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The Last Chapter – Story of the Owl

The Last Chapter – Story of the Owl

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] A flock of Wild Turkeys greeted me in the parking lot of the Ottawa Wild Bird Care Centre on Friday morning. Inside, I signed the papers, and passed “Shoo Shoo” (of course we gave our little Saw-whet Owl a name) to some skilled volunteers. He was eating and was definitely perkier than the night before. There was hope. The Centre is tucked into a beautiful forest on the outskirts of Ottawa. I felt better myself being surrounded by trees gradually shedding their magnificent plumage, with the grind and churning of the city like a distant memory. A great environment to heal, I thought. The weekend passed and on Monday afternoon I called the Centre. Shoo Shoo was eating and was taking medicine to address any infection and inflammation. They eye was not healing. I felt uneasy by the news as I thought he would be getting better by now. On Tuesday afternoon I had an idea. If Shoo Shoo needed long term care, the Owl Foundation - a remarkable, world class facility for owl care established by Kay and Larry McKeever dozens of years ago on the Niagara Peninsula - was the place for Shoo Shoo to recover or live out its life if the eye was lost. I contacted the Foundation, and shortly after received a call from the Wild Bird Care Centre. Of course they knew each other well and talked. Plans were in the making for me to deliver two owls to the Foundation, Shoo Shoo, and a much larger Barred Owl – the one who says “who cooks for you, who cooks for you allllll” from deep in the forests around Ottawa and Gatineau.  Plans were made, Cris was happy with the new travel arrangement as was cousin Di. Then the call Thursday morning, the call that no one wants, but which reminds us how fragile life is. A bunch of us did our best to help our little owl; the building maintenance manager, the security people at the British Consulate, my colleagues, my wife and the folks at the Ottawa Wild Bird Care Centre. But on Thursday morning Shoo Shoo died. The Centre director told me that he had been in decline the last few days, and in the end the trauma to its head took its toll. I am sad, but also grateful for the compassionate care that I witnessed. Despite all of the gloomy news in the world I am reminded of the goodness that we are all capable of. [one_half] [caption id="attachment_29774" align="alignnone" width="300"]Owl with mouse Figure 1: Shoo Shoo the Saw-whet Owl takes a mouse for dinner. Photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] [/one_half] [one_half_last] [caption id="attachment_29775" align="alignnone" width="279"]Wild Bird Care Centre Figure 2: Welcoming entrance to Ottawa's Wild Bird Care Centre. Photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] [/one_half_last] Epilogue On Friday night we picked up the big Barred Owl in a small carry kennel that fit nicely into our car. The trip to Ajax was uneventful and the Barred Owl did not make a peep. The next morning, Shoo Shoozao (the name Cris gave the Barred Owl which I think means the "big Shoo Shoo" in Portuguese), Cris, Di and I travelled to Vineland. Annick, the bird care manager for the Owl Foundation met us and guided us to the assessment room where the big owl was deftly removed from his carrying box and carefully assessed – much like a physical exam that we humans get every so often. He had recovered from a collision with a vehicle, the most frequent source in injury for owls that are brought to the Centre. Roads and traffic take a big toll on owls, which hunt along roadsides where maintained grassy habitat encourages populations of small mammals like meadow voles and white-footed mice. Owls hunt at night using their hearing to locate prey, lock-onto it with their radar-like senses, then launch themselves towards it, gliding silently through the air, sometime across a road towards their prey on the other side. Unfortunately this level of concentration is too often broken by a fast moving vehicle, and the resulting collision is usually fatal. In the case of Shoo Shoozao, luckily the impact was with its tail and “lower body,” and not so severe to prevent full recovery. Annick admitted our big Barred Owl with a good prognosis for release later this fall or next spring when the new tail grows in. Before leaving we were blessed with a few minutes with co-founder of The Owl Foundation, author and award-winner Kay McKeever. In the sunroom we enjoyed a tea with Kay, her amazing Great Gray Owl, also survivor of a vehicle collision, perched statue-like in the middle of the room, and her three very large house cats.  At 92, Kay is still full of passion for her owls and stories from her past.  The grace and compassion from Kay and Annick touched us deeply, and buoyed our spirits as we returned to our troubled human world. [one_half] [caption id="attachment_29776" align="alignnone" width="300"]Barred Owl on Examining Table Figure 3: Barred Owl on examination table, Owl Foundation. Photo by Ted Cheskey[/caption] [/one_half] [one_half_last] [caption id="attachment_29777" align="alignnone" width="300"]Kay Mckeever and Ted Figure 4: Myself and Kay McKeever. Photo by Cris Navarro[/caption] [/one_half_last]

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A Trip Back in Time: Exploring the historic Li-lik-hel Mine Expedition

A Trip Back in Time: Exploring the historic Li-lik-hel Mine Expedition

[caption id="attachment_28827" align="alignleft" width="150"] Howard and Jacky Trofanenko with their horses Smokey and Freddy[/caption] This guest blog, including photos, was by Howard Trofanenko.  Howard was the grand prize winner of our 2015 Nature Photo Contest. He and his wife Jacky were awarded a horseback trip for two through the Pemberton backcountry on the Li-lik-hel Mine Expedition courtesy of Copper Cayuse Outfitters. Copper Cayuse Outfitters is the premier guided horse riding company in British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor and offers many different types of horseback adventures in the Whistler and Pemberton areas. Howard and Jacky would like to extend their gratitude to Nature Canada for providing them with this opportunity after winning the 2015 photo contest, and Copper Cayuse Outfitters for donating the prize by providing an authentic Canadian Signature adventure. See more photos of their adventure by visiting Copper Cayuse Outfitters on Facebook.

