cavity when an adult female Gray Squirrel took possession of the nest with five of her own family, chasing off the one remaining Red Squirrel. Again we were entertained by the little ones running about the tree branches and eventually out exploring the surrounding landscape.

On September 6, a Red Squirrel with five young took possession of the same nest cavity. She spent some time gathering new nest material to refurbish the bedding, then possibly tired and hungry after her exertions, took a break to consume fallen sunflower seeds below a nearby bird feeder. (In all three cases the adult female had teats visible on her underside.)

For the third time, we enjoyed the antics of little ones chasing each other about the tree until they too abandoned the nest to make their own way in the world. On September 7, I was able to capture a few photos of the youngsters in the tree and close up at the cavity entrance.

Here’s hoping the survival rate is good.

Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Red Squirrel in White Pine – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel at nest cavity in White Pine  – Stephenie Armstrong

Young Red Squirrel emerging from nest cavity – Stephenie Armstrong

Sep 262017
 

On September 7, a Black Swallowtail caterpillar, was making its way up our gravelled drive. I moved it to a safer location.

On September 9 and 10, we had another new caterpillar in our front garden. It is a fifth instar larval stage of the Hermit Sphinx moth (lintneria eremitus).  It was head down feasting on the stem of an Oregano plant.  I fear our fiddling around to get some pictures proved something of an interruption for a while, but was still happily munching along later in the morning, soon to be changing into its pupal stage I expect.

On September 13, a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was feeding on a cherry tree.

On September 18, we saw about 20 Broad-winged Hawks passing over our property in the morning.  Wonderful to see.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar – Stephenie Armstrong

 

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Peter Armstrong

 

Broad-winged Hawk – Wikimedia

 

Hermit sphinx – Peter Armstrong

 

Hermit sphinx – top view – Peter Armstrong

 

Sep 262017
 

Meredith Carter and our planting crew found this yellowish caterpillar in Lakefield this Saturday during the TD Tree Planting event. I found a similar looking caterpillar – but more light green and pink – in late August up north in Dorset. Any idea what they are?  Erin McGauley

Note: I’m not sure of the species Meredith found, but I believe your caterpillar is a Waved Sphinx. I’ll update this posting if I find out anything more.

Unidentified caterpillar – Lakefield – Sept. 22, 2017 – Meredith Carter

Waved Sphinx caterpillar – Dorset, ON – Erin McGauley

Sep 262017
 

Last February, I photographed this Barred Owl, which was perched on my phone cable – 20′ from the front of the house, in Selwyn Township, just south of Lakefield. About 30′ to each side of him/her were my 2 bird feeders – and not a small bird in sight! It was early evening, and the owl was not one bit bothered that I was standing in the front window clicking away just to get its portrait! Ever optimistic, it stayed around for about 20 minutes. I was absolutely delighted to have it visit.

Also, the owl was heard calling out about 2 or 3 AM one night just last week. Perhaps my bird feeders will get another visit from it soon! Looking forward to fall migration as I am sure you are.

Lynda Gadd

Barred Owl – Feb. 2017 – Selwyn Township – Lynda Gadd

Sep 262017
 

Over the last two weeks, we tagged and released all of the Monarchs we raised in the classroom.  I’m also sending along two photos I took of a Giant Swallowtail at Elmhirst Resort on Rice Lake this past weekend.   Stephanie Benn

Giant Swallowtail – Elmhirst Lodge – Sept. 24, 2017 – Stephanie Benn

Giant Swallowtail 2 – Elmhirst Lodge – Sept. 24, 2017 – Stephanie Benn

 

 

Sep 252017
 

The average North American child can identify over 300 corporate logos, but only 10 native plants or animals – a telling indictment of our modern disconnection from the natural world. Even though children are born with an innate interest in nature, our society does little to nurture this predisposition. It is largely for this reason that Jacob Rodenburg, Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, and I decided four years ago to sit down and write a book to help address this problem.
Released just last week by New Society Publishers, “The Big Book of Nature Activities: A year-round guide to outdoor learning” sets out to answer the question “What can you do outside in nature?” In response, the book provides nearly 150 activities, including games, crafts, drama, and stories. It will also help young and old alike to become more aware of how the sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes of the natural world change from one season to the next. The book is aimed at parents, grandparents, classroom teachers, outdoor educators and youth leaders of all kinds. Much of the information – and many of the activities – will also be of interest to adults, especially if you need to brush up on your own nature skills. Adults should also be interested in the extensive background information on evolution, citizen science projects, nature journaling, nature photography and how to make the most of digital technology,

