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Tweet of the Week: Passenger Pigeon
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Tweet of the Week: Passenger Pigeon

On the 100 year anniversary of the last passenger pigeon, Martha, we bring you this special edition of Tweet of the Week. [caption id="attachment_16406" align="alignleft" width="241"]passenger pigeons Passenger Pigeons art by John James Audubon care of special collections Toronto Public Library[/caption]

Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our segment on CBC Radio’s In Town and Out. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada’s Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Be sure to tune-in to “Bird Tweet of the Week” on CBC Radio One 91.5 FM on Saturday mornings from 6am to 9am and listen to past episodes on our website.

This episode aired on Saturday September 13, 2014

Tweet of the Week: Eastern Whip-poor-will
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Tweet of the Week: Eastern Whip-poor-will

This nocturnal bird is seldom seen, but can be heard  in cottage country and some forested parts of our region. [caption id="attachment_16400" align="alignleft" width="300"]eastern whip-poor-will Eastern Whip-poor-will Photo by Save Ostrander Point[/caption]

Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our segment on CBC Radio’s In Town and Out. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada’s Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Be sure to tune-in to “Bird Tweet of the Week” on CBC Radio One 91.5 FM on Saturday mornings from 6am to 9am and listen to past episodes on our website.

This episode aired on Saturday September 6, 2014

Bird Tweet of the Week: Chestnut-sided Warbler
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Chestnut-sided Warbler

You won’t meet a male songbird more polite than the Chestnut-sided Warbler. These birds are always pleased, pleased, pleased to meet-cha. Have a listen: [caption id="attachment_16392" align="alignleft" width="300"]chestnut-sided warbler Chestnut-sided warbler photo by Matt Tillett[/caption] Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area through our segment on CBC Radio's In Town and Out. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada's Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Be sure to tune-in to "Bird Tweet of the Week" on CBC Radio One 91.5 FM on Saturday mornings from 6am to 9am and listen to past episodes on our website. This episode aired on Saturday August 30, 2014

Species Spotlight: Red Knot
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Species Spotlight: Red Knot

Get to know some of the species at risk in the Lac Deschênes IBA with the Species Spotlight, aka “Sp-Spot”. Today meet the: Red Knot [caption id="attachment_14839" align="alignleft" width="300"]Red Knot Red Knots in flight[/caption] Scientific Name: Calidris canutus SARA status: Least Concern Ontario: Endangered Taxonomic Group: Birds Size: 23-26 cm in length, 47-53 cm wingspan Red Knots are medium sized shorebirds with a short, straight bill and olive-coloured legs. It is named for its brick-red face, throat and breast when in breeding plumage. Its back is a speckled grey-brown colour. In the winter, they are mostly grey with a white belly. The Red Knot feeds on invertebrates such as small snails, bivalves and crustaceans. The Red Knot makes one of the longest yearly migrations of any bird, traveling 15 000 km from its Arctic habitat to Tierra del Fuego in southern South America. They are generally found in marine habitats, near coastal lagoons, and they breed in drier tundra areas. The population of Red Knots in South America during migration season has decreased over 50% from the mid 1980s to 2003. The main threat is the loss of key resources at their migration sites. Another threat is the habitat destruction due to pollution, recreation and development. Where Else Can You See This Species? The coastal mudflats along the southwest coast of Hudson Bay and James Bay are important spring and fall migration sites for the Red Knot. They can also be seen during the fall along the Great Lakes beaches. Around mid-summer, Red Knots can be found in the Delaware Bay, feeding in large numbers on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. Did You Know? • Red Knot eggs camouflage very well with the bare tundra, which is very helpful since their nests don’t offer the best protection from predators. • During courtship, a male Red Knot will fly up into the air, start singing while gliding around and then they will land with his wings pointed upwards. Check back every week to read about a different species at risk that can be found in Lac Deschênes. You can report sightings of this and other rare species to the Canadian Wildlife Service at (819) 997-2800 or on the MNR Natural Heritage Information Centre website. A photo and a location are very helpful!

this initiative is funded by

We would like to thank our guest blogger Kelsey Ha for this post. Kelsey is a high school student volunteer at Nature Canada and is interested in biology and environmental sciences.

