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Birds and the Danger of Window Collisions
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Birds and the Danger of Window Collisions

[caption id="attachment_31138" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Sarantia Katsaras Bird Conservation Program Technician Sarantia Katsaras[/caption] Windows are one of the leading human causes of death for birds. Windows are not always visible to birds due to reflected trees or skies, a view straight through the window, or potted plants or living walls on the other side of the glass that draw them in. In order for a window to become visible to birds, it needs to be “broken up.” Visual markers such as patterned window films, window curtains, or window screens make windows visible to birds. By adding these features, it breaks the window up and lets the bird know that it cannot pass through. [caption id="attachment_33763" align="alignright" width="225"]This photo is of 1,800 birds that fatally collided with windows in Ottawa this past year. This photo is of 1,800 birds that fatally collided with windows in Ottawa this past year. Demonstration put on by Safe Wings Ottawa/[/caption] As many as one billion birds fatally collide with windows in North America annually. According to Safe Wings Ottawa, as many as 250,000 birds are killed by windows every year in Ottawa and Gatineau alone. Most window collisions occur during the fall and spring when the birds are migrating. In 2016 there were 101 different species of birds recorded in Ottawa. This includes species at risk such as the Peregrine Falcon, Chimney Swift, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Wood Thrush, Rusty Blackbird, and Canada Warbler. FLAP Canada estimates that 1 to 10 birds die per building, per year. For reasons currently unknown, the Canada Warbler is highly vulnerable to window collisions compared to the average species. Canada Warblers are at 17.9 times greater risk of colliding with all building types, 25.8 times greater risk of colliding with high-rise buildings, and 46.7 times greater risk of colliding with low-rise buildings. The Canada Warbler is a threatened species and its population cannot withstand this easily preventable threat. Interestingly, birds are more susceptible to low-rise buildings than high-rise buildings. Birds typically collide with windows between 50 to 60 feet tall. Make your windows at home visible to birds by taking these steps To learn more about this issue and this significant threat to birds visit our Save Bird Lives page.

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Bird Tweet of the Week:  Eastern Bluebird
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Bird Tweet of the Week: Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird is one of Eastern Canada's most colourful species of birds. They often appear in folk and fine art. The bluebirds song is a raspy flute like mix of a warble and a whistle, similar to a robins song but with shorter phrases and more chattering. Eastern bluebirds are short distance migrants that return to Canada from the south-east U.S. during late March leaving again by late October. [caption id="attachment_27862" align="alignleft" width="300"]Image of a Eastern Bluebird Eastern Bluebird[/caption]   Each week we introduce a new bird from the Ottawa-Gatineau area. Alex MacDonald, Nature Canada’s Manager of Protected Areas, shares interesting facts about the birds that live in our communities. Catch up on past episodes here on our website.

The colourful Atlantic Puffin
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The colourful Atlantic Puffin

[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 an Atlantic Puffin and was taken in Newfoundland. Did you know the Atlantic Puffin was the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador? Learn more about this impressive seabird!

Atlantic Puffin Description
  • Common name: Atlantic Puffin
  • Scientific name: Fratercula arctica
  • Habitat: rocky cliffs of the northern Atlantic Ocean
  • Lifespan: 20 years or longer
  • Size: 25 cm long, 500 g
  • Description: Atlantic Puffins are large seabirds with penguin-like coloring. They have a colorful beak in the spring and summer, which fades to grey during the winter.
 image of an Atlantic Puffin

Nesting

Atlantic Puffins nest in burrows that are 60-120 cm deep. Puffins first breed at three to six years old. A single egg is laid per pair and the males stay with the females for the 42-day incubation, both parents incubating the egg. When the young hatch, they are fed small fish. About 40 days later, the parents leave the young puffins to fend for themselves.

Diet

Puffins eat small fish, crustaceans and molluscs. They catch and eat these underwater unless they are bringing them back for their young.