Our adventure with Copper Cayuse Outfitters started with a warm welcome from our hosts Don Coggins and Dudley Kennett, wrangler Julie-Ann, and “our” horses Smokey and Freddy.   Image of Copper Cayuse Outfitters   It wasn’t too long on the first day's ride before we quickly learned we were in good care with these sure footed horses. The trails we rode covered mountain terrain that provided magnificent views as we continued to higher elevations.   Image of a couple on horse back   Upon our arrival at base camp we enjoyed refreshments before embarking on a short ride to Birkenhead Lake where we cooled off with a late afternoon swim in the lake. Base camp is well equipped with tents and cots, a cook shelter, and shower with hot and cold water!  While sitting around the evening campfire we learned about the history of the mines and traded stories.   Image of 2 people around a bonfire   Our second day started with a hearty breakfast, and then we were off to the mines. The horseback ride to the mines passes tree lined mountain lakes and distant grizzly bear recovery areas. Smokey and Freddy were the stars placing each hoof with precision while safely carrying us up steep narrow mountain trails to the mines, and back down.   Image of BC mountains   Entering the mine was like stepping back in time to when the ore was carried on horseback down the same trails we traveled.   Image of an old mine   Suppers on both evenings was everything one would expect on a trail ride; baked beans and fresh salads served with thick juicy cuts of meat and home-made desserts. After another hearty breakfast the third day ride back to the ranch covered trails that we purposely hadn’t seen on the previous two days to ensure everyday was a new adventure.   Image of horses eating   The historic Li-lik-hel Mine Expedition isn’t an easy horseback ride on flat terrain but is well suited for those who enjoy the great outdoors.  The staff and horses ensure all levels of horsemanship will have a unique experience. Don, Dudley, and Julie-Ann made us feel at ease and comfortable with the horses while we developed a bond with “our” Smokey and Freddy.  

Image of a couple with horses

Our 2016 Nature Photo Contest has coming to an end! Once again, Copper Cayuse Outfitters has generously provided this year’s grand prize, an exhilarating 3-day horseback horseback trip for two to the historic Li-lik-hel Mine Expedition. Make sure to register for our e-newsletter, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to help us chose our grand prize winner whose photo will also be featured in our 2017 Nature Calendar.

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Navigating Tree Frogs in Your Region

Navigating Tree Frogs in Your Region

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption] This summer, you will likely be seeing a few tree frogs in your area. But what all do you know about the tree frog species in Canada? Find out information on each of the species below and how you can identify the frogs you find!

How many types of tree frogs are there in Canada?

According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, seven species of tree frogs reside in Canada:
  • Northern Cricket Frog (aka Blanchard’s Cricket Frog) – Acris crepitans
  • Western Chorus Frog (aka Western Striped Chorus Frog) – Pseudacris triseriata
  • Boreal Chorus Frog – Pseudacris maculata
  • Pacific Tree Frog (aka Pacific Chorus Frog) – Pseudacris regilla
  • Spring Peeper – Pseudacris crucifer
  • Cope’s Gray Tree Frog – Hyla chrysoscelis
  • Gray Tree Frog (aka Tetraploid Gray Tree Frog) – Hyla versicolor
Tree frogs can be found just about anywhere in Canada, although some species are exclusive to certain regions. A comparative glance between two different species may not reveal any obvious resemblance. In addition, consistent identification of any one species may be difficult because many of these frogs change colours rapidly.

Learn how to navigate tree frogs in your region! As a helpful guide, here are some characteristics specific to each kind:

  1. Northern Cricket Frog:

  • Distribution: In Canada, they are only found on Pelee Island, Ontario
  • Texture: Rough, wart-covered skin [caption id="attachment_27135" align="alignright" width="200"]Northern Cricket Frog Northern Cricket Frog and its distinctive "V" marking[/caption]
  • Colour: Hues of gray, greenish-brown, yellow, red and black
  • Markings: A dark “V” sits between its eyes
  • Size: About 4cm long
  • Habitat: Marshes, quarries, ditches and warm Carolinian forests
  • Diet: Small insects
  • Overwintering strategy: Nestles under rocks and logs
  • Status: Endangered (federally and provincially) – habitat loss and damage from pesticides are known issues.
  1. Western Chorus Frog:

  • Distribution: Southern Ontario and southern Quebec
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Colour: Gray, green or brown
  • Markings: Distinguishable dark eye stripe; white stripe aligned with top lip; three dark stripes on its back – the middle stripe is generally solid
  • Size: Up to 4 cm
  • Habitat: Woodland ponds; avoid ponds with fish; forest openings
  • Diet: Insects and other invertebrates
  • Overwintering strategy: Dwell beneath the ground or under a log; freeze-tolerant
  • Notable behaviour features: Modest climbers – reaching the height of a shrub
  • Status: Threatened – Great Lakes/ St. Lawrence region (Canadian Shield population) – federally protected under SARA; habitat loss cited as the main issue
  1. Boreal Chorus Frog:

  • Distribution: More widely distributed than the similar-looking Western Chorus Frog – but does not overlap in its range; can be found from Quebec to BC, and up north in Yukon and the Northwest Territories
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Colour: Gray, green or brown
  • Markings: Same as the Western Chorus Frog, but the middle stripe is usually broken-up
  • Size: 4cm; hind legs are shorter than those of the Western Chorus Frog
  • Habitat: Woodland ponds; avoid ponds with fish; forest openings; tundra (up north)
  • Diet: Insects and other invertebrates
  • Overwintering strategy: Dwell beneath the ground or under a log; freeze-tolerant
  • Notable behaviour features: Modest climbers – reaching about the height of a shrub; longer and slower mating call than the Western Chorus Frog
  • Status: Not at risk/low priority
  1. Pacific Tree Frog:

  • Distribution: Exclusive to BC (Canada)
  • Texture: Smooth to rough
  • Colour: Green, brown, gray or tan
  • Markings: Dark stripes stream down each eye
  • Size: Up to 5 cm; small and lean; large, sticky pads on their toes
  • Habitat: All aquatic/moist environments, forests, mountains and desert steppes
  • Diet: Insects – especially flying insects – and other invertebrates
  • Notable behaviour features: Able to rapidly change colours for camouflage (or due to temperature fluctuations); very versatile habitat range
  • Status: IUCN – Species of least concern
  1. Spring Peeper:

    [caption id="attachment_27136" align="alignleft" width="300"]Spring Peeper Spring Peeper[/caption]

  • Distribution: Manitoba to PEI
  • Texture: Smooth
  • Colour: Brown, tan, green or gray; “bark-coloured”; white or cream belly
  • Markings: Distinctive “X” marked on its back
  • Size: About 3cm; large toe pads
  • Habitat: Aquatic areas and woodland ponds; vulnerable to the effects of urbanization
  • Diet: Insects
  • Overwintering strategy: Retire under logs or tree bark; freeze-tolerant
  • Notable behaviour features: One of the first frogs to be heard singing in the spring; shrill, repetitive call; good at camouflaging
  • Status: Not at risk/low priority
  1. Cope’s Gray Tree Frog:

  • Distribution: Found only in southeastern Manitoba and western Ontario
  • Texture: Rough
  • Colour: Green, brown or gray; thigh interior is orange
  • Markings: Dark “blotches” scattered on its back; large, bright circle under its eyes that is darkly outlined
  • Size: Up to 6cm; large toe pads
  • Habitat: Trees and shrubs surrounding aquatic regions; prefer older forests
  • Diet: Insects and other invertebrates
  • Overwintering strategy: Remain under leaf litter and snow; freeze-tolerant
  • Notable behaviour features: “Fast, high-pitch call” (the only factor that recognizably distinguishes it from the Gray Tree Frog); climbs tall trees; can quickly change colours
  • Status: Not at risk
  1. Gray Tree Frog:

  • Distribution: Anywhere from Manitoba to New Brunswick; overlaps with Cope’s Gray Tree Frog
  • Texture: Rough
  • Colour: Gray, brown or green; thigh interior is yellow-orange; camouflages itself based on surroundings (hinted in the latter part of its Latin name, “versicolor”)
  • Markings: Dark “blotches” scattered on its back; large, bright circle under its eyes that is darkly outlined
  • Size: Up to 6cm
  • Habitat: Trees and shrubs surrounding aquatic regions; prefer older forests
  • Diet: Insects and other invertebrates
  • Overwintering strategy: Remain under leaf litter and snow; freeze-tolerant
  • Notable behaviour features: “Short, flutey call”; avid tree climber – described as “highly arboreal”; a “true tree frog”
  • Status: Not assessed – likely abundant; deforestation could pose a threat
If you spot any of these frogs in your neighbourhood, be sure to record it with our FrogWatch Program!
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Preserving Rare Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Canada

Preserving Rare Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Canada

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption]

British Columbia is a province of vast ecological treasures – it is home to great mountains, beautiful oceans, and pristine landscapes of rugged forests. It also contains one of the highest numbers of provincial parks and ecological reserves in Canada – with 443 parks and 131 reserves documented by The Canadian Encyclopedia in 1996. The list does not end there, however – BC’s South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley region has been cited as one of the most important natural landscapes in Canada to protect.

The South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley features two of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada – the dry bunchgrass grasslands and the open Ponderosa pine forests. It also hosts Canada’s only “pocket desert.” Breathtaking views of the nighttime sky can be seen here, so if you enjoy the company of stars amidst serene desert-solitude, you will definitely want to visit this place!

There are currently 56 federally-listed endangered species that reside in this region. This includes plant and animal species found nowhere else in Canada, such as Lyall’s Mariposa Lily, the Flammulated Owl and the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad.

[caption id="attachment_26859" align="alignright" width="231"]Image of a Burrowing Owl Burrowing Owl appropriately burrowing into a hole - victim of habitat loss[/caption]

While the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley contains high biodiversity value, the region is also degrading in its biodiversity as a result of development projects and climate impacts. Human impact has already taken a toll on the Burrowing Owl, the Sharp-tailed Grouse and the White-tailed Jackrabbit – formerly-thriving residents of the region.