Volunteers needed for new local initiative
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Volunteers needed for new local initiative

Millions of birds die every year in North America after colliding with buildings, making window strikes a leading cause of death for migratory birds. Help us learn more about where and why birds are colliding with buildings in the Ottawa area by volunteering for the local Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) initiative. FLAP Ottawa needs volunteers to help for a few hours each week during the migration season. Training will be provided. Volunteer Roles: FLAP Patroller: Patrol the streets to rescue injured birds and collect birds killed by window strikes. Keep detailed records of when and where you find each bird. • Must be willing to commit to at least 1 early morning patrol per week (minimum 2 hours) during the migration season. Patrols usually start at sunrise, although they can continue throughout the day. • Must be comfortable picking up dead birds and handling stunned and potentially injured birds safely. Training for live bird handling can be provided. • Must keep detailed notes, including when and where each bird is found. The data that we collect through patrols will be vital to determining the problem areas in Ottawa and will help us direct our future efforts. Ambulance driver: Be on call to help transport injured birds to the Wild Bird Care Centre for medical attention. • Must have a driver’s licence and access to a car at short notice. • Must be willing to transport the birds safely. This means moving them as little as possible, keeping them level, and providing a cool, quiet environment. Event and Outreach Assistant: Share the message of how to prevent window strikes at local events. Help us plan and deliver educational and fundraising events during the migration season. Or use your social media savvy to help us share the message on Facebook and Twitter. • Must be comfortable communicating with the public at various technical levels (generally basic) and staying consistent with FLAP messaging. • Preference will be given to volunteers who also volunteer on patrols, as this are the best way to become comfortable with and knowledgeable about the program. Interested in one of these opportunities or have an idea about how you can share your skills in another way? Find out more about FLAP at flap.org and contact ottawa@flap.org to get involved today! FLAP Ottawa is a program of FLAP Canada, supported locally by Nature Canada      Ottawa field naturalists logowild bird care cenre logo        

Species Spotlight: Golden Eagle
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Species Spotlight: Golden Eagle

Get to know some of the species at risk in the Lac Deschênes IBA with the Species Spotlight, aka “Sp-Spot”. Today meet the: Golden Eagle [caption id="attachment_14003" align="alignleft" width="300"]golden eagle Golden Eagle
Photography by BlueRidgeKitties on Flicker[/caption] Scientific Name: Aquila chrysaetos SARA status: Least Concern Ontario: Endangered Taxonomic Group: Birds Size: 84-97 cm wingspan As one of the largest birds in North America, Golden Eagles are extremely powerful and agile. They can reach up to speeds of over 240km/h when they dive for their prey. Golden Eagles use their speed and sharp talons to hunt animals such as rabbits, marmots, squirrels or even smaller birds. A mature Golden Eagle is dark brown with a golden sheen on the back of the head and neck. Young ones will have white patches at the base of the tail and in the wings. Open country, especially around mountains, hills and cliffs is the preferred habitat of the Golden Eagle. They also live in a variety of habitats such as grasslands, forests, arctic, tundra and desert. There large birds enjoy nesting in high places and they make large nests, in which they may return to for several breeding years. Golden Eagles are most common in western North America but can also be found in Asia and Europe. Golden Eagles are very sensitive to disturbances near their nests. They have suffered many years from human persecution such as illegal shooting and trapping. These problems have been reduced in the recent decades but other human activities are a constant threat such as collisions with wind turbines or chemicals and toxins introduced into their food chain. Currently, the Golden Eagle and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act. Where Else Can You See This Species? Golden Eagles can be found all over North America but they are most common in the western area and even in Alaska. There are several reports in southern Ontario, including around 15 in the Ottawa area, mainly along the Lac Deschênes - Ottawa River Important Bird Area. You might also get a chance to spot the Golden Eagle in Gatineau Park. Did You Know? • The Golden Eagle is the national bird of Mexico. It is also the national animal of Albania, Egypt, Germany and Italy • Golden Eagles have been known to attack a full grown deer. • When a large bird like the Golden Eagle accidently touches two lines on a power-pole at the same time, it gets electrocuted. Biologists, engineers and government officials are cooperating in developing new designs to prevent this occurrence. Check back every week to read about a different species at risk that can be found in Lac Deschênes. You can report sightings of this and other rare species to the Canadian Wildlife Service at (819) 997-2800 or on the MNR Natural Heritage Information Centre website. A photo and a location are very helpful!

this initiative is funded by

We would like to thank our guest blogger Kelsey Ha for this post. Kelsey is a high school student volunteer at Nature Canada and is interested in biology and environmental sciences.

