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Getting Out Into Nature Is For The Birds (Bird Enthusiasts That Is!)
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Getting Out Into Nature Is For The Birds (Bird Enthusiasts That Is!)

[caption id="attachment_30818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jill Sturdy Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager[/caption] Our NatureHood Partners were busy over the holidays helping kids explore nearby nature. From Sackville, NB across the country to Vancouver, BC, hundreds of kids and families took part in the annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids). Inspired by the Christmas Bird Count, CBC4Kids is a fun winter activity and a great way for families to learn more about local urban birds and bird conservation. Many of our NatureHood partners organized local CBC4Kids events that included nature walks led by volunteer guides to help identify local birds, followed by hot chocolate and snacks for the young citizen scientists to sip when they return. Their findings were then submitting through eBird, an online checklist managed by Bird Studies Canada. Christmas Bird Counts for Kids are a great way to get kids active outdoors during the winter months and learn more about local winter birds and wildlife found in their area. Spending time in nature year-round will encourage kids to continue to explore the natural world and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature. You don’t need an organized event to get out into nature! Why not plan your own family nature walk this weekend? You don’t need to go far to explore nearby nature. Go for a walk in your neighbourhood or NatureHood and observe the urban wildlife. You just might be surprised what you’ll see! Here’s a short list of some of the birds that were identified at the CBC4Kids events: [custom_table style="1"]

Black-capped Chickadee   Black-billed Magpie
Bohemian Waxwing  Canada Goose
 Downy Woodpecker  Hairy Woodpecker
 Mallard  Merlin
 Northern Flicker  Red-breasted Nuthatch
 White Cross Bill  White-breasted Nuthatch
Wood Duck
[/custom_table] To read more on these events, check out the latest article on the bird count in Saskatchewan and in Alberta.
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Pop the cork! 100 Bird Species Counted
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Pop the cork! 100 Bird Species Counted

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] Ted Cheskey, the Senior Conservation Manager here at Nature Canada explains his recent excitement of identifying 100 different bird species around his home in Gatineau, Quebec!  Below is Ted's story on his birdwatching journey. There are a couple hundred bird species that nest to the north of Gatineau, where we live. They migrate over my head twice a year, north each spring and south each fall. Some of them stop to rest and feed in the neighbourhood, but many just fly over, never stopping. Occasionally those that fly over betray their presence by a call note – perhaps to keep in touch with their conspecific buddies. I count all birds that I can identify by sight or sound from our flat. My rules are simple:  if I can identify it, I count it. I have to be either inside our 2nd floor flat or on the balcony. I don’t count birds that I observe from any other place. Many species are on my list because I heard them from bed – sometimes over-night, sometimes before getting out of bed in the morning. The bedroom window is usually wide open, allowing sounds from outside to filter in. During the workweek, traffic sounds from busy Alexandre Tache Street drown-out most nature sounds. On the weekend it is different – often quiet enough to hear and recognize distant call notes from birds overhead. [caption id="attachment_765" align="alignright" width="305"]Image of a Northern Parula by Ted Cheskey Northern Parula by Ted Cheskey[/caption] On my last post  in my blog, I was musing about my goal to observe another 9 new species from the large pool of possibilities that slipped past in the spring to get to that magical 100 for the year. Perhaps it is silly to be obsessed over a number – but I can think of worse obsessions. I have been travelling for work in August and again more recently, and for vacations with Cris. I’ve been away many weekends. When I have been here on Saturday or Sunday, I make an effort to spend as much time as I can spare birding from inside or on the balcony. I added three species in August – Greater Yellowlegs – the only shorebird other than Killdeer – heard calling while flying over. There is no shorebird habitat around our place so the only way to observe one is by hearing its flight calls. A singing Eastern Wood Pewee wandered into earshot in my neighbourhood for a few days, likely practicing for next spring, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak turned up in the Japanese Elm by the balcony, lifting me to 94 species by the end of August. September held more promise for species missed in the spring. A Common Merganser flew into view above the Ottawa River. Never easy to observe, this species is a regular on the Ottawa but as I don’t have a direct view of the River seeing one requires some luck! There were two warbler species observed in mid-month that slipped passed unnoticed in the spring. Blackpoll Warbler and Northern Parula both made pit stops in the neighbour’s magnificent spruce trees that, no doubt, resemble the tree that they are most familiar with. Watching them glean insects from the foliage is a reminder how much birds do to keep our forests healthy. Even the migrants coming through are busy forestry workers. Another attractive bird, a Philadelphia Vireo, foraged for several minutes in a Manitoba Maple across the street on the edge of Gatineau park. By the end of September I was up to 98 species. Surely with three months to go, 2 more species would be easy? Once at 99 species, I assemble a hypothetical list of the remaining possibilities and how to maximize my opportunities to observe a new species. There were several species associated with the Ottawa River – gulls and waterfowl mainly, that should be possible. There were still some raptors that migrate high above, following Gatineau Park south to the Ottawa River when the weather conditions are right. Then there are the songbirds that migrate late into the fall: finches, Snow Buntings, Sparrows. I just needed to put in time for all of these possibilities and I know that there would be a reward.Observing species 99 was all about being in the right place at the right time. On October 12, while scanning the Park across the street, an Accipiter floated up above the tree line, moving north into the park. [caption id="attachment_816" align="alignleft" width="229"]Image of a woman holding a Blue Jay Cristina Navarro holding her favorite species: a Blue Jay[/caption] It flew directly past. It was a new species for the year, a Sharp-shinned Hawk – specialist in eating small birds. I could hear the Chickadees react to the hawk on the other side of the house. Chickadees are sentries for other species, warning of danger. We love our Chickadees and imagine that this sentiment is shared by many other species. On the morning of November 12, just after waking I heard it. A clear call note, followed by a distinctive trill. I blurted out the name “Snow Bunting” to Cris, who is remarkably understanding and supportive. While I tore myself from the bed, grabbing pants and a shirt, Cris located my binoculars. Of course it took far too long for me to get on the balcony and the bird was long gone but there was no doubt: species 100 is a Snow Bunting. Today, November 13, I was up at 8 am, sitting on the window ledge, window wide open, me half hanging out, when I heard another Snow Bunting’s crisp and clear clarion note, followed by the trill.

