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Ottawa Students get up close with birds of prey
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Ottawa Students get up close with birds of prey

On February 25, over 1,000 Ottawa–area elementary school kids had the unique opportunity of meeting a live raptor at their school. They learned about three traits all birds of prey (or raptors) have in common (incredible vision, sharp talons and curved beaks), and the important role they play as a top predator in their ecosystems by helping maintain balance in the food chain. The students’ favourite part was meeting two birds of prey: Olaf, an American Kestrel and his friend Darwin, a Great-horned Owl. The animator and handler of the birds was from Falcon-ed, a company that specializes in falconry, training birds of prey, ecological control and educational presentations. The birds of prey are born in captivity and have been specially trained for presentations. They are well taken care of! [caption id="attachment_48784" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Darwin, the Great-horned Owl[/caption] Both American kestrels and Great-horned owls can be found in and around the Ottawa area, so having Olaf and Darwin as ambassadors help educated and raise awareness of wildlife that can be found in forests where we live. School presentations are one example of ways we engage kids with nature through our NatureHood program, which is about connecting urban Canadians, particularly children, to nearby nature. Thank you to Kemptville and Lakeview Public schools and St. Anne Catholic school for inviting Nature Canada and Falcon-ed to talk about birds of prey and nearby nature. This is the time of year when Great-horned owls start looking for a nest, so be sure to get out and explore your NatureHood, and you might be lucky and find an owl! [caption id="attachment_48789" align="aligncenter" width="660"] Falcon-ed with Olaf, an American Kestrel[/caption]

Your Photos Turned to Art
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Your Photos Turned to Art

Would you like to see your landscape photography turned into a painting? Nature Canada has partnered with artist Sarah Merry to turn some of Canada's most cherished and amazing landscape photos into paintings! She will be selecting 200 photos to recreate in a painting and will be only selecting photos that are land/water/sky scapes. All works will be 8x10", oil on board with a limited edition of archival giclee prints. If your photo is selected to become a painting, you will be gifted the first print in the edition! When you submit your photo(s), please also include a bit more detail of the shot, such as the what, where, when and why it means so much to you. Interested? Submit your photos today by emailing them to Sarah Merry here. The deadline for this contest is March 15th.  The project will culminate in a Toronto event, in October 2019, when all paintings and prints will be available for sale and a large portion of the proceeds will go to Nature Canada's conservation efforts. [caption id="attachment_48764" align="aligncenter" width="643"]Painting by Sarah Merry Painting by Sarah Merry[/caption]

Women for Nature: New report says more action required on biodiversity conservation
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Women for Nature: New report says more action required on biodiversity conservation

Ottawa, ON (February 25, 2019) — How can Canadians be better motivated to take more action on biodiversity? A group of 20 prominent Canadian women in science and conservation are answering that question in a new report being released this week that calls for action by all Canadians to reverse critical species loss. While many Canadians see cultural diversity as a cornerstone of our country, our values for natural diversity are lagging far behind, according to the report. “The latest evidence on biodiversity loss worldwide makes it clear that we must act now to avoid unimaginable natural poverty,” said Women for Nature co-chair Ann Dale. “There is no second chance from extinction. Can you imagine Canada without polar bears or loons? This action agenda is our chance to make a difference,” she said. Biodiversity Conservation: A Call for Action for Canadian Decision-Makers argues that a loss of species is hard to notice if you can’t name the different plants or animals in your own backyard. During the discussions, one research scientist recalled showing some Vancouver school children some seashells and being asked, "Are they real?" Another recalled a student being shocked to learn how many types of maples existed in just one area of forest. The bilingual report suggests new strategies for teaching Canadians about nature: designing cities with natural connections and using new technology and the arts to talk about protecting our lands, waters and wildlife.  It also includes bold asks for policy makers, like the creation of new protected areas, more partnerships with Indigenous peoples and enforcement of species at risk legislation. “The report is a great example of the kind of conversations that happen when we bring together people who are passionate, knowledgeable and want to make a difference. I’m very proud to be a part of that discussion. Canadians need nature, and nature needs us,” added Senator Diane Griffin. “All Canadians need to embrace this action agenda and it should be endorsed by all political parties—a critical first step to acting now on stopping rampant biodiversity loss,” said Member of Parliament Elizabeth May. “There is no greater imperative facing humanity than addressing biodiversity loss. The Biodiversity Call for Action offers concrete steps towards reversing current trends”, says Meg Beckel, CEO, Canadian Museum of Nature. The bilingual report can be downloaded here. Our thanks to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and RBC Royal Bank for sponsoring our reception event at Parliament Hill on Feb. 25. -30- For media inquiries, please contact: Haley Ritchie 613-562-3447 ext.252 hritchie@naturecanada.ca