Over the years, concerns of local residents and First Nations have been burgeoning –sparking grassroots movements and organizational partnerships in the process. In 2002, the Okanagan Nation Alliance and members of the community initiated the request for a national park reserve. The governments of Canada and British Columbia responded a year later by signing a Memorandum of Understanding as a gesture of acknowledgement and support. Since then, several "feasibility assessments" have been made, and it was estimated in 2010 that the proposed park will sprawl across 284 square kilometres of the South Okanagan-Similkameen Valley.

Rare Species Profiles:

The Flammulated Owl (Otus Flammeolus): classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Species of Special Concern; identification:

  • Small owl with stubby, little ear tufts
  • Large, black-button eyes
  • Colourful, changing feather pattern – in the Ponderosa pine forests of the south, reddish hues predominate; in the northernmost parts of the region, grayish hues mixed with browns match the Douglas-fir trees around
  • Habitat is threatened by agricultural activities and forest operations – not good for a creature that dwells in the woods
[caption id="attachment_26901" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of the Lyall's Mariposa-lily The Lyall's Mariposa-lily by Five Acre Geographic (CC BY-ND 2.0)[/caption]

Lyall’s Mariposa Lily (Calochortus lyallii): classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Threatened Species; identification:

  • White with a moon-shaped spot at the base of its petals – may bear a purple “crescent” on top
  • Similar to the Three-spot Mariposa Lily (Calochortus apiculatus), except smaller
  • Like other Mariposa lilies, it is characterized by a set of three petals interlaced with three sepals, and takes refuge in grassy meadows and dry hillsides
  • Shade intolerant
  • A very rare lily in the southern interior of British Columbia; in Canada, this lily species only occurs between the Similkameen river and the Okanagan Valley
  • Several threats ranging from predators (insects/small mammals), invasive weeds, land alteration via coniferous tree planting, availability of pollinators and reproductive failure

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana): classified under SARA as Schedule 1, Threatened Species; identification:

  • Medium-sized; 40-65 mm long
  • Hues of olive, browns, light-gray shades; dark, raised patches on its back
  • The soles of its hind feet are spiked with spades – used to burrow
  • Possess “cat eyes” separated by a glandular bump in the middle (a.k.a. a “boss”)
  • Resides in dry grasslands and open forests; needs a combination of terrestrial and aquatic habitat
  • Habitat is threatened by agricultural activity and land development

Fun Facts

  • Did you know that BC was the first province in Canada to formally establish permanently-protected ecological reserves? They were able to do so with the 1971 enactment of the Ecological Reserves Act.
  • Ecological reserves are distinct from parks. While the latter permits many types of recreation such as camping, fishing and hunting, these “consumptive” activities are prohibited in designated ecological reserves. However, nature-appreciation activities such as bird watching, wildlife viewing and photography are generally permitted.
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Six Ways to Welcome Swallows Back to Canada this Spring

Six Ways to Welcome Swallows Back to Canada this Spring

[caption id="attachment_26139" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of David Caughey David Caughey
Conservation Intern[/caption] Swallows are beginning to start their spring migration, and they travel hundreds of kilometres a day at a speed of over 30km/h! These small birds are vulnerable to starvation, exhaustion and storms, so when they arrive in Canada they will be grateful for all the help they can get to recover.

Before we get started, here’s how to identify swallows.

Swallows used to breed in caves, but now almost always nest in the eaves of buildings such as barns. However, they also inhabit much busier places, and can be seen flitting in and around bustling restaurants and markets. For this reason, swallows are one of the most familiar bird species in the world.  Even if you didn’t know what it was called, you’ve probably seen them before! Here’s what they look like:


[caption id="attachment_26749" align="alignnone" width="300"]Image of a Bank Swallow Bank Swallow perched on a branch - visual comparison[/caption]



[caption id="attachment_26737" align="alignnone" width="300"]Image of a Barn Swallow Barn Swallow flying[/caption]



Image of Barn Swallow


One common species seen around the world is the Barn Swallow. The Barn Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale under parts and long tail streamers – the so-called “swallow tail”. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time flittering around catching insects.

 How can you help swallows this spring?

[caption id="attachment_26736" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of Barn Swallow with chicks A Barn Swallow with her nest of chicks[/caption]

1. Monitor your neighbourhood for swallows and their nests

The more information we have on their populations the better! Here is a photo of what their nest could look like:

2. Adopt a nest

If there’s a nest nearby you, try to pay extra special attention to it – without disturbing the swallows of course! Also, try to note the dates of arrival, egg-laying, hatching and fledging so we can compare them to next year.

3. Protect local nests

If you see or hear people complaining about swallow nests – rather than destroying them – help them put up a board to catch the droppings!

4. Plant insect-friendly flowers

Swallows are insectivores, so the more insects attracted to your garden, the more food the swallows will have to eat!

5. Fill out the Nature Canada survey!

Nature Canada has a quick, five minute survey on Barn Swallows, which asks a few simple questions about populations in your area. This allows us to compile valuable insights and information from our fellow-citizen scientists!

