Apr 242018
 

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) (20)
– Reported Apr 28, 2018 07:39 by Steve Paul
– 341 Hiawatha Line, Keene, Ontario, CA (44.178, -78.204), Peterborough, Ontario
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– Media: 6 Photos
– Comments: “Two separate groups eventually came together. Close to 50/50 male/female split. Observed a possible second small pack way out on Rice Lake, but couldn’t clearly state whether RBM or CM. Will post pictures.”

Female Red-breasted Merganser (Karl Egressy)

Red-breasted Merganser (male) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Apr 27, 2018 13:00 by Kathryn Sheridan
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “I didn’t see it, but I heard it make its unusual, unmistakale call/song.”

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) (1) CONFIRMED
– Reported Apr 27, 2018 15:55 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–3.8 km SSE on Bensfort Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “First county record. Found earlier in the afternoon by Scott Gibson. Foraging in flooded hayfield on E side Bensfort Rd with Greater Yellowleg and Lesser Yellowleg. Digiscoped from around 100 m.”

Long-billed Dowitcher – USFW service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Towhee:  This morning, April 27, I saw a female Eastern Towhee scratching around in the leaf litter below one of my feeders. I guess they’re not uncommon, but it’s the first I’ve seen here.  Annamarie Beckel

female Eastern Towhee (Tom Bell)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redhead (Aythya americana) (2)
– Reported Apr 26, 2018 15:45 by Christopher Wagner
– Stony Lake, North Kawartha CA-ON (44.5608,-78.1728), Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “Male and female in large mixed flock”

Male Redhead – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barred Owl (Northern) (Strix varia [varia Group]) (3)
– Reported Apr 26, 2018 22:46 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Ontario Nocturnal Owl Survey route 218 Chandos Lake stop 9, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “pair in close and a third further away.”

Barred Owl with Winterberry in background – Tim Dyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (2)
– Reported Apr 26, 2018 15:00 by Dave Milsom
– 2nd Line cornfields, Peterborough, Ontario
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Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (2)
– Reported Apr 25, 2018 12:00 by John Davey
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
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Horned Grebe in waves – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2018 07:33 by Bill Crins
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “alternate plumage; brown upperparts, white underparts strongly spotted with large black spots, pale superciliary, orange beak and legs; flew with stiff, shallow wingbeats; initially on stones adjacent to beach, then flew across toward Little Lake Cemetery”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2018 08:45 by Sheila Collett
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “FOY. Seen flying across the playing fields and then again flying across the water to the cemetery.”

Green Heron (Don McLeod)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pileated Woodpecker – Woke up this morning (April 22) with a tapping sound and looked outside to see the Pileated Woodpecker. The loons are back as well, but haven’t been able to get a picture.  Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake

Pileated Woodpecker – April 22, 2018 – Derry Fairweather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (2)
– Reported Apr 21, 2018 16:32 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Airport Rd Railroad, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “2 owlets in nest at edge of woodlot south of the wetland. Adult not present.”

Great Horned Owls in nest – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Richardson’s) (Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii) (5)
– Reported Apr 22, 2018 10:46 by Matthew Tobey
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “Segregated from small flock of CANG at east end of meltwater pond.”

Cackling Geese – Little L. – Dec. 2015 – Iain Rayner

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) (2)
– Reported Apr 22, 2018 10:46 by C Douglas
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
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Pair of Northern Pintail – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) (40)
– Reported Apr 22, 2018 09:40 by Dave Milsom
– Highway 28 at Block Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Flock of 10 in field, 30 flying over.”

Snow Buntings – Wikimedia

Apr 232018
 

Don Munro of Campbellford and Mike Faught of Peterborough shared the following pictures taken this month.

