Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.

Jun 262018
 

by Amy Harder, in AXIOS – June 25, 2018

 

Climate change is intangible and complicated, which makes it an easy target for our era of fake news.

Why it matters: Addressing climate change, whether through government or private action, requires acknowledging a problem exists. Misinformation about the science, including inaccurate statements and articles, makes that harder. Concern about climate change has dropped over the past year among Republicans and independents, according to Gallup polling released in March.

Fake news and inaccurate climate information have been around for a long time, long before Donald Trump became president. But Trump’s election has enabled misinformation to spread by elevating leaders in politics and elsewhere who don’t acknowledge the scientific consensus on climate change.

We’ve seen this play out across different forums: media articles, congressional hearings and public speeches.

Republican lawmakers said at a hearing in May that rocks tumbling into the ocean were causing sea levels to rise, not warmer temperatures fueled by human activity.
The Wall Street Journal has run opinion pieces that question mainstream climate science consensus. Some raise important points, but others are deeply inaccurate, such as this one in May that said sea level is rising but not because of climate change.
Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others in the administration have repeatedly raised doubts that humans have an impact on climate change.
When Trump said his inauguration crowd size was the largest ever, it was easy to show a photo disproving his false claim. When Trump blamed Democrats for last week’s immigration crisis, it was relatively easy to show how his own policies led directly to family separations.

With climate change, there’s nothing simple about the subject — so it’s harder to cut through the barrage of misinformation.

I’ve been covering this issue for nearly a decade, and I still haven’t learned the science enough to know quickly and confidently the science behind why a certain piece of information — such as that sea level rise op-ed in the Journal — is wrong, even when I know it doesn’t sound right. I seek out scientists and other reputable experts to help distill it.

“There isn’t necessarily a good intuitive comparison like ‘the crowd in this photo looks a lot bigger than the crowd in this one.’ Even if you are looking at lines on a chart, you are comparing abstractions of real phenomena like temperature change.”
— Joseph Majkut, climate science expert at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank
Climate change isn’t simple because it’s inherently uncertain, just like all science — and it’s best to acknowledge that uncertainty. Some media articles, environmental activists and progressive politicians often over-simplify, downplay or dismiss altogether any uncertainty. That fuels the polarization on this topic.

The most important thing to know is that the overwhelming majority of scientists say human activity is driving Earth’s temperature up, according to Ed Maibach, an expert on climate-change communication at George Mason University.

Yet, just 15% of the public understands that more than 90% of scientists have reached that conclusion, according to a survey this spring by George Mason and Yale University. Nearly half underestimates the scientific consensus.

“It takes a lot of effort to dive in and learn the details about something, and we will do that when we are highly motivated to learn something,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale University professor who studies public perceptions of climate. “Most people aren’t willing to devote an enormous amount of brain energy to thinking about climate change.”

Changing this trend takes time and new leadership — which isn’t happening in big enough numbers to shift public debate.

Climate Feedback is a voluntary initiative of well-known and respected scientists reviewing climate change articles for accuracy, whose first work came in 2015.

Among the articles reviewed: The Wall Street Journal op-ed on rising sea levels, which was described as “grossly” misleading to readers; and, on the other side, a highly cited New York Magazine article that the reviewing scientists said exaggerated how bad climate change could get.
The number of people who read the reviews of those articles are undoubtedly a fraction compared to those who read the original pieces.
People take cues from leaders, such as The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Trump administration officials.

Until or unless people in those positions either leave or change opinions, it could be difficult to change the masses.
Earlier this month, we saw one leadership change: New NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who doubted the scientific consensus on climate change when he was in Congress, said reviewing the science convinced him to change positions.
Bridenstine’s views are important from a substantive perspective — NASA is one of the top agencies that monitors the planet’s climate. But he’s not well known enough to change a lot of people’s minds.
One non-science thing that could change the debate, in the view of a new bipartisan group, is convincing people to acknowledge the problem without getting stuck debating how serious it is.

Last week, a political group funded by energy companies and supported by a bipartisan pair of former congressional leaders launched a campaign to push for a carbon tax.

One of those leaders lobbying in support, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, said he remains skeptical of what he says are some scientists’ political motives — but that won’t be his focus.

“I’m not going to debate liberals and Democrats about the icebergs melting. I’m not going to argue how imminent a threat this is. I’m just going to say: ‘It is a problem. This is one way to address it. Let’s talk about it.’ ”
— Former Sen. Trent Lott (R.-Miss.)

Jun 232018
 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (1)
– Reported Jun 22, 2018 07:10 by Chris Risley
– Hwy 38 at RR crossing, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “heard calling and giving whistle”

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Redstart & House Wren (June 20)

Lots of American Redstart activity along the bike trail behind Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School on Armour Road. Unable to catch a photo of females. I also saw adult & juvenile House Wrens. Carl Welbourn, Kawartha Camera Club

American Redstart June 20, 2018 – TASSS – Carl Welbourn

House Wren – June 20, 2018 – Carl Welbourn

House Wren fledgling – June 2018 – Carl Welbourn

 

Jun 222018
 

Last of a three-part series exploring local nature destinations

This week, I will conclude my exploration of some of the best nature-viewing areas in the Kawarthas – and beyond – by looking at destinations located mostly south of Peterborough. Almost all of these areas offer excellent opportunities to see a wide range of species and not just those mentioned in the highlights.

For a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular locations (e.g., Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary, Rice Lake – Pengelly Landing, Presqu’ile Provincial Park) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough (or another county such as Northumberland), click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance.

Nature destinations in the Kawarthas (note: Not all of the destinations in this article appear on the map) – Dylan Radcliffe

Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary: Located on north-west corner of Co. Rd. 21 and 28. Highlights:  Waterfowl and shorebirds, especially during spring and fall migration. A spotting scope is necessary.

Millbrook Valley Trails: Take Distillery St. south from King St. in Millbrook and park at trailhead near the millpond. Highlights: Check the millpond for ducks, geese and shorebirds. The Baxter Creek Trail (3 km) traverses a diversity of habitat types including cedar-hemlock forest, extensive wetland (boardwalks) and meadows, each with its representative birds and plants. This is a great trail for wetland flowers, shrubs and birds. Finish up with coffee at the Pastry Peddler Café in downtown Millbrook!

Sign at entrance to Millbrook Valley Trails – Drew Monkman

 

Pleasant Point Rd:  From Co. Rd. 21, take 4th Line east. Highlights:  Screech owls possible all year round in wooded areas along road. Large variety of warblers such as Northern Waterthrush and Black-throated Blue in the low, swampy forests.

Gravel Pit Conservation Area: Located at south end of Crowley Line, which is one line east of Bensfort Rd. Park where Crowley turns west and becomes Rosa Landing Road. Walk in along unmaintained road allowance, which continues south. Climb over gate on left. Continue until you arrive at a large open area with ponds. Highlights: Good general birding, shorebirds possible at ponds during migration

Scriven Road: Located one line east of Bailieboro, between 4th Line and the north shore of Rice Lake. Highlights:  A good place to look for Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, Snowy Owls and Red-tailed Hawks in winter. Field birds like Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks in spring and summer.

 

Rice Lake (Pengelly Point to Hiawatha):  Take Co. Rd. 2 east from Bailieboro. Turn south at Scriven Rd. and follow to Pengelly Point on Rice Lake. Check lake in all directions. Further east, good views of the lake can also be had from Bb Beach Rd., Perrin Point Rd., Southview Dr.,  Wood Duck Dr. and from Harrick Point in Hiawatha First Nation. Highlights:  Rafts of migrating ducks in early spring (late March through early April) and in late fall. Excellent area for Osprey, too.

Herkimer Point Road:  Turn east off Co. Rd. 31 at Hiawatha First Nation. Highlights:  Excellent birding from spring to fall in a variety of habitats, including deciduous forest, swamp and marsh. Good views of Rice Lake from the end of the road, where there is a nice woodlot with wildflowers such as Wild Geranium. Bird species to expect in marshes include Virginia Rail and American Bittern.

Mather’s Corners:  Located east of Drummond Line, just south of Co. Rd. 2 at Mather’s Corners. Highlights:  Ducks, geese and sometimes swans in early spring in flooded cornfield. They include Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and sometimes even Snow Geese and Tundra Swans. The birds are best viewed with a spotting scope from Drummond Line. Continue to south end of road where there is a heronry with large numbers of nesting Great Blue Herons. The fields here are often good for Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks.

Tundra Swans at Mather’s Corners – Luke Berg

Indian River at Keene: Large wetland located just east of village. Explore north and south of the bridge by canoe. Highlights:  Typical wetland plants, amphibians, reptiles and birds such as Virginia Rail and Marsh Wren.

Indian River at Warsaw: At village of Warsaw, take Rock Rd. east about 1 km to Back Dam Park. You can look for birds from the parking lot or explore the river by canoe or kayak. Highlights: Good general birding in spring and early summer. Common Nighthawks migrate south over the river in late afternoon and evening, from mid-August through early September. 50 or more possible on a good evening.

River Road – Take 2nd Line of Asphodel south from Co. Rd. 2. River Rd. is first road on left. Follow across to 6th of Asphodel. Highlights:  Beautiful old forest with impressive mature trees, diverse ferns, abundant spring wildflowers and sometimes birds like Red-bellied and Red-headed Woodpecker.

 

Trans-Canada Trail East (Peterborough to Hastings and beyond):  Section between Drummond and David Fife Lines can be very good, especially where it borders the wetland east of Nelson Road. Highlights:  Excellent birding and butterfly –watching from May through early fall. Watch for Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies east of Nelson Road where Turtlehead wildflowers grow.

A little further afield…

Ballyduff Trails (McKim-Garsonnin Property): Take Hwy 7A to Hwy 35. Head south to Ballyduff Rd. Turn right and continue to Wild Turkey Rd. Park at 851 Ballyduff Rd. Parking is also available at 1020 Gray Rd. (South Pond Farms), located north of Wild Turkey Rd. Highlights:  Explore five trails winding through meadow, forest, wetland and a tall grass prairie restoration project. Go to Kawarthalandtrust.org to print off a trail map.

Fleetwood Creek Natural Area: Continue on Ballyduff Rd. past Wild Turkey Rd. and watch for signs. Highlights:  380-hectare property located within the Oak Ridges Moraine. Trails take you through mature lowland forests, meadows and steep valleys. You will find a diverse flora, interesting geology and impressive fall foliage.

Nonquon Sewage Lagoons: Located on Scugog Line 8, east of Highway 12, north of Port Perry. Highlights: Diverse and sometimes abundant migrating shorebirds in spring, summer and fall. Close-up views. N.B. a ten-dollar permit is necessary. Obtain at Durham Region Transfer Site at 1623 Reach Road, Port Perry. Call 905-985-7346 ext. 112 for more information.