Canadian writer, director Michael Stasko’s latest film set to feature world of ornithology
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Canadian writer, director Michael Stasko’s latest film set to feature world of ornithology

the Birder movie posterThe natural environment has been a prominent theme in Canadian born writer and director Michael Stasko's films. His previous movie, Iodine, chronicled the mental decline of a man searching for his lost father in the northern Canadian wilderness. His latest movie, the revenge comedy The Birder, is no exception. The film follows middle-aged school teacher Ron Spencer (played by Tim Cavanagh) as he competes for the head of ornithology position at Point Pelee National Park. His rival is the younger, cooler Floyd Hawkins whose popularity and knowledge of modern cultural trends leads to him getting the promotion. Angry that a less experienced birder has leaped ahead of him, Spencer decides to takes matters into his own hands and win back the position he believes is rightfully his. I sat down with Mike to discuss his latest film, his love for nature and the influence it has had on his film making. Dylan Copland (DC): Hi Mike, thanks for agreeing to the interview. Mike Stasko (MS): No problem. I'm glad to be here! DC: Tell me a bit about yourself. What's your life like now? MS: Well, I teach film and communications studies at the University of Ottawa and Ryerson University, but I also write and direct films. I do government and industrial contracts for training videos as well. My goal is to be a full time teacher and also make a movie every few years. I want to teach a really good film program to students and get them inspired to go out and make Canadian films. DC: What originally got you into film making? MS: In high school, I was pushed into the sciences. I did a test in the 80s that told me I should be something like a dermatologist or an air traffic controller so I took it like: “Oh, a computer printout told me to be a dermatologist so I must do that!” Eventually, I ended up going into biochemistry, but early in University I became enamored with the TV show Twin Peaks which got me interested in film more. Eventually, it came down to one of those life decisions: Do I become a doctor or do I do the thing I really want to do which is film making? It was definitely a hard decision to tell my parents and make that move into film, but once I did I was happy. The root of film making I'm attracted to is the art of storytelling. It's about finding a narrative and finding an arch and doing things in a unique and different way. Storytelling is something that isn't going to go away. It's a rock; it's been around since cave men and the invention of fire. Now we're seeing it transition into new media like video games, but it's essentially the same thing in regards to characters and plot. DC: What made you decide to focus on the world of ornithology for your latest film? MS: The very first kernel of a concept was having a teacher live in a school for a summer. But as we started to develop the character Ron Spencer more, a lot of his qualities and quirks reminded me of the world of birdwatching and birdwatchers. Also, I grew up in the Windsor-Essex region and the Pelee area is a major birding hotspot so it kind of made sense to go with what you know and write about it. It was pretty early on that we decided to make the main character an ornithologist and show that world. It works well because it's a scene, in film making at least, that hasn't been tapped too much yet. [caption id="attachment_14348" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Mike Stasko Mike Stasko. Writer and director on set of The Birder.[/caption] DC: Are you a birder yourself? MS: In University, I did a lot of birding, One of the things that I really liked, and kind of attracted to me to hang out with the other birders, was the idea of just quickly jumping in a car and traveling east on the 401, heading out of Windsor and off to a small hamlet in the middle of Essex County to see a bird. A place so close to my home, yet I would have never visited otherwise. It gave me an excuse to explore my own backyard. As I got into it more I realized I was a big time novice. I would call myself a birder and would go out maybe twice a month which is not even close to what a hardcore birder does. Some go out every day and they'll drive thousands of miles to try and find a specific bird that has been spotted in a certain location. DC: What was your most memorable birding experience? MS: I saw a beautiful blue heron once. It was a notable sight because if you see them, they're usually out on the water, but this one was up in a tree actually making its nest. I pointed it out and a bunch of people gathered around to come look. That was exciting! DC: How much research on ornithology went into making the film? MS: Ted (co-writer Theodore Bezaire) and I did a lot of research. We learned stuff like how to identify certain bird calls and even how to properly hold your binoculars. There's probably some hard core birders who will watch our film and find some mistakes in it and that's fine, it's not meant to be a bird watching documentary, but rather a family revenge comedy set against characters from that universe. However, we had a couple ornithologists on set, to make sure things were going right. Sarah Rupert was the head ornithologist there. She does a lot of birding down in the Windsor region. DC: Your previous film Iodine and now The Birder, both feature the natural environment prominently in the script. Is the Canadian environment a big influence on your film making career? MS: Yeah, for sure. I was lucky enough to spend 13 summers of my youth, starting around age seven, as a sailing instructor or camp councilor. For four months of the year I was living in nature either in a cabin or by a lake. And I still go camping – real camping. Not the kind where you bring beer and stay with friends who are right next to you, but like, I'll go to Algonquin park with a bit of food and a canoe and that's it. So yes, I've always been very attracted to nature and that element. I find that in film making, nature becomes this crucible in which you can explore so many things. For example, if you walk into a forest in 2014, it will look pretty much the same as it did 200 years ago, but our cities now are so different from the environment humans have usually lived in. There's something interesting about taking a character, putting them in the forest and being able to relate to it in a primal brain sort of way. That's something generations of humans can relate to. On the other hand, these past couple generations are the only ones that know the feeling of putting their hand out of a car window and feeling the wind pass by; it's a completely new sensation. Today, we're addicted to Iphones and blackberries which seems normal to us, but for the last 5000 years, we've all been living much closer to nature. That kind of more natural storytelling has been going on for a long time and is something I like to explore. [caption id="attachment_14359" align="aligncenter" width="300"]cast of The Birder Cast of The Birder (left to right) TOM CAVANAGH as Ron Spencer, MARK RENDALL as Ben Connor and TOMMIE-AMBER PIRIE as Laura[/caption] DC: As a teacher, do you find it hard to inspire students to become film makers in Canada's film industry? MS: It's very difficult. Canada doesn't really have – I think we have a lot of talent – but the resources haven't been pooled together yet properly. Telefilm Canada is trying to produce films good enough to compete with the American market, but we still only have about 1.5 % of total Canadian box office revenues coming from Canadian films. What's happened up to this point – and I get in trouble for saying this – is that they've been trying to make Canadian films about playing hockey or how funny beavers are and presenting that as Canadian content when, in reality, Canadian content should really look a lot like American content. I don't think we should be ashamed of displaying stuff that's modern to show off Canadian society. Let's tell stories about 2014 and our melting pot society. To try and make a culture about Tim Horton's and maple syrup is weak material. What about a story about a teenager who is unsure about what to do in his life, and it happens to take place in Toronto or Montreal? That's Canadian! He doesn't have to also be trying out for a hockey team. DC: Now that your work on The Birder is coming to a close, what's your next project? MS: I'm working on a comedy called Boys Versus Girls. It's about a camp in the late 80s early 90s where, for economic reasons, it turns co-ed for the first time. It's kind of based on a true story because in that time period camps were closing left and right and in order to make them viable, some decided to integrate male and female campers. The first few summers when they were trying this out were actually very hostile where boys and girls sort of hated each other because they thought they were trying to take over each other's territory. So I'm on my third draft of that right now. I'm also doing some sci-fi stuff that I can't talk about. I'd rather just let it happen!   The Birder has already had theatrical showings across Ontario, but you can catch it when it opens in Orillia, Ontario July 25 at Galaxy Cinemas Orillia or in Ottawa July 31 at The Mayfair Theatre. The film is also set to be released for wide distribution in late August. For more information please visit: www.thebirdermovie.com Thank you to our guest blogger Dylan Copland for this post. Dylan is a journalist and media specialist living in Ottawa, Ontario. He is currently volunteering with Nature Canada where he is writing about animals, nature and the people who love them. You can reach him at dmcopland@gmail.com and find his portfolio on the web at: dylancopland.wordpress.com.