Common Loon with catfish – April 2018 – Don Munro

Wood Duck flying – April 2018 – Don Munro

Great Blue Heron flying – April 2018 – Don Munro

Pileated Woodpecker – April 2018 – Don Munro

Carolina Wren – April 2018 – Don Munro

Horned Grebe in waves – April 2018 – Don Munro

Double-crested Cormorants – April 2018 – Don Munro

Long-tailed Duck in breeding plumage – April 2018 – Don Munro

Lesser Yellowlegs – April 2018 – Don Munro

Ospreys at nest – April 2018 – Mike Faught

Great Blue Heron – Mike Faught

Wood Duck in flight – April 2018 – Mike Faught

 

Apr 202018
 
Osprey: I saw this Osprey on its nest today (April 20) on County Rd 2, west of Hastings. Impressive pad!   Wendy Marrs

Osprey – Wendy Marrs – April 20, 2018

Snowy Owl: This beautiful Snowy Owl was in our backyard this morning (April 20) around 8 am. What a thing of beauty! This is my first time ever seeing an owl in the wild and to see this one, I feel so lucky. We live just outside of Bobcaygeon, in Victoria Place.  Debbie Gardiner, Port Colony Road, Bobcaygeon 

Snowy Owl – April 20, 2018 – Bobcaygeon – Debbie Gardiner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (1)
– Reported Apr 19, 2018 16:40 by Alain Parada Isada
– Trent Rowing Club, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Cackling Goose by Otonabee river along with a Canada Goose. Individual had an aluminum band in left leg. Photo taken about 10 m away.”

Cackling Goose (foreground) – Brendan Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) (1)
– Reported Apr 19, 2018 09:25 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “Long red neck, long bill, and tri-angular head. Seen in the cove near Parks Canada building.”

Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) (1)
– Reported Apr 18, 2018 10:54 by C Douglas
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
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– Comments: “Small gull black spot behind eye. Black edge on wings and tail”

Bonaparte’s Gull – breeding plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Apr 17, 2018 09:08 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Tara Rd N of Edenderry, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “Sitting on fence post. Almost completely white on back but seen at speed. Did not stop”

 

Apr 192018
 

Wildlife in Costa Rica can almost seem other-worldly: toucans with rainbow-colored beaks nearly as big as their body; huge Blue Morphos cruising about like computer-generated butterflies from the movie Avatar; and, as I’ll describe this week, wing-snapping manakins leaping back and forth like frenzied ping-pong balls. This amazing offering of the natural world was why my wife and I, along with our friends Mike and Sonja Barker, had decided to spend four weeks this winter in Puerto Viejo on the country’s southern Caribbean coast.

Keel-billed Toucan in palm tree metres from our house at Loco Natural – Drew Monkman

Despite the large number of tourists – the vast majority in their 20s and 30s – Puerto Viejo still has a gritty, grassroots vibe. This comes courtesy of Afro-Costa Ricans with their dreadlocks and Rasta hats; beat up ‘pirate’ taxis and three-wheeled tuk-tuks ferrying customers; reggae and hip hop music emanating from streetside bars; the aroma of rice and beans wafting from Caribbean restaurants; rickety fruit and vegetable stands spilling over with a dizzying array of product; and, more often than not, the skunky smell of marijuana on the evening breeze. There’s not a fast-food chain restaurant to be seen anywhere and, so far, local activists have been able to protect the area from large resorts and condominium complexes.

Manakins

As I outlined last week, the house we rented at Finca Loco Natural provided a non-stop parade of large, flamboyant tropical birds and mammals. One of the most common and fascinating species, however, was also the hardest to see. For the first couple of days, we wondered what in the world was making a non-stop snapping sound – reminiscent of someone banging stones together – emanating from the shrubbery. Pamela, our accommodating host, provided the explanation. The mystery sound was courtesy of the White-collared Manakin, a plump, chickadee-sized bird that is a master of concealment. Like other manakins, this species puts on a highly amusing but hard-to-observe mating dance. It all happens in an area known as a ‘lek’. To create the lek, the male removes all of the leaf litter and vegetation from a patch of forest floor under a dense stand of shrubs. When a female is lured to the area, he leaps back and forth at high speed between the stems of the shrubs. Each time he leaps, he snaps his wings, thereby creating the loud sound. Sometimes two males jump together, crossing each other above the bare soil. This was happening right beside our house! Only by going up on the balcony and peering down from above were we able to observe the spectacle. The manakin’s dance is an intriguing example of how evolution through natural selection – the females, in this case, doing the selecting – can drive male breeding behaviour to the most outrageous extremes. Go to bit.ly/2qAHEd5 to see a great YouTube video.

