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European Union Neonic Ban to Protect Bees
Photo by Sandy Nelson
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European Union Neonic Ban to Protect Bees

The EU’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is set to come into force on December 19, 2018; giving bees and other critters a chance to thrive in the New Year. The EU has adopted a near-total ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The use of all three neonics across the EU has been restricted to non-flowering crops since 2013. The new ban would go further, completely prohibiting their use outdoors. The ban is in response to a science review conducted by the European Food Safety Authority – Pesticides Unit, which concluded that the outdoor use of neonics harms bees. Exposure of both honeybees and wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) to neonics was assessed via three routes: residues in bee pollen and nectar; dust drift during the sowing/application of the treated seeds; and water consumption. The ban does not extended to all neonics or uses of neonics. Two neonics - sulfoxaflor and thiacloprid - are not covered by the ban. In addition, farmers may still use clothianidin, imiacloprid and thiamethoxam in greenhouses.

It is a step towards protecting bees and birds from the harmful impacts of neonics. It is time for Canada to follow suit!

Cree Nation Government proposes an impressive network of Protected Areas
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Cree Nation Government proposes an impressive network of Protected Areas

Nature Canada is thrilled to learn of the Cree Nation Government’s proposal to protect 30% of its territory. Working with the Cree Nation Government and other partners on bird conservation, we know the Cree have a strong connection to the land and a deep knowledge of how best to protect their territories. It's no coincidence that their careful stewardship – over thousands of years – has resulted in some of the richest areas for wildlife, including caribou, bears and rare birds. Many years of work have gone into the Cree Nation Government’s proposal, including careful analysis of watersheds, biodiversity, wildlife surveys and mapping projects. The project combines scientific data (including Nature Canada efforts) with Cree knowledge about culturally significant sites and species. Many of the locations included in the submission to the Quebec Government at the end of November are both ecologically and culturally important. Nature Canada and Cree Nation work on Important Bird Areas Since 2012, Nature Canada has been working in partnership with the Cree Nation Government, as well as the Eeyou Marine Region Wildlife Board, the Cree Trappers Association, several First Nations along the East Coast of James Bay, and Nature Quebec, to protect birds. Our work to date has concentrated in the traditional territory of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish, including Rupert Bay, Charlton Island and Boatswain Bay. This year we have also begun work with the Cree Nation of Wemindji. Many local community members were involved in this work, which:

  • identified important habitat and populations for the endangered Rufa Red Knot.
  • confirmed one of the densest breeding populations for the Special Concern Yellow Rail.
  • confirmed a previously unknown breeding population of the Special Concern Horned Grebe.
  • encountered other species at risk including Common Nighthawks, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Red-necked Phalaropes and very large numbers of shorebirds and sea ducks.
  • observed Woodland Caribou and Polar Bears in the course of our surveys.

Exempt Oil and Gas projects from Federal Law?
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Exempt Oil and Gas projects from Federal Law?

Nature Canada supports passage by Parliament of Bill C-69, which includes the proposed Impact Assessment Act. This law 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 oil and gas industry has been lobbying in the Senate to weaken or kill the Bill, which was passed by the House of Commons in June. The oil and gas industry has also been lobbying to ensure that in situ oil sands projects, most pipelines, and fracking projects should be exempt from the new law even if it is passed. Nature Canada and other environmental 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. In particular, Nature Canada is arguing that federal assessments should be required for all projects that propose to emit more than 50,000 tonnes of GHGs per year, that require permits under the Fisheries Act and Canadian Navigable Waters Act and projects located in National Parks, National Wildlife Areas or other federal protected areas (e.g., new roads, ski hills, tourist attractions).

Here is the link to the joint media release and comprehensive list of project categories that should be assessed.  

Chinook Salmon, American Bumble Bee and Black Ash Populations at risk of extinction say scientists
Photo by Meryl Raddatz.
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Chinook Salmon, American Bumble Bee and Black Ash Populations at risk of extinction say scientists

