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Calendar Species Spotlight: July Gosling!
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Calendar Species Spotlight: July Gosling!

This blog was written by guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit  What’s black, white and brown, and maybe more Canadian than maple syrup? If you guess the Canadian Goose, well, spot on! Now here’s 4 fun facts you probably didn’t know about our lovable geese! #1 Did you know you’ve most likely mistaken the Cackling Goose for the Canadian Goose? But it’s only because they’re virtually identical! The difference is seen is their size and vocalizations. The Cackling goose is tiny compared to our Canadian goose, and whereas the Canada goose has a familiar honking call, the Cackling goose impressively sounds like an old lady laughing at a very funny joke. Have a hear here to check out the differences: Canadian Goose: [audio mp3="https://wxv73zw8wg-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CANGOO_1.honkingofseveralgeese_KYle_1.mp3"][/audio] Cackling Goose: [audio mp3="https://wxv73zw8wg-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/CACGOO_1.callsofseveral_AKkc_1.mp3"][/audio]   #2 V is not for victory! The familiar V formation in the sky we see each spring and fall actually has a cool scientific purpose for this choice of letter! In a V formation, the geese synchronize their wingbeats from one other to catch the uplift eddies from the goose in front. This will efficiently save physical energy for their long-distance migrations. (So, I guess it is like a victory?) What’s more, is that this formation has amazed engineer and behavioural scientists for decades, even inspiring the flight mechanics for man-made aircraft. #3 Contrary to popular beliefs, Canadian geese do not naturally eat bread! (Shocker, I know). Actually, all birds don’t naturally eat bread. It’s quite bad for their digestive systems just like junk food every day is bad for ours. Canadian geese are herbivores. They like grasses, leaves, sedges, seeds, grains, aquatic plants and fruits (apparently blueberries are a winning favourite). In addition, they will occasionally add in a juicy aquatic insect and/or aquatic invertebrate. #4 Canadian geese are pretty family-orientated! A male and a female will bond and mate for life, i.e monogamous. The pair will return to the same nesting area year after year. Usually this spot is where one of the parent themselves, hatched. Canadian geese represent a bird species that has both maternal and paternal care for their offspring, named goslings. Mom and dad will be very protective to the point of being quite aggressive to anyone, or thing, that seems like a threat to their goslings. A family sticks together often walking in single file with mama as lead, goslings in the middle, and papa in the rear! What a beautiful sight. And there you have it! Time to share these fun facts at your next party! (Sure to steal the limelight!).

Spring Bird Feeding: Tips And Tricks To Get Birds Into Your Backyard!
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Spring Bird Feeding: Tips And Tricks To Get Birds Into Your Backyard!

This blog was written by intern Gabriel Planas Why Feed Wild Birds? Spring can be a stressful time for migratory birds, after arriving from their wintering grounds it can be difficult to find the food and resources they need to survive. Many of the berries and seeds these birds depend upon for food will have been eaten over the winter and will not have begun to grow back yet. Furthermore, these birds will also be attempting to build nests, fight for territory, find a mate, and incubate their young. This is no small task due to natural bird habitats are being destroyed by urban and industrial development projects as well as climate change. Image of a rose breasted grosbeakPreparation While well-constructed bird feeders are not necessarily required to feed birds, without one the food you leave out may attract unwanted animals such as squirrels or dominant birds such as starlings, grackles, and squirrels. If you already own a bird feeder, make sure to clean it of any feed from the last season to avoid any mold or possible parasite growth within the feeder. Be aware of what birds occupy your neighborhood to help you select the best ingredients and location for your feeder. Sometimes changing the location can attract or discourage certain animals and species of birds from stealing from your feeder. If you do not own a bird feeder but would like to purchase one, links to purchase high quality bird feeders can be found here and here. Feeding The most important part of feeding birds is the mix of ingredients you use to attract them. Many commercial bird feeder mixes can often be ineffective in enticing more desirable bird species. Products that birds find undesirable such as milo are used to fill up these mixes, resulting in birds picking through the mix, creating a mess bellow the feeder. This mess can often attract unwanted animals or form a sludgy mixture that can make birds sick, depending on the ingredients used. Ingredients for Feeder Image of an eastern bluebird Sunflower Chips: These unshelled sunflower seeds are great for attracting bug-eating birds like robins, warblers and tanagers before bugs resurface for the summer. Also good for attracting Chickadees, nuthatches, house finches and cardinals. Safflower: With its hard-thick shell it can be hard for some birds to consume this seed. It is however, a favorite of chickadees, doves, and sparrows. According to some sources, house sparrows, European starlings and squirrels do not like safflower. Results may vary according to area. Millet: Millet is a common grain that is very popular among ground-feeding birds such as sparrows, doves and cardinals. As this grain is most popular with ground feeding birds, it may be beneficial to serve this from a low-set tray feeder to attract more birds. Peanuts: Peanuts are an impressive source of nutrition for birds such as blue jays, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Unfortunately, they may also attract unwanted animals such as raccoons and squirrels. Mealworms: Mealworms are a great way of attracting bug-eating birds such as blue jays, robins, Wrens, Warblers and Mocking birds Suet: Suet can attract all manner of birds on cool spring days. It is a high-energy food made with the fat found around the kidneys and loin of cattle or sheep designed to keep the stomach of birds full and warm throughout the winter. While suet can spoil quickly in the warmer weather, there are a number of alternative recipes to prevent it from melting that can be found here as well as here. Nectar: Though humming birds require specialized feeders, you can attract them by providing them with homemade nectar, the recipe for which can be found here.