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Join the Great Backyard Bird Count!
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Join the Great Backyard Bird Count!

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ted Cheskey Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] In 2015, nearly 150,000 individual checklists were submitted that documented over 18 million birds observed during the 4 day long Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This citizen science initiative is a great way to watch birds at your feeders, keep track of what you see, and contribute to our knowledge on the distribution and abundance of birds. In 2016, the GBBC runs from February 12 through 15.  Participating is fun, simple and easy so get the whole family involved! Image of birds at a feederHere’s how it works: All you need to do is count the number of individuals of each species you see during a single counting session, and submit a checklist for each counting session. A counting session can take 5 minutes or 30 minutes, however much time you wish to observe.  You can do multiple counting sessions over a day or over all four days. From each session, you record the maximum number that you observe at any one time for each species. You can count in more than one location—but you submit a separate checklist for each location each time you count. The birds you count don’t need to be just at your feeder, but can be flying over, or anywhere that you can observed them from your observation point. Organizers of this event are predicting a large number of unusual observations, with the El Niño weather phenomenon warming Pacific waters to temperatures matching the highest ever recorded. Information gathered and reported online at birdcount.org will help track changes in bird distribution, some of which may be traced to El Niño storms and unusual weather patterns. Image of birds eating out of a handThough rarities and out-of-range species are exciting, it’s important to keep track of more common birds too. Many species around the world are in steep decline and tracking changes in distribution and numbers over time is vital to determine if conservation measures are needed. Everyone can play a role. Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.   Email Signup

Your holiday activity guide for Southern Ontario
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Your holiday activity guide for Southern Ontario

[caption id="attachment_19867" align="alignleft" width="104"]Image of Amy Cross Amy Cross,
Women for Nature Member[/caption] This guest blog is written by a founding member of Women for Nature, Amy Cross who is the Program Manager at The Schad Foundation.  Amy strongly believes in the value nature brings to people’s lives.  Her passion for nature and wildlife is shared with her family and this guides her life mission to protect biodiversity in her own backyard, country and planet. In this blog, Amy shares with our audience the many outdoor and nature based activities that you and your family can experience or explore this holiday season.  Happy holidays while celebrating nature too! I am predict I am not alone in saying my families holiday season if often busy and overscheduled with friends and family visits, the shopping, cooking and eating that often goes along with these gatherings, not to mention decorating, shopping and wrapping gifts and preparing for out of town guests.  Don’t get me wrong the holiday season is my favorite time of year and not only because of all of the things listed above but also the music, sense of community, spirit of giving back and enjoying one of my families favorite change of season… winter! This year I have committed to making my family’s holiday more active, engaging, meaningful and environmental by participating in many of the activities listed below. By all means use these events and activities as reasons to get together with friends and family members… you will not only get to spend quality time together but to also give back, enjoy the outdoors and for some events learn about and/or protect species and the environment! If there is an event we missed please share it in the comments section!