Solving an international mystery
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Solving an international mystery

Why are Purple Martins disappearing? Recently, there has been a sharp drop in the number of Purple Martins in Ontario and the reason behind this is not clear. Figuring out where they go to escape our cold winters will go a long way in helping us understand why their numbers are dropping. To start answering the question of why they're disappearing, we started a project called the Purple Martin Project which is a collaboration between Nature Canada and York and Manitoba university scientists. Phase one of the project involved attaching tiny GPS trackers on Purple Martins in eastern Ontario. Just last week, scientists from Nature Canada and York and Manitoba Universities, caught Purple Martins, and with the greatest care, placed a small tracker on their backs, kind of like a backpack They were then released near their homes in man-made nests which resemble bird 'condos'. The capture and release happened at the Nepean Sailing Club in Ottawa and on private properties on Amherst and Wolfe Islands, both located in Lake Ontario and a short distance from Kingston, Ontario. [caption id="attachment_14032" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Image of purple martin with a GPS tracker A Purple Martin with a GPS tracker attached to its back.[/caption] [separator headline="h2" title="Where do Purple Martins go in winter? "] We don't know much about Purple Martins, but we do know that they over-winter in Brazil. But Brazil is a big country and there are many obstacles along the way to reaching the end of their migratory journey. From now until next spring, the tracking devices on each bird will collect vital information about where it went and how long it stayed in each location. Using this information, we can piece together a life story about these amazing birds and get one step closer to understanding why their numbers are declining. If we can pinpoint the reason(s) for their decline, then we can improve protection for them. Unfortunately, Purple Martins are not alone in experiencing population declines. They are part of larger group of birds called 'aerial insectivores' that have shown striking declines in recent decades. That's troubling for bird watchers but also for whole ecosystems that needs just the right number of prey and predators to flourish. Purple Martins eat insects and help keep their population in check. Without them, entire forests would be quickly devoured by billions of hungry, leaf-eating insects. [caption id="attachment_14045" align="aligncenter" width="800"]image of Purple Martins nesting in gourds Purple Martins nest in man-made structures such as these 'condos' of gourds.[/caption] [separator headline="h2" title="Purple Martin Project makes the front page "] The plight of this enigmatic bird has caught the attention of media across the country. Their declining numbers coupled with our efforts to save them have captured the imaginations of local radio and TV shows, print and online newspapers from Ottawa to Calgary. With stories published in the Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and others, we're well on our way to achieving one of the important goals of the Purple Martin Project - educating people about the endangered species. CBC Radio's All in a Day had Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl, Nature Canada's Conservation Coordinator and Purple Martin Project participant, on its show to talk about the birds and what the project is all about. Find out more about the Purple Martin Project and how you can get involved. [video type="youtube" id="PnSJzNbmKNw" width="940" height="420"]      