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Best Places to Bird in the Prairies
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Best Places to Bird in the Prairies

Published: May 5 2018 Price: $ 24.95 Authors: John Acorn, Alan Smith & Nicola Koper Published By: Greystone Books


[caption id="attachment_36427" align="alignleft" width="194"] Best Places to Bird in the Prairies by John Acorn, Alan Smith & Nicola Koper[/caption] Written by Nature Canada’s writing intern, Gabriel Planas Best Places to Bird in the Prairies is a wonderful guide, aimed at getting the average Canadian out of their stuffy home and onto the bird populated trails of the prairies. Three of Canada’s most experienced and respected birders came together to give their two cents on the best places to go bird watching in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Each author outlines their favorite birding spots in the province in which they reside, providing a unique personal perspective on each location. Alongside these descriptions by the authors are guides to properly find and observe the birds in each location, which is a huge help to those who will be going birding for their first time. Thankfully, directions are provided on how to find these locations, as many of these places are situated off the beaten track or may require long distance travel to find. Well-designed maps corresponding to each location supplement the directions to give readers a better understanding of the location. While I cannot speak for experienced birders, I believe that these descriptions and birding guides will help even those with prior knowledge have a more rounded experience when visiting these locations. Amusingly, beautiful pictures of the various birds you will find on the trails feature captions that range from cute, to informative, to downright funny. For example, the caption for a picture of a Baby Coot reads “A baby coot, with orange beard and bald head, so ugly it is beautiful.” While the other written sections are less irreverent, they still give off the distinct impression that not only were these authors passionate about birds; they have an absolute blast observing them. This attitude goes a long way in convincing a non-birder, like myself, of a sense of enjoyment I would not normally associate with the activity. The pictures that supplement the content also go a long way in portraying the majesty and mystery of birds, serving as great motivation to find them out on the trails. It is important to note that the introduction provides a brief look into birding ethics. This is important when considering that most people who do not actively participate in bird watching would not know about the ethical implications of an activity like this. Overall, Best Places to Bird in the Prairies provides a fun and high-quality guide for beginner as well as long time birders. Those with little experience are given enough information and encouragement to get themselves out of the house and on the trails, while the personal accounts and birding guides may help give experienced birders a new perspective on areas they may already be familiar with.
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eh?
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Eh?