Image of a tit in a bird feederOUTDOOR ACTIVITIES & EVENTS

Christmas Bird Count with Bird Studies Canada, December 14 – January 5, 2015 You can help monitor and conserve North America's birds! To get involved in the Christmas Bird Count, find a count near you and connect with the local contact. You can be a field observer on your own by joining a small group, counting all birds you find. Or you can participate in your own backyard as a Feeder Watchers and count birds at your feeder for a portion of the day. Winterfest on Toronto’s Waterfront, December 18 - December 20, 2015 Families can join Santa and his elves for the 10th Annual Santa Cruise aboard Mariposa Cruises’ Northern Spirit, festive brunch included. Pets can get in on the action with pet photos with Santa at Purina PawsWay, while families can learn more about the Arctic and create their own piece of art at the Museum of Inuit Art. People of all ages can also take part in a FREE pastry-eating contest, hosted by the BeaverTails mascot Beav, and enjoy holiday carols by a cappella group! For more information, click here. Holiday Hike in High Park – December 20, 2015 Meet at the benches by Grenadier Café at 10:30am and enjoy a hike through High Park to Colborne Lodge where you will enjoy hot cider. For more information, click here. Scenic Caves Nordic Adventures Image of snowshoes in snowThis one required a trip to Blue Mountain but activities include groomed cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and traversing 420 feet over Southern Ontario’s longest suspension bridge! This spectacular winter playground at the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment is set in one of Canada’s sixteen UNESCO biosphere reserves.  The suspension bridge features panoramic view of Georgian Bay and the varied, picturesque nature trails range from gentle rolling slopes to steep climbs. Inspired by nature, the trails wind through a 200 year old forest rich with wildlife.  Winter owls and a wide variety of other birds will beckon to you from the 100 foot tall maple, beech and oak trees, while deer and many other animals can be seen in the forest. For more information, click here. Magical Christmas Forest Kortright Centre for Conservation – December 12, 13, 19, 20, 2015 The forest comes to life with lights, friendly elves and your favorite Christmas characters. Visit Santa's workshop to see the elves at work. Play games, make Christmas crafts and watch a Christmas movie in our theater. Enjoy carols and Christmas treats by the fire. Each child will have the chance to visit Santa's cabin and tell Santa their Christmas wish. For tickets and more information, click here. Toronto Zoo Treats and Talks – 11am – 2:30pm December 26, 2015 The Toronto Zoo is the place to be on Boxing Day! Enjoy 50% off admission all day and check out their extensive Keeper Talk Program that offers a fun holiday theme and delightful seasonal treats for the Zoo's animals. Please bring a non-perishable food item for the Daily Bread Food Bank and any old cellphones to help support the Great Ape Conservation program. Plus, if you are looking to warm-up from the cold why not drop by the Zoo's new Indoor Giraffe Exhibit, or one of the Zoo's five indoor and exotic pavilions. For a full schedule and more information, click here.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES & EVENTS

Earth Rangers’ Happy Holi-DIY Mission!Image of Art Supplies Each holiday season we buy new toys, clothing and who can forget the shiny new holiday decorations that make the season bright! Our forests provide us with the resources to make these products (like wood, paper and metals) so it’s important that they are collected in a responsible way. Organizations like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) make it easy to choose products that help conserve our forests – you can look for their name on the products you buy! This year you can take action to help conserve Canada’s forests and the animals living there by making your own holiday gifts and decorations. Go to their website and sign up to be an official Earth Rangers’ Member, you can then accept the Happy Holi-DIY Mission, you’ll get access to awesome crafts that you can make from items found around your home. When you’re done, visit this site to let everyone know about your Happy Holi-DIY Mission! Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory Flight of White, December 5, 2015 - January 31, 2016 (Closed Dec 21-26, Jan 1) This truly unique holiday exhibit transforms the tropical butterfly conservatory into a magical oasis featuring 1000's of additional Rice Paper butterflies flying freely through the Conservatory. With a wingspan of up to 14cm, the Rice Paper Butterfly, a large white relative of the Monarch, is impossible to miss as it floats through the air moving gently from flower to flower. Rice Paper Butterflies are favorite of guests because they land on people the most! The Flight of White experience also includes lush white poinsettia flowers, 1000's of sparking white lights, and soft strains of classical music playing in the background. Talk about a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of holiday activities! For more information, click here. Reptillia Tours and Winter Camp – December 21-24 and December 28 – January 1, 2015 Eastern Ribbonsnake image in leavesReptilia Reptile Zoo is a state of the art 25,000 square foot CAZA accredited facility complete with large exhibits showcasing hundreds of different reptiles and amphibians. This winter Reptilia offers a safe, exciting and unforgettable camp experience for your 4-12 year old. Our campers learn about science, interact with amazing creatures and enjoy all kinds of winter fun at the same time. Repitllia is also open for daily tours everyday but Christmas! For more information, click here. Ripley’s Aquarium – Open 365 days a year! Ripley’s Aquarium showcases the beauty and significance of our aquatic world and the animals within it, to both entertain and inspire while encouraging you to respect and protect the waters of the world. The Aquarium features over 16,000 aquatic animals and North America’s longest underwater viewing tunnel with more than 5.7 million litres of water and over 100 interactive opportunities. Get up close and personal with three touch exhibits featuring horseshoe crabs, sharks, and rays as well as daily dive shows every 2 hours. For tickets and more information, click here. Email Signup

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