Peter’s Woods Provincial Nature Reserve –  From Co. Rd. 28 at Bewdley, travel east on Co. Rd. 9 and Co. Rd. 29 to McDonald Rd. Turn right (south) on McDonald Rd. to the reserve. Highlights:  Magnificent old-growth forest with huge maples, beech, ash, pine, etc. Diverse ferns, orchids, spring wildflowers and birds.

Second Marsh – McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve – Take Highway 401 east towards Oshawa. Take exit 419. Turn left onto Bloor St. E, then left onto Regional Road 56 and left onto Colonel Sam Dr. Follow to Reserve entrance on right. Highlights: 137-hectare provincially significant coastal wetland; important breeding and migratory stopover area for birds; numerous trails, interpretive signs, viewing platforms with excellent opportunities to see shorebirds, waterfowl, field birds, raptors, etc. Scope will come in handy.

Cranberry Marsh – Take Highway 401 east towards Whitby. Exit at Brock St. (exit 410). Go south 0.5 km to Victoria St. (eastern extension of Bayly). Turn right, go 3.2 km to Hall’s Rd. Turn left, and follow to roadside parking area at pathway. Leads to platform over the marsh. Highlights: Waterfowl (both in marsh and along the lakeshore), owls, migrant songbirds. Excellent hawk-watching in fall. Especially mid-September for Broad-winged Hawks.

Fall hawk-watch at Cranberry Marsh – Drew Monkman

Thickson’s Woods – From Highway 401 in Whitby, Ontario, take Thickson Road south past Wentworth Street to the Waterfront Trail. Turn east (left) 100 metres to a small turnaround. Highlights: Last remnant of old-growth white pines on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Superb late April – early May destination for migrating songbirds like warblers, orioles, tanagers and thrushes.

Cobourg Harbour – From Exit 474 on Highway 401, go south on Division St. (Highway 45) to east pier. Highlights: A great place to see wintering and migrant gulls, ducks and sometimes Snowy Owls. October to April is best. Migrant shorebirds often show up along the west side. Further lake views can be had from the foot of D’Arcy St. where more gulls, grebes  waterfowl often loiter. Flat rocks here contain fossils. Port Hope Harbour on Mill St. is also excellent.

Ganaraska River – Corbett’s Dam: Follow Co. Rd. 28 to first set of traffic lights south of Highway 401. Go west on Molson St. and turn right at Cavan St. Follow to Corbett’s Dam where the fish ladder is located. Highlights: In April, watch Rainbow Trout making the run upstream to spawn. In September, Chinook Salmon can be seen jumping up the ladder and waiting in the hundreds in the water below the dam.

Don Davis tagging Monarchs at Presqu’ile Provincial Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presqu’ile Provincial Park – Located south of Brighton on Lake Ontario. Follow signs. Highlights:  The 10-km-long peninsula jutting into Lake Ontario is a migrant trap for many species of birds. Waterbirds and shorebirds migrate through in large numbers. Unique late-summer wildflowers including False Dragonhead, Grass-of-Parnassus and Kalm’s Lobelia. Staging area for migrant Monarch butterflies in late summer. Special event weekends include Waterfowl Viewing Weekend in March and the Monarchs and Migrants Weekend at Labour Day. If you go to Presqu’ile, be sure to check out the Brighton Constructed Wetland for ducks and other wetland species. It is located at 211 Prince Edward St. (at junction of Harbour St.) about 2 km east of the park entrance.

 

Jun 202018
 

Purple Finches (since early May)

This year, for the first time, we have Purple Finches coming to our feeder. They arrived in early May. I first noted a male, who showed a cinnamon, chestnut-reddish coloured head and body which morphed into a rose/raspberry by the end of May. The females gradually turned from sparrow-like to a very light rose. I think that there are two males and maybe four in total usually show in pairs or singles. One pair comes from the rail-trail behind 500 McDonnel St. Actually, the whole of the rail trail between Park and Bonnacord is interesting with Black Locust trees, a fairly large isolated wooded creek side area and a large communal garden site.  Art Harron, McDonnel Street

Note: Purple Finches are quite rare in Peterborough in the summer. D.M.

male Purple Finch – Wikimedia

House Finch (for comparison) – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predation of robin nest (June 15)

We live on Firwood in Peterborough and had an American Robin nest in a low evergreen in front of our living room window. We were watching as the eggs were laid, hatched and the babies were fed. We watched with pride and pleasure as the parents fed their chicks and feathers had developed, and from a distance I took photos of the progress of the family. This morning, we were shocked, disappointed and devastated to see the nest empty and one baby (body about 3 inches long – perhaps dropped) on the cement walkway of our neighbour (about 15 feet from the nest). It did not seem to have any bite marks or signs of a cat or other animal attacking it but looked as if the fall had killed it. Would this be another bird stealing it from the nest?? What may have happened to the siblings? What may have happened to the parents? Is there somewhere I can find more information? Audrey Moore

Note: Nests of all kinds can be vulnerable to attacks from predators, such as Blue Jays, American Crows, Common Grackles, and many other species of birds and mammals, including cats. In Peterborough, crows seem to be the number one culprit. I have never had a robin nest on my property that has not been predated. Always sad. D.M. 

American Robin fledglings on nest – Murray Lincoln

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squirrel control (June 11 and 27)

We have a Red Fox that visits our yard, even climbing up onto the deck railing. We have witnessed the fox chasing squirrels all around our deck, over chairs, a table and a bench. The fox has jumped from the ground (approx. 6 feet) to the deck railing. It has often walked off with breakfast in its mouth. We have also seen it chase squirrels along the fence, which is about 8 feet high. I have some of it on video as it chased the squirrel under the deck. All this to the tune of a murder of crows voicing their displeasure – in fact, the fox’s arrival is arrival in our yard is announced by the crows.

Don Finigan, Peterborough

Note: On June 27, Don watched the fox catch a squirrel. Don writes: “I have witnessed 5 pursuits so far, in 2 of these the fox was the winner and took home breakfast. The other 3 involved 2 squirrels and 1 ground squirrel. In these 3, it was a straight race. Speed told the story. The other 2 took place on our deck with 2 levels, 6 planters, 2 tables, 1 bench, 4 chairs, 1 BBQ and 2 interior safety railings. All these obstructions for the squirrels to dodge slowed them down and gave the fox its chance to catch them. So when I come back I don’t want to be a squirrel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange colour morphs in Gray Squirrels (June)

I thought these pictures of multicolored brown Eastern Gray Squirrels would be of interest to naturalists. They were taken weeks apart. Peter Ouimet, Bianco Crescent, Peterborough

Brown colour morph E. Gray Squirrel – June 2018 – PTBO – Peter Ouimet

A different brown colour morph E. Gray Squirrel – June 2018 – PTBO – Peter Ouimet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cecropia moth emerges and mates! (May 31) 

I thought you’d like to see this beautiful silk moth that emerged this evening, May 29, after months of being cocooned in our purple sand cherry. We watched it as a caterpillar until one day it just simply disappeared! Then, later in August or September we noticed a clump of leaves stuck together and concluded it might be that it had wrapped itself up for the winter. Sure enough! It was moving its very large wings so perhaps it will be gone by morning. Wendy Marrs

Cecropia- Wendy Marrs

Follow-up: My husband woke me the next day (May 30) with “there are twins!” We soon realized that somehow a male had found our female. They stayed attached all day and last evening were both gone without a trace. After a whole fall, winter and spring, we had grown quite attached to our little guest but that just how it goes in nature:)

Mating Cecropia moths – Wendy Marrs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note from Tim Dyson: 

“Don’t fret Wendy, assuming your Cecropia story is over. After separation of the male and female moths, the female will very often lay a few to several eggs right on the same shrub or tree that she had dined upon the year before as a larva. Look for evidence of the next generation on your sand cherry in the autumn. You might just find another cocoon or two!”

 

Goldfinches playing in the wind? (May 6)

On Friday evening, at the height of a wind storm, but after the rain had lessened somewhat, about a dozen American Goldfinches, mostly male, converged on our birdfeeder stand and faced into the wind, rather than keep to  shelter.  Then, one by one, they jumped face first into the gale-force west wind, and were swept immediately back to the other end of the yard.  They did this repeatedly, as though it was a game.  I have never seen such strong and noisy wind, but the birds seemed to enjoy the challenge – wind-surfing!  Callie Stacey, Lakefield

White American Robin (April 11)

I live in Campbellford and over the past few weeks I have observed a white robin in my backyard, just north of the Canadian Tire parking lot.  It is white with a couple of grey to black patches or strips on its back, and it has a slight orange on the bottom of its breast.  The eyes are black (not pink).  Otherwise it looks like the white robins shown on the internet.  (Google white robin)  It appears to be a mature robin and has always been seen by me alone.  An exception was last night when it was snowing out and it appeared on the lawn, then a rabbit came out and the two picked and ate together as the snow began to cover the lawn.  By eight o’clock they had both disappeared. I have never seen one before. Paul Smith 

Note: This is clearly a leucistic bird, meaning it is lacking in normal pigmentation. D.M.

Leucistic American Robin – Campbellford – via James Burrett – May 2018

 

Purple

 

 

 

Jun 192018
 

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported Jun 15, 2018 07:04 by Luke Berg
– Deer Bay Reach Road, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Audio
– Comments: “Singing, east side of the road at 155 Deer Bay Reach Rd. Got a fairly good look at it a couple times.”

Cerulean Warbler (Karl Egressy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (2)
– Reported Jun 16, 2018 08:15 by Daniel Williams
– Ingleton-Wells Property (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

Jun 152018
 

Part 2 of a 3 part series

This week, I would like to continue my exploration of some of the best nature-viewing areas in the Kawarthas by looking at destinations located mostly north of Peterborough. I have started in the northeast with the Carden Alvar near Kirkfield and worked eastward towards the Havelock area.

To see a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular destinations (e.g., Lakefield Sewage Lagoons, Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Carden Alvar) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough or Kawartha Lakes, click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance.

Nature destinations in the Kawarthas (note: Not all destinations in this article appear on the map) Dylan Radcliffe

Carden Alvar:  Located northwest of Lindsay, about 75 minutes from Peterborough via Hwy 7 and Kawartha Lakes Co. Rd. 6. From Kirkfield, take Co. Rd. 6 north and turn right onto McNamee Rd. Explore concessions such as Wylie Rd., Shrike Rd. and Alvar Rd. Highlights:  Best early summer birding destination in southern Ontario, especially for uncommon and rare grassland birds (e.g., Loggerhead Shrike, Upland Sandpiper, Eastern Bluebird) and marsh birds (e.g., Sedge Wren); unique alvar plant communities (e.g., Prairie Smoke, Indian Paintbrush)  Google “Carden Alvar Birding Guide” Right now (mid-June) is the best time to go!