The Big Book of Nature Activities

The Big Book of Nature Activities

Introduction

We begin the book by discussing the disconnection from nature that characterizes so much of modern society. In an increasingly urbanized world, our children are much more likely to experience the flickering a computer screen or the sounds of traffic than the rhythmic chorus of bird or insect song. And sadly, they can more easily identify corporate logos or cartoon characters than even a few tree or bird species. We therefore ask the questions: Where will tomorrow’s environmentalists and conservationists come from? Who will advocate for threatened habitats and endangered species? What are the impacts on one’s physical and emotional well-being from a childhood or adulthood spent mostly indoors? We then go on to discuss some of the consequences of what the environmental educator Richard Louv calls “Nature Deficit Disorder”.

The activities, species and events in nature, which are described in the book, cover an area extending from British Columbia and northern California in the west to the Atlantic Provinces and North Carolina in the east. This includes six ecological regions such as the Marine West Coast and the Eastern Temperate Forests. In other words, the book applies to most anywhere in North America where there are four seasons.

The introduction also provides ideas on how to raise a naturalist (hint: take your kids camping!), how to get kids outside, how children of different ages respond to nature, how nature can enhance our lives as adults and the importance of being able to identify and name the most common species. We provide lists of 100 continent-wide key species to learn – everything from birds and invertebrates to trees, shrubs and wildflowers – as well as about 50 key regional species. We also introduce the reader to three cartoon characters, namely Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson who will tell stories of the wonder of evolution and the universe throughout the book.

Charles Darwin cartoon character - Kady MacDonald Denton

Our Charles Darwin cartoon character gives examples of the wonder of evolution throughout the book – Kady MacDonald Denton

Basic Skills

Connecting to nature is easier when you have learned some basic skills. In this section, we provide hints for paying attention (be patient and slow down), how to engage all the senses (learn to maximize your sense of smell), how to lead a nature hike (have some “back-pocket” activities ready to go), nature-viewing and traveling games from a car or school bus (do a scavenger hunt), how to increase your chances of seeing wildlife (try sitting in one place), how to bring nature inside (set up a nature table), how to get involved in “citizen science” (start at scistarter.com) and how to connect with nature in the digital age (make the most of your smartphone and social media). The latter section is especially detailed. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, there are actually many ways in which digital technology can inspire people of all ages to explore nature and share their experiences with others.

We also provide information on the basics of birding; insect-watching (butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and moths), plant identification, mushroom-hunting, getting to know the night sky, nature journaling, nature photography, and nature-based geo-caching. Additional basic skills are covered in the activities in the seasons chapters themselves. These include fish-watching, mammal-watching, amphibian- and reptile-watching and tree identification.

Key Concepts

The third chapter in “The Big Book of Nature Activities” deals with four important concepts, which help us to more fully understand and appreciate nature. We start by explaining why we have seasons, and how the tilt of Earth’s axis makes all the difference. This is followed by a discussion of phenology, which is the science of observing and recording “first events”- such as spring’s first lilac bloom or frog song. Next, we talk about how climate change is affecting different habitats and species, and why a connection with nature is so important in light of this threat. Finally, we discuss the importance of understanding evolution and how it is manifested in even the most common backyard species. Armed with a little knowledge of evolution, we can learn to appreciate the wonder that resides in all species, not just the charismatic ones. We also want children to know that science is just beginning to unravel many of the mysteries of evolution and the incredible stories it has revealed. Our Darwin cartoon character tells many of these stories. The good news for young scientists-to-be is that there’s so much we don’t yet understand

The book explains the basics of evolution and natural selection, without getting into the details of genetics. We then provide a story for young children on how evolution might work within a population of imaginary sand bugs. For older children and adults, we go on a “field trip of the imagination” in which we visit our ancestors, starting with our self, our grandfather, our great-grandfather, etc. and ending up at our 185-million-greats-grandfather who, by the way, would have been a fish! This section concludes with a shortened version of Big History, the evidence-based story that takes us from the Big Bang to the present, in which we humans are “star stuff pondering stars”.

The book contains over 400 illustrations.

Hundreds of drawings

 Seasons’ chapters

The four seasons’ chapters make up the heart of the book. Each begins with a summary of some of the key events in flora, fauna, weather and the sky. This includes events that occur across North America as well as happenings that are specific to each region. Most of the activities in the chapter relate to these events. This is followed by a seasonal poem to enjoy and maybe memorize; suggestions for what to display or collect for the nature table;

ideas about what to photograph or record in your nature journal; a short seasonal story called “What’s Wrong with the Scenario” in which you try to spot the mistakes; the story of Black Cap, the Chickadee, which takes you through a year in an individual chickadee’s life and includes activities; and ideas for what to do at your Magic Spot, a special nature-rich area close to home.