3 reasons to celebrate nature in your NatureHood
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3 reasons to celebrate nature in your NatureHood

Bird Day Ottawa was a great success this year, drawing close to a thousand people in the Ottawa-Gatineau area to Nature Canada's annual bird and wildlife event. There were crafts for kids, live falcon demonstrations, and guided nature walks throughout the day. Bird Day is an event dedicated to celebrating nature, getting people excited about nature in their NatureHoods and connecting people - especially kids - to the nature all around them. Here are our top three reasons for celebrating nature in your NatureHood.

  1. Discover something new about your neighbourhood! Each guided nature walk at Bird Day revealed a different set of species and a variety of habitats. Depending on the time of day and the season, you will likely see a different group of animals and plants. Exploring your NatureHood on foot or by bicycle is a great way to get to know your local plants and wildlife.
  2. Contribute to science through a citizen science program. Make your observations of nature count by sharing them with scientists and other nature enthusiasts through the Explore NatureHood app.
  3. Give your brain a natural boost. Studies have shown that time spent in nature not only increases your energy level, it also promotes positive emotions.
   

Band-a-visitor Station Teaches kids about Bird Data Collection Methods
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Band-a-visitor Station Teaches kids about Bird Data Collection Methods

Nature Canada’s Bird Day Fair was proud to host the Innis Point Bird Observatory’s (IPBO) band-a-visitor station which sought to teach children about wild bird data collection methods. The station proved to be a fun and creative way to engage a youth audience with the data collection techniques used in the tracking of bird populations and their migratory patterns. At the station, the visiting guest was given a wrist band with a tracking number corresponding to a bird which had been previously caught and released by the Observatory. Visitors could use this number to log on to Nature Canada’s “I was banded” website after the fair and learn about the bird they were matched with. The visitor’s gender, age and wingspan size were then recorded by a bander, simulating techniques used by scientists in the field. This gave visitors an intuitive understanding of bird banding as they were able to experience the process first hand. Celia Bodnar, a volunteer with the IPBO and one of the organizer's of the booth, said younger and older kids were drawn to the visitor banding station. “The kids loved the idea of getting matched to something like a real bird,” Bodnar said. “Bigger kids were keen to look up what species they were. I even had a few kids request a species that they wanted to be, and one excited boy told me that he already knew he was a bird species he had designed himself.” Despite the booth's success, there are still lessons to be learned from the project. “We need to see how we can get more of the adult crowd in as well,” Bodnar said. “I was a bit surprised that not more people were interested in more details about the science behind the bird banding and migration monitoring that we do.” The Innis Point Bird Observatory, started in 1982, is part of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network and was created to monitor the long-term population characteristics of birds in the Ottawa area. Scientists hope to gain a better understanding of bird migration patterns by combining the IPBO's observations with data from monitoring stations across Canada. Check out our suggestions on hosting your own band a visitor station and ideas for other ways to celebrate birds. Thank you to our guest blogger Dylan Copland for this post. Dylan is a journalist and media specialist living in Ottawa, Ontario. He is currently volunteering with Nature Canada where he is writing about animals, nature and the people who love them. You can reach him at dmcopland@gmail.com and find his portfolio on the web at: dylancopland.wordpress.com.

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