Prairie Smoke (pink) on the Carden Alvar – Drew Monkman

Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Reserve:  About 70 minutes from Peterborough via Kawartha Lakes Co. Rd. 49 and 121. From Kinmount, Co. Rd. 45 west for 7 about km. The property is at address marker 4164. Highlights: 470 hectares of high-quality forest straddling the contact between the granite rocks of the Canadian Shield and the limestone of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Lowlands; great diversity of habitat types, breeding birds and flora. For more information, Google: “Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary”

Ken Reid Conservation Area:  From the junction of highways 7 and 35, go 5 km north on Hwy 35. Turn right on Kenrei Park Rd. and go 3 km. Highlights:  Forest, fields and huge marsh with boardwalks; high density of active Osprey nests

Emily Tract: Located on Peace Rd. (Kawartha Lakes Co. Rd. 14) just west of Cowan’s Bay and Emily Provincial Park: Highlights: wide variety of mature trees including old pines; excellent display of wildflowers in spring

Gannon’s Narrows: On Co. Rd. 16 north of Ennismore at junction of Pigeon and Buckhorn lakes. Highlights:  Waterfowl in winter, spring and fall; eagles possible; otters on ice.

John Earle Chase Memorial Park Trails: Just north of Gannon’s Narrows. Park 0.6 km down Anchor Bay Road. Highlights: Three new trails totaling 7.5 km. Partnership between Kawartha Land Trust, Trent Severn Waterway and Municipality of Trent Lakes. Mature maple forests, rich wetlands and great views of Pigeon Lake. Go to Kawartha Land Trust site for info and map.

Big (Boyd) Island: Situated at north end of Pigeon Lake, this 1100-acre Kawartha Land Trust is only accessible by boat. You can park and launch a canoe from Bear Creek Road on the east side of the lake. Go to Kawartha Land Trust site for info and map. Highlights: extensive wetlands; large marsh and island complex; limestone cliffs on west shore and granite cliffs in the northeast (a microcosm of The Land Between); diverse bird life (e.g., Eastern Towhee, Golden-winged Warbler); alvar habitat; old growth Eastern Hemlock (west side); impressive diversity of ferns

Aerial View of Boyd Island – Kawartha Land Trust

Galway-Cavendish Forest Access Road: From Buckhorn, take Co. Rd. 36 north to Co. Rd. 507 and follow north to just past the Mississauga Dam Rd. Turn west onto Galway-Cavendish Forest Access Rd.. Highlights: excellent butterfly diversity, including rarities such as West Virginia White; watch for some species perched on road (e.g., Eastern Comma, Compton’s Tortoiseshell)

Bridgenorth Trail: Located between Hilliard Street North (at 5th Line) and Brumwell St. (off East Communication Rd. on east edge of Bridgenorth) Highlights: birds, butterflies (especially gravel pit at Bridgenorth end), amphibians, late-summer flowers

Selwyn Beach Conservation Area: Located on east shore of Chemong Lake, at 2251 Birch Island Rd. Access from 12th Line of Selwyn. Highlights: A nature trail passes through wetland, woodland and open field; impressive stands of beech, maple and oak; excellent wildflower display in May

Lakefield Sewage Lagoons: On southeastern edge of Lakefield. Turn east off Co. Rd. 32 (River Rd) onto Co. Rd. 33. Parking on right. Open to public, but avoid blocking the gate. Footpath around gate on east side of parking area. Both lagoons are worth checking. Highlights: Wide variety of migrating ducks in spring and fall; rare Black Terns in summer; diverse songbirds. Number one eBird Hotspot in Peterborough County. Spotting scope useful.

Lakefield Marsh:   Located at south end of Lake Katchewanooka. Turn north off Co. Rd. 29 (Bridge St.) onto Clement St. Turn right on D’Eyncourt St. Follow signs. Highlights: Wetland birds including Black Terns, American Bittern and migrant ducks; large assortment of dragonflies and damselflies in summer, especially when explored by canoe; observation tower and interpretive signage.

Lake Katchewanooka:  The lake is best viewed from the bottom of Stenner Rd. off east side of Hwy 28, just north of Lakefield. Highlights:  Waterfowl in fall, winter and especially spring; eagles possible all year. Often perch in pine trees on the islands to the south

Miller Creek Wildlife Area:  On 7th Line of Selwyn, about 2 km west from Co. Rd. 24. Highlights:  Wetland birds (e.g., American Bittern, Virginia Rail, Swamp Sparrow) in swamp at southern end of main trail. Marsh at observation tower now mostly grass-covered. Watch and listen for Sandhill Cranes.

Camp Kawartha: Located at 1010 Birchview Road, north of Lakefield. Park beside Camp office. Highlights:  Explore the large network of trails on west side of Birchview Road, opposite the Camp. Wetland, woodland and alvar-like habitat. Detailed trail interpretive guides for orange and yellow trails can be found online at campkawartha.ca/orange-trail-guide and campkawartha.ca/yellow-trail-guide/ If possible, check in first at camp office.

Four-toed Salamander at Camp Kawartha (Jake Fell)

Lynch’s Rock Road and Sawer Creek Wetland: Follow Hwy 28 north almost to Lakefield. Turn east on Strickland Rd. and then north on Douro 5th Line. Turn east on Lynch’s Rock Rd. and follow through Sawer Creek Wetland Wildlife Area. Continue south along Douro 3rd Line. Highlights:  Large wetland with nesting Least Bittern. Sandhill Cranes and Upland Sandpipers possible in fields adjacent to Douro 3rd Line.

Warsaw Caves Conservation Area: Take Co. Rd. 4 north from village of Warsaw. Turn east at Cave Rd. Follow signs. Highlights:  Fascinating limestone geologic formations including kettles and caves; large variety of ferns including Walking Fern; variety of habitat types

Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park:  Located north of Buckhorn Lake between Co. Rd. 507 and Hwy 28. Access points include Coon Lake Rd., Long Lake Rd. and Anstruther Lake Rd. Best explored by canoe. Highlights:  A huge Canadian Shield park with vast rock barrens and strong wilderness qualities; high-quality bogs, fen communities, alvar and Atlantic coastal plain plant communities; mature forest stands; high concentrations of Whip-poor-will and Common Nighthawk; dark skies for astronomy.

Silent Lake Provincial Park: Located on Hwy 28 between Apsley and Bancroft, about 70 minutes from Peterborough. Highlights:  Diverse habitats, including mixed medium-aged forests, sphagnum bogs (abundant Pitcher Plants and Rose Pogonia at southeast end of lake), beaver meadows; valleys support 25 fern species

Pitcher Plants growing in a bog in Silent Lake Provincial Park (Drew Monkman)

Jack Lake Road: Turn south off Co. Rd. 504 on east side of Apsley. Follow to Jack Lake and then west and south to sand and gravel pits at end of road. Highlights:  birds (e.g., crossbills in tamarack bog just south of Hwy 504); large variety of butterflies, especially in bog and in sand/gravel pits further south; abundant deer

Stony Lake Trails: Follow Hwy 28 north from Burleigh Falls to Mt. Julian Viamede Rd. Turn right and continue to Reid’s Rd. Park at address marker 105. Highlights: 10 km of well-marked, interconnected trails with benches. Open to the public thanks to a special agreement with landowners, including Kawartha Land Trust. Deciduous forest on limestone bedrock with moss and fern-rich gully called “The Chute” (Blue Trail); mixed forest on Canadian Shield granite with large groves of hemlocks, extensive wetland, vernal ponds (Yellow and Red Trails). Go to Kawartha Land Trust site for info and map.

Stony Lake Trails – Kawartha Land Trust

 

Petroglyphs Provincial Park:  Follow Hwy 28 north from Burleigh Falls to just past Woodview. Turn right on Northey’s Bay Rd. and follow for about 11 km. Highlights: Situated on southern edge of Canadian Shield; excellent birding and botanizing (e.g. Pink Lady’s-slipper)on Nanabush Trail; large stands of Red and White Pine; abundant White-tailed Deer; birds of interest include Bald Eagle, crossbills, Evening Grosbeak, warblers and sometimes Black-backed Woodpecker; Five-lined Skinks fairly common; diverse butterflies along edges of roads and wetlands.

Minnow Lake on the Nanabush Trail – Drew Monkman

Hubble Road: Follow Co. Rd. 6 along south shore of Stony Lake and turn right at Co. Rd. 44. Continue southeast for about 4 km to Hubble Rd. on right. Highlights:  Woodland and alvar-like habitat with uncommon birds such as Golden-winged Warbler, Whip-poor-will and Eastern Towhee.

The Gut Conservation Area on Crowe River:  From Apsley, drive east on Co. Rd. 504 to Lasswade. Continue east for about 7 km. Watch for signs. Highlights:  Impressive gorge in basaltic rock; Canadian Shield birds; impressive showing of spring wildflowers in May; abundant ferns and mosses

Sandy Lake Road:  From Co. Rd. 46, turn right about 6 km north of Oak Lake onto Sandy Lake Rd. Highlights:  Diverse butterflies including uncommon skippers (e.g., Mulberry Wing, Broad-winged in summer) along the edge of the sedge marshes; uncommon spring butterflies in May (e.g. Chryxus Arctic, Olympia Marble); Pine Warblers in pines; eagles and crossbills in winter.

Next week, I’ll look at some destinations south of Peterborough.

 

 

 

Jun 082018
 

Part 1 of a 3 part series on local nature destinations 

People often ask me where they should go to see birds and other wildlife. My initial answer is usually “just about anywhere.” Although this is true, I realize that a little more detail might be helpful. This week I’d like to begin a series of three articles on nature destinations in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. I haven’t written on this topic for over six years, and I’ve either discovered or been told about many new locales. But first, a little background information is helpful.

Peterborough County and the Kawarthas is largely defined by the Trent-Severn Waterway and the Kawartha Lakes. It also embraces two of Canada’s main physiographic regions. Driving north from Peterborough along Highway 28, we enter the southern edge of the Canadian Shield at Burleigh Falls. Suddenly, beautiful pink granite and other Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks are easily visible along the roadside and conifers like White Pine become much more common. Satellite images clearly show a largely unbroken expanse of dark green tree cover on the Shield, interspersed with lakes, wetlands and rock barrens.

The land south of the Shield is lower in elevation and has more fertile, calcareous soils. It belongs to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Lowland, a region of younger sedimentary rock. Limestone, laid down 490 million years ago during the Ordovician period, overlies the basal Shield rock deep below. This limestone is most visible in road cuts all along the edge of the Shield such as the southern entrance to the village of Buckhorn.

This mix of Shield country, lowlands and waterways makes for one of the richest assortments of habitats in the province. These also include rarer habitat types like the bare rock ridges and acidic bogs of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park and the flat, open limestone pavement habitat of the Carden Alvar.