[caption id="attachment_36590" align="alignleft" width="150"] Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger.[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. Canada is pretty lucky; we’re home to many animals that stay year-round annnnd we’re also a perfect summer home for a number of species! Around springtime, Canadians get to enjoy seeing spectacular birds, mammals and fish that migrate to Canada for summer. Some animals have pretty neat characteristics that set them apart. Sometimes it’s a funny appearance, other times it’s a unique behaviour, but there’s always an interesting evolutionary history. Learning about them makes us appreciate how fantastic wildlife actually is! Today’s honourary species is a fan favourite for bird watchers; hummingbirds! Have you ever noticed you can’t really focus on their wings, even if you take a photograph? Ever wonder, how is this tiny bird hovering so fast? Well, today is your day because it’s time to chat about these tiny flyers! Canada has five species of hummingbirds that migrate here during our warm months. The most widespread species is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird ranging from Nova Scotia to Alberta. It’s easy to recognized hummingbirds since before you see them, you’ll hear them. As their common name suggests, hummingbirds make humming sounds as they flap their wings 80 times per second. They can zip through gardens and flowerbeds foraging for food and hover in the air for long periods of time. All that flying needs energy, and hummingbirds will feed on nectar primarily, but also tree sap, small insects and pollen. A hummingbird will consume about twice their body weight in nectar per day! They forage for tubular-shaped flowers that fit their long beaks and tongues. When calculated, it’s a lot of non-stop flying! And then, add in the migration mileage every year, it’s no wonder their tiny bodies had to accommodate. Scientists use newer computer technologies to make 3D stimulations of hummingbird aerodynamics. Results show that hummingbirds have evolved a balanced middle between the insect and the avian flight mechanisms. A hummingbird’s wing is more triangular-shaped then other birds. Their shoulder-to-wrist bones are compacted near their abdomen, leaving a straighter wrist-to-phalanges. This shape allows optimal aerodynamics for lift, wingbeat, and manoeuverability for both hovering and rapid back-and-forth movement. Physiologically, hummingbirds can uptake oxygen very fast, allowing the heart to beat faster and constantly supply oxygen to their muscles to perform. Their metabolic rate is fast and surprisingly efficient despite the main source of energy being a sugary drink! Even their muscle-mass-specific metabolism, or how each muscle uses up fuel, was found to have the highest rates for vertebrates. Hummingbirds inhabit a variety of regions from the tropics to the mountains, however changes in altitude and air chemistry doesn’t seem to be a problem for a hummingbird’s cardiac and respiration systems to adapt. Honestly, hummingbirds should make any athletes jealous!   In all, hummingbirds represent many extremes in the natural world. Being so small and so fast is just what we see on the outside. Biologists want to continue studying hummingbird physiology, because there are still unanswered physics related questions! In the meantime, with springtime arriving, keep some binoculars handy to scope out hummingbirds in your area. You can watch them zip through your gardens, flying backwards and forwards, hear their wings humming and see their evolutionary adaptions for yourself!

Tune in every month for many more fantastic animals to read about!


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Sources http://www.simplywildcanada.com/hummingbirds-in-canada/ https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/sounds https://www.nature.com/news/hummingbird-flight-has-a-clever-twist-1.9639 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12124359 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27595850 http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/colibri-hummingbird/En/Hummingbird/The-Life-Of-The-Hummingbird/diet.html

Injured Baby Birds: Debunking Common Myths and Dispensing Practical Advice
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Injured Baby Birds: Debunking Common Myths and Dispensing Practical Advice

This blog was written by Helene Van Doninck, wildlife veterinarian at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Truro, Nova Scotia, and edited by Samantha Nurse. Spring is the busiest season of all for wildlife rehabilitators. It’s baby bird season! This is the season that rehabilitation centres start to stock up on supplies and prepare for an exponential growth in phone calls. The first priority is to help injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife; however, we often spend a considerable amount of time talking to people to help us decide if an animal is really orphaned or in distress. Many times people just aren’t familiar with the natural history of that species and many situations that look like an animal in peril, really are just an animal exhibiting normal behaviour. We uncover the truth behind some of the myths associated with baby birds, as well as tips on what to do if you find a baby bird in your yard!

Myth #1: Baby birds found outside the nest have been orphaned.