Behaviour

Puffins walk around standing erect like penguins. They swim on the water surface like ducks or they dive and swim underwater when hunting for food. Puffins can also fly, running across the water surface to become airborne. While Atlantic Puffins breed in large groups on the coast, during the non-breeding season they spend most of their time on the open sea. They have been little studied during this period as the sea is vast, making them difficult to track.

image of an Atlantic PuffinProject Puffin

In 1973, the National Audubon Society started The Puffin Project in an effort to restore Puffins to the gulf of Maine. The Atlantic Puffin is not considered threatened as it still nests in thousands along the rocky coasts of Newfoundland, Iceland, and Britain, but it has seen serious declines in certain regions of  Europe. Today, the methods developed and the research conducted thanks to The Puffin Project serve a larger purpose than puffin conservation. The Puffin Project is now a conservation effort aiming to protect various seabirds along with their eggs and the habitat they depend on.[gap height="15"]

How you can help

Stay informed and support Nature Canada’s varied bird conservation efforts. Do you know the official birds of any other province? Take your guesses in the comments, or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.
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Multi-species plans: A new approach to species recovery in Canada
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Multi-species plans: A new approach to species recovery in Canada

[caption id="attachment_33785" align="alignleft" width="150"]sean feagan Sean Feagan, Guest Blogger[/caption] This blog is written by guest blogger Sean Feagan.  The primary cause of the decline of wild species in Canada is the loss and degradation of habitat. Given this, the protection and management of habitat is central to the recovery of species at risk. The federal Species at Risk Act legislates the listing, protection and recovery of species at risk, including the prohibition of destruction of “critical habitat” on federal land, and establishes requirements for species recovery. Under SARA, recovery planning is a two-step process, which first involves the development of a Recovery Strategy that includes the identification of critical habitat, and a subsequent Action Plan to identify measures to protect or enhances the critical habitat. To date, this recovery planning framework has largely been undertaken on a species-by-species basis. However, there is a trend towards multi-species recovery planning in which proposed management actions target multiple species at risk simultaneously. The Species at Risk Act Policies (2009) suggests multi-species recovery planning could increase the overall efficiency and/or effectiveness of conservation efforts, particularly in situations where multiple species co-occur in the same habitat, are affected by similar threats or are similar taxonomically. This suggestion is supported by economic analyses on multi-species planning which employed optimization models. Multi-species approaches may also streamline consultation efforts, reduce conflict between species at risk, address common threats, promote thinking on a broader scale, and reduce duplication of effort in conservation planning. greater sage grouse The Environment Canada Protected Areas Strategy (2011) outlines two main approaches to conservation:

  1. Stewardship initiatives promoting land management beneficial to wild species habitat; and
  2. The securing of land for the protection of biodiversity.
Within each of these approaches, multi-species action plans are currently being implemented for species conservation in Canada. South of the Divide: A multi-species action plan dependent on private stewardship The South of the Divide (SOD) Action Plan (2016) targets nine federally listed species at risk inhabiting the Milk River basin of southwestern Saskatchewan. The nine species, largely dependent on short-grass native prairie habitats, are Black-footed Ferret, Burrowing Owl, Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer, Greater Sage-Grouse, Loggerhead Shrike, Mormon Metal Mark, Mountain Plover, Sprague’s Pipit and Swift Fox. Critical habitat within the region was first defined independently for each species, then these areas were combined into a single layer.

The action plan employs spatial analyses to prioritize and direct conservation efforts within the region. A spatial threat analysis was performed to classify the overlapping area of the species’ critical habitat into three threat classes (low, medium, high) by assessing the combined impact of existing and potential threats (e.g. industrial activity, roads, capability to support agriculture) in the region. Lands within and in proximity to the provincial community pastures, and the region between the east and west blocks of Grasslands National Park were identified as high threat areas. The action plan also contains a suite of conservation activities to promote the recovery of these species.

Parks Canada Multi-Species Action Planning

Under the Canada National Parks Act, the maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity is the first priority in all aspects of park management, a key element includes maintaining the composition and abundance of native species, notably species at risk. Within their 2013-14 Report on Plans and Priorities, the Parks Canada Agency stated they will work to recovery priority species at risk through the implementation of site-based (eg. for a particular park or conservation area) action plans using the multi-species approach. Eleven site-based multi-species action plans have been finalized for National Parks, National Marine Parks, and National Historic Sites throughout Canada, with an additional twelve plans proposed. These action plans target species differ taxonomically, but together exist within the site. These plans focus on species listed under SARA, by COSEWIC, under provincial legislation, or that are of particular significance to indigenous peoples. [caption id="attachment_33812" align="alignleft" width="300"]Lewis' Woodpecker Lewis' Woodpecker[/caption] The action plans assess the potential of the site to contribute to the national recovery of each species, identify of critical habitat within the site, list monitoring needs for each species, and include recovery activities aimed to sustain or recovery species populations within the site. While some of the suggested management activities target single species, others will potentially benefit multiple species. For example, within the proposed Multi-species Action Plan for Jasper National Park, controlled burns to maintain early successional post-fire communities will promote multiple species at risk, including Common Nighthawk, Half-moon Hairstreak, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Whitebark Pine Conclusion Multi-species planning represents a potentially effective tool for species conservation. The effectiveness of these plans will be assessed through their implementation, ensuring these policy remain adaptive and evidence based. Hopefully they will act to promote the preservation and recovery of Canada’s many fascinating and beautiful species at risk!
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Schoolyard Blitz – Mud Lake Edition
Lac Mud
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Schoolyard Blitz – Mud Lake Edition