With such a wide variety of habitat types, the Kawarthas enjoys one of the greatest diversities of plants and animals in the province. Nature-watching destinations abound. The list of locations that I am proposing is by no means exhaustive, nor is the list of Highlights that accompanies each locale. To see a detailed list of what bird species can be found in the more popular destinations (e.g., Jackson Park, Little Lake, Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary, Lakefield Sewage Lagoons, Harper Park) go to ebird.org. Click on Explore Data, Explore a Region, type in Peterborough, click on Hotspots, click on the destination of your choice and then click on Bar Charts. You will see a list of all birds seen, along with their seasonal abundance. You can choose different date ranges, as well. I suggest Jan-Dec, 1900-2017 (or present year).

Readers may wish to email me their own favourite locations (preferably within an hour of Peterborough), which I may be able to include in the next two articles.

City of Peterborough and Vicinity

The best birding and general nature-viewing destinations in Peterborough are often along the Otonabee River-Little Lake corridor and adjacent green spaces. Linear green spaces such as rail-trails can also be excellent. Birds, butterflies and mammals often travel along these corridors.

Little Lake: Located east of George St. south. Good observation points include Little Lake Cemetery, Mark St. boat launch, Edgewater Blvd. and Lock 20. Highlights: Waterbirds in early spring, late fall and winter (ice conditions permitting) including diving ducks, grebes, loons and uncommon gulls; Bald Eagles possible in winter; land birds in the cemetery (e.g., Merlin) and a wide variety of mature native and non-native trees

River Road: Also called Co. Rd. 32. Located on east bank of Otonabee River between Trent University and Lakefield. Highlights: Diving ducks such as goldeneyes and mergansers during migration and in winter; migrating swallows in spring; Bald Eagles and otters sometimes seen

Otonabee River South: Located just north of the Peterborough By-Pass (Hwy. 7), this section of the river is best viewed either from Sherin Ave. on the east or Cameron St. on the west. Highlights: Diving ducks and sometimes grebes during migration and in winter; Bald Eagle possible.

Lock 19 on Otonabee River: Take Sherburne St. south from Lansdowne St. Turn left at Morrow St. and follow to Lock 19 parking lot. Highlights:  Spawning Walleye and suckers in early April; diving ducks in late fall, winter and spring

Crawford Rail Trail: From Monaghan Rd., just south of Lansdowne St., to Crawford Dr. Highlights:  Good general birding, especially at Crawford Dr. end

Harper Park: Located west of Harper Rd. /Rye St. Access from entrance to Harper Rd. Composting Facility where Harper Creek passes under Harper Rd. Highlights: 150-acre natural environment park, provincially-significant wetland, coldwater creeks, meadows, forest, wild brook trout, deer, diverse native birds and plants not normally found within city limits (e.g., Great Horned Owl, Great Lobelia, Cinnamon Fern), numerous migrants in spring. Go to harperpark.ca for more information including a trail map

Kawartha Heights Park: Located between Kawartha Heights Blvd. and Redwood Dr. Access from south end of Crestwood Ave. – Highlights:  birds, plants, butterflies, amphibians, mature trees

Loggerhead Marsh: Located on north side of Ireland Dr., east of Brealey Dr. Highlights: Provincially Significant wetland, two large ponds, diverse shorebirds and songbirds during migration; wetland species like rails, warblers, snipe, herons, and ducks, raptors such as Osprey and Cooper’s Hawk, amphibian chorus in spring. Go to loggerheadmarsh.org for more information.

Jackson Park: Located at junction of Parkhill Rd. and Monaghan Rd. in Peterborough. Highlights: Migrant land birds in spring and fall, stream invertebrates, numerous old-growth trees such as White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, Eastern White Cedar and American Beech, diverse ferns and wildflowers (e.g., Turtlehead, Zig-zag Goldenrod) along rail-trail and especially in the wooded section of the path that borders the east side of the lagoon.

Fairbairn Street Wetland:  Located on west side of Fairbairn St., just north of Co. Rd. 19 (Line Rd. 3). Highlights:  Wetland species like bitterns, gallinules, rails and ducks. Occasional rarities like Nelson’s Sparrow (Oct. 2017)

Trans-Canada Trail: From Jackson Park, east to Omemee Highlights: Wide variety of trees, shrubs (e.g., Silky Dogwood), ferns and wildflowers border the trail; wetland species at Lily Lake and east to Ackison Rd. (e.g., Wood Duck, Swamp Sparrow, Beaver, River Otter, Snapping Turtle, Nannyberry, High-bush Cranberry); Fringed Gentian and Ladies’-tresses Orchids just east of Hwy. 7 overpass

Parkway Trail: A paved trail extending from corner of Fairbairn St. and Highland Rd. to Cumberland Ave. Highlights:  Hilliard to Cumberland section has large concentrations of migrant sparrows in fall and robins in winter, occasional Barred Owls, abundant Virginia Creeper and Wild Grape. Chemong to Hilliard section has a section of wetland (e.g., Common Yellowthroat) and a large retention pond with ducks and herons.

Trent University Nature Areas: Numerous trails traverse a variety of habitats on both sides of the Otonabee River. These include the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary trails east of University Rd., the Canal Nature Area west of University Rd. and the Promise Rock Trail, which can be accessed opposite the small parking lot on the west side of Nassau Mills Rd. near Lock 22. Highlights: wetland, forest and meadow habitats, diverse birds (e.g., warblers, Winter Wren, American Woodcock, Great Horned Owl, Great Blue Heron nesting colony, active Tree Swallow nesting boxes), butterflies, amphibians, etc.

University Road wetland: Located just north of the Warsaw Rd. (Co. Rd. 4) on University Rd. Highlights: Impressive frog and toad chorus in spring

Rotary-Greenway Trail: A 20 km, mostly paved trail from the Ecology Park on Ashburnham Dr., through East City in Peterborough and north to Lakefield. Highlights: Birds (especially in the marsh just north of the Trent Science Complex), butterflies, amphibian chorus in spring.

Meadowvale Park: Located at west end of Frances Stewart Rd. at Ashdale Crescent W. Extends west of Rotary Greenway Trail. Highlights: woodland, field and stream habitat, good general birding, ducks on river

GreenUP Ecology Park: Located on Ashburnham Dr. just south of Maria St. Highlights: wide variety of display gardens, native plant nursery and sales, diverse butterflies and nesting songbirds (e.g., American Redstart, Gray Catbird), winter bird feeder trail maintained by PFN, migrants in spring in fall, nature education program, gardening workshops

Beavermead Park: Located on Ashburnham Dr. just south of Maria St. Best locations include Tollington Bridge area and Beavermead Campground. Highlights: ducks and herons along Meade Cr., spring and fall migrants in campground

Jun 042018
 

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (1)
– Reported Jun 03, 2018 05:57 by Chris Risley
– Jones Quarter Line and Bland Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “previously reported, heard giving dry buzz song, then seen”

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) (1)
– Reported Jun 05, 2018 12:20 by Dan Luckman
– Peterborough–Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo

Red-headed Woodpecker on River Road, near Hastings – Don Pettypiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (2)
– Reported Jun 08, 2018 09:59 by Chris Risley
– Carmel Line, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.1023792,-78.4773588&ll=44.1023792,-78.4773588
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46413777

Yellow-billed Cuckoo – Greg Piasetzki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (2)
– Reported Jun 08, 2018 10:15 by Warren Dunlop
– Big (Boyd/Chiminis) Island (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5395496,-78.4977925&ll=44.5395496,-78.4977925
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46406444

 

Jun 032018
 

After almost 8 months of wintering over, moisturizing, hovering and nail biting, the moth has finally emerged from the cocoon I found in the leaf litter last October. I even took the cocoon camping with me – I did not want to miss the big event! Introducing my Polyphemus moth.

Polyphemus – Barb Evett – June 1 2018

I will be releasing him/her this evening.  I am so excited! Barb Evett, Peterborough

Local moth expert Tim Dyson responds to Barb Evett’s sighting:   

Your moth is in fact a “she”.  If you want to continue your adventure, I would recommend you keep her in a lit room until after dark tonight and then take her out into the yard and let her walk onto a tree in a place that won’t be obvious to birds and/or cats in the morning. If she does not fly off outright, she will begin to scent for a male. She will do this by dropping her
“spray can” out of her back end and release her pheromone to attract a mate. If successful, in the
morning tomorrow, you will find the two moths attached at their back ends. They will remain paired like this until dusk the following evening. Then, he will fly off seeking the scent of another. (if he is not spent from the first breeding with your moth), and she will head out on her first egg-laying trip. She will likely lay many right in your yard if she finds the right host trees (and Polphemus moths use many different species like oaks, maples, elms, willows, and poplars among others). You will have a good chance then, to perhaps find more cocoons in your yard this fall, too. I currently have 45 Polyphemus cocoons from larva that I raised on elm and willow last summer. Have not had any emerge as yet this spring, but expect the first any day now.

Barb’s follow-up:  Thank you for the wonderful information, Tim.  Last Friday morning I discovered she had emerged and her wings were extended fully.  I feared she had emerged the previous day and I had failed to discover it.  I knew from an article I read that she had three days to mate, so time was of the essence. So, that night, I took her outside on my hand after dark.  She had climbed up my arm, had her wings straight out and she was vibrating.  I wanted to set her on the trunk of my maple tree, but as soon as the night breeze touched her, she was off and into the night air.  I know she flew across the street disappearing into the night.  I am hopeful she successfully found a mate. I am totally fascinated by your email.  They stay attached till dusk??  The spray can out of her bottom?  I never knew moths were so complex and interesting.  I am keeping your email and address for future reference.  You must have all the right equipment for your 45 cocoons.  If you ever do an open house, let me know.

Many thanks, Tim!  Next time I rake my lawn, I will be more vigilant.  And maybe I will start checking the tree for larvae.

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 032018
 
I came from the Coe Hill area and we had 2 kinds of large turtles (still do). Both types are very dark, grow to about 16″ – 18″ in diameter, very aggressive. The main difference is one has a smooth shell and one has a spiked shell, 1 row on either side and horns at the tail area.The smooth shelled ones we called Mud Turtles and the spiked shelled we called Snapping Turtles.
We used to go fishing every year for about 50 years to Cranberry Lake, now called Upper Rathbun, and there was very large, very old snapper that used to come to our campsite on the northeast portion of the lake. It would normally arrive by the time that we had our tents and campsite set up and wait near the shore for our catch which we cleaned on the shore. It would often hiss at us as we sat in the boat cleaning the bass/splake  that we had caught as if telling us to hurry up with its supper. I was last there about 10 years ago and she/he still came to greet us after 50 years.
Blair Greenly
Note: I’m quite certain that they were both Eastern Snapping Turtles. Smooth shells are actually fairly common in this species – even in large individuals. We don’t have Mud Turtles in Ontario, although some people refer to Eastern Musk Turtles as “mud turtles”. They are quite a bit smaller and only reach about 6 inches in diameter as an adult. It’s interesting that the turtles continued to show up year after year. It makes you wonder how old these turtles get. I’ve heard estimates of over 100-years-old! D.M.