The final and largest section of the seasons’ chapters is called “Exploring the season: Things to do.” It comprises 50 or more activities to activate your five senses, keep track of seasonal change, explore evolution, and have fun discovering fascinating aspects of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, plants, fungi, weather and the night sky. We also offer up suggestions on how to make nature part of seasonal celebrations like Thanksgiving. Some of the activities include making a scent cocktail and touch bag, using a roll of toilet paper to create a history-of-life timeline, meeting the “beast” within you, a non-identification bird walk, a woodpecker drumming game, mammal-watching with a trail camera, observing spawning salmon, a frog song orchestra, exploring seaside beaches and tide pools, a “bee dance” drama game, conducting a pond study, “adopting” a tree to observe over an entire year, dissecting flowers, a fungi scavenger hunt, a classroom “hand-generated” thunderstorm, going on a night hike, making tin can constellations, creating your own moon phases, celebrating the winter and summer solstices, ideas for Earth Day, and more. Scattered throughout the activities are suggestions for getting involved in citizen science projects. The book concludes with an appendix with blackline masters for photocopying and a detailed index.

There are 16 pages of colour photos that link to some of the activities.

Sixteen pages of colour photos that link to some of the activities.

The book also contains several hundred drawings, most of which were done by talented Lakefield artist, Judy Hyland. Others were contributed by Kim Caldwell, Kady MacDonald Denton, Jean-Paul Efford and Heather Sadler (drawings by her late father, Doug Sadler). In the middle of the book, you will find a 16-page block of colour photos by the authors and others.

“The Big Book of Nature Activities” is available at Happenstance Books and Yarns at 44 Queen Street in Lakefield (705-652-7535), at Camp Kawartha (1010 Birchview Road, Douro-Dummer), at Chapters (Landsowne Street west in Peterborough) and online at Chapters.Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca. It would make a great end of school year gift. The cost is $39.95. A book launch hosted by Happenstance will be held on July 24, from 2-4 p.m. at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre at 2505 Pioneer Road. For more details and regular updates about the book, please go to drewmonkman.com. The authors can be reached by email at dmonkman1@cogeco.ca and jrodenburg@campkawartha.ca

 

 

 

 

Sep 242017
 

Now’s the time to take in the beauty of autumn at Ontario Parks!

The 2017 Ontario Parks Fall Colour Report is LIVE! Check for the latest colour changes in up to 60 provincial parks across Ontario by using the report’s map and peak-viewing chart. Staff will be updating their park reports every week so check back often for the latest conditions. Climatologists predict brilliant reds and golds, thanks to an abundance of rain.

Mid-September to late October is prime-time viewing when campsites are plentiful and camp cabins and yurts are easier to book.

Algonquin Provincial Park is extremely popular on peak fall colour weekends. Before you visit Algonquin, this is what you need to know.

The Parks Blog also suggests other fall colour parks worth visiting. In Northern Ontario, try these parks. More park choices are found in this fall colour post.

Lots of special events are also planned. Visit the Ontario Parks’ calendar of events for details.

Ontario Parks posts regularly on Twitter and Facebook.

High-resolution, credited photography related to the above can be downloaded from a mini photo library here.

We’ll see you there!

Sarah McMichael

Leaf colour east of Apsley – October 1, 2012

Sep 242017
 

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 08:09 by McLean Smith
– 2 Woodland Dr, Peterborough CA-ON (44.3634,-78.2926), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.363432,-78.292649&ll=44.363432,-78.292649
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39331356
– Comments: “I am not 100% certain as to the ID of this bird, but based on size, shape, and colouration, I am fairly confident in calling it a juvenile Northern Mockingbird. It was perched atop a spruce tree showing a bay to grey overall colouring, with faint mottling on the upper breast and a very faint eye line, with no other discernible features (I did not see it fly to confirm white patches). The only alternative ID I can think of is a juvenile Northern Shrike, but the head appeared too small in relation to the body. Any help or local checklists to confirm or deny would be much appreciated. ”

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 06:12 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Yard – Bear Creek Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5064687,-78.4726858&ll=44.5064687,-78.4726858
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39326314
– Comments: “Hooting to the south”

Barred Owl (Strix varia) (2)
– Reported Sep 21, 2017 17:00 by Chris Risley
– Cottage at Stumpy Bay, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.7255067,-78.2984622&ll=44.7255067,-78.2984622
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39326758
– Comments: “calling across Stumpy Bay”