This blog was written by Axel, a communications volunteer from the Youth LEAD: Employment Program for Newcomer and Immigrant Youth.  On June 13, Nature Canada and a Grade 4 and 5 class from Regina Street Public School in Ottawa went to Mud Lake to discover nature in their NatureHood. The students at Regina Street Public School have the incredible opportunity and fortune to visit Mud Lake on a weekly basis, given its close proximity to the school. As a result, the students have a strong affinity towards this special place, knowledge of the area, and are very comfortable in the nature trails. [caption id="attachment_33517" align="alignleft" width="300"]exploring nature exploring nature[/caption] Mud Lake is an NCC Conservation Area located within the Lac Deschenes Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), the site of Ottawa’s signatory NatureHood! Mud Lake was recently acknowledged in the Ottawa Citizen as being one of the most ecologically diverse spots in Canada! With over 400 species found in this 60-hectare wetland, it is truly a remarkable hotspot for biodiversity! We asked the kids to form small groups and, with a NatureBlitz species checklist, we went on an expedition to discover what Mud Lake had to offer. To ensure a fun and safe NatureBlitz, we talked about safety including what poisonous plants to be aware of, such as poison ivy, and to be tick-aware. As we were walking through the trails, we noticed different varieties of trees, like birch, maple, oak and more! With a closer look, we even found berries, mushrooms and different species of wildflowers. [caption id="attachment_33518" align="alignright" width="225"]Bird Nest Bird Nest[/caption] Not only did we see lots of plant life, we were able to observe a number of insects, birds and mammals. We found Canada geese, mallard ducks, frogs, painted turtles, squirrels and many different insects including spiders and various butterflies. One of the highlights was when one of the students spotted a little brown snake! Coiled up it was no bigger than a quarter! We spent a lot of time observing it. It was a real pleasure to see the kids enjoying being out in nature, sharing their knowledge and working together to identify species. When they could not identify some of the birds or plants, one of Nature Canada’s volunteers, Jen, opened her field guides and helped fill the gaps. Another exciting moment was seeing a Red-eyed Vireo sitting in her nest! When the bird fled, we were able to see three eggs inside the nest. Based on discussions with the kids and teachers, we discovered that 2 of the eggs belonged to a Brown-headed Cowbird, known to abandon their eggs and to be fostered by other birds (usually at the expense of the host’s own baby chicks). A complete list of our discoveries in the Mud Lake is available, and I hope it will inspire you to want to visit the area! I would like to thank everyone who participated in the NatureBlitz, and invite everybody to get out and connect with Nearby Nature in your NatureHood!


Recruited as part of the Youth LEAD program, volunteering with Nature Canada has been an amazing journey so far. Apart from technical knowledge gained, I learned about all the different types of programs Nature Canada has. The most exciting part of this volunteering opportunity was when we went to discover an ecologically important habitat in the urban part of Canada’s capital region. In this Schoolyard Blitz, I got a chance to know more about biodiversity found in Canada.
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Get to know Women for Nature member Bridget Stutchbury
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Get to know Women for Nature member Bridget Stutchbury