Snapping Turtle – Rick Stankiewicz

Eastern Musk Turtle – USFWS (via Wikimedia)

Jun 032018
 

 Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 12:33 by Thomas Unrau
– Big (Boyd/Chiminis) Island (Kawartha Land Trust), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Good visual id- full white wing bars. Good song”

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (2)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 12:05 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Lakefield–Centre Road at Douro Line 3, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (Porzana carolina) (1)
– Reported Jun 01, 2018 11:32 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sawer Creek Wetland & Wildlife Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2018 10:20 by Chris Risley
– Otonabee River–Whitfield Landing, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.2117853,-78.3550294&ll=44.2117853,-78.3550294
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46169464

Sedge Wren (Cistothorus platensis) (1)
– Reported May 30, 2018 04:57 by Iain Rayner
– Miller Creek Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3866915,-78.3501577&ll=44.3866915,-78.3501577
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46172173
– Comments: “Much louder and closer today. Heard well from patch of sedge just beyond second “lookout”…which isn’t a lookout at all.”

Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) (1)
– Reported May 31, 2018 11:13 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Deer Bay Reach Road, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.5740226,-78.2863426&ll=44.5740226,-78.2863426
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46182776
– Comments: “singing around 50-100 m E road at hydro pole 3232 (picnic bench)”

May 312018
 

All eight species of Ontario turtles are now designated as at risk

With the arrival of June, turtles are once again on the move. Unfortunately, this migration often  involves a hazardous trek across busy roads and highways. Clearly, a turtle’s shell is no match for the crushing weight of a motor vehicle. The result is that thousands of turtles are killed or injured by cars and trucks in the Kawarthas each spring and summer. The carnage is devastating for turtle populations, since egg-bearing adult females are usually the victims. On the bright side, an increasing number of people are now aware of the potential presence of turtles on the road and are adjusting their driving accordingly. It is not hard to avoid striking a turtle if you are driving at a reasonable speed and scan the road ahead.

Snapping Turtle digging nest on roadside (Danielle Tassie )

Starting in late May, turtles begin searching out a place to lay their eggs, preferably with well-drained, loose, sandy soil or fine gravel. This helps to explain the popularity of road shoulders as nesting sites. The female scrapes out a hollow with her hind legs before proceeding to deposit the eggs. Painted Turtles lay five to ten white eggs, elliptical in shape and about two centimetres long. Snapping Turtles may lay as many as 70 eggs! They look remarkably like ping-pong balls but are much smaller. When the turtle has finished laying, she uses her hind legs to fill in the hole and press down the earth around the eggs. She then drags her shell over the nest and sweeps the area with her hind feet as if to cover up any sign of her presence.

Peterborough County is home to six species of turtles, although only three, the Painted, Snapping and Blanding’s are commonly seen. Seven of Ontario’s turtle species have been classified by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests as species at risk. The situation for Spotted Turtles is so critical that they are now listed as endangered, meaning they face imminent extinction or extirpation. Both the Blanding’s and Eastern Musk turtles are classified as threatened. The Snapping Turtle, along with the Northern Map Turtle, are designated as species of special concern. Just last month, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) also designated the Midland Painted Turtle as a species of special concern. This means that all of Ontario’s turtles are now at risk of disappearing from the province.

Turtle populations are in decline for a number of reasons. First of all, turtle eggs stand a very poor chance of surviving the long incubation period. Predators such as Raccoons and Striped Skunks usually discover the nests within the first 48 hours after egg-laying, dig up the eggs and enjoy a hearty meal. They leave behind a familiar sight of crinkled, white shells scattered around the nest area. Since these predators tend to flourish anywhere there is human settlement   – Raccoons are probably twenty times more abundant than 50 years ago – very few turtle nests go undiscovered. You can help our beleaguered turtle populations by not feeding Raccoons and by assuring  they do not get into your garbage.

As already mentioned, roadkill is also a very significant cause of turtle mortality, especially during the June nesting season. Killing pregnant females not only removes reproductive adults from the population, but it also means all their potential future offspring are lost as well. According to Dr. Ron Brooks, professor at the University of Guelph, even a loss of 1 to 2% of adults annually from the “extra” mortality of roadkill will eventually lead to the disappearance of local populations.

So, what can drivers do to protect turtles? It’s mostly a matter of slowing down and watching the road carefully at this time of year, especially when travelling near wetlands, lakes and rivers. If you see a turtle on the road, consider stopping and moving it to the shoulder in the direction it was heading. Don’t return the animal to the side of the road it came from, because it will simply turn around and march right back into the traffic. You must, of course, be sure that there is no danger from oncoming cars before you perform this kind of intervention.

If the turtle is small, you can simply carry it across the road. If you are dealing with a Snapping Turtle (which can bite) the safest technique is to push and prod the animal along with a stout stick or shovel. You can also lift or pull the turtle, holding onto the rear of the shell. A Snapper can reach its midpoint so do not pick it up near the middle of the shell. Nor should you ever pick up a turtle by the tail, since this may damage its spine. It is also important not to straddle a Snapping Turtle with your car. Snappers jump up when they feel threatened, thereby hitting the undercarriage of the vehicle as it passes over them. This results in serious head trauma and shearing injuries to the carapace.

As for nesting turtles, you should never dig up a turtle nest in order to protect the eggs. You may damage them and it is also illegal. However, if you find a nest that has been disturbed by a predator, carefully place the eggs back in the hole and bury them, or bring the eggs to the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (see below) to be incubated. Record the location of the nest as precisely as possible and be careful to keep the eggs right side up during transport. You can also help to protect new nests by lightly sweeping the surface of the nests (to disperse the scent) or temporarily covering the nest with a board for the first few days. If you have a turtle that is nesting on your property, keep an eye out for hatchlings from late August until snow and then again in spring the next year.

Painted Turtle nesting (Rick Stankiewicz)

Since June 2002, the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTTC) has been saving injured native turtles and releasing them back to where they were initially found. Because so few turtles ever reach sexual maturity – females don’t reproduce until they are 18 years of age – each adult turtle is part of an extremely important group. This is why it is essential to rehabilitate turtles – especially females – that have been injured as a result of run-ins with vehicles. As long as they can avoid human-related threats, turtles can live and breed for decades and thereby perpetuate the species.

If you have found an injured turtle, call the OTCC at 705-741-5000. Do not email because an injured animal needs medical attention as soon as possible. Remember to note the location (road, major intersections and/or distance from a given landmark) where the turtle was found. This is necessary in order to ensure that the turtle can be released back into the wild according to provincial regulations. Carefully place the injured animal in a well-ventilated container – plastic, if possible – with a secure lid. Do not transport turtles in water and do not offer the turtle anything to eat. Be sure to visit the OTTC website at ontarioturtle.ca or drop in at the Centre itself. It is located at 4-1434 Chemong Road, just north of Peterborough.

Nearly all of Ontario’s amphibians and reptiles – snakes included – are in a steep decline. In order to monitor changes in the ranges of these animals and fluctuations in their population numbers, volunteers are needed to submit their observations. Take note of the date and location and report your sighting to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Observations can be submitted via an online form at ontarionature.org/programs/citizen-science/reptile-amphibian-atlas/  Most importantly, be sure to vote next Thursday for a political party that take species conservation and climate change seriously. This means providing greater habitat protection and assuring adequate funding for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. The future of the natural world is in a race against the clock.

 

May 282018
 

Whimbrels, Dunlin and Cattle Egret:  Seen in Brighton, Ontario, on May 27.  Don Munro

Whimbrels & Dunlin – Brighton, ON – May 27, 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cattle Egret – Brighton, ON – May 27, 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported May 26, 2018 11:03 by Bill Crins
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2018 11:00 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield water tower, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “watched it singing from branch of an apple tree.Continuing bird.”

Clay-colored Sparrow – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 27, 2018 13:20 by Bill Crins – Rice Lake–Island View Drive, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “mature male; small, slim oriole with black head and breast, wings, tail; dark auburn lower breast, belly, undertail coverts, shoulder patch, white wing bars; occasionally sang warbling song with more burry notes interspersed; active, seen at close range in small shrubs, and at wet pool on road, heard singing from large silver maple at lodge; found where Islandview Rd. veers sharply to the east, at the lodge driveway”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

May 252018
 

I’ve just returned from my annual birding trip to Point Pelee and Rondeau parks in southwestern Ontario. And, yes, the birds of spring were present in all their diversity and beauty. Every year, however, I notice something deeply unsettling: the reduction in abundance. Take the Wood Thrush, for example. Instead of seeing and hearing dozens or even hundreds of individuals, we maybe counted ten.

Wood Thrush – Greg Piasetzki

The park experience is changing in other ways, too. Each year, more and more trees are being blown over by severe windstorms. This spring, near-record rainfall also caused so much flooding at Rondeau that the campground was closed and rubber boots were a necessity to access several of the park trails.

The upcoming provincial election only adds to my anxiety level when it comes to issues such as these. The front-runner, Doug Ford, is clearly unconvinced – or simply doesn’t care – that a conservation or climate change problem even exists. He is promising to get rid of Ontario’s cap and trade climate tax. He was also prepared to open up part of Ontario’s Greenbelt to housing development, until he reversed his position for largely unknown reasons. Despite the reversal, this speaks volumes of where his heart lies – and it’s not with land conservation or enlightened urban planning.

Ford is also promising to reduce government spending to find billions of dollars in savings. This will probably mean drastic budget reductions to government departments as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. We can also expect rollbacks to the Liberal’s urban planning legislation – the most progressive in North America and a key tool against urban sprawl. I’m sure that progressive urban planners across the province are shaking in their boots about what may be coming. As for Peterborough, a bridge over Jackson Park will probably be much more likely.

Doug Ford in Thunder Bay in May 2018 – Wikimedia

The Great Thinning

British environmental writer Michael McCarthy describes the reduction in wildlife numbers such as those I’ve alluded to as “The Great Thinning”. Thinning doesn’t grab headlines or spur campaigns the way that extinction does. It inhabits a space below the radar, especially to those who aren’t really paying attention. Something similar could be said about climate change. Unless people are flooded out of their homes or forced to evacuate because of forest fires or sea level rise, a changing climate remains an abstraction. The mountains of science-based data about how dire things are becoming don’t resonate with those not directly affected. Polls still show that climate change remains far down the list of concerns for most Canadians.

As a naturalist living in the 21st century, everything that means the most to me – beyond the well-being of family and friends – is under siege. I live in a world of loss – a thinning in abundance of everything from bees and butterflies to reptiles, mammals and birds. Where diverse, abundant nature was once at our doorstep, most Ontarians now have to make a concerted effort to see many species and experience healthy, rich habitats.

When I lived on Westbrook Drive in the 1980s, Barn Swallows nested each spring in our carport; the calls of Common Nighthawks resonated over downtown Peterborough on summer nights; large swarms of bats fed over the pagoda pond in Jackson Park; and Monarchs were so common that we hardly noticed them. Even a car drive on a summer night spoke volumes of species abundance. I clearly remember how the windshield and headlights would become so splattered with moths and other flying insects that I sometimes had to stop to wipe them clean before carrying on.