Male White-collared Manakin – Photo: Wikimedia

Abel and Alex

By far the best way to appreciate Costa Rica’s incredible biodiversity is to hire a guide. Costa Rican guides are highly trained and actually licensed by the government. With Abel Bustamante, I spent a morning exploring part of the wonderful Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, located a short distance southeast of Puerto Viejo. His unbridled enthusiasm and energy were contagious. If you ever want a reluctant friend or spouse to discover the joys of birding, an outing with Abel will do the trick. Thanks largely to his knowledge of bird song, I was able to add nearly 20 new species to my life list – everything from Fasciated Ant-shrike and White-ringed Flycatcher to Pied Puffbird and Snowy Cotinga. Together, we also marvelled at a flock of 30 or more Swallow-tailed Kites migrating overhead.

On another occasion, I returned to the Kekoldi Hawkwatch tower with a second indigenous guide, Alex Paez. The native guide I’d gone with originally, Kesh Hernandez, was fully booked that day. Only minutes up the trail, Alex’s sharp eyes spotted a small sloth, almost at eye level. Alex explained that sloths make a weekly, slow-motion descent from the treetops, dig a hole in the ground, defecate and then cover their scat. Why they go to all this trouble remains a mystery. Sloths may have algae growing on their fur, but at least their bathroom manners are impeccable! Although the raptor-viewing from the tower was slow that day, peering down on the rainforest canopy from above did produce other new species for me such as a pair of beautiful Black-crowned Tityras.

The Three-fingered Sloth that we came across on the trail up to the hawkwatch tower. – Drew Monkman

A few days later, I did a rainforest night hike with Alex and his eight-year-old son. I had only seen one snake and relatively few frog species on the trip and wanted to see more. Sporting headlamps, we inched our way along a muddy path, peering under huge Heliconia leaves, inspecting roots and vines, watching for the reflection of distant eye shine. Thanks in no small measure to the eagle eyes of Alex’s son, we found two species of snakes, nine kinds of frogs, five Emerald Basilisk lizards, roosting Great Owl butterflies and countless moths, spiders and fireflies. I was able to take great photographs of a Masked Treefrog as it posed beside red and yellow Heliconia flowers; a Red-eyed Leaf Frog – the iconic Costa Rica T-shirt species –  which actually jumped onto my shirt pocket; a beautifully camouflaged but highly venomous Fer-de-Lance snake, curled up in the roots of a tree; and a Blunt-headed Tree Snake, which was almost identical in length, shape and colour to the vines in which it moved. These latter three species were exactly those I was most hoping to find.

Red-eyed Leaf Frog photographed on a rainforest night hike. Note the blue side pattern (Drew Monkman)

 Conservation

Over the course of our stay, we visited a number of conservation initiatives. One of the most interesting of these was the Jaguar Rescue Center. Its raison d’être is the rehabilitation of mistreated, injured, orphaned, and/or confiscated birds and mammals. Those animals that can be successfully rehabilitated are then reintroduced into their natural habitat in a nearby protected area. The Center is a great place to get close up views of sloths, monkeys, snakes, ocelots, toucans and parrots and learn from the knowledgeable, enthusiastic guides.

We also spent a wonderful afternoon at the Manzanillo field station of the Ara Project. The Project’s goal is to re-establish a breeding population of Great Green Macaws in the southern Caribbean region. The station is located high up on the mountain side where it offers spectacular views of the surrounding forest and ocean. The highlight, however, was seeing the macaws themselves. Almost three feet in length and garbed in green, blue and white, it was heart-lifting to see these birds flying free once again over Caribbean lowland forest. Volunteers offer supplemental feeding to the macaws and maintain nesting boxes.