[caption id="attachment_34262" align="alignright" width="394"]Image of a Bobolink feeding young Bobolinks feeding its young[/caption] It’s not common knowledge that most baby birds (especially songbirds) spend a lot of time alone once they fledge from the nest. People often see a young bird alone and assume it is an orphan  this is usually not true. Songbirds will hatch from their egg in a nest and are called nestlings at this point. When they make that first leap out of the nest (and are now called fledglings), they often either fall or flutter to the ground and spend several days on the ground under the watchful eye of the parents. The parents likely have up to five or six fledglings that have left the nest over a period of a few days. Both parents are working at top speed to find food from dawn till dusk.  They not only have to feed these young birds (one bug at a time!), but they need to keep track of where the babies are (they are often guided by the calls of their babies) before racing off to find the next morsel of food. They also protect them from predators,  try to lead them to areas where there is cover, and eventually teach them to forage and fly on their own. These behaviours are often learned by observing the parent, though the flight is instinctual for most birds. Young birds are at a high risk of predation. Other wild birds and mammals can prey on them, and in most parts of the world, the domestic cat is also the cause of millions of songbird deaths. We regularly ask people to keep cats as indoor pets, or at the very least limit their outdoor time during baby season. There are some types of birds that will spend most of their time with the parents, again due to their natural history. Birds like ducks, geese, and pheasants keep their young with them and many people have observed these species with the hatchlings following in a tight cluster. These species don’t manually feed their young; instead the young observe the foraging and pecking behaviour of the parents and learn to feed themselves in this manner. For this reason, anytime a down-covered young of any of these species is found alone it requires intervention, especially if it is calling loudly with no response from a parent.

Myth #2: Baby birds handled by humans are rejected by their parents.

A common myth we hear is that if a young bird is touched and has human scent on it, the parents will reject it. This is untrue as birds have an extremely poor sense of smell (though we don’t recommend handling wild birds unless it is absolutely necessary). We have successfully returned young birds back to their parents up to four days after they were taken. However, keep in mind that parents may abandon a nest that is repeatedly disturbed, so try to avoid this, especially when the young are very new. At this age they require high volumes of food and warmth and the parents need to be very vigilant to ward off predators. Excessive disturbance by curious humans may disturb normal activities, resulting in the loss of the nest. What can you do if you find a baby bird? [caption id="attachment_36370" align="alignleft" width="449"]Photo of Juvenile Western Wood-Pewees by Tony LePrieur. Photo of Juvenile Western Wood-Pewees by Tony LePrieur.[/caption] First, you need to determine if it is a baby bird. If it has no feathers or very few feathers, that makes it more obvious. Fledglings, however, are usually mostly feathered but have some obvious differences in comparison to adults:
  1. Fledglings have wispy or fluffy down feathers poking through the regular feathers, which are most commonly seen on the head.
  2. They have shorter tail feathers and often have gape flanges which look like large yellow/beige/orange “lips” protruding from the sides of the beak.
  3. They may also have only feather shafts, which look like a drinking straw with a feather growing from it, where one would expect to see flight or tail feathers.
Naked nestlings found on the ground from a destroyed nest always need help. The best option is to re-nest the birds if possible. If that can’t happen, an artificial nest can be constructed from a hanging plant basket or other basket, making sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. The best placement for this basket is as near as possible to the original nest and hopefully shielded somewhat from direct sunlight and rain. You can then back away and watch from a distance with binoculars. Once the nestlings are hungry and call, the parents will usually feed them in an artificial nest. They may be suspicious at first, but instinct often overrides that and the parents should accept this situation. If not, please contact a wildlife rehabilitator or your wildlife officials for more advice as these birds may need to be taken into care. We ALWAYS try to reunite the parents and young as the parents are much better at raising the offspring than any human. Fledglings by definition have left the nest. Sometimes well-meaning people who have been monitoring a nest will put them back, only to have them jump out again. This is normal! If you are unsure if a fledgling has parents tending to it, the best option is to watch from a distance with binoculars. The parents will stay away if you stand too close. If all is well, you will likely see a parent bird land next to the fledgling, poke a piece of food into its mouth and take off again to find more food. If you are unsure about this, another thing you can do is check for feces. Young birds will poop frequently when they are being fed regularly. If the parent is tending to them they usually produce poop after every feeding, often every 20 minutes to one hour. You can even place a shallow lid under the bird to look for this. If the parent bird is not showing up and the fledgling is calling repeatedly for hours with no response, this may be an orphan and you should call a rehabilitator. There are several other situations that warrant rescue of a bird, including obvious blood or injury, being  handled by a dog or cat and knowing for certain that the bird is an orphan. Keep in mind however, that most young birds on the ground are normal fledglings with parents. If you find one in a perilous situation, you can try to coax it to an area with cover or put it on a low branch, realizing that it may jump down again immediately. People often ask us what they can do to help baby birds. Reasons for songbird population declines are complex, but from our perspective, we have three key pieces of advice: 1- Preserve habitat: Leave brush piles for cover and preserve large trees and snags for cavity nesters. 2- Do not use pesticides birds need insects to feed their young. 3- Keep your cats indoors. These steps will lead to more young surviving the fledgling stage, which will lead to more breeding adults for the future. Watch more videos of baby birds under the care of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. 
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Join Us for Bird Day 2018!
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Join Us for Bird Day 2018!