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is recommending changes to the status of species at risk following its semi-annual Wildlife Species Assessment meeting in Ottawa last week. “Nature Canada is very concerned that the Fraser River populations of Chinook Salmon, the American Bumble Bee, and Black Ash, among others, have been added to the growing numbers of species at risk in Canada” said Stephen Hazell, director of policy at Nature Canada.  “Nature Canada urges the government of Canada to proceed with the legal listings of species recommended by COSEWIC so that recovery strategies and action plans can begin as soon as possible.” The Black Ash, a tree that is common to swampy woodlands in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador has been designated as Threatened. The Black Ash is susceptible to a number of pests (especially the invasive Emerald Ash Borer) and diseases. Due to its close proximity to rapidly expanding human populations, Black Ash is also threated by human development. Moving out to the West Coast of the country, the committee found 13 populations of Chinook salmon to be declining, with eight assessed as Endangered, four as Threatened and one as Special Concern. Only the large population that lives in the Thompson River is stable. The interconnectivity of ecosystems, and importance of all wildlife species is especially evident with this designation in that the Chinook Salmon are a critical food source for the Endangered Southern Resident Orca, that Nature Canada believes is in need of urgent emergency protection. American Bumble Bees are now listed as Special Concern in Canada. Threats to the American Bumble bee include habitat loss, pollution, mites and pesticide use. Since June, Nature Canada has been campaigning to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in Canada and are calling for the Federal Government to take swift and urgent action. This pesticide is currently used on farms, despite causing millions of pollinators, aquatic insects and other beneficial species to disappear in staggering numbers around the world. “COSEWIC’s science-based recommendations for designating wildlife species at risk under the Species At Risk Act is critical to their survival  and to protecting biodiversity and ecosystem protection”  said Ted Cheskey, Nature Canada’s naturalist director. The Polar Bear, with populations in Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern parts of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador, was another species whose status was being considered by COSEWIC, and whose designation as Special Concern in 2017 did not change in this year’s assessment.


It isn’t all bad news however – there are actions that you can take today to help recover these species at risk , and many others, from coast to coast to coast:
  • Save the Turtles! Read up on what to do when you see a turtle crossing the road before heading to cottage country this Spring and Summer;
  • Say no to neonics and yes to birds and bees! Support the work we’re doing, along with 13 other environmental organizations, to ban the use of neonics in Canada, which is a deadly pesticide causing harm to birds and bees;
  • Use your voice for Orcas! Sign our petition and raise your voice to restrict Chinook salmon fisheries and protect the Endangered Southern Resident Orcas;
  • Become an advocate for nature! Join the nature nation to stay up-to-date with the important work we’re doing to protect the incredible wildlife species and landscapes from coast, to coast, to coast.
COSEWIC's next scheduled wildlife species assessment meeting will be held in April 2019 in St. John's, Newfoundlandand Labrador.

Nature journaling, a powerful experiential learning journey
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Nature journaling, a powerful experiential learning journey

Landscapes have always offered me an embodied experience to cultivate the more holistic aspects of self and I intentionally seek them. I first started a nature journaling practice in Costa Rica and I would visit the same spot for an hour day-after-day and observe things big and small in the dynamic interplay of what’s ‘out there.’ Nature journaling involves the regular recording of observations and experiences with the natural world. As time slows down, you become attuned to your surroundings and take notice of the different sounds, play of light, and shades of colour. Since returning home, I have taken up nature journaling with my family, as an activity that can be enjoyed outdoors and indoors, especially in the winter months! Here are some tips on how to nature journal with kids:

  • Nature journaling can take on many different shapes like drawing, painting, writing poetry, or recording detailed observations. There is no wrong or one right way to nature journal.
  • Anything can be a topic for drawing such as a spider in her web or even a household companion.
  • Nature journaling can be as simple as observing birds that come to your bird feeders and drawing a particular bird’s postures. What is that bird doing? What does their call note or song sound like?
  • Topics of discussion with your children can be about the relationships between the different ecologies like for example, between a bumblebee and a flower.
  • Sound mapping involves paying attention to what you hear. This activity can involve closing your eyes, and drawing and locating the different sounds with different colours on paper. What do you hear? Why do certain sounds seem louder than others?
  • Nature journaling is an activity that can be enjoyed during Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter! We especially enjoy noticing the birds during their annual migration. Which birds come back first and which ones arrive later?
  • Notice the changes that are happening as you are observing the environment. Draw the position of the clouds. Do they stay in the same spot or are they moving?
An excellent book “Keeping a nature journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you” written by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth offers a detailed account on how to nature journal throughout the seasons. This blog post dedicated to Leesa Fawcett who taught me about nature journaling for environmental education.