I was also encouraged to learn that conservation initiatives extend beyond just birds and mammals. Alejo Pacheco, who I met one morning while out birding, is working hard to promote snake conservation. Sadly, the habit of killing snakes on sight is still the norm in Costa Rica. Increasingly, however, when people encounter a snake on their property, they call up Alejo, who catches and relocates the animal. Mike and I were able to accompany Alejo on the release of a metre-long Fer-de-Lance. The three of us squeezed into the front seat of his old truck and drove down to the end of deserted dirt road. Before releasing the snake, he held it briefly in his hand, allowing us to get a great look at the fangs and beautifully patterned skin. Rest assured that there are only about seven snake deaths per year in Costa Rica. Driving is far more dangerous!

Alex Pacheco holding a venomous Fer-de-lance. Alejo is a champion of snake conservation in Costa Rica – Drew Monkman

Alejo has the friendly personality that is typical of so many Costa Ricans. He is also the owner of beautiful tourist houses such as Casa Balto and Casa Yacky, which he rents out. Perched high on a mountainside, they not only offer spectacular views but the surrounding area is also incredibly rich in bird life.

Chocolate  

No account of Puerto Viejo would be complete without mentioning chocolate. The area has half a dozen local bean-to-bar chocolate makers. To learn more, we did an exceptional tour with Caribeans. They have been successful in rehabilitating a cacao plantation, which was abandoned in the 1980s after a deadly fungus struck. The highlight of the tour was sampling four kinds of local chocolate in pairings with coconut, garlic, curry and a wide array of spices. The tasting took place on a mountainside balcony with a stunning view of the ocean and rainforest. I later learned a great deal about the significant health benefits of cacao from Sandra Candela, a woman I met with for Spanish conversation. From Sandra, I learned a great deal about climate change in the south Caribbean region as well as birds, trees, cacao production and the importance of cacao farming to indigenous peoples. Sandra also produces and sells dehydrated, raw cacao beans which she markets under the name RaWo She  explained to me that raw cacao is thought to be the highest anti-oxidant in nature.

Sandra Candela is a wonderful Spanish teacher. She also dehydrates raw cocoa beans, which she sells at the Puerto Viejo Saturday morning Farmers Market – Drew Monkman

Climate change

Like everywhere, Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast is grappling with climate change. The area is seeing an increased number of tropical storms, hurricanes and heavy rains. Sea level, too, is rising and destroying coastline. We saw this at Cahuita National Park where coastal erosion has eaten away at beaches and numerous trees have fallen. Warmer water temperatures and increased acidity have also damaged coral ecosystems. Disruptions in the climate are making life more difficult for indigenous farmers, as well. As Alex Paez explained to me, seasonal weather differences are now far less clear, which results in confusion about when to plant crops.

Despite these challenges, the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica remains a wonderful place to visit and to experience nature at its most diverse. Personally, I can’t wait to go back. Next week, I’ll conclude this series with some highlights from our stay in San Isidro de Heredia where we spent the final 10 days of the trip.

 

 

Apr 142018
 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (1)
– Reported Apr 13, 2018 08:21 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (2)
– Reported Apr 13, 2018 12:54 by C Douglas
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 3 Photos

Horned Grebe in winter plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Geese (Ottawa):  Here’s a photo I took this week of a flock of Snow Geese near Ottawa.  Don Munro, Campbellford

Snow Geese near Ottawa – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightings from Warsaw: One of our Red Squirrels was enjoying maple sugar time in mid-March, licking the sap on our Silver Maple. It returned to the tree periodically over several days, presumably scoring the surface bark to allow the sap to drain, then returning later to enjoy the sugary residue on the bark. We call this one ‘Red Squirrel Sapsucker’.