Join Nature Canada in celebrating World Migratory Bird Day with the Ottawa Children's Festival on Saturday, May 12th! Celebrations will be held at LeBreton Flats in Ottawa, and will be kicking off at 10:00 AM.


Nature Canada will be leading three Guided Nature Walks at 10:30 AM, 12:00 PM and 2:30 PM.  These walks will be lead by Nature Canada's Naturalist Director and resident bird-expert, Ted Cheskey, as well as other expert naturalists. These walks will enable everyone to explore their surroundings and discover the birds species with whom they share their local urban spaces. Between the guided nature walks there will also be Birds of Prey Flight Shows with Falcon Ed at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. Falcon Ed is a company that specializes in falconry, training birds of prey, ecological control and educational presentations. You can learn more at: http://fauconeduc.biz/. [caption id="attachment_32840" align="alignnone" width="940"]Image of 2016 Bird Day Event 2016 Bird Day Event. Photography by Nina Stavlund[/caption]

Schedule for the day

Here is the schedule for all activities in which Nature Canada will be involved at the World Migratory Bird Day event in Ottawa, in conjunction with the Ottawa Children's Festival: [custom_table style="1"]
10:00 AM  Opening Ceremony
10:30 AM  Guided Nature Walk (45 mins)
 11:15 AM  Birds of Prey Flight Show by Falcon Ed
 12:00 PM

Welcome from Environment and Climate, Change Minister, Catherine McKenna

 12:30 PM Guided Nature Walk (90 mins)
 1:30 PM Birds of Prey Flight Show by Falcon Ed
All Day Activities at the Nature Canada booth
[/custom_table] Our local partner, Earth Path will have some bird-related activities for kids at their booth between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Earth Path is a non-profit organization based in the Ottawa region, dedicated to fostering meaningful relationships between people and the natural world. For more information on Earth Path, please visit their official website. For more information on the many fun and interactive activities that will be taking place at the Ottawa Children's Festival, please visit their official website. Nature Canada would like to thank Science Odyssey for their financial support for the World Migratory Bird Day event in Ottawa. Science Odyssey is Canada's largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, featuring fun and inspiring experiences in museums, research centres, laboratories and classrooms from coast to coast.  Without them, we wouldn't be able to welcome back the birds! For more information on their mission and other events, visit their official website.

Plan your trip to Nature Canada’s World Migratory Bird Day!

The Ottawa World Migratory Bird Day event will be held at LeBreton Flats, off the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway, directly in front of the Canadian War Museum at 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa ON  K1A 0M8. For those commuting by bus, the closest transit station is the LeBreton Flats Station. Those that are planning on commuting by car, consult the information on indoor parking at the Canadian War Museum.
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Last Minute Gift Ideas for Nature Lovers
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Last Minute Gift Ideas for Nature Lovers

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Need gift ideas for yourself or the nature lover in your family? We have a few suggestions that are sure to fill you and your family with holiday cheer!

Snow shoes

We're in for a long winter. Turn it into a positive and explore nature by snow shoe!

Chutneys, Relishes, and Other Preserves

Great if they’re from your own garden, or purchased from a local grower. If you know someone with a real appreciation for good food, you can make them happy all year long with a membership in an organic cooperative that keeps them supplied with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Head Lamp

For night time hikes and cross-country skiing a headlamp can really come in handy! Try to find one that’s light-weight (2-5 ounces), waterproof and has an adjustable light. [caption id="attachment_23536" align="alignright" width="225"]Image of binoculars Photo of binoculars[/caption]

Binoculars

Binoculars are a great gift for your bird watching friends and loved ones! Be sure to get ones with a strap so that way they can carry them around in their bird watching activities.

Bird Feed

Birds depend on reliable food sources during the winter. Suggestions: Sunflower seeds are favored by chickadees, evening grosbeaks, tufted titmice, blue jays, finches and cardinals, among others. White proso millet is preferred by ground-feeding birds such as sparrows. Corn, on or off the cob, are enjoyed by medium sized birds including the mourning dove and common grackle.