Why Canada needs to say no to Oil and Gas Drilling in Marine Protected Areas
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Why Canada needs to say no to Oil and Gas Drilling in Marine Protected Areas

The federal government is committed to protecting at least 17 percent of terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. These measures of protection are crucial to conserve the important habitats of species at risk in our lands and waters. Protection of Canada's natural places is a vital component of our culture, heritage, economy and our future, as well as of global importance in terms of biodiversity conservation and mitigating climate change. Since 2015, Canada has made significant progress on marine protected areas and now protects nearly 8% of its oceans. Despite those advances, the federal government is still considering allowing oil, gas and mining in some marine protected areas. Oil and gas drilling in marine protection areas?  Many, if not most, Canadians would ask: what’s up with that? Surely creating a ‘marine protected area’ means that oil, gas and mining projects are no longer permitted. Surely these important habitats cannot risk environmental catastrophes similar to the oil spill we recently saw off the coast of Newfoundland that released 250,000 litres of crude oil into the ocean.


The public controversy as to whether to allow of oil and gas drilling in protected areas led to the establishment of an expert panel on standards for marine protected areas. The good news is that the panel recommended strengthening ocean protections. The bad news? The government is under pressure from oil and gas interests to keep these protections weak.  Industry wants to see oil and gas drilling still allowed in some types of marine protected areas. Fortunately for all nature lovers, there is something that can be done. It is not too late to strengthen the protection of important marine habitats and to ensure that marine wildlife species like the Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle and beloved Atlantic Puffin continue to thrive.

Share our petition with your family and friends to raise awareness around the protection of marine areas today! If we raise our voices for nature in Canada today, we will be able to protect it for generations to come.


Stephen spoke to reporter James Wilt from The Narwhal, stating that “I reject the idea that greenhouse gas emissions are not a matter of federal interest and authority,” and that “Given that climate change could destroy human civilization, maybe it might be a good idea to include high-carbon projects for assessment under the new legislation,” Read this story here.

November Calendar Image: Hermit Thrush
Photo by Hui Sim
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November Calendar Image: Hermit Thrush

The November 2018 Calendar image is taken by Hui Sim, who said the following of the experience leading up to capturing this photo. “This is the third sighting I have had of this elusive but hauntingly beautiful songbird in my friend’s yard, but the first and only time I have seen it on the Scarlet Firethorn, a shrub that, thanks to the great number of reddish/orange berries it bears in the fall and winter, is a big hit with the usual repertoire of wintering birds. No other bird was present during this encounter - and my subject was content to sit there and contemplate its surroundings. The warm yellow tones you see in the background are courtesy of the autumn gold leaves of the neighbour's weeping alder.

This image truly captures the Hermit Thrush in its natural environment - feeding on berries, its food of choice, before a late fall migration.


The Hermit Thrush is an unassuming bird whose melancholy song can be recognized in forest openings or along trails. During the summertime months the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests, often in clearings or near the edges of trails. They migrate north earlier in the spring and linger later in fall than the other brown-back thrushes, and as such, is  the only one likely to be seen in winter in North America, most often,near berry-bearing plants, as it is in our cover image! A Hermit Thrush's chunky shape is similar to that of an American Robin, differing in size, as it is only slightly smaller. It has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that is a characteristic that sets it apart from similar species in its genus, such as the Wood Thrush or Swainson's Thrush. As a forager, the Hermit Thrush spends much of its time on the ground, picking up insects from leaf-litter or soil. On occasion it can be seen picking up patches of grass and shaking them, to release any insects that may have been hiding in it! Its diet is made up of mostly berries and a variety of insects, including beetles, ants, caterpillars, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and many others! Hermit Thrushes usually make their nests in and around trees and shrubs, but they can also get more creative! Nests have been found in mine shafts, golf courses and even in cemeteries! It is the males that usually gather food for the nest, while the females feed the nestlings. The nestlings are typically ready to fly at about 12 days. Unfortunately for bird lovers, Hermit Thrushes rarely visit backyards, and are not generally interested in bird feeders. Our only opportunity to see a Hermit Thrush nearby is, as was Hui's, before their late fall migration when they forage on the ground or eat berries in yards with trees or shrubs.

Watch to the video below to find out what to listen for, to identify a Hermit Thrush!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9beet-fhAE&feature=youtu.be  

Mom Approved: Nature-Based Activities to Get Outside this Winter!
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Mom Approved: Nature-Based Activities to Get Outside this Winter!