Sep 242017
 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 10:30 by Scott McKinlay
– Millbrook Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1492506,-78.4480704&ll=44.1492506,-78.4480704
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39345272
– Comments: “Seen with a solitary sandpiper on a mud bar in Millbrook pond. It was slightly smaller than the solitary with browner, lighter upperparts; shorter brighter legs; white belly and breast extending up the side in front of the wing; and it bobbed it’s tail incessantly. ”

Spotted Sandpiper with dragonfly nymph in beak – Lower Buckhorn Lake – June 2016 – Robin Blake

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) (1)
– Reported Sep 22, 2017 10:30 by Scott McKinlay
– Millbrook Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1492506,-78.4480704&ll=44.1492506,-78.4480704
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39345272
– Comments: “Seen on a mud bar with a spotted sandpiper. It had longer legs than the spotted sandpiper, had slatey grey upperparts with fine white speckling, grayish breast, white belly, an eye ring, and straight dark bill about the same length as the head.”

Sep 222017
 

Myriad threats and declines evident in the Kawarthas, too

Living in a country as big and relatively unpopulated as Canada, it might come as a surprise that much of our wildlife is in serious decline. This was made abundantly clear last week when World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF) released its annual Living Planet Report.

WWF studied 3,689 population trends for 903 monitored vertebrate species (mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles) in Canada, for the period 1970 to 2014. Using this database, they developed a national Living Planet Index – similar to a stock market index – to reflect how Canada’s wildlife is faring. The findings surprised even WWF: Half of the monitored species (451 of 903) are in decline, and of these declining species, the average drop is a whopping 83 per cent. Even more surprising, the numbers for at-risk species – those protected by the Species at Risk Act, or SARA – are even worse. SARA-listed populations have continued to decrease by an average of 28% and the rate of decline is actually increasing – all of this, despite protections afforded by the act.

Mammal populations have decreased by 41%, fish by 20% and reptiles and amphibians by 34%. Although overall bird populations have increased slightly, there are widely differing trends. Since 1970, grassland birds (e.g., bobolinks, meadowlarks) have plunged 69%, aerial foragers (e.g., swallows, swifts, flycatchers) have fallen 51% and shorebirds (e.g., plovers, sandpipers) have decreased by 43 %.

One of the most troublesome population declines in Canada’s central region, which includes Ontario, is that of reptiles and amphibians. These include snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs and salamanders. The study looked at 73 monitored populations of 28 species. Habitat loss, in combination with fragmentation (i.e., dividing the landscape up into smaller and more isolated parts), road mortality and pollution are some of the major threats to these animals. Freshwater fish have also taken a beating. Looking just at Lake Ontario, fish populations declined 32 per cent, on average, between 1992 and 2014. Later this fall, I hope to do a column on the status of local fish populations.

Losses in the Kawarthas

Unfortunately, the Kawarthas is not immune to these declines, either. A brief look at four iconic species is very telling.

1. Snapping turtle: Although snapping turtles can live for more than a century, they take up to 20 years to reach breeding age. Therefore, the loss of even one turtle can have a big impact on the population. Threats include habitat loss and degradation as well as road mortality. This year has seen a huge spike in turtle deaths and injuries, mostly because of collisions with cars and boats. As of August 16, the total number of turtles brought to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre in Peterborough was close to 800! This included 273 snapping turtles. The Centre has never seen so many injured or dead turtles. One very large snapping turtle was classified as “attacked by human”. A large metal rod was removed from the turtle’s shell, but internal injuries led to its demise. Snapping turtles are currently listed as a species of Special Concern under SARA.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

2. Little brown bat: Bats have been suffering for years from habitat destruction and persecution. Now, they are up against white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that arrived in the Kawarthas about six years ago. The disease causes the bats to awaken too early from their winter sleep. Early awakening depletes their body reserves of stored water, electrolytes and fat, and they end up dying. White-nose syndrome has already wiped out 94 per cent of little brown bats in eastern Canada. This may be the most rapid mammal decline ever documented. Large numbers of little brown bats used to overwinter in abandoned mine shafts in the Bancroft area and even some in the Warsaw Caves. The little brown bat was emergency-listed as Endangered under SARA in 2014.

Little Brown Bat with White Nose Syndrome – Wikimedia

3. Bobolink:  These sparrow-like birds are a joy to see and hear. The males have a distinctive jet-black front and big patches of white. They were once a common sight in meadows nearly everywhere in the Kawarthas. The intensification of farming operations, however, has resulted in widespread loss and deterioration of their old field and meadow habitat. Because they nest in hay fields, they often lose their eggs or young to mowing. Bobolink populations in Canada have crashed by 88 per cent in just 40 years. In 2017, a SARA listing was proposed for this species as Threatened.