Bird Feeder Accessories

Spruce up the feeder! Consider attaching a convenience perch – simply a small tree branch or stick – to the side of the feeder to reduce congestion and provide a place for birds to crack open seeds.

Bicycle Accessories

Anything bicycle-related makes a good gift, such as a new bike helmet or a gift certificate for a comprehensive bicycle tune-up. A pass for a guided hike or wilderness trip is just the thing to get someone active outdoors! [caption id="attachment_23542" align="alignleft" width="245"]bike-926063_1920 Grad some great bicycle accessories![/caption]

Compost Bin

If you’re a gardener, composting is an ideal way to turn non-animal kitchen and yard waste into free fertilizer. If you’re not a gardener, composting is still a practical way to reduce the volume of solid waste that your household produces. Lee Valley Tools has a cool indoor stainless steel compost bin; it’s attractive enough to put on your countertop, and it comes with biodegradable compost bags.

Singing Bird Clock

Keep track of the time and learn common bird calls with a singing bird clock. Most models allow you to turn the sound off at night, and during the day, the top of each hour is hailed by a house finch, mourning dove, blue jay, house wren, tufted titmouse, or many other species.

Tree Faces

These amusing outdoor décor items add whimsy to your backyard or garden. It’s also fun to see a person’s reaction when they finally notice your tree has a face! Caution: Get the faces with the wrap-around attachments; don’t nail to the tree!

The Bedside Book of Birds, by Graeme Gibson

For armchair naturalists who appreciate words as much as birds. Poetry, prose, myths and beautiful illustrations make this book a true joy to read. Available in virtually any book store, including Chapters.

The Birder's Conservation Handbook: 100 North American Birds at Risk by Jeff Wells

Finally! An easy-to-read book written specifically to help birders and researchers understand the status of North America's most threatened birds, and what can be done to protect them. The Birder's Conservation Handbook is beautifully illustrated and a must-read for anyone who loves birds. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="134"] The Birder's Conservation Handbook[/caption]

Waterproof Notebooks

Don’t let wet weather keep you indoors! Bird listing and sketching is still possible with a waterproof notebook, and we especially like the ones that fit inside a pocket.

Breeding Bird Atlas

For the serious birder in your family, a bird atlas is a survey of the nesting areas of birds in a particular region. You can even contribute to a bird atlas by participating in local bird counts.

Programmable Thermostat or Water-saving Showerhead

Conserving energy means preserving wildlife. There are plenty of ways to reduce energy consumption around the home.

Make a donation in someone’s name to Nature Canada or the conservation organization of your choice

There are many worthy causes that work on the local, regional and national level to protect nature. Give you and your loved ones peace of mind this year.
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Connect with Nature: Take a Fall Hike
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Connect with Nature: Take a Fall Hike

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Samantha Nurse Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] This is a great time to take a hike in nature. The scenery is absolutely stunning and there are still a few weeks before you have to break out your winter jacket. Here are five tips to make the most of your trek through the freshly fallen leaves. 1) Bird watching: There is lots of bird watching to be done as our feathered friends migrate south for the winter. Before you head out on your hike, check out our e-Books to see what birds you could see. Also it is a great idea to pack a nature guide to help identify different species and to record your findings. 2) Join a guided nature walk: Many communities across Canada have clubs that engage local experts to lead public hikes. This is a great way to meet fellow nature lovers and learn more about the natural geography of your area. Keep an eye on local publications or perform a quick internet search to find a guided hike in your area.People walking in the forest 3) Bring your camera: There are few times of the year when nature is more beautiful than it is now. Pack your camera and capture some of the beautiful fall scenery you encounter along the way. 4) Take a snack (or two): Before you head out, prepare some nutritious snacks that will keep you fueled along the way. Cheese and crackers, apple slices and trail mix are a few easy-to-pack snacks that offer valuable nutrients for your hike. For a more seasonal treat, save the seeds from the inside of your pumpkin and roast them the night before you head out. 5) Do a leaf craft: Want to create a souvenir of your adventure? Bring a large hardbound book and a roll of wax or parchment paper. Collect a few leaves of different shapes and sizes, press them between two sheets of paper and tuck them in the book to keep them safe. When you get home, place the leaves between two pieces of white paper, rub with a crayon and you’re done! Be sure to stay on the trails you encounter and share with us any other tips you have on taking a fall hike!