About Nature Canada Nature Canada was founded in 1939 because of the passion and initiative of Mabel Frances Whittemore, a teacher and nature lover whose main goal in life was to share her passion for nature with others. Today, Nature Canada represents a network comprised of 95,000 supporters and more than 750 nature organizations across the country. For nearly 80 years, Nature Canada has helped protect more than 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat as well as engage hundreds of thousands of Canadians especially children in nature through its activities. naturecanada.ca

The rare ability to move supporters up their pyramid
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The rare ability to move supporters up their pyramid

It’s all about designing diverse engagement pathways. In 2017 rare wanted to shake things up and see if they could gain more support in their community. “We started by experimenting with spending a summer canvassing door-to-door, asking people in the Waterloo Region and Wellington County to sign a pledge supporting a grassroots effort to protect land in the region” said Laura Klein, the Gosling Engagement Coordinator at rare. The pledge did not ask for any financial contribution or to become a member, it simply asked for a name, street address and email address to sign showing support for rare as a growing land trust. This pledge was the first step that helped to develop a new engagement pathway for the group to gain support in the community. It was critical to keep these new supporters engaged – so they continued to experiment by sending out a hard copy mailing to them that included a bucket list of fun activities to do with rare, including taking a hike on one of the properties, visiting their eagle statue, and participating in an event with a free enclosed voucher. No one responded to this, or used the free event voucher. However, they knew they had almost 1,500 new names and email addresses collected from the pledge, and could still reach these people in other ways.  So the question was, if they were to simply continue to asking these people to volunteer, come for a hike, donate, and attend events – would there still be a missing engagement pathway where they lost people? rare needed to make sure we were cultivating these new supporters in a way that sparked an interest for them specifically and the lack of response to the mailing showed that maybe they needed a lower-bar ask to start off their journey with rare. [caption id="attachment_48020" align="aligncenter" width="683"] Photo by TJarvis[/caption] So, they decided to start trying out more e-campaigns as this was less resource intensive for both rare and the new supporters. This provided the chance to offer opportunities to pledge signers and other supporters receiving the emails to do something good with relative ease, making it a good first step. It was as simple as clicking a button. They took it a step further to ensure it was enticing for these new supporters to donate by offering hard copy greeting cards in exchange for a $10 donation. After doing this, they started to see new donors rolling in, so decided to build on this and as part of their year end campaign offered the opportunity to symbolically adopt a species at rare, and again had an exciting return. Out of all of their online donors, 32% were brand new donors, which is unprecedented! This shows the power of what can happen when you give people the opportunity to contribute in a way that works for them. It was a perfect way to encourage taking a step up the ladder or moving up the pyramid. Buying a greeting card and giving a gift is something that people do regularly, but this pathway allowed it to happen and still be important to rare. They now have a group of new donors that they are looking forward to continuing to cultivate the relationship with using the 5 principles of engagement organizing to move them up their pyramid.

About The Canada Warbler
Canada Warbler by Carl Savignac
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About The Canada Warbler

Beneficial Management Practices of Ontario’s Swallows
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Beneficial Management Practices of Ontario’s Swallows

There are six species of swallows that are native to Ontario. These migratory aerial insectivores spend the winter months in foraging in South America and return back to Ontario starting in the spring months. Once they are here, they provide many bird enthusiasts in the rural landscape of Ontario an opportunity to observe them while they feed and breed over the next few months, until eventually they return back south in the fall.

While it is well-known amongst naturalists and bird enthusiasts that the populations of swallows, along with majority of the other aerial insectivores, have been declining at an alarming rate since the 1970’s. The next step is to identify and implement beneficial practices to help Ontario’s populations of swallow species to be able to rebound, especially in the rural regions of southern Great Lakes region of Ontario. For that purpose, Nature Canada and Bird Studies Canada has created a list of Beneficial Management Practices (BMP) for each of the six swallow species that are found in the province.