I've been thinking a lot about winter activities as I find, as a mother of a four-year-old, that winter can be a more challenging season to get outside and explore. Some of the best nature experiences that I've had with my daughter have been just exploring in the forest and seeing what emerges. Here are some nature-inspired activities for enjoying the natural world during the winter season Make a healthy homemade suet as a fun activity to feed those backyard visitors. Even when it's difficult to get outside, we still observe what the birds are doing. Break out those binoculars to identify the birds and look at their field marks or coloration. Snowshoeing is a healthy, fun way to explore the forest and get some exercise in the winter months. Tracking is an engaging way to learn about wildlife to demystify where they’ve been, where they’re going, and what they’ve been doing. By looking at tracks, you can identify which animals made these tracks or try to trace the origin of the tracks by following them. Nature journaling can direct our attention to ‘place’ and changes over time, and can be done indoors and outdoors. It’s a way to cultivate our inner naturalist or those feelings of feeling connected to the natural, more-than-human world.


Additional Resources: There are many cities that offer free nature-based programming. Wildchild which is London-based encourages child-led, outdoor free play. http://childreach.on.ca/wild-child/

Making your own suet for birds this winter!
Photo by Barb D'Arpino
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Making your own suet for birds this winter!

Making your own suet for the birds visiting your backyard during winter is a wonderful way to stay connected to nature while still staying warm! This is a simple way to provide another food source for birds to help them out during the long and cold Canadian winters." Below is a simple recipe for suet that will bring feathered friends to your NatureHood! Note that the temperature needs to be cold enough so that suet does not melt.

Simple Suet Recipe for Wintering Birds

Ingredients

2/3 cup coconut oil 2/3 cup black oil sunflower seeds 3 tbsp peanut butter with no salt added 3 tbsp cornmeal

Oats, corn kernels, peanuts out of the shell, and unsalted almond butter can also be added to the mixture.

1) Melt the coconut oil on a saucepan over low heat. 2) Add peanut butter, stir well until blended 3) Turn off stove, add other ingredients and mix well 4) Pour into a low profile pan 5) Once suet is cooled down, cut into cakes that will fit suet feeder 6) Wrap cakes individually to store in freezer.

Et voila! Enjoy the company of nature from the comfort of your home! To learn more about the birds that stay in our backyards over winter, check out our Winter Birds e-Book today!

December Calendar Image: Red Fox
Photo by Brittany Crossman
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December Calendar Image: Red Fox

The Red Fox, also known as Vulpes Vulpes, is a species found around the globe. It’s characteristics allow it to adapt well to human environments and it’s got a reputation for its comical cleverness. Best described as a mix between a coyote and a small dog, it’s known the world over for its sly and sneaky nature. Its sharp and pointed face, and relatively light body, allows for both speed and agility. The fox’s confidence isn’t just folklore, the mammal actually chooses to sleep alone out in the open, keeping itself warm by wrapping it’s long, bushy tail around its body. Settlers originally brought red foxes from Europe into the United States for hunting purposes. Hunting foxes as a sport had been a popular activity in England since the 1500’s, where they were considered vermin, by city-dwellers and farmers alike. Thankfully, today we understand the important part that red foxes play in the ecology of forests and the larger ecosystem. The nocturnal animal is one of Canada’s most wide-spread mammals. Red foxes can be found in every one of Canada’s provinces and territories, as well as across Asia, Europe, North Africa, Australia and the United States. Despite its name, the red fox is not always red in colour. From brown, black to even a silver-tinge, the red fox is a vibrant animal in more ways than one. It’s lengthy, thick tail makes up one-third of its entire body length and it’s fantastic hearing allows the red fox to hear low-frequencies. This superior hearing allows them to catch small, underground prey, such as rodents. Although their hunting preference is using the classic sit-and-wait approach, where they watch their prey intensely before pouncing, they can reach up to 50 km/h running if needed. The red fox has a litter of anywhere between one to ten pups annually. When the pups are around seven months old, they can hunt by themse lves and begin leaving home. Many red foxes have traveled up to 250 km away to find their humble abode, typically making their homes in meadows or wooded areas, although many have habitats in the deserts, the Canadian tundra or grasslands. Once they reach maturity, red foxes weigh in at around 3-14 kg and have a total body length of 90 to over 110 cm. The red fox’s cockiness and cunning has made it known to farmers as a chicken thief, often sneaking onto farmland to indulge in a chicken dinner. Although chicken is a tasty meal, the red fox is an omnivore, so berries and plants are also key staples in its diet. Some foxes have been known to travel over 8 km in a single night to find some. Unlike other wild dogs, foxes are independent and prefer to hunt, eat, and live alone. Maybe it’s during all this free time that they develop their wit? Today, the fox has become a pop culture icon from its role in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, to the cunning Robin Hood in the 1973 Disney flick. The red fox has an average lifespan of 3-6 years. With a stable population, and ‘least concern’ conservation status, the crafty fox will probably continue to thrive and contrive for a long time.

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