Red Squirrel drinking sap from Sugar Maple – March 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just now, we have our returning pair of Canada Geese, the male keeping a watchful eye for unwanted competitors from our old dock, two pairs of Hooded Mergansers, one pair of Common Mergansers, and three male Buffleheads vying for the attention of a single female. A lone female Ring-Necked Duck arrived on March 24th and stayed for a few days, keeping close to either a pair of Mallards or the pair of Canada Geese. Possibly there was safety in numbers. And a Red Fox passed by on April 4th, the first we’ve seen for some years. Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw

Canada Geese – April 12, 2018 – Stephenie Armstrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey: Here’s a photo of an Osprey that I took on April 10 in Campbellford on the Trent River. One Osprey was sitting on a nest and this one brought a fish.  A third bird was circling around. Don Munroe

Osprey – April 10, 2018 – Don Munroe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) (1)
– Reported Apr 10, 2018 09:45 by Sean Smith
– Keene–Mill St, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “Singing”

Vesper Sparrow – note rufous on shoulders (not always visible) – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker: We’ve had many woodpeckers on our property over the past few years, but this is the first year we are seeing the Red-bellied on a regular basis.
Derry Fairweather, Upper Buckhorn Lake 

Red-bellied Woodpecker – April, 2018 – Derry Fairweather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
– Reported Apr 10, 2018 14:14 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Edgewater Blvd., Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
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– Comments: “Continuing bird. ”

Glaucous Gull, Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 132018
 

Click here to see a compilation of sightings updated to January, 2018 of fauna of Jack Lake (Apsley, Ontario) and its watershed.  Baseline information has been obtained from published books which delineate the distribution of various amphibians, birds, crustaceans, fishes, insects, mammals, molluscs, and reptiles. Additional information has been derived from the Jack Lake Strategic Plan, MNR records, the Ontario Herptofaunal Atlas,the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas,and reported observations by Jack Lake residents and members of the Peterborough Field Naturalists. I am also grateful to Drew Monkman, Martin Parker,and Bob Bowles for their assistance in providing additional information from their records and archives.  Steve Kerr, Jack’s Lake Association

Blanding’s Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Apr 132018
 

March 1st started with a Red-Wing Blackbird singing in the tree on the east side of Wendy’s on Chemong Road. Came home from Wendy’s and a Northern Cardinal was singing in a high tree at  the condo and the first sight of the chipmunks running. Four pairs of American Robins were checking out the property. The next day, we had a Cooper’s Hawk in the tree in front of the condo, probably chipmunking! He has bee n back several times over the month. Each time, he amazes us. You can walk right under his tree and he will not move. After you leave he will be a couple of branches up in the same tree. Rather tame ! On March 3, a River Otter scooted through the property, down on the edge of the Otonabee. The following day was the return of our two pairs of what might be Brant geese. I can tell them by their odd honk, more so than by colour. They come in the early part of March, stay a day or two on the river and then head north. They then do a fly over around Thanksgiving. Quite consistent in their time of coming and their time of going.  Gord Young, Armour Road, Peterborough

N.B. If these were indeed Brant, it would be a very rare sighting indeed – especially a pair of birds and so early in the spring. When we see Brant here – which is not often – it’s typically in mid-May or in November and usually as a flock simply flying over.  D.M.

Red-winged Blackbird – Karl Egressy

Apr 122018
 

April 3, 2018

PETERBOROUGH – A local nature lover has started a small business to help people get outdoors and connect with nature, and he’s doing it all online! Darian Bacon, a renowned wilderness instructor, has created the website 7winds.ca for people who want to learn more about wilderness exploration but aren’t sure where to start.

“I’ve always loved exploring our beautiful province and getting into the back country,” says Bacon. “But for many people, they just don’t know where to start looking for information. Whether it’s courses about bushcraft, building a shelter or making a fire, or finding the right gear, or even knowing what adventures and destinations are available, I wanted to create an online wilderness community that functions as a one stop shop.”

Creating 7winds.ca is a new venture for Bacon, who has spent over 15 years in his day job on the frontlines of emergency services, helping to protect the people of Ontario. Over the past several years, he has volunteered his time focusing on nature skills and connection for Trent University, Durham College, University of Guelph, Sir Sandford Fleming College, Hillside Festival and the Harvest Gathering, a wilderness event created by Bacon himself in 2011, and since handed off to the next generation of nature lovers.

Having a teaching background as well, Bacon recognized that most people are now accustomed to taking classes online and learning via online videos. He set out to develop a series of comprehensive online courses focussed on bushcraft and nature skills. People are able to gain the basics from these online modules before venturing out into the great outdoors for more experiential hands-on learning with traditional schools and courses.