Purple Martin BMP

Barn Swallow BMP

Tree Swallow BMP

 


Cliff Swallow BMP
      
Bank Swallow & Northern Rough-winged Swallow BMP

Nature Notes – Spiders
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Nature Notes – Spiders

Let’s face it: spiders don’t have a very good press. They have an image problem. Some people fear them, others dislike them, and some outright hate them. This is unjust and unfair, because we all benefit from their presence.

In fact, spiders are very useful and play a vital role in ecosystems. They kill pests, aphids and other plant-sucking insects. They control flies, beetles and grasshoppers but leave alone pollinating insects. Thus, they are a gardener’s best friend, according to biodiversity expert Cameron Smith. We should respect them. As we shall see, they are also very interesting creatures that have a few neat tricks up their eight hairy legs. They are a food source for many animals, forming an important link in the food chain. Many species of birds and other predators feed exclusively on spiders. Without spiders, insect populations around the world would explode, food crops would be obliterated, and insect-borne diseases would skyrocket. Spiders eat tons of insects every year. Spiders live among us in almost every conceivable habitat. Evolution has equipped them with a myriad of techniques for capturing insect prey: jumping spiders leap, crab spiders ambush, wolf spiders give chase and web-weaving spiders entrap. No other group of animals has been hunting insects so efficiently for so long. But they also have predators: birds, toads, frogs, ants, wasps, and centipedes. Scientists say there are 42,000 known arachnids and probably another 40,000 yet to be identified species; 1,500 species live in Ontario. Spiders can be daunting to identify as the colour of a species is often quite variable, even when mature, while immature spiders are sometimes very different than adults. Males and females of the same species may be similar or quite different in coloration and size. Males are slightly or much smaller than females. Most spiders have eight legs and eight eyes – two main eyes that focus on details within a small field of vision, and six secondary eyes that detect patterns of light and dark. However, they generally have poor eyesight. Most spiders lay their eggs in a finely woven silk web and take off, letting the eggs fend for themselves – but not the wolf spider. Wolf spiders strap their eggs to themselves and carry them around for up to 10 days. Once the little ones hatch, female wolf spiders continue to care for them, even letting them hitch a free ride on their backs until the young are old enough to care for themselves. [caption id="attachment_41733" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Jumping Spider[/caption] All spiders are poisonous, but 99% of them are harmless to humans. Almost all spin silk of different kinds, 1/100th the diameter of human hair, but twice as strong as steel, stretchable and elastic. Spiders use silk for lining their burrows, protecting their egg sacs, anchoring themselves with safety lines, and of course, building webs – either orb webs, mesh webs, cobwebs, sheet webs or funnel webs. Spider silk is also used by some birds for nest-building. Spider webs can contain more than 60 meters of silk, some contain more than 3,000 attachment points, and spiders eat part of their old webs to produce silk for new ones, so they are recyclers by nature. The remarkably durable, tough and flexible spider silk is currently being used to drive advances in medicine, and bioengineers have developed ways to turn the protein found in spider silk into a biodegradable adhesive to repair broken bones. But not all spiders spin webs. Many simply hunt for their prey or lurk in dark corners waiting for their prey to come to them. Spiders native to Southern Ontario include the black and yellow garden spider, found in gardens and orchards, and considered Toronto’s unofficial spider; the zebra jumping spider, hunting on walls and fences; the common house spider; the northern black widow spider, feeding on insects as well as on millipedes and centipedes; the orchard orbweaver, that prefers bushes and low trees in moist, wooded areas; and the cellar spider, also known as daddy-longlegs or harvestman. The most common spiders in our area are the orbweavers. They construct ornate, expansive, vertical bug nets, up to 75 cm wide. They sit in the centre of these spirally-ringed sticky silk webs in sunny but sheltered spots, waiting for their prey, which sticks to the spider net. But how come that spiders don’t stick to their own webs when the walk on them? That’s another one of their neat tricks. A spider begins by attaching a single strand of silk horizontally between two supports. It then builds an outside rim, like a bicycle wheel, and then attaches spokes and a spiral from the centre to the outside of the web. These parts of the web are all composed of non-sticky silk. With this frame firmly in place, the spider adds the sticky strands, once again in a spiral pattern. It then connects this spiral to the non-sticky spokes. So when the spider runs across from the centre to grab a prey, it travels along the spokes, stepping on the bits that are not sticky. The male mating instinct can affect the quality of the web. Male orbweavers can build proper webs as juveniles, but as soon as they become adults, their attention is elsewhere. At that stage they make lousy webs because they don’t want to waste time and rather grab some dinner. Then they hang around females waiting for a chance to mate – keeping, of course, to the non-sticky threads. They serenade a potential mate by plucking a tune on a female’s web. Most Ontario spiders mate in early summer and then wrap their eggs in cocoons. Soon after hatching, the tiny spiderlings swarm to the tops of plants or shrubs and spin a thin thread of silk which catches in the slightest breeze and lifts them up into the air. This is called “ballooning” and in Ontario it occurs in autumn. This manoeuvre distributes them over wide distances and keeps the spider population from becoming too concentrated in one area. As night falls, the silk becomes laden with moisture and the tiny paratroopers drop back to the earth. The ant-mimic jumping spider is rewriting natural history after scientists discovered that it produces milk and suckles its young for up to 40 days. The fluid secreted by these spiders is four times as nutritious as cow’s milk. Feeding continues long after the little spiderlings can forage on their own. It probably evolved during a period when food was scarce.