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5 Weird Facts about Blue Jays
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5 Weird Facts about Blue Jays

[caption id="attachment_31795" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Amanda Simard Amanda Simard, Writing Intern[/caption] This blog was written by writing intern Amanda Simard. This month’s calendar photo features a Blue Jay. While you may be familiar with the sight of this large blue songbird, here are some facts about the Blue Jay you may not know – some of which you may find downright strange! Blue Jay Descriptionimage of a Blue Jay

  • Common name: Blue Jay
  • Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
  • Habitat: forests edges
  • Lifespan: the eldest wild, banded Blue Jay was 26 years old.
  • Size: 25-30 cm long; 70-100 g
  • Description: The Blue Jay is a large blue songbird with a perky crest. Its underside is white, and its back is blue, white and black.

Fact 1 – Blue Jays rub ants on their feathers.

Yes, you read that correctly. The jays rub ants on their feathers, draining the ants of their formic acid before they gobble them up. This is known as “anting.” Over the years, several theories have been proposed to explain this bizarre behaviour. One theory hypothesized the excreted acid served as a safeguard against parasites and bacteria, though testing the acid on bacteria cultures showed this to be unlikely. The most probable reason is simple: the ants taste better without the acid. Ornithologists tested this theory by exposing jays to ants with and without formic acid – the ants without acid were eaten immediately while the ones with it were treated to the rubbing ceremony.

Fact 2  – The pigment found in Blue Jay feathers is actually brown.

Melanin, the same pigment found in human hair and skin, is a brown pigment – and it is the pigment found in Blue Jay feathers. Why, then, do they appear blue? Bird colouration is produced in a variety of ways, of which pigmentation is just one. The blue appearance of many blue birds is due to refraction – a light scattering phenomenon. The barb structure of Blue Jay feathers is such that, when light hits them, the blue light is refracted while the other wavelength of visible light are absorbed by the melanin, making them look blue. If you come across a Blue Jay feather, try backlighting it. Without direct light, the blue is no longer reflected and the feather will look brown.

Fact 3 – Blue Jays mimic hawks.

Blue Jays can make a variety of sounds and it is common to hear them mimicking hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. Ornithologists suggest they do this for one of two reasons, or perhaps both. The first theory is the mimicry serves as a warning to other jays about any lurking hawks. The second is that jays are trying to fool other species into thinking there are hawks nearby.

image of a Blue JayFact 4 – Blue Jays collect paint chips.

Blue Jays have been known to chip at and hoard light-coloured paint, probably to stockpile a source of calcium for the spring. If Blue Jays are chipping away at the paint on your house, try providing an alternate source of calcium like crushed egg shells – this usually stops the unwanted behaviour.

Fact 5  – Blue Jays are noisier in the fall than in the spring or summer.

Many notice that Blue Jays, who are fairly quiet during the spring and summer, are noisy little neighbours during the fall. In spring and early summer, when they are nesting, jays tend to be more secretive. Come fall, when they are scavenging for food and hawks are more present, they communicate a variety of information and warnings through their calls. Which of these facts are new to you? Which had you already observed? Let us know about the Blue Jays in your NatureHood in the comments, or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.
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7 Ways to Enjoy an Environmentally Friendly Fall
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7 Ways to Enjoy an Environmentally Friendly Fall

[caption id="attachment_34904" align="alignleft" width="150"]mbriere Michelle Briere, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog was written by guest blogger Michelle Briere. As the weather cools and the seasons change, it is time to think about how you can make better choices for the environment this fall!

1. Shop for local foods

My favorite part of autumn is absolutely the harvest. From pumpkins, to onions, to potatoes, most of us here in Canada have a variety of delicious vegetables come into season during the fall.vegetables-752153_1920 A tip to acquire the most delicious and fresh vegetables around is to buy locally-grown produce. Not only does it help support the local economy, but it reduces the environmental impact associated with long-distance food transportation. Head to your local farmer’s market, and the next time you’re out in the country, keep your eye out for food stands where farmers often sell their freshly-picked produce. Another fun way to enjoy local produce is to pick it yourself! Grab some friends, family or your significant other and make a date of picking at a local apple orchard.