Male Bobolink – Wikimedia

4. Barn Swallow: For anyone growing up on a farm or spending time at a cottage in the Kawarthas, barn swallows used to be a constant presence in summer. They would dart gracefully over fields, barnyards and open water, swooping effortlessly to catch insects. They were taken as much for granted as robins are now. Between 1970 and 2014, barn swallows declined by 66 percent in Ontario. Although not yet fully understood, the causes for the decline include loss of nesting and feeding habitat, along with what appears to be a reduction in insect numbers. Insect decline may be linked to pesticides, which often end up in water bodies where insects breed. Barn swallows are now listed as “threatened” on the Species at Risk list in Ontario. This means that the bird is likely to become endangered if the appropriate steps are not taken.

Barn Swallow (Karl Egressy)

As we have seen from these profiles, wildlife declines are being driven primarily by habitat loss. This comes mostly from the impacts of forestry, agriculture, urbanization and industrial development. Other threats include climate change (Canada’s warming is twice the global average); pollution (e.g., pesticides, agricultural runoff, heat and noise pollution); invasive species (e.g., zebra mussels) and unsustainable harvest (e.g., overfishing). These effects are cumulative and cascading. For example, changes in the status of one species (e.g., insects) often lead to changes in others (e.g., insect-eating birds).

You don’t have to look far to see these threats playing out in the Kawarthas. Regardless of the merits of a given project or practice, wildlife are almost always on the losing end. In terms of habitat loss, housing developments (e.g., Lily Lake, Television Road, Millbrook)  destroy habitat for grassland birds; hedgerow removal (e.g., Keene area) is eliminating nesting sites for birds as well as pollinators; widening Rye Street will undoubtedly impact Harper Creek brook trout; new or expanded cottages and homes on the Kawartha Lakes is degrading nesting habitat for loons and spawning sites for walleye; a proposed housing development adjacent to Loggerhead Marsh will almost certainly effect amphibians; population growth, along with new roads (e.g., 407 extension, widening of Pioneer Road ) is resulting in more road mortality for turtles; Peterborough’s new casino will degrade the habitat value of Harper Park because of light and  noise pollution, along with increased traffic; and the replacement of old barns with new, less nesting-friendly structures, is impacting barn swallows. Non-native invasive species such as Phragmites and dog-strangling vine are thriving in the Kawarthas and choking out native vegetation in the process. Another invasive, the emerald ash borer, is decimating ash trees. Climate change, which actually accelerates the growth of many invasive plants, is already making the Kawarthas too warm for formerly common birds like gray jays. Climate change-related weather extremes, such as the drought we experienced last summer, are further weakening many tree species, which are already under siege by fungal diseases. These include butternut, beech and elms.

The relentless march of housing developments into rural land. Parkhill Road at Ravenwood Drive in Peterborough, Ontario  (Drew Monkman photo)

Taking Action

The findings of WWF-Canada’s national Living Planet Report make it clear we need to do more to protect species at risk. We also need to halt the decline of other wildlife before they land on the at-risk list in the first place. We need action from communities, industry, government and individuals. As a nation, we need to do a better job collecting and sharing data on ecosystem health and species habitat. We must also enhance research on the impacts of, and response to, climate change; strengthen implementation of the Species at Risk Act and shift toward ecosystem-based action plans instead of a species-based approach. Expanding Canada’s network of protected areas is also crucial.

None of this will happen – or happen fast enough – unless more Canadians make a personal commitment to nature. Individual action is powerful, especially when your neighbours, friends and family see you stepping up. So, what can you do?

1. Most importantly, be careful who you vote for. Support parties and candidates who put environmental values such as wildlife conservation and climate change measures front and centre. Be sure your vote goes to politicians who value green space and will fight for adequate funding of government agencies like MNR and Parks Canada. Maybe run for office yourself!

2. Give money. In the U.S. last year, environmental giving represented only 3% of all charitable donations. I doubt the numbers are much different in Canada. If you want to give locally, consider the Kawartha Land Trust or the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre.

3. Take direct action. You can do this by planting pollinator gardens, stopping for turtles, removing invasive species or participating in a Citizen Science project in which you monitor species. The possibilities are endless.