6. Sign our petition and become a voice for nature

Another way to help swallows this spring is to sign Nature Canada’s petition asking the government to list both the Barn and Bank Swallows as threatened. As well, more birds a part of the swallow family need to be assessed for better protection. Sign the petition today for your voice to be heard to help these species! [caption id="attachment_26735" align="alignleft" width="300"]Barn Swallow A Barn Swallow gazes while perched[/caption] Fun Fact! Barn Swallows from Europe spend the winter in sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia and India. Their wide-ranging flight course makes them great ambassadors for linking countries, and building initiatives, such as Spring Twins, which pairs schools in Africa and Eurasia who share swallow families.
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Of Heart and Home:  Nature’s Little Jewel of Solitude

Of Heart and Home: Nature’s Little Jewel of Solitude

[caption id="attachment_16434" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jodi Joy Jodi Joy Director of Development and Communications[/caption] [dropcap style="default"]J[/dropcap]oyce Nordwall chuckled when I asked her about her love of Canadian nature.  “I came to Canada from Scotland for a year and have stayed 61years. I fell in love with Canada, especially the West Coast, for its wild and raw nature”.  She credits her mom, a Queen’s Scout, with inspiring this love of the outdoors.  As a young child Joyce was always right out in nature, hiking and camping in the Lowlands, moorlands, the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland with her family. Early in her Canadian career, Joyce purchased 5 acres on Galiano Island, one of the beautiful Southern Gulf Islands.  It is a special place where she enjoyed relaxing and camping in a tent. It was there that she became engaged to her husband, Johan, who built a two storey log cabin, using her red cedar trees. Fittingly, her husband of 45 years is now buried in the tranquil cemetery there, overlooking Active Pass. Her cabin looks over Trincomali Channel surrounded by Arbutus and Red Cedar trees, as part of the spectacular scenery and is visited by friends and family regularly. [caption id="attachment_26113" align="alignright" width="132"]image of Joyce Nordwall Joyce Nordwall, Nature Canada member[/caption] It was Johan, a Swedish Canadian, who purchased their other nature sanctuary - 5 acres of forested land, on Victoria’s Old West Saanich Road. Together they cleared and felled the red cedar trees, dug out peat from a slough to make a lake, designed and built their three-storey home out of the trees from their land.  They called their home, “Varmland “after the Province in Sweden, where Johan was born. They wanted their home and garden to be a sanctuary for family, friends and wildlife, so devoted much time to nurture and protect the land, sculpting it into a beautiful  acreage with a loving home, surrounded by daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas, honeysuckle, wisteria and clematis with  the lake a home to wood ducks, mallards and many diving ducks. A fenced garden was made to keep the deer from enjoying her roses, but allowing them and other wildlife to roam…even once a cougar!  Her veranda is gated and graced with lilies, roses, delphiniums, gladiolas and hanging baskets. The birds flock to the feeders and the tiny tree frogs chirp their song….rivet, rivet. Now, Joyce runs a Bed & Breakfast business, as well as serving lunches and teas.  She enjoys sharing this little jewel of nature with guests, friends and other nature lovers like herself.  When her grandchildren come to visit, she enjoys teaching them about nature too.   “Many visitors enjoy watching the flickers, hummingbirds and woodpeckers during breakfast.  Osprey and kingfishers are frequent visitors to the lake as well” reports Joyce. [caption id="attachment_26114" align="alignleft" width="446"]a picture of bed & breakfast and landscape At Varmland Bed & Breakfast[/caption] Joyce has been a devoted member of Nature Canada for nearly 20 years.  She believes “it is important to support national groups like Nature Canada, which are also helping to protect and preserve special places from development, especially oil and gas.” Joyce wishes she could do more to help support our important work, but as a Guardian of Nature monthly donor, I remind her she’s been helping each and every month and that amount really adds up over time. So glad she decided to stay on in Canada!   Her special place is “just a joy” to behold.  Perhaps you may also look forward to visiting this nature jewel, as I do, and meeting Joyce to thank her for caring about nature!    

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What an Inspired Gift:  A Big Thanks to Norman & Marion Takeuchi!

What an Inspired Gift: A Big Thanks to Norman & Marion Takeuchi!

[caption id="attachment_21828" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jodi and Noah Jodi Joy
Director of Development[/caption] What inspires and refreshes your spirit – is it the thrilling call of the loon heard at the cottage or at a campsite? Or the sunlight filtering through maples while on a hike or even the chirp of the songbird at your feeder? Or the dream of seeing a wolf or bear or other endangered species in the wild? Nature has given us inspiration for centuries – and often is expressed creatively through our poems, writings, paintings and sculptures. Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree. - Emily Bronte As the woods are the same, the trees standing in their places, the rocks and the earth...they are always different too, as lights and shadows and seasons and moods pass through them. - Emily Carr We would like to thank our members, Norman Takeuchi and his wife, Marion who have been members of Nature Canada for over 20 years. Norman, who is a visual artist, was inspired to create a series of six paintings of endangered species, displayed them recently at an art exhibit* to draw awareness of their plight and donated his proceeds to support our efforts to protect endangered species. When I thanked Norman for his initiative and kindness he humbly noted that, “the issues Nature Canada deals with matter deeply to us” and he felt “this was a concrete way to use my talents to do more”. Well, a big thanks from us to him for this “inspired” gift. I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of his paintings and have included a few here for your enjoyment: [caption id="attachment_25987" align="alignleft" width="150"]Spotted Owl painting Spotted Owl painting[/caption] [caption id="attachment_25988" align="alignright" width="150"]Eastern Gray Wolf painting Eastern Gray Wolf painting[/caption] And in hope you’ll also be inspired to defend and protect endangered species now to ensure they have a future. Nature’s beauty is core to our Canadian history and culture. By defending nature we help nurture our culture and spirit and ensure future generations will be able to explore and adore our natural world.     As Yann Martel noted: “Nature can put on a thrilling show. The stage is vast, the lighting is dramatic, the extras are innumerable, and the budget for special effects is absolutely unlimited.”   And yet, I’m also reminded of what Robert Batemen said: “Nature is not a free lunch, but we treat it as a free lunch.” Again our thanks to Norman and Marion for their continued trust and support and to all our members, who care deeply about nature and take amazing actions to protect it each and every day.