At 7winds.ca, we have a wide range of courses available, with both online learning and hands-on experience options. Once students feel they are ready, they can check out our adventure directory which has an interactive map of outings, adventures and beautiful places all over Ontario. It’s up to all of us to develop our own connections with the natural world, but in order to find that inspiration, we need to have a solid foundation of academics and science to make sure we go about it in a safe, meaningful and efficient way. We all find our own path to walk, but need the same knowledge to find our own paths to blaze.”

Bacon and 7winds.ca celebrated their official launch this year at the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, and now have students enrolled in courses from all over the map. For more information on courses, speaking engagements and customized educational products, please check out www.7winds.ca.

CONTACT:
Darian Bacon
7winds.ca
(705) 201-1013
admins@7winds.ca

Darian Woods

Apr 122018
 

If Costa Rica taught me one lesson, it was to never go anywhere without my binoculars and camera. Not to put clothes on the line, not to go for water and especially not to walk into town. I could  be certain that some kind of exotic creature – be it a sloth, a toucan, a poison dart frog or a new bird species – would pop up right in front of me, almost begging to be identified or for its picture to be taken.

My wife Michelle and I, along with our friends Mike and Sonja Barker, had the pleasure this winter of spending four weeks in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica. Our daughter Sophie, and Mike and Sonja’s daughter Karina, also joined us for part of the time. Puerto Viejo is located on the southern Caribbean coast near the border of Panama. We chose this area for two reasons. First, we had never been there before but knew that the temperature is more moderate than on the Pacific side. Equally important, there is still a large areas of primary rainforest, which has been relatively unaffected by human activities.

Bicycles are a common means of transportation in Puerto Viejo – for locals and tourists alike. (photo: Drew Monkman)

This region is the heart and soul of Costa Rica’s Afro-Caribbean community. Approximately one-third of the people living here are the descendents of immigrants who came here from countries such as Jamaica at the end of the 19th century. Their distinct culture is immediately recognizable in their clothes, food, music and, of course, language. Although they are all fluent in Spanish, many also speak an idiom known as ‘Limon Creole’, which is a mix of English, Spanish and other influences. This area is also home to the country’s most prominent and culturally intact indigenous groups who inhabit the Kekoldi, Cabecar and Bribri territories. Since the 1980s, the southern Caribbean has become a popular destination for large numbers of European and, increasingly, North American tourists, many of whom have chosen to stay and become business owners. Tourists are attracted by the rich cultural diversity as well as the beautiful beaches, great surfing, amazing biodiversity and spectacular land and seascapes. The area also has wonderful restaurants and cafés.

Loco Natural

We rented a three-bedroom house at Finca Loco Natural from a lovely Chilean and American couple, Pamela and Carter. It was only a 20-minute walk from town and just five minutes from the ocean. Nestled in seven acres of Heliconia gardens, flowering shrubs and towering trees – and backing onto rainforest – the ‘Bird House’ was everything a nature enthusiast could ask for. It was a treat for all of the senses. Every morning we awoke to the non-stop, frog-like clicking of Keel-billed Toucans, the wing-snapping of White-collared Manakins, the harsh squawking of Gray-cowled Wood-rails and the cacophonous cries of Howler Monkeys. The approach of nightfall was signaled by the loud, far-carrying “gwa-co” of the Laughing Falcon, followed shortly after by the throaty growl of the Great Potoo and eventually by the gentle hooting of the Spectacled Owl.

A Black-mandibled Toucan photographed from the kitchen table at Finca Loco Natural (photo: Drew Monkman)

In the middle of the day when bird activity slowed down, butterflies took centre stage. At times, it was like being in a butterfly conservatory as Julias, Banded Peacocks, Blue Morphos and various species of Heliconius and Caligos butterflies flitted about. Identifying them is no easy task, since the country has more than 1300 species. Compare this to only 300 in all of Canada!