4. Encourage your child’s teacher and principal to provide nature and outdoor education opportunities for students.

5. Be a role model. Show interest, enthusiasm and concern for nature. It’s contagious.

6. Going forward, we all need to consider whether it’s really possible to maintain healthy and diverse wildlife populations in a society based on continual economic growth – no matter how green future energy sources might be. We might be kidding ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 222017
 

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 12:00 by Matthew Garvin
– PTBO – Edgewater road and Railway, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.299988,-78.31236&ll=44.299988,-78.31236
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39300375
– Media: 6 Photos
– Comments: “Diminutive white goose similar in size to adjacent RBGU with flock of CANG North of the Railway bridge. Immature markings similar to sibley guide with dark ‘halo’. Flat base of the beak and little to no ‘grin’ patch. Head and beak aren’t as ‘dove-like’ as I’d like but I think I’m comfortable calling this a ROGO for now. Let the debate begin!”

Juvenile Ross’s Goose – Wikimedia

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 13:48 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3028834,-78.31688&ll=44.3028834,-78.31688
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39300738
– Comments: “small white goose in with Canada Goose; juvenile; photo shows no “grin” patch; dark line through eye”

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 13:05 by Scott Gibson
– Peterborough–Millennium Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3028834,-78.31688&ll=44.3028834,-78.31688
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39301019
– Comments: “small white goose, smaller than adjacent CANG, small rounded head, no ‘grin’ patch, dusky crown suggesting juvenile. Great lunch hour bird!”

Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) (1)
– Reported Sep 20, 2017 15:05 by Ben Taylor
– engleburn ave, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.30142,-78.3139104&ll=44.30142,-78.3139104
– Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39302520
– Comments: “Alerted by Chris Risley that colleagues had spotted a white goose on the River north of the Holiday Inn pedestrian bridge. I was able to locate it from our back yard ,hanging out with the Canada Geese just south of the Hunter Street bridge. I biked around to get a closer look and it seemed to be a match for the white juvenile Ross’s Goose pictured in Sibley’s but will amend as required once there is confirmation.”

Ross’s Goose – Otonabee R. – Dec. 4, 2014 – Drew Monkman

Sep 172017
 

A beautiful September morning greeted the ten early risers who took part in the Peterborough Field Naturalist’s Sunday A.M. nature walk today. We spent most of our time in the Promise Rock area of the Rotary-Greenway Trail, just north of Trent University at Lock 22. Songbird diversity and numbers were very good. We were able to use pishing to coax in three species of vireos and ten species of warblers. A female American Redstart was particularly cooperative as it flitted about in the open, only three metres away. Our second stop was the Lakefield Sewage Lagoons where we got good looks through the scopes at four species of ducks and more than a dozen cormorants. Many of the ducks were juvenile Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers.

Below is a list of all of the birds seen (38 species) as well as some of the goldenrods and asters that caught our attention. Several of the goldenrods had galls – the ball-shaped galls from Goldenrod Gall Flies and the tightly-packed leafy galls from a midge.

Birds (38 species): Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Mallard, Wood Duck, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Marsh Wren, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Song Sparrow, Common Grackle

Flowers: Canada Goldenrod, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, New England Aster, Heath Aster, Calico Aster, Panicled Aster, Heart-leaved Aster

Other highlights: Huge seed crop on cedars, spruces, Sugar Maples; leopard frogs in grass at sewage lagoon; lots of fall colour, courtesy of White Ash, Staghorn Sumac, Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper

PFN Sunday AM Nature Walk – Promise Rock area – (Drew Monkman)

 

Female American Redstart (Wikimedia)

 

Black-throated Green Warbler (Dan Pancamo)

 

Red-eyed Vireo – Karl Egressy

 

Canada goldenrod (left) and New England aster (Drew Monkman)

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 142017
 

For anyone paying attention, the biggest story of the past summer has been the fury unleashed by planet Earth as a result of climate change. As Clive Hunter, an Australian public intellectual, said on CBC Radio’s Ideas recently, “What we’re now confronted with is a wakened, angry, raging beast.” The evidence is everywhere: the worst fire season ever in B.C.; the worst wildfire ever in Los Angeles; hundreds of billions of dollars of hurricane devastation in Houston, the Caribbean and Florida; catastrophic flooding affecting millions in India, Nepal and Bangladesh; temperatures too hot for jets to take off in Phoenix – and the list goes on.