2. Indulge in sustainable fall fashion

When the cold weather rolls around, some of us long to revamp our style and revel in the cozy big sweaters and earthy palette that fall fashion brings. Thankfully, there are several ways the environmentally-conscious fashionista can indulge during the fall. To reduce waste, avoid fast fashion, and even save a few bucks, visit thrift stores in your area. You may have to dig around a bit, but with some patience you’re sure to find some gems hidden within the racks. If you have no luck at the thrift stores, seek out local and environmentally-conscious companies to shop from. My personal favorite eco-friendly Canadian brand is Matt & Nat, a Montréal-based company which uses recycled water bottles to make a wide variety of sophisticated purses, briefcases, backpacks, wallets and shoes.

3. Start next year’s vegetable garden early

Growing your own food is a fun and rewarding way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with large-scale food production. Whether you already have a vegetable garden or not, you can start parts of next year’s garden this fall! Like tulips, certain vegetables are best planted before the winter. Depending on where you live, this usually includes garlic, onions, and shallots. 6-8 weeks before the expected last frost, start a new garden plot or prep your existing one. Remove any remaining plant material (excluding perennials), lightly fertilize and work your soil, plant your garlic, onion and shallots accordingly, and cover lightly or heavily with mulch (depending on how cold your winters are). Planting these foods in the fall will produce a bigger crop with fuller flavour, ready to be enjoyed late summer the following year.

4. Have a plant-based Thanksgiving

Animal agriculture is one of the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and consumes extremely large volumes of water. One fun and festive way to reduce your environmental impact this fall is by hosting an entirely plant-based Thanksgiving! As recognition of the environmental, health and animal welfare benefits of a plant-based diet grows, it’s easier than ever to find tasty alternatives to traditional meat and dairy-based recipes. There are several dishes you can make that will keep your Thanksgiving traditions alive, while keeping your environmental impact low; for example, stuff a butternut squash with your go-to stuffing recipe, and replace butter in your apple pie recipe with margarine. Find yourself short of ideas? Check out some plant-based cookbooks or online food blogs (my favorites are here and here). [one_half] [caption id="attachment_34619" align="alignnone" width="300"]Photo by Michelle Briere Photo by Michelle Briere[/caption] [/one_half] [one_half_last] [caption id="attachment_34620" align="alignnone" width="300"]Photo by Michelle Briere Photo by Michelle Briere[/caption] [/one_half_last] Recipes for plant-based versions of classic fall favourites are widely available online. Left: 3-bean chilli served in roasted pumpkin bowls. Right: dairy-free pumpkin spice “cheesecake”.

5. Help out the feathered fall migrants and winter residents

Fall and winter are challenging seasons for our feathered friends. Many bird species make the long, difficult journey south during the fall, while others stay and endure Canada’s sub-zero winter temperatures. Food scarcity is often a major challenge for both parties. The best thing you can do to help is avoid pruning your fruiting, flower and seed-bearing plants until the early spring. These plants provide an excellent food source for migrants to refuel on their way south, and help sustain the species who stick around for the winter. [caption id="attachment_34621" align="alignleft" width="300"]Photo by Michelle Briere Photo by Michelle Briere[/caption] Fall is also great time to clean any bird feeders, bird baths and birdhouses you may have; this can help prevent the spread of disease. Birds benefit year-round from fruiting trees. Avoid trimming these plants in your yard until the spring to help keep more food sources available for birds.

6. Go green for Halloween

Whether you’ll be going door-to-door, giving out candy, or heading to a costume party, you can be festive this Halloween while staying environmentally-conscious. Dressing up? Dig out an old costume you wore years ago, swap with a friend, or head to a thrift store. Alternatively, if you’re the creative type, make a DIY masterpiece using things you already have around the house. Decorating? Pinterest is your best friend. You can find countless DIY Halloween decoration ideas that don’t require you to buy anything new, or that are free of plastic and other environmentally-harmful products. Giving out candy? Source out ones that uses the least amount of packaging (while remaining safe for kids, of course).

7. Try keeping a cooler house

This is an easy tip to reduce your impact, but it may take a little adjustment time. If you own a home or rent a place where you can control the thermostat, try keeping the temperature a bit cooler than you normally do during the fall and winter months. Break out your cozy sweaters, bundle up in some blankets, and enjoy hot cups of tea. After a few days, you’ll adjust to having your place a few degrees cooler. Plus, you’ll save a few bucks on your energy bill! What are some things you do to enjoy an environmentally-friendly fall? Leave a comment below!
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