The predictability of climate, too, was taken for granted. Snow usually arrived in early December and stayed until mid-March. The odd January thaw would occur, but it was still possible to have a backyard rink for most of the winter. Extreme heat, rain and wind events occurred on occasion but were far less common.

Peterborough is already feeling the effects of climate change such as the flood of 2004 – Janine Jones photo

Fast-forward three decades. With luck, you might find a barn where swallows still nest; you sometimes see nighthawks during their fall migration; if you know exactly where to go, there are still a few small colonies of martins on Rice Lake; I still hear of the occasional single bat turning up in older homes; and seeing one or two Monarchs in the garden has become an event of great excitement, rather than the norm. As for night-flying summer insects, our windshields are eerily clean.

When it comes to climate and weather, we no longer know what to expect, other than it will be an extreme of some sort. Over the past 15 years, Peterborough has experienced an epic flood, numerous severe wind and freezing rain events with a huge loss of trees and record-cold winter months interspersed with record-warm winter months. More and more, our weather is delivered in extremes. All of this is playing out against a background of three months out of four being warmer than the 1971-2000 average.

Sad and frustrated

In light of all these changes, the feelings I experience most are sadness and frustration. Sadness that my granddaughters who love nature will probably never experience its richness and diversity the way I have, and frustration that I can’t even convince many close friends that aggressive action on climate change has to be a bare minimum for anyone seeking public office. I find it appalling that politicians like Doug Ford can get away with putting short-term political gain ahead of the kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren. Just as Ontario is making progress on fighting climate change, Ford is promising to undo it all by getting rid of the cap and trade agreement with Quebec and California. That a political party could get itself elected in 2018 on a program that includes ditching a price on carbon is horrifying. It’s almost like someone saying, “Vote for us and we’ll roll back the laws on same sex marriage, restrictions on smoking in public places and equal pay for work of equal value”.

Everywhere we look, climate change predictions are being confirmed. If you believe in science – humankind’s best way of discovering what’s true – you have to believe that forecasts for the coming years will prove true, as well. Yes, it’s difficult to think beyond the present moment and the many worries and stresses of everyday life. However, we can’t put our heads in the sand. Parents who are outraged when their child is exposed to second-hand smoke or unsafe playground equipment remain somehow paralyzed when it comes to the infinitesimally  greater threat represented by climate change.

Our very civilization depends on a stable, predictable climate, but we fail to grasp the enormity of the climate calamity at our doorstep. In most areas of our lives, the majority of human beings are kind, moral people. However, where is the morality of ignoring what science is telling us? Do we really think we’re better informed than the scientists are? Where is the morality in letting a politician like Doug Ford get away with cancelling a carbon tax and muse about opening protected land to housing development? Ford is making us look like a bunch of fools.

We have no true sense that the Earth is our larger body that we breathe, drink, eat and turn to for inspiration and spiritual well-being. We still haven’t learned to look at nature – be it wildlife or climatic systems – as part of ourselves, as something in which we are deeply embedded. It remains something “out there” and apart. If we truly understood the importance of nature – for our spirits, our souls and our physical and emotional well-being – the on-going destruction of species, habitats and climate systems would never be tolerated. At the very least, we wouldn’t let politicians get away with campaigning on policies that will only lead to greater destruction.

Hope

I still hope that there might be “a great turning” — a transition from a society shaped primarily by unbridled economic growth and the savaging of the natural world to a more life-sustaining ethic. And, to be fair, progress is being made. We see it in ways of generating energy, producing food, learning from the wisdom of indigenous people and even new metrics for measuring prosperity, happiness and wealth. I think our love and awareness of nature is growing, too. In Peterborough, this is apparent in things as simple as the number of “I brake for turtles” bumper stickers on cars and the many people who now garden with pollinators in mind. Respect for smaller-scale, more conservation-minded agriculture can also be seen in the huge public support for locally-produced food.

Now is not the time to turn our back on this progress. Climate change and conservation are not problems like the others. We are in a race against the clock. If greenhouse gas emissions are not brought down to almost zero in the next couple of decades, the very worst impacts of climate change are a near certainty. As for conservation, once species and habitats have disappeared, they are gone forever.

On June 7, vote for a party that is honest about the climate threats we face, supports a tax on carbon and believes in conservation and progressive urban planning.

 

May 222018
 

Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) (1)
– Reported May 23, 2018 07:23 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Peterborough–Trent Rotary Rail Trail, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “singing”

Orange-crowned Warbler by Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 09:11 by Iain Rayner
– Ptbo – Centre Line Rd Smith, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Heard calling. Known location”

Greg Piasetzki – Upland Sandpiper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (2)
– Reported May 22, 2018 10:15 by Bill Crins
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Cliff Swallow building nest – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) (2)
– Reported May 21, 2018 15:43 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sand Road–between Asphodel Line 7 and 4, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Vesper Sparrow – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 15:43 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Sand Road–between Asphodel Line 7 and 4, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.3472688,-78.025353&ll=44.3472688,-78.025353
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45902970
– Comments: “adult male singing from roadside Bur Oak at gravel pit”

Orchard Oriole – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Wigeon (Mareca americana) (2)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “males”

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila) (1)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4180879,-78.2587266&ll=44.4180879,-78.2587266
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45912749
– Media: 1 Photo

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) (6)
– Reported May 21, 2018 11:55 by Dave Milsom
– Lakefield–Sewage Lagoons, Peterborough, Ontario
– Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&t=p&z=13&q=44.4180879,-78.2587266&ll=44.4180879,-78.2587266
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45912749
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “head with slight bump at rear, small bill.Coarser markings on mantle.”

Whimbrels:  I was out kayaking this morning, May 21, and got a very good look at four Whimbrels standing on a log on the edge of Lakefield Marsh. Annamarie Beckel, Lakefield

Whimbrel – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More shorebirds:  At 11 am, Monday morning (May  21) there were 2 female Wilson’s Phalaropes in remnants of pond on south side of 2nd Line about 500 metres east of  Highway #28. This is the pond which held several rare geese in April and early May. Also there were 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, 2 Dunlin, Killdeer, and many Least Sandpipers. No sign of male Wilson’s Phalarope on Choate Road, Port Hope, but 4 Black-bellied Plovers flew in. Sanderling and Dunlin on breakwall rocks close to harbour in Port Hope.   Dave Milsom

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:  This morning, May 21, I had a visit at my feeder from a male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  Derry Fairweather, Buckhorn Lake

Rose-breasted Grosbeak – May 21, 2018, Derry Fairweather

 

May 212018
 

 

Great Horned Owl:  I took this owlet picture yesterday, May 17, at a nest 1 km west of Springbrook, Ontario. Don Munro

Great Horned Owlet – May 17, 2018 – Springbrook, ON – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea) (1)
– Reported May 17, 2018 11:45 by Ben Taylor
– Peterborough–Mervin Line, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Small bluish gray bird with white eye ring singing softly in a tree quite near Mervin line. As seen by previously.”

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) (1)
– Reported May 17, 2018 09:39 by Mike V.A. Burrell
– Otonabee Gravel Pit Conservation Area, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Singing normal song, visually confirmed. At the small clearing immediately east of the lower gate.”

Blue-winged Warbler – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sora (Porzana carolina) (3)
– Reported May 13, 2018 08:27 by Matthew Garvin
– Peterborough–Fairbairn Street wetland, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist:
– Media: 1 Photo
– Comments: “Responded immediately to So-RAh playback with rattle calls”

Sora (rail) – Wikimeda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leucistic American Robin:  This robin was in the backyard at 71 Pellissier St. S. in Campbellford.
Paul Smith

leucistic American Robin – Campbellford – via James Burrett – May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Bittern: This bittern was caught on a trail cam video at Gannon’s Narrows Conservation
area May 12, 2018 @ 2:30pm.  Kingsley Hubbs

AMBI – May 12, 2018 – Kingsley Hubbs – Gannons Narrrows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker:  We have had these Red-bellied Woodpeckers coming back to nest for about five years. They are here all through the winter at the feeder. I think that they nest in the maple in front of the house. We are located at 1520 Blezard Line. Nancy Salonius

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Nancy Salonius

 











Orchard Oriole: This Orchard Oriole has been eating oranges at my feeder on Ford 
Crescent in Cavan since May 9.  Ken Rumble

1st summer male Orchard Oriole – May 11, 2018 – Ken Rumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Thrasher:  We spotted this Brown Thrasher in our Peterborough yard this lovely May 5 morning. Helen and Larry Keller

Brown Thrasher – Peterborough – May 5, 2018 – Larry Keller


		
May 182018
 

From botanical gardens and wildlife centres to museums and coffee farms, the San José area has much to offer

As we boarded the bus to San Isidro de Heredia, we were sorry to leave Puerto Viejo, but felt satisfied that we’d experienced much of what Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has to offer. Our friends, Mike and Sonja Barker had especially enjoyed the music scene and yoga; my wife, Michelle, was enamored by the restaurants and cafés; while all of us were enchanted by the prodigious wildlife  However, we were also looking forward to our final 10 days of the trip in the much cooler San Isidro area, located in the Central Valley northeast of San José.

San Isidro, and nearby Santo Domingo, have wonderful farmers markets – Drew Monkman

Although the region of San Isidro is much more developed and not as biologically rich as Puerto Viejo, it offers much of interest, including farmers markets, picturesque villages and great dining. Michelle was able to find us a very comfortable, modern house through VRBO. The American owner, Steve Huffstutlar, was everything you could expect in a host:  tour guide, problem solver and authority on all things Costa Rican. I especially enjoyed chatting with him about Costa Rican Spanish, which has some unique features. For example, the familiar personal pronoun “tu” is not used at all, while the use of “usted” is ubiquitous, even between parents and their children. The signature Spanish expression of the country is “pura vida” which means “pure life”, but is commonly used as a salutation or exclamation.

Mike Barker and my wife Michelle watching some of Costa Rica’s amazing birdlife (Photo by Drew Monkman)

I also enjoyed chatting with Steve’s bilingual on-site manager, Eduardo Chumpitasi, who is a very knowledgeable amateur lepidopterist. He showed me his huge collection of moths and butterflies, many of which he had collected in his own yard. His wife, Agnes, showed me the Monarch caterpillars she was raising with her grandchildren. Monarchs are a non-migratory, resident species here and surprisingly common.

Steve’s property had a good selection of flowering shrubs and trees – including many conifers – which attracted a wide diversity of birds. Blue-and-white Swallows coursed overhead, while Grayish Saltators sang from trees and Rufous-collared Sparrows fed on the lawn. Every night, a Common Pauraque – a bird closely related to the Whip-poor-will – serenaded us with its loud, whistled “kweeeuu” call. The laneway, which crossed a nearby creek, turned out to be a great place to see North American migrants like Baltimore Orioles, Summer Tanagers, Wilson’s Warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush. In all, I was able to find 37 species within five minutes of the house.