*Norman Takeuchi is a full time artist working in Ottawa and is represented by the Cube Gallery.
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Take a Moment of “Pause” to Connect with Nature

Take a Moment of “Pause” to Connect with Nature

This is a guest blog by one of our founding members of Women for Nature, Tami Grantham who works for the Canadian Wildlife Service and also teaches outdoor education classes. [caption id="attachment_21383" align="alignleft" width="150"]Photo of Tami Grantham Tami Grantham, Wildlife Technician[/caption] I am honoured to have been chosen to be as a member of Women for Nature and believe passionately that women hold a powerful role in the conservation of wild spaces and places so I was delighted when asked to share my passion! I grew up on the shores of Kluane Lake, my backyard, Kluane National Park and my youth spent immersed in the natural world. As I reflect on those times I am grateful, grateful for the values that grew with me, grateful for the connection to the natural world my youth fostered and grateful for the lessons that magnificent place taught me. Those values, connection and lessons have carried me through good and challenging times of my life and has guided my work as an adult. It was a no brainer for me to pursue a career in Environmental Education and Science and as such I have the great pleasure of working and teaching outside almost everyday. However my greatest honour and pleasure is working to facilitate the relationship with women and nature. It is through this work I continue to foster my own connection, learn about myself and the natural world and meet fantastic, passionate women! I sincerely hope you find this engaging and helpful as you pursue your IMG_1494_resizedconnection. There are mountains of information floating around today about the many benefits of being connected to nature, from physical health to spiritual and emotional well being and it's clear that being connected is 'a good thing'. However there is very little information out there around the 'how' of this connection thing. Not everyone, in fact very few people have had the benefit of growing up like me and my siblings, living, learning and playing in truly wild places, and many may find the how of connecting a little daunting! When I was asked to write this post I enthusiastically dove into it, beginning with 'Ten Tips For Camping'. I was so proud, the piece had all my little nuggets for comfortable camping in the backcountry, safety tips and my 'essential gear list'. The article was good and informative however, I felt like there was something missing. With the deadline looming, I was stuck but had to leave for a field shift of bird studies and I was beginning to panic! I simply could not send something out to the world that I wasn't completely comfortable with and this piece really didn't feel right. So, I headed into the field with the writing and deadline weighing heavily on my mind. I love my work, in particular bird work, and while the work fascinates me the unfinished piece troubled me.  The field studies offer fantastic periods of quiet listening and observation. They are conducted by a survey method called point counts which is a method used to determine; who's there and what they are doing. They are conducted for 10 minutes, in complete silence, and typically in wonderful, forested areas. As my field partner and I stood in the middle of a beautiful, northern white spruce forest listening intently to the singing and calling of birds both near and far, I soaked up the morning sun as it warmed my face and breathed in the fragrant smell of the spruce and aspen trees being heated by the early rays. I mapped the bird activity in my notebook as they flew and fluttered, sang and foraged around the point count station. The count period came to a close and my field partner asked, "How do you do that?" surprised, I asked, "Do what?" he pointed at my notebook with the bird activity mapped in code with arrows and symbols, depicting all the activity that had happened in the last ten minutes, "'s as though you understand another language, the language of the forest!" and at that very moment inspiration hit me like a lightning bolt, the missing piece was this, the how! After a lifetime of living, working, teaching and playing in the outdoors, I often take my connection and comfort in the outdoors for granted. It's easy to forget that others may not have had the opportunities I have to be connected and for many people, 'Ten Tips on Camping' may be so far from where to begin that it would just be another 'yeah that sounds great and like a lot of fun but I just don't know where to begin'. The comfort and connection I felt at that moment, the settled, grounded feeling, the space I could feel in my heart and mind, the ability to interpret the 'language of the forest', is what I was missing in my blog, it was the beginning; how to get connected to get comfortable enough to get camping! Connection is not a thing you purchase or touch, it is a way of being. It is fundamentally simple, it does not require an enormous investment in gear or tremendous realms of knowledge or even a huge investment of time, it simply requires an interest, a willingness to listen and observe. The benefits, as listed above, can relieve stress and help provide balance in an often unbalanced world. The next time you leave your home, pause for just a moment. Put all your expectations, to-do lists and plans for your day aside for just a moment and little by little take everything in; is it warm or perhaps there is a cool breeze? Take a deep breath, what does the air smell like? Close your eyes and listen really listen, what do you hear? Now briefly reflect on how you feel in that moment, if there is a bird singing, how does it make you feel? Does it make you feel a little lighter, or perhaps it makes you smile. The importance is not placed upon identifying and naming each piece or even finding truly wild things. The importance in this exercise is in the pause, in the moment that it takes to simply be, and observe the things that you may have otherwise overlooked. As you thenmove into the day ahead, in moments of stress, frustration or difficulty even fatigue, reflect on that moment, let it carry you through those difficult times. Be mindful that there is beauty everywhere, all we have to do is look, listen, taste and feel. These small moments of pause will soon become habit, opening your mind to your natural curiosity, and you may find yourself asking questions about the things you observe. What is that pretty little flower growing up through the crack in the sidewalk? Or, who was that bird singing in the park across the street? You may also find yourself stealing pauses at the bus stop, your lunch break or even when you are stuck in traffic! [one_third]flowers-320173_1280[/one_third] [one_third]IMG_1521_resized[/one_third] [one_third_last]black caped Chickadee_elena_kreuzbert[/one_third_last] These moments of pause help us personally become more centered and better able to tackle the tough stuff, however there is also a great global benefit, and need, for nature connection. As we grow and strengthen our connection using practices like the above, our values and passion for the things and spaces we observe will also grow. When these values and passions grow, so too does our conservation ethic, which then becomes a voice for the larger conservation and protection conversation. The key to conserving and protecting the environments, that we rely upon for our existence, is not complicated or technical. It is awareness, passion and connection that starts with a pause. Get curious today, heighten your awareness, dance in the rain, soak up the energy of the natural world, I promise you won't regret it! If you'd like to learn more, follow me on Facebook, join me for one of our workshops and stay tuned for more blog posts!   Email Signup