Green Resolutions for the New Year
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Green Resolutions for the New Year

New Year, greener you? Here are some actions that you can take every day to reduce your impact on the planet. These steps can be adopted by everyone, and are friendly to the environment, and to our wallets! Adding these tips to our to do lists will help us reduce our carbon footprints and energy consumption, contribute to our local economy and feel better! Start the year on the right (and green) foot!

Lights: Switch to LED and turn them off!

Needless to say, consider turning off the lights when you are not at home or try keeping them turned on for shorter periods of time. On top of this, switching to LED lights, solar powered lights, or lights powered by rechargeable batteries can help you save energy!! LED lights use about 33% less power and last longer!

Turn down your thermostat!

Consider turning down your thermostat during the day when you’re out of the house and at night. Not only will this save you some money, but it will also reduce your carbon footprint! It also means you can wear on your cosiest sweater and slippers around the house and have a better sleep if the room is cooler!

Add some greenery to your home!

Now that the days are shorter and snow is beginning to fall, we could all use some more green nature in our lives. Consider getting some indoor plants for your house. Not only will they help purify the air in your home, but they will also add a cozy and happy atmosphere to your home, as well as help retain moisture and heat!

Eat green, and eat local!

During the winter months going to local farmer’s markets can be tough, however there are indoor winter markets in most cities. Try to buy local seasonal produce this winter. Not only will this help support local businesses, but it will also help prevent excess shipping and packaging of produce. Plus, the produce will probably taste better when it’s fresh!

Carpool or take public transportation

In the winter we tend to leave our engines running longer to warm up the car before heading out to work. This winter, consider finding a carpool buddy or take public transportation whenever possible. You will be helping the environment by reducing your carbon footprint and saving money on gas. If you must use your car regularly, try minimizing your car idling time.

Curtains: Open and Close

Closing your curtains at night can help keep the heat in, but if it’s a sunny day consider opening your curtains to let in some natural heat during the day.

Get outside as much as you can!

Try to get outside as much as possible, even if it means a short walk around your building at lunch. Spending time in the light can also help suppress that sleepy feeling and keep you energized for the rest of your day! On weekends, try to get outdoors, whether it’s walking around your neighbourhood or city, going on winter hikes, or doing winter sports such as skiing and skating. The more you spend outside, the happier you’ll feel!

January Calendar Image: The Mountain Bluebird
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January Calendar Image: The Mountain Bluebird

The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides), which is largely found on the west coast of North America, can be easily recognized by its beautiful sky-blue colour. Although this deep blue colour is only found in males, the females, which are mostly grey-brown, also have a tinge of pale blue on their wings and tail.

Both male and female Mountain Bluebirds tend to be a similar size, somewhere between a House Sparrow and an American Robin, about 16 to 20 cm in length, weighing approximately 30 g.

The habitat of the Mountain Bluebird varies between breeding and nonbreeding seasons. During their breeding season, these little birds prefer open areas of short grasses, shrubs, and trees. This range extends from Alaska to the North-western United States and east towards Manitoba. As a migratory bird, the Mountain Bluebird will travel south for the winter, sometimes travelling as far south as central Mexico.

When these birds are in breeding season, the males will seek out nest cavities, and the females will choose the best one. Although, due to human interest in these animals, there is a preferred attraction to nest boxes making this species vulnerable to human associated hazards. Due to this, little is known about natural nest cavities as most research has been focused on human made nest boxes. Once a male has settled on a nesting site, he will sometimes mime the act of bringing in nesting material to attract a potential female to inspect the site. Once the female has accepted the site, she will then begin to gather and build the nest out of dry grass and other vegetation. A usual clutch size for these birds is about 4 to 8 eggs.