Occasionally, a Blue Morpho would fly right through the kitchen or balcony, since they were both completely open on three sides with no windowpanes or screens. This meant that visitors of the non-human variety were common house guests. In addition to butterflies, these included giant six-inch walking sticks, geckos, leaf-like katydids, frogs, moths, hummingbirds and, on one occasion, even some fruit bats, which gobbled up most of a banana we had left on the counter. An added bonus was the rich, blossom-scented air, often courtesy of two Ylang-Ylang trees that grew behind the house.

A highlight of each day was simply sitting at the kitchen table – a cup of exquisite Costa Rican coffee in hand – and watching the parade of mammals, birds and butterflies attracted by the diverse flora. On numerous occasions, Howler Monkeys and Three-fingered Sloths provided spectacular entertainment and photo ops one can only dream of. Agoutis, a large, comical, guinea pig-like rodent, were regular visitors, too. For me, however, it was the birds that stole the show. These included outrageously coloured toucans like the Keel-billed, Black-mandibled and Collared Aracaris, boisterous Montezuma Oropendolas, exquisite Long-tailed Hermit hummingbirds and flashy Passerini’s and Tawny-crested Tanagers. Many of the birds fed in palm and Cecropia trees only metres from where we sat. As Sonja remarked, “The problem here is not Nature Deficit Disorder, it’s total Nature Overload Disorder!”

The kitchen and balcony of the ‘Bird House’ that we rented are open to the elements on three sides. (photo: Drew Monkman)

How right she was. I was hardly able to sleep, given all there was to discover. I headed out each morning at about 6 am to take advantage of peak bird activity. A favorite destination was a nearby Cecropia tree, where I snapped pictures of the parade of birds coming to feed on the seeds. These often included oropendolas, Gray-headed Chachalacas, Buff-throated Saltators, Social Flycatchers as well as Blue-gray, Palm and Passerini’s Tanagers.

Creek and pool

Pamela suggested we explore a nature trail on the property that leads to a creek and, a short distance upstream, to a lovely waterfall. As we walked through the ankle-deep water, we were thrilled to find both Strawberry and Green-Black Poison Frogs on the steep, shaded banks. I had no idea these frogs were still so common. Giant Helicopter Damselflies fluttered overhead – flying just like their namesake suggests – while insanely tame Tawny-crested Tanagers bathed along the stream edge. We stopped at one point to admire a giant fig tree with massive, four-foot-high buttress roots spreading out on all sides. This root design is an adaptation to the shallow, nutrient-poor rainforest soil and improves the tree’s ability to withstand strong winds. Finally arriving at the waterfall, the cool, clear water felt wonderful as it spilled over us. It was a scene right out of a Costa Rica tourist ad!

A Three-fingered Sloth that was hanging out in a Cecropia tree near the pool. (photo: Drew Monkman)

Tawny-crested Tanager bathing along the side of the creek up to the waterfall (photo: Mike Barker)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small swimming pool at Finca Loco Natural was another favourite hangout – and not just because of the refreshing water. It also provided wonderful nature-viewing. Much of the time, it was nearly impossible to sit and read. There was almost always a sloth, a family of monkeys or a flock of toucans or oropendolas to grab our attention. A four-foot-long Green Iguana was also a source of constant entertainment, especially when it relieved itself on the vegetation below! With four pairs of eyes doing the watching, we continually spotted new and interesting birds. Two of the rarer species we observed from the pool area included a Bat Falcon – actually feasting on a bat – and a regal, adult King Vulture. Sonja spotted the huge black and white bird as it soared overhead among hundreds of migrating Turkey Vultures.

Guides

You can’t experience the full diversity of tropical bird life without hiring the services of a guide. Finding many species depends on recognizing their vocalizations – a major undertaking in a country of over 900 species – and having local knowledge of their whereabouts. I was lucky to go birding with three highly talented and passionate individuals, all of whom seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did. They were Keysaur (Kesh) Hernandez, Alex Paez Balma and Abel Bustamante. Kesh and Alex are indigenous guides of the Kekoldi community.