It’s hard not to despair. Equally despairing, however, is that denial – or simply ignoring or downplaying the threat of climate change – is still rampant. And not just on the part of Donald Trump. How often does the topic come up in your own circle of family and friends? If you listened to hurricane coverage on American TV networks, you wouldn’t have even heard the words climate change. However, what climate science research has learned and is predicting for the future are facts – not ideologies, opinions or preferences. They come from three hundred years of perfecting the scientific method and are as robust and well-defended as any body of knowledge out there. Sitting back and simply being “hopeful” that things won’t be as bad as science is telling us is a recipe for even greater disaster. We cannot let skeptics dismiss these disasters as natural weather events we cannot influence. That being said, the scope of the necessary response in terms of mitigation and adaptation is far beyond anything politicians are currently proposing. Many experts believe it will require nothing less than a complete re-thinking of our economic system and of humankind’s relationship with the natural world.

On a more positive note, a heartening story this summer has been the stellar rebound in monarch butterfly numbers. Whereas last year I may have seen a few dozen, this year I’ve observed hundreds. Don Davis, an Ontario monarch expert who tags these insects, told me this week that he found over 100 caterpillars near Cobourg in just a few hours of searching. He also said that 2000 monarchs were at the tip of Point Pelee National Park on September 8 and that there were recently 100 or more on the west beaches of Presqu’ile Provincial Park. According to Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, there is a good prospect that the overwintering population in Mexico will increase from the 2.91 hectares of last year to 4 hectares or better this coming winter.

Monarch on Buddleia (butterfly bush) at Millennium Park – photo by Ben Wolfe

The most likely explanation for the boom in numbers is simply the weather. This summer did not see the hot, dry conditions of recent years, which killed wildflowers and reduced the availability of nectar. Weather conditions were also good this spring for the monarch’s migration from Mexico to Canada. Monarchs are extremely vulnerable to weather extremes, many of which are linked to climate change. This is true during the breeding season, along the migration route and on their Mexican wintering grounds.

The public is becoming much more aware of the need to protect monarchs and pollinators in general. An indication of this is the growing popularity of pollinator gardens. These are gardens planted predominantly with flowers that provide nectar and pollen for a wide range of pollinator species from spring through fall. Host plants (e.g., milkweed) on which butterflies can lay their eggs should also be included. Here in the Kawarthas, nearly 180 pollinator gardens have been registered with Peterborough Pollinators, a group dedicated to creating a pollinator-friendly community. If you wish to register your garden, please go to PeterboroughPollinators.com/Register. Once registered, you can pick up a garden sign by emailing ptbopollinators@gmail.com  A map of existing gardens will be on display at the Peterborough Pollinators’ booth at the Purple Onion Festival on September 24 at Millennium Park. There will also be pollinator exhibits and garden signs will be available.

Peterborough Pollinators garden on Medical Drive
(photo by Drew Monkman)

Looking ahead to the fall, here is a list of events in nature that are typical of autumn in the Kawarthas.

Mid- to late September

·         Fall songbird migration is in full swing. Migrants such as warblers are often in mixed flocks with chickadees and can be coaxed in for close-up views by using “pishing”. To see and hear this birding technique in action, go to http://bit.ly/2cpznE8

·         Broad-winged hawks migrate south over the Kawarthas in mid-September. Sunny days with cumulous clouds and northwest winds are best. Watch for high-altitude “kettles”, which is a group of hawks soaring and circling in the sky. Migration usually peaks on about September 15.

·         Thanks to ample rain, this should be a great fall for mushrooms. Kawartha Land Trust’s Stony Lake Trails are a great destination for mushroom-viewing. Park at 105 Reid’s Road. Details at http://bit.ly/2h3nYJg

·         Peterborough Field Naturalists hold their Sunday Morning Nature Walks this month and next. Meet at the Riverview Park and Zoo parking lot at 8 am and bring binoculars. Indoor meetings take place on the second Wednesday of the month. For more information, go to peterboroughnature.org

·         As the goldenrods begin to fade, asters take centre stage. The white flowers of heath, panicled and calico asters, along with the purple and mauve blossoms of New England, purple-stemmed and heart-leaved asters provide much of the show. Visit http://bit.ly/2fhW4sN (Ontario Wildflowers) for tips on identifying these beautiful but under appreciated plants.

Canada goldenrod (left) and New England aster on Trans-Canada Trail (photo by Drew Monkman)

·         Listen for the constant calling of blue jays and the metronome-like “chuck-chuck…” call of chipmunks, which can go on for hours. The call is often given in response to danger such as the presence of a hawk.

October

·         Fall colours in the Kawarthas usually peak early in the month. The sunshine and cool weather in September should mean excellent colour this year. County Roads 620 and 504 around Chandos Lake east of Apsley makes for a great colour drive.

·         Don’t miss the Harvest Moon. This year it occurs on October 5. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox (September 22).