Steve provided us with a long, detailed list of places to visit within an hour or two of San Isidro. This included a number of museums in San José. We especially enjoyed the National Museum of Costa Rica with its butterfly conservatory and amazing exhibit of pre-Colombian artifacts. The only downside of going into the capital was the horrendous traffic.

Bougainvillea Hotel

The number one destination on Steve’s list was the Bougainvillea Hotel. The grounds are essentially a two-acre botanical garden. The plants are all identified, so a visit here provides a great introduction to Costa Rican flora. There are even ponds created specifically for endangered frogs. The grounds also attract a wide variety of bird life, including motmots, tanagers and many migrants like Tennessee Warblers. My favourite viewing spot was an observation tower, which afforded great photography opportunities. At only a half-hour from the airport, I would recommend the hotel to anyone travelling to Costa Rica and wanting to spend a restful night or two upon arriving or departing. The hotel is very environmentally conscious and the dining is superb.

The observation tower in the botanical garden at Hotel Bougainvillea – (Photo by Drew Monkman)

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

One of our most memorable days was a visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, situated northwest of San Isidro on the way to the Poas Volcano. We loved the scenic drive as we passed by coffee farms and grazing dairy cattle. The views of the valley below were spectacular. La Paz Waterfall Gardens is the most popular privately-owned ecological attraction in Costa Rica and offers a marvelous introduction to Costa Rica’s iconic wildlife. It has the most esthetically-pleasing wildlife enclosures and beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. La Paz has been developed in such a way as to combine environmentally conscious design with maximum educational impact.

Among the highlights are a huge, jungle-like aviary with numerous species of native birds, a butterfly observatory and exhibits of live frogs and snakes. You can also see some of the country’s iconic mammals like Howler and Spider Monkeys, Three-toed Sloths, Ocelots and even a Jaguar. Seeing these animals up close gives a real sense of how precious – and fragile – Costa Rica’s wildlife actually is. If you’re interested in plants, the orchid and Heliconia gardens are a must-see, as well. The high point of the day for Michelle and me, however, was the hummingbird garden, where feeders attract wild birds living in the area. No fewer than 26 different species have been documented here. The birds are so close that you can feel the air displaced by their wings as they zip by your head and feed only metres away. Just make sure your camera has a memory card with lots of space!

Hanging out with the Black-mandibled Toucan at La Paz Waterfall Gardens – Michelle Monkman

Finca Cristina and Ark Herb Farm

On another occasion, we drove southeast of San Jose to Finca Cristina, an organic shade-grown coffee farm. It is located near Cartago, which has the country’s grandest colonial-era church, the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles. Finca Cristina is dedicated to producing Arabica coffee while at the same time protecting and preserving native flora and fauna. The farm is located in the middle of a major flyway for neo-tropical migratory birds and provides important habitat for threatened North American species like Cerulean and Canada Warblers. While we were tasting some of the outstanding coffee the farm produces, we watched the fruit and nectar feeders and the constant coming and going of both resident and migratory species.

We toured the farm with one of the owners and learned about the labour-intensive process of producing shade-grown organic coffee. I have a new appreciation for why it’s more expensive! Managing the shade trees, most of which are banana plants, is nearly as involved as tending to the coffee trees themselves. Pest management, too, is also a huge part of the operation.

Another memorable tour was at the Ark Herb Farm, which has one of the largest collections of herbs and other medicinal plants in Central America. It is a focal point for herbalists, botanists and plant lovers. The plants are all identified and marked with symbols signifying how they can be used. Our guide was a wonderfully informative   ethnobotanist who regaled us with all kinds of anecdotes and stories. He was especially passionate about the dream-inducing qualities of Brugmansia and how the leaves can be used to treat skin problems. We also tasted incredibly sweet Stevia leaves and learned about the relationship between passionflower vines and Heliconius butterflies. The study of these butterflies has helped scientists to understand how new species are formed and why nature is so diverse.

 Barva Volcano

My birding highlight of this second leg of our Costa Rican trip was a visit to Barva Volcano, north of San José. At nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, it is home to beautiful cloud forest habitat with trees draped in lichens and moss.

When I arrived at 6 am with my guide, Michael Jimenez Quesada, we were greeted by    the ethereal song of the Black-faced Solitaire and the far-carrying calls of Prong-billed Barbets. It wasn’t until the sun climbed higher in the sky, however, that bird activity really increased. Much of it came courtesy of hummingbirds. Tiny Volcano and Scintillant Hummingbirds dashed around like over-sized bumble bees, while male Green Violet-ears chipped their incessant two-note song. A beautiful female Purple-throated Mountain-gem posed obligingly for us for several minutes, its orange breast and throat standing out clearly against the green leaves.

As we walked along the road towards the park entrance, we quickly added other high-altitude species like Mountain Elaenia, Long-tailed Silky Flycatcher and Golden-browed Chlorophonias. The latter were carrying lichens to line their nest in a bromeliad, nestled on a tree branch. A rare but obliging Black-billed Nightingale Thrush hopped out onto the road and allowed close-up views.

My guide, Michael Quesada, watching a quetzal at Barva Volcano – Drew Monkman

Upon entering the park, we took a trail that eventually led to the Barva Lagoon, the largest caldera on the volcano. The climb was quite a workout in the thin air, and I swore to myself that if I ever return, I’ll do so 20 pounds lighter! When I stopped to catch my breath, I tried out some pishing. Almost immediately, a beautiful male Golden-winged Warbler popped out of the vegetation and lingered on a branch only metres away. It was soon joined by a pair of Collared Redstarts that posed for us for nearly five minutes. It was then that Michael heard the plaintive call notes of a pair of Resplendent Quetzals. Only seconds later, the male flew in and perched briefly above the trail, its emerald green chest and crimson-red belly glowing in the sunlight. When it flew off, the tail coverts streaming behind the bird were as long as its body. Michael was as excited as I was and remarked, “I often have birders that cry when they see their first quetzal!”

Arriving at the observation platform over the lagoon, we had amazing views in all directions. On a clear day, it’s possible to see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The birding had not been easy, but adding nearly 10 life birds to my list made it all worthwhile.

Our six weeks in Costa Rica was everything we hoped it would be. We are destined to return!

 

May 042018
 

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) (1)
– Reported May 03, 2018 14:37 by Warren Dunlop
– Bailieboro–442-470 Second Line Rd, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Media: 2 Photos
– Comments: “In field south of road with CANGs.”

Greater White-fronted Goose – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported May 03, 2018 19:00 by John Bick
– Lakefield Marsh, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “As reported by others. Reddish brown head, face & neck, pale yellowish/buff crown – foraging off shore near campgrounds.”

Eurasian Wigeon – male – Wikimedia

May 032018
 

The Beekeeper’s Lament

“O bring me palanquin, All my companions have scattered”  Renée Sarojini Saklikar in “Listening to the Bees”

Several years ago, a Letter to the Editor appeared in this paper that struck me as particularly poignant. It was from a former Trent University student, Rick Fisher. In the 1980s, he was engaged in an intensive study of bumble bee ecology in the Peterborough area. After moving to New Zealand, he returned to Peterborough in 2013 for a summer visit. Rick wrote, “Despite intensive searches of all the areas where the bees used to be abundant, and despite favourable weather, I’ve found no evidence to support the existence of any of the bumble bees that were so common 30 years ago. To me, the woods and glades of beautiful places like Jackson Park now fill me with an aching sense of loss, and despair. Little did I know that my thesis studies would be more epitaph than ecology. What have we done?”

Tri-coloured bumblebee on sweet clover. Like honey bees, native wild bees face an uncertain future. (Drew Monkman)

Pollination Summit

Anyone paying attention to the degradation of our natural world is aware by now of the plight of native pollinators like bumble bees and of colony collapse in honey bees. It is a vexing problem with no single cause. It is happening by a thousand tiny cuts as a result of habitat loss, disease, parasites, climate change and pesticide use. It is estimated that one-third of our food items depend on pollinators. They also play a key role in biodiversity, as over 85% of the world’s flowering plants require bees, wasps, flies, bats and even hummingbirds for their reproduction. Any organism that consumes seeds, fruits or vegetables, is dependent on the services provided by pollinators. This includes not only human beings but countless other species as well.

World bee expert Mark Winston will speak at Market Hall on Saturday, May 5 

No one is more familiar with bee decline – and the lessons it contains for the future of human society – than Dr. Mark Winston, a world bee expert and Professor of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Mark is also a senior fellow at Simon Fraser’s Centre for Dialogue, which creates a space for “respectful conversations between diverse stakeholders, where mutual curiosity and collaborative inquiry act as alternatives to adversarial approaches.” As a former director of the Centre, he achieved international recognition by creating leadership development opportunities for students that contribute to social change in communities. Much of his work still involves advancing communication skills and engaging public audiences with controversial issues through dialogue. Effective public interaction and honest dialogue are especially important right now. Pending decisions on oil pipelines, fossil fuel resource development and carbon taxes threaten the delicate balance between economy and environment.

This weekend, Mark Winston will be the keynote speaker at a Pollinator Summit hosted by Peterborough Pollinators. In collaboration with local non-profits, businesses and community members, the summit will be a two-day celebration of bees, pollinator gardens,  community-stewarded urban beehives and, maybe most importantly, of dialogue. Dr. Winston will be speaking Saturday evening at 8 pm at Market Hall. It promises to be a presentation rich in storytelling, connecting to nature and learning what lessons bees have for humanity. A book signing and a Honey Fair showcasing the products of local honey producers will start at 7 pm. Tickets are $28 ($18 for students) and can be purchased at the door.

On Sunday, May 6, there will be an opportunity for people to visit some of Peterborough’s outstanding pollinator gardens and urban beehives. The public is also invited to participate in a community dialogue with Dr. Winston and local community dialogue practitioner Ben Wolfe. It will take place at Lett Architects on Simcoe Street. This “cross-pollination” dialogue, which is almost full, will bring together community members, beekeepers, gardeners and conservationists. It will explore the question: How do we empower citizens to protect pollinators and, in doing so, create, restore and celebrate natural environments?

For the past three years, Peterborough Pollinators has focused on this very question. The group has been working to encourage the creation of pollinator habitat including gardens of all sizes throughout the Kawarthas and on educating the public about the importance of pollinators. Not only do these gardens help pollinators, but they also bring greater food security, sense of place and community development to our neighbourhoods.

Books  

Drawing on a three-decade career researching killer bees, pollination and honey bee communication, Mark Winston is an eloquent and impactful communicator of science to the general public. He is that rare scientist who can take complex science and repackage it something a general audience can understand and appreciate. In addition to being a frequent guest on radio and television, Dr. Winston has had a distinguished career writing and commenting on environmental issues. His award-winning book “Nature Wars: People vs. Pests” has been recognized as the most probing and thoughtful discussion of pesticide use since Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Winston is also the author of “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive”, which won a 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award.