A Dozen Words to Describe my Wilderness Adventure in Labrador

A Dozen Words to Describe my Wilderness Adventure in Labrador

[caption id="attachment_22363" align="alignleft" width="150"]Dr. TA Loeffler Experienced Educator and Author Dr. TA Loeffler, Experienced Educator and Author[/caption] This is a guest blog by Dr. TA Loeffler who is one of our newest Women for Nature. She is an experienced educator, explorer, nature advocate, and author. TA research focuses on the value of being out in nature over the life span. She has received much international and national recognition for her innovative teaching and community engagement. Throughout her incredible journeys and outdoor adventures, TA has aimed to be a "public dreamer" to inspire and motivate others to have big dreams and big goals. Sometimes the work of finding the words to describe a wilderness expedition is as arduous as the portages. I’ve just returned home from a two week expedition “on the Labrador” with five friends and I’m going to attempt to find a few words here to share of what we experienced as we travelled from Lake Shipiskan to the sea on the Kanairiktok River. [caption id="attachment_22287" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Canoe Trip Map - from Lake Shipiskan to Labrador Sea on Kanairiktok River Canoe Trip Map - from Lake Shipiskan to Labrador Sea on Kanairiktok River[/caption] We flew to the trip start at Lake Shipiskan via float plane and then paddled and portaged our canoes 210 kilometres to the Labrador Sea. It was a privilege to traverse Nitassinan, the ancestral homeland of the Innu, via the Kanairiktok River. The Innu place name for Lake Shipiskan is Ashuapamatikuan, which translate as “waiting for caribou place.” [caption id="attachment_22288" align="alignright" width="150"]Float plane arriving at start of canoe adventure Float plane arriving at start of canoe adventure[/caption] The pilot circled the landing area a few times to check for hazards and then with the plane banking and throttle cut, the plane dropped suddenly from the sky and skimmed along the surface of the lake like the water bugs we all captured as kids. Gear was tossed off the plane and we all jumped to shore to watch the plane take off. Emotions swelled like the buzz of the straining engine and then the plane was off, gone.   We were alone with ourselves. And the bears. And the black flies. And the trees. img_4190 image #4 TA's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the silence."] A profound silence. A deafening silence that was only sliced by us and the occasional jumping trout. We were in Labrador. With the lakes and river providing the multi-textured ribbon of experiences that would enter our bodies, minds, and souls with each paddle stroke and each step along the portages. [separator headline="h2" title="And the sky."] Oh the sky. A sky that greeted us in a steely grey reminiscent of a moody hormonal teen then transformed the next moment into a reflective blue dance of endless possibility. img_4256 image#5 TA's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the sand."] The sand that temporarily captured our footsteps until they would erased by the rabid rain, reminding us that we too are fleeting. Passing this way once. Noticing the preciousness of being here, both in this place, and in this life. Committing to look deeply along the way at both big and small. img_4317 image #6 TA's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the fireweed."] The small alpine fireweed. Hardy and hard working to survive in this harshly beautiful landscape. It offers an invitation to pause. To stop. To breathe in. And then out as the miracle of small pink flowers adorn the shore. img_4983 image #7 TA blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the rocks and the trees."] Seemingly at odds but strangely together. Inseparable from each other in this landscape and from the sky. Trees and rocks that both block and provide our passage. Home and away. There and here. Teaching the frivolity of separation and duality.img_5587 image #8 Ta's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the waterfalls."] The power of water channeled through narrow passages. Their sounds rumbled with a vibration that both terrified and soothed the spirit. The water calms and pools at the top of each, awaiting the moment to cascade suddenly to the bottom. To move from here to there with no choice about going. The water transforms from deepest sky blue to brightest cloud white and back to blue. img_5576 image #9 TA's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the bears."] And the beavers, muskrats, woodchucks, geese, ducks, squirrels, fish…all of the wild beings that we see and don’t see. They too, leave their tracks in the sand. We catch glimpses of their passage. They walk, they fly, they swim. They remind us to take care. To travel well and do it right. To protect. To marvel. To squeal with delight at the magic of sharing the forest and water with them. img_4887 image #10 Ta blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the exertion."] The paddle strokes. The lifting. The dragging. The exhilaration of the rapids. The hard work of moving day after day. Crawling into a sleeping bag, sore, tired, proud. Mind empty save for the colour of the sky as the sun drained away for the day.gopr0555 image #11 Ta's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the light."] The light of day leaving and the light of day coming. Sleeping until light. Sleeping when light. Sinking into a rhythm eons old that connects us to all who have walked and paddled this place. A place made so special by its remoteness. Its challenges. The discipline it demands. The skies it delivers. img_5788 image #12 TA's blog [separator headline="h2" title="And the team."] The sangha of the river. The ones who share the work and the fun. The skies. The sun. The rain, drizzle, and puns. Paddling our way to shared memories that will move, sustain, and enhance our lives whenever we come together to remember. This time. A time travelling through nature together. Email Signup