Like many other bluebirds, the Mountain Bluebird will forage from perches. However, they are also excellent aerial foragers and will hover (similar to kestrels and hawks) before dropping onto their prey. This hovering technique is usually only used when food is scarce as it takes up more energy than hunting from a perch.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, this species benefited from the increased forest clearings as it opened up new habitats for foraging and nesting cavities. However, as more settlers arrived, more habitat was destroyed, leading to a decline in the population. Naturalists were afraid that the Bluebirds would become extinct, therefore, bird boxes were made in an attempt to repopulate the species. Luckily, the Mountain Bluebird is of a Low Concern conservation status. However, there are still certain populations where decline can be observed. Areas where trees are too small to provide sufficient nesting cavities and where forest management are reducing available nesting sites are one of the bigger problems. As well as, there is competition between other bluebird species, House Sparrows, European Starlings, and House Wrens for the nest boxes and nest cavities.

These are a species that bird lovers will most certainly try to protect. Their bright colour and beautiful song are only two of the many reasons that make this bird so special!

Exemptions from federal environmental review for oil and gas projects unjustified, say environmental groups
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Exemptions from federal environmental review for oil and gas projects unjustified, say environmental groups

Ensuring federal assessment of high-carbon projects is critical if Canada is to step up Paris Agreement ambitions at COP 24.

For Immediate Release – December 6, 2018, OTTAWA – Some of Canada’s largest and most polluting industrial projects may get a free pass on federal review under a new law if the government capitulates to industry demands, warn leading environmental groups. The groups are calling on Canada to expand the list of projects it reviews to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental damage from proposed industrial development are minimized. Bill C-69, which includes the Impact Assessment Act, has been subject to intense lobbying in the Senate to weaken or kill the Bill. In recent weeks, the oil and gas and nuclear industries have also begun claiming that their projects – some of Canada’s riskiest – should be exempt altogether from the new law. The Impact Assessment Act mandates the government to weigh the positive and negative impacts of projects that affect the environment, considering factors such as climate change, potential harm to watersheds and endangered species, public safety, and Indigenous rights, in order to minimize harms and boost benefits. The environmental groups have developed a comprehensive list of major projects that should be reviewed under Bill C-69 if Canada is to meet its climate targets. Highlighted project categories include:
  • All projects that propose to emit more than 50,000 tonnes of GHGs per year until 2030, descending to 5,000 tonnes by 2040, including in situ oil sands projects, cement plants, and oil and gas pipelines;
  • All projects requiring permits under the Fisheries Act and Canadian Navigable Waters Act, including hydroelectric dams;
  • Projects located in National Parks, National Wildlife Areas or other federal protected areas, including new roads, ski hills and tourist attractions;
  • Construction or installation of nuclear reactors, including small modular reactors;
  • Projects that impact species at risk and their critical habitat; and
  • Projects that will induce further development, such as roads and transmission lines into relatively undeveloped areas.
How can Minister McKenna claim that Canada is stepping up its ambitions with respect to the Paris Agreement, when her government does not even plan to assess how to reduce pollution from high-carbon projects such as in situ oil sands projects and cement plants?” says Stephen Hazell, Director of Policy and General Counsel at Nature Canada. “The purpose of impact assessment is to look before you leap,” says Anna Johnston, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. “In this era of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction, we need to ensure we are making wise decisions that minimize environmental harm and benefit communities. Impact assessment is the right tool to do that, but only if it applies across the board.” -30-
For more information, please contact: Stephen Hazell | Director of Policy & General Counsel, Nature Canada 613-724-1908 (cell) 613-562-3447 ext. 240 (office) shazell@naturecanada.ca Anna Johnston | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association 604-340-2304 (cell – on Eastern time zone) ajohnston@wcel.org Karine Péloffy | Legal Counsel, Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement 514-746-6597 (cell, available in FR and ENG) k.peloffy@gmail.com Patrick DeRochie | Climate & Energy Program Manager, Environmental Defence 416-576-2701 (cell) pderochie@environmentaldefence.ca Josh Ginsberg | Lawyer, Ecojustice 613-562-5800 ext. 3399 jginsberg@ecojustice.ca
View the recommended entries to the project list. Click here for the PDF version of this press release.

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