Kesh, with my daughter Sophie, on the raptor-viewing tower (photo: Drew Monkman)

The morning Sophie and I spent with Kesh was an amazing introduction to the rich biodiversity and indigenous culture of the area. Not only does Kesh speak five languages, but he is also one of the most enthusiastic and profoundly ethical guides I have ever met. He moved effortlessly along the steep and muddy rainforest trail, reminding us to talk in whispers. At regular intervals, he would stop to point out the songs of elusive species like antbirds, treecreepers and wrens – all of which he imitated in a near-perfect whistle. At one point, his whistling brought a Stripe-breasted Wren almost to our feet.

Thanks to Kesh, we saw hummingbird and manakin leks (an area where males display for females), bullet ants, huge orb spiders, glass-winged butterflies and even a family group of rare Spider Monkeys swinging through the treetops. He even invited us to suck out the nectar of Heliconia blossoms to show us why hummingbirds are so attracted to them. As we walked past a small farm, we sampled the delicious fruit of Cherimoya and Star Apple trees, while he spoke at length about the importance of cocoa beans to health and to indigenous culture.

The highlight of the morning, however, was spending several hours at the top of the Kekoldi Hawkwatch raptor-viewing tower. This area of Costa Rica is considered one of the four best locations in the world to see migrating hawks, kites, falcons and vultures during spring and fall migration. Two to three million raptors pass over the region each year. As we looked out over the forest canopy – the Caribbean Sea to the east and the mountains of Panama to the west – a river of Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons and Plumbeous Kites streamed by, slowly making their way northward. Although the migration had only just begun, it was an experience I’ll never forget. We were also treated to an array of tropical songbird superstars like Golden-hooded Tanagers and Shiny Honeycreepers as they perched in the treetops, illuminated by the morning sun.

Broad-winged Hawk (photo: Wikimedia)

Next week, I’ll share more of my Costa Rica adventures and talk about threats such as climate change.

 

 

 

 

Apr 122018
 

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

 

 

 

 

Apr 042018
 

Snowy Owl – It was snowing on Upper Buckhorn on April 6 and guess what shows up at my neighbor’s dock? Looks like a male.  Derry Fairweather

Snowy Owl – April 6, 2018- Upper Buckhorn Lake – Derry Fairweather

Snowy Owl – April 6, 2018- Upper Buckhorn Lake – Derry Fairweather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus) (1)
– Reported Apr 05, 2018 16:07 by Toby Rowland
– 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: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44277679
– Comments: “All white Wingtips significantly larger than surrounding ring billed gulls. Scene from the train bridge amongst the Ring billed gulls by the islands”

Glaucous Gull – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes: Our 2 Sandhill Cranes have returned to Rockcroft, north of Buckhorn. Observed in my folks backyard this morning, April 3, at 10:30 am. Marie Windover

Sandhill Cranes – Rene Gareau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata) (1)
– Reported Apr 06, 2018 07:16 by Daniel Williams
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2938973,-78.3027537&ll=44.2938973,-78.3027537
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44291787
– Comments: “Well seen. Warbler with white throat and yellow rump. Calling consistently. Feeding alongside water just south of Beavermead beach. ”

Yellow-rumped Warbler (male) – Jeff Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (7)
– Reported Apr 02, 2018 10:51 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Second Line Rd pond, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1469173,-78.3458757&ll=44.1469173,-78.3458757
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44200072
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Continuing. Pic shows 2 of the 7 birds”

Cackling Goose (foreground) – Brendan Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tundra Swan (Whistling) (Cygnus columbianus columbianus) (1)
– Reported Apr 02, 2018 18:10 by Matthew Tobey
– Chemong Lake – sw end, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3362125,-78.4461336&ll=44.3362125,-78.4461336
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44204127
– Comments: “Continuing.”

Tundra Swans – Apr. 6, 2014 – Luke Berg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (1)
– Reported Apr 02, 2018 09:45 by David McCorquodale
– CA-ON-341 Hiawatha Line (44.1784,-78.2037), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.178402,-78.203746&ll=44.178402,-78.203746
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44183725
– Comments: “Continuing. Out on ice.”

Snowy Owl (Jeff Keller)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes:  I saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes on March 23 at about 6:30pm in Omemee. Gavin Hunter

Sandhill Cranes – Don Genge