Just Waitin’ For The Bears

Just Waitin’ For The Bears

[caption id="attachment_22305" align="alignleft" width="150"]Maggie Romuld, Environmental Consultant Maggie Romuld, Environmental Consultant[/caption] This is a guest blog written by Maggie Romuld, one of our newest Women for Nature members. Maggie is an environmental communications consultant who also writes freelance nature and science articles to make science understandable to all. Her goal to ensure meaningful conversations about issues that affect us is completely in line with the aims and intents of Women for Nature.   This is a text conversation I had late last summer: Me: I JUST FOUND OUT THAT I CAN EXPECT BEARS IN MY NEW BACKYARD! BFF: But Maggie, bears are part of nature, you loooove nature. Me: Not BEARS! Bears don’t count! I love CUTE nature! And they keep changing the rules, you’re not supposed to climb a tree anymore, and I don’t know whether to play dead or not… BFF: Call a Conservation Officer. Really? That’s it? No sympathy whatsoever? I was serious! Well, I don’t necessarily just love cute nature – that was a bit of an exaggeration, but bears are definitely on my TTAAACWO (things to avoid at all costs while outside) list. And apparently I was going to have a front row seat… Flash forward: It’s late summer again and I’ve started to hyperventilate a tiny bit whenever I look at the apple trees over the fence. The apples are ripe! Noooo, that means the bears will be back soon! To be fair, my new friends were fairly well-behaved last year, and aside from gargantuan piles of bear poop left 20 feet from my back door, and a suspiciously poor strawberry harvest, they didn’t bother us much. (Well, ok, there was the time they broke the patio table and ripped a bird feeder off the house, and one of them did leave paw prints on my office window while he was trying to eat out of another feeder – but that was my husband’s fault for thinking it was late enough in the year to put the winter bird feeders back up). Generally though, on a typical September day, "Big Pooper" just plodded through the yard along a well-worn path between the apple trees and his favourite spot to tuck in for an afternoon nap – just over the rise where the grass meets the forest. Occasionally, if he was still feeling a little peckish, he would stop to mow the clover on the far side of the pond. I’m not sure if "Strawberry Thief" was a female or a young male (small and light, it ambled more than plodded) but it too had a daily routine, one that included a strawberry patch recon, a surprisingly nimble scramble over a rotten old fence, and a snooze in the shade under the willows. [caption id="attachment_22308" align="alignleft" width="300"]Big Pooper at Parson Pond Big "Pooper" at Parson Pond[/caption] I don’t know why I’m so nervous around bears. I’m a biologist for God’s sake, a naturalist – I’ve worked outside for most of my adult life, and been camping, fishing, and hiking since I was a kid. My sciencey brain isn’t winning this battle, though. Even though I’ve read how truly rare bear attacks are, and I know the odds of having trouble with one are pretty slim, January, February and March are the only months I don't cast a wary eye around the yard before I venture out. It probably doesn’t help that I know my particular bears aren’t even slightly intimidated by me. Last year they were still a novelty, so even though I was afraid, I was also secretly excited to see them. If I was outside when they showed up I quickly headed inside so I could watch them (that sentence makes it sound so benign but it was actually more of a panicked back pedalling while suppressing the urge to run and scream). When I took their pictures from the safety of my living room I twisted the door knob ever-so-gently and opened it barely wide enough to stick a lens out. No matter how silent I was, the big one would hear the latch click and would look up, but then he would carry on about his business. [caption id="attachment_22310" align="alignright" width="300"]Strawberry Thief at Parson Pond Strawberry Thief at Parson Pond[/caption] I just paced out the distance to the general location of Big Pooper’s path from my door and it is 45 medium-sized-lady paces (science in action!), so bears have pretty good hearing. That’s a good thing because this year I intend to make a lot of noise. The bears are welcome in my yard when I’m inside, hell, they can invite their friends. I just don’t want to turn around when I’m in the garden and find one close enough to lick the back of my neck. And bears or no bears, I am determined to pick strawberries and read by the pond whenever I feel like it this year. Perhaps I can borrow a lesson from the urban planners who discovered that certain types of music keep crowds from congregating. I still have lots of my old 80s aerobics music – that should work! P.S. In case you were wondering, scorpions, Portuguese Man O’War, and rattlesnakes are also on my TTAAACWO list But who doesn't love a cute chipmunk!? [caption id="attachment_22313" align="alignleft" width="300"]Chipmunk at Parson Pond Chipmunk at Parson Pond[/caption]

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