Most recently, Winston is the co-author of a new book, “Listening to the Bees”, with Canadian poet Renée Sarojini Saklikar. The book is something quite rare – an interaction between the poet and the scientist. It is a compendium of Winston’s research, accompanied by Saklikar’s poems inspired by this research. Saklikar, who is best known as the author of “Children of Air India”, has had a life-long interest in bees. She takes the poems in directions that connect to what the research was about and to her own Indian culture.

Listening to the Bees

Lessons for humanity

Like us, honeybees represent a pinnacle in nature of animal sociality. How they submerge individual needs into the colony collective provides a lens through which to ponder human societies. In “Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive”, Winston explains how bees process information, structure work and communicate. He also examines how corporate boardrooms are using bee societies as a model to improve collaboration, how bees have altered our understanding of agricultural ecosystems and how urban planners are looking to bees in designing more nature-friendly cities. Bees inhabit a world of chemical communication, which involves more than 40 different compounds. It is a world we neither see nor hear. Winston’s focus on bee communication has made him realize how poorly we humans communicate with each other – do we really see and listen? – and how little we understand the various channels we use.

Bees have other important lessons to teach us. For example, a typical honey bee colony contains residue from more than 100 pesticides. Taken singly, each is relatively benign, but together their interplay can have serious impacts. These include reducing the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, which leaves them more susceptible to disease. What’s happening to bees as a result of pesticides is a useful lens to consider human health. Winston believes that the interactions of pesticides on bees can be compared in some respects to the interaction of prescription drugs on humans. Each, on its own, provides benefits, but when numerous drugs are used together, the interaction can cause harmful side-effects, particularly in patients who are already diseased-compromised.

As human beings, we cannot afford to ignore what the demise of bees tells us about our own tenuous relationship with nature. There is much to learn from bees in how they respond to the many challenges they face. In sustaining their societies, bees teach us ways to sustain our own. It is his hope that by communicating about the glory and the plight of all our pollinators, maybe we can make a positive difference in their future – and ours.

Winston also has much to say about wild native bees. In a 2014 New York Times article, he wrote that beyond honey bees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer many of the same pollination services needed for agriculture. Yet wild bees — that is, bees not kept by beekeepers — are also threatened by heavy pesticide use, by the destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and by the destruction of diverse nectar and pollen sources from highly effective weed killers. Winston’s laboratory at Simon Fraser discovered that crop yields, and thus profits, are maximized if considerable acreages of cropland are left uncultivated to support wild pollinators. “The current challenges faced by managed honey bees and wild bees remind us that we can manage too much. Excessive cultivation, chemical use and habitat destruction eventually destroy the very organisms that could be our partners. There is a lesson in the decline of bees about how to respond to the most fundamental challenges facing contemporary human societies. We can best meet our own needs if we maintain a balance with nature — a balance that is as important to our health and prosperity as it is to the bees.”

In a recent interview on the PolliNation Podcast from Oregon State University, Winston describes his research and science communication as teasing around the edges of great mysteries we’ll never fully understand. “To me bees are unknowable, and I say that as someone who has done a lot of research… I love that mystery. I’ve felt that mystery ever since I opened my first bee hive. As I get older I find myself revelling even more in the unknowable.”

For more information on the Pollination Summit, please go to peterboroughpollinators.com.

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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
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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
Map:
Checklist:

Blue-winged Teal – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (2)
– Reported Apr 25, 2018 12:00 by John Davey
– Peterborough–Beavermead Park, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:

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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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
Map:
Checklist:
– 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:
Checklist:
– 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:
Checklist:
– 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:
Checklist:
– 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 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

 

Mar 082018
 

“There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.”

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

A decade or so ago, I came upon a considerable mystery. It was a fall afternoon and, while walking down the road toward my home in the Haliburton wilderness, I noticed enormous undulations on the dusty road. A snake perhaps? Now I knew no part of Ontario, or indeed any place on earth, held a snake that huge, at least I hoped not. The S-shaped pattern was approximately 75 cm wide, but its length was uncertain. I thought this beast must swallow deer for breakfast and dine on moose for lunch. My imagination was racing. Adding to the mystery were the occasional patches of dark blood—the remains of prey perhaps?

I have cameras that take photographs automatically when sensing both heat and motion. While these camera traps take photos, I’m usually at home drinking Glenmorangie single-malt scotch. To photograph the extraordinary animal that made these tracks, I attached one of my special cameras to a tree overlooking its trail. And I placed a large quantity of cracked corn, on the off chance the creature was a herbivore, and four pounds of hamburger in case it was a carnivore—the more likely choice. I activated the camera and departed.

The following morning I could hardly wait to check the site. As I approached I saw that all the food was gone, every bit of it, and that there were tracks everywhere, including those of this undulating monster. More significantly, the display window on the camera revealed it had taken 186 photographs. Jackpot!

I replaced the memory chip and ran home to boot up my computer to view these pictures. And what did I see? Bears, black bears, lots of them but no undulating monster. One large mother bear (sow) came early in the evening with her two small cubs—probably females. Four hours passed before a second mother bear arrived with her two larger cubs—probably males. (Each photograph is time stamped.) But still I saw nothing to explain the strange undulations. What was I missing? I had photographs of the two different sows. Where was the monster?

Then I saw the problem. The solution to the mystery was obvious, but so incredibly improbable. The mother bear in photograph 1 had no use of her hind legs. She was a paraplegic! Note the worn-away fur and exposed flesh on her back legs plus their unnatural position. Unbelievably, she was dragging herself everywhere, and this was the source of the undulations. There was no monster, just a mother bear of inconceivable endurance determined to feed her cubs and herself. I decided to call her Mother Courage.

Mother Courage and her two cubs – Gord Harrison

I contacted the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) about what we should do to help this injured bear. “We” quickly became “me.” But they did suggest that, if this sow made it to hibernation, about two weeks away, the cubs would have a better chance of surviving the winter—it can be 40o below zero where I live. Until then, I decided to feed Mother Courage and her cubs at my back window so that I might observe their behavior. After I began, they came every night; however, I never saw the other large sow and her two small cubs again. Two weeks passed, and then two more. Would Mother Courage ever hibernate? I telephoned the MNR to ask if my feeding was inhibiting them from going into hibernation—the officials said no! Another two weeks came and went; it was now the middle of December, and this family often arrived during a blizzard. The cubs were always first by several minutes until this heroic animal dragged her bleeding backside out of the deep forest only to collapse in exhaustion. On many occasions, she never ate—she just watched her cubs devour the cracked corn and dog food.

 

Note the exhausted mother at the back right and the concerned cub at the front left. Her mothering instincts could challenge those of most humans.  Gord Harrison

I became curious about the location of their wintering den. I surmised finding her lair would be easy. It must be close; after all, how far can an animal drag itself? After an hour’s trek I reached an embankment sloping down to an ancient glacial lake and located her den. This daily journey—both ways—would have intimidated Marco Polo. Yet Mother Courage had done this every day for weeks, perhaps even months. I was stunned by the magnitude of her endurance and the power of her instincts. Neither torn flesh, nor exhaustion, nor death itself I thought would prevent her daily rounds. Some will say I am anthropomorphizing; I would say it is simple empathy with a fellow mammal in great anguish.

By comparing my initial photographs to the later ones, Mother Courage appeared to be losing body fat. So, on December 17, I decided not to feed her and her cubs anymore hoping to force them into hibernation, lest she die crawling. It was a melancholy evening for everyone. They came. They searched. They left. And I never saw them again.

 

 

The final picture on that snowy night – Gord Harrison

Early in the New Year, I snowshoed to the den and was elated to find they were all safely asleep—or as asleep as hibernating bears ever truly get. The den entrance was encrusted with ice crystals caused by their emanating body heat. My flashlight revealed the back of a bear almost completely blocking the entrance in an effort to retain this heat. I took this to be Mother Courage in her ultimate act of protection for her cubs. She was following those deep instincts that had preserved her genes through a million years of evolution.

Clearly, this mother bear was exhibiting behavior that can only be described as moral. And just as clearly, this behavior was preserving her genes by enhancing the chance that her two male cubs would survive and reproduce. There was pressure for moral behavior, stemming from natural selection, because this behavior is adaptive for the preservation of genes, which are life itself. In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett calls evolution by natural selection “the best idea anyone has ever had.”

Photograph 3: Mother Courage and Her Children

At my latitude, the average date for bears to come out of hibernation is April 10, so, about two weeks after this date, I revisited the den site. The MNR had assured me that this sow (Mother Courage) would not exit the den alive—I had to see for myself. I found the den again. It was empty, the entire family had left. In the distance was a kettle of turkey vultures, and I wondered if they were recycling Mother Courage. I suspected as much, but I declined to investigate.

Male bear cubs will depart from their natal territory—following the instinctive taboo against incest by Ursus americanus. Genetics tells us that inbreeding is generally detrimental to the gene pool. And, again, natural selection is the source of our discomfort and bears’ avoidance of this practice. It’s significant that sows will share territory with their female cubs since this sharing presents no danger of incest.

Many readers may have wondered how Mother Courage came to be a paraplegic. Only two reasonable speculations are possible: she was either hit by a car or shot by a hunter. It was bear hunting season when I first noticed the undulations on my dusty road.

Some moral behaviors exist outside of, and independent of, humans. If as a species, we had never existed or had gone extinct—and 99 percent of all species have—morality in terms we could recognize would still be flourishing on this planet.

Humans have driven thousands of species to extinction, and another universe must pass away before such creatures will ever come again. I am not a vegetarian, but I would speak for all those who cannot speak for themselves.

All herd or pack animals have a large moral repertoire: whales, elephants, and wolves. Naturally, moral differences exist between humans and other animals just as they do among all individuals of the same species including Homo sapiens. It’s a matter of degree not of kind.

To the shock of those who are stony faced and stony minded, the evidence that humans, apes and monkeys, whales, elephants, wolves, and even rats and mice inherit ethical behaviors honed by natural selection is profoundly disturbing. But should it be? We are a part of, not apart from, all life on earth. We are not descended from angels or demigods but ascended from ape-like creatures. Ours is a heroic past, at times so close to extinction that a wink might have made it so. Darwin would be delighted to witness this expansion of morality to non-human animals by natural selection.

Mother Courage crumpled in exhaustion – Gord Harrison

In the last photo, taken on a bleak November night, Mother Courage is just hanging on to life. But, in my mind’s eye, she will always be one of the bravest and most caring creatures I have ever known.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

 

 

This article comes from my book My Cousin & Me: And Other Animals available at Amazon and Avant-Garden Shop in Peterborough. Gordon Harrison is a writer and wildlife photographer can be reached at harrison153@gmail.com