·         Sparrow migration takes centre stage this month, making October one of the busiest times of the year for backyard feeders. Scatter millet or finch mix on the ground to attract dark-eyed juncos and both white-throated and white-crowned sparrows.

Juncos and White-throated Sparrows feeding on ground – (photo by Drew Monkman)

·         Indian Summer days are magical. Watch for floating threads of “ballooning” spiders.

·         Ecology Park holds its “Little Tree Sale” on October 15. Fall is a great time to plant trees.

·         A tide of yellow spreads across the landscape in mid- through late October. The colour is supplied courtesy of trembling and bigtooth aspens, balsam poplar, silver maple, white birch, and, at month’s end, tamarack.

Trembling Aspen (photo by Drew Monkman)

·         As ducks move southward, consider a visit to the Lakefield sewage lagoon. It is located on the south side of County Road 33, just south of Lakefield. Be careful to avoid blocking the gate when you park. Goldeneye, buffleheads, scaup and mergansers are often present in large numbers. If you have a spotting scope, be sure to take it along. The sewage lagoon is one of the best birding locations in the Kawarthas.

·         Watch for Venus and Mars at dawn and Saturn in the evening.

·         The first northern finches usually start turning up in late October. To learn which species to expect this fall and winter, Google “winter finch forecast 2017-2018”. The forecast, compiled by Ron Pittaway, is usually available online by early October.

·         On October 25, Jacob Rodenburg will speak to the Peterborough Horticultural Society on “Pathway to Stewardship: How we teach kids about the environment” The meeting , which is open to all, takes place at the Peterborough Lions Centre, 347 Burnham Street.

November

·         Oaks, tamaracks and silver maples are about the only native deciduous trees that still retain foliage in early November. The brownish-orange to burgundy leaves of red oaks stand out with particular prominence. At a glance, you can see just how common oaks are in many areas of the Kawarthas.

·         We return to Standard Time on Sunday, November 5, and turn our clocks back one hour. Sunrise on the 5th is at 6:56 am and sunset at 4:57 pm for a total of only 10 hours of daylight. Compare this to the 15 1/2 hours we enjoyed back in June!

·         The red berries of wetland species like winterberry holly and high-bush cranberry provide some much needed November colour.


Winterberry holly – (photo by Drew Monkman)

·         Most of our loons and robins head south this month. However, small numbers of robins regularly overwinter in the Kawarthas. Their numbers will likely be much lower than last year, given the small wild grape crop. Grapes are a staple food for winter robins.

·         Ball-like swellings known as galls are easy to see on the stems of goldenrods. If you open the gall with a knife, you will find the small, white larva of the goldenrod gall fly inside. In the spring, it will emerge as an adult fly.

·         Damp, decomposing leaves on the forest floor scent the November air.

·         With the onset of cold temperatures, wood frogs, gray treefrogs, chorus frogs, and spring peepers take shelter in the leaf litter of the forest floor and literally become small blocks of amphibian ice. Glycerol, acting as an antifreeze, inhibits freezing within the frogs’ cells.

I would like to thank Martin and Kathy Parker, Tim Dyson, Cathy Dueck and Gordon Johnson for having done such an admirable job filling in for me this summer. We are fortunate in the Kawarthas to have so many people with extensive knowledge of nature and environmental education.

Sep 042017
 

At around 10 a.m. on Sunday, September 3, residents in the Tobin Court and Evans Dr area in the north end of the city, reported the sudden death of 12 Mallard ducks. Earlier a group of 14 ducks was observed walking up Tobin from a local pond just south of that location, munching on grass. They did not display any distress at the time. Moments later 12 of these ducks lay dead on residents’ lawns and driveways.The police were called as well as the MNR, Humane Society and the City of Peterborough. Public works attended the scene to remove the bodies. In the meantime 2 ducks which had been immobilized and stunned by the unknown contaminant were transferred to Shades of Hope Wildlife Rescue in Pefferlaw. Residents in the area are concerned about what could possibly have caused a quick death to so many ducks. According to one of the residents, the Peterborough Police will notify the MNR to investigate the sudden deaths.

Barb Evett (705-741-5396)

N.B. The necropsy results were released by MNR on December 16, 2017. They ruled out poisoning. They did extensive testing for botulism, which is a reason that the results took so long. The results for botulism were negative, as well. However, they did indicate that botulism is extremely tough to test for and can result in false negative test results. So, it looks like we will never know what exactly happened but, if anything the neighbours can be assured that it was not as a result of poisoning.

Mallard deaths – Ptbo – Sept. 3, 2017 – Barb Evett