[caption id="attachment_16443" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Eleanor Fast Eleanor Fast
Executive Director[/caption] Featuring Women for Nature member Bridget Stutchbury. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Eleanor Fast.  As part of the Women for Nature blog series I had the great pleasure of chatting with Bridget Stutchbury, a founding member of Women for Nature. [caption id="attachment_12842" align="alignright" width="150"]Picture of Bridget Stutchbury Bridget Stutchbury, Women for Nature[/caption] Bridget is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology at York University, Toronto.  She studies songbirds and follows their migrations to South America and back to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. Bridget is a leading researcher on Purple Martins (a species that Nature Canada is also involved in protecting). She is author of the bestselling book Silence of the Songbirds and is a frequent media spokesperson on conservation issues. Bridget’s amazing research and public outreach work is truly inspirational and it was wonderful to have the chance to learn more about her research and passion for communicating science – as well as finding out what’s on her birdwatching wish-list! This is a summary of our conversation. Eleanor (E): How did your career begin, why did you choose to study birds? Bridget (B): I fell into bird conservation by accident.  During my 3rd year of university at Queens I did courses which involved weekend field trips to study limnology and basic ecology.  During these weekends I got hooked on field biology and was encouraged to seek out a summer job in ecology.  So I did, and was hired for the summer to do a Tree Swallow study.  At the time I had no bird identification skills at all – I could recognize a Canada Goose but that was about it! I really enjoyed the research and went on to study Tree Swallows for my undergraduate and Masters theses.  Then for my PhD I went to Yale and studied Purple Martins.  Throughout my studies I was interested in how cavity-nesting species fight for limited nest sites.  There are a lot of parallels to human behavior, for Purple Martins persistence pays off and the young bird without a nest just has to keep at it – they go back to the nest sites day after day after day until one of the older birds who control several nest sites will give one up to a younger bird.  It’s fascinating. E: What is the most surprising research finding you’ve had in your career? B: Being able to track bird migrations has led to some really surprising and exciting results.  We were able to tag Purple Martins in Northwestern Pennsylvania, and we have learned that they over-winter on Islands in the Amazon.  We didn’t know that before so it is really important to have the tracking technology as now we know which areas are the most important for conservation. E: What is your favourite bird and why? [caption id="attachment_32921" align="alignright" width="394"]Image of a Scarlet Tanager Bridget’s favourite bird – the Scarlet Tanager[/caption] B: I’m fascinated by the Scarlet Tanager – it’s a beautiful bold coloured bird, yet in the forest it is so subtle and hard to find.  It also has fascinating social behaviour with males doting on their females who are frequently begging for food handouts (I think this helps females judge a male’s parental ability when it comes time to feed the chicks). E: What bird would you love to see in the wild but haven’t yet? B: The Kakapo, it’s a flightless giant parrot from New Zealand – the world’s largest parrot.  There are only 125 left in the world, but it is a “conservation hero” success story with millions of dollars each year spend on their conservation on small islands where dangers such as cats and rats have been eliminated.  It was once thought to be extinct but one small population was discovered and rescued. E: As well as being a scientist, you are also an author. Probably your best known book, Silence of the Songbirds, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Prize – quite an honour!  Does writing come easily to you?  How do you go about translating your research into a popular book? B: I was surprised to find that writing comes quite easily to me.  Before starting my first book I read books on how to write books!  The advice was always to let your natural voice come through, and when I took that advice to heart I found writing to be fun.  I find that the teaching part of my job as a professor helps a great deal because when I’m giving lectures to undergraduate students (the vast majority of whom will not pursue a career in conservation) I need to find interesting ways of engaging them for 50 minutes at a time while also conveying rigorous scientific concepts.  It’s a similar challenge to writing a book, how can I portray complex ideas in unique and interesting ways.  I actually find that all kinds of science outreach whether it is teaching or writing or speaking with the media require similar skills and the approach is transferable. E: Are you working on any books right now? [caption id="attachment_32924" align="alignleft" width="241"]Image of Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury[/caption] B: Yes, I’m writing a book about conservation triage – about how we make decisions on which species we should be investing resources on protecting.  For example, $3-5 million is spent each year on conserving the Kakapo in New Zealand.  For the same investment, we might be able to protect several species.  How do we make those decisions?  Of course, we need more investment in conservation, but even then we won’t be able to save everything.  I hope it will be a tool for getting people to think about endangered species and what can be saved but also the extinctions that will happen if we do not invest more.  It will be a book for reading at the dock at the cottage but also relevant for policy makers as well.  I’m still writing it and it doesn’t have a title yet but I’m hoping it will be published in a year or so. E: Apart from your own, what book related to nature conservation do you think is a must-read? B: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  That book has had a profound impact on environmental education and is an important message for everyone. Nature Canada does such great work in encouraging children to get outside into nature and that’s something that is so needed these days.  People have to experience nature and enjoy it, then they will start thinking about conserving it. E: You’ve also been on TV, and were featured in The Messenger documentary.  How does it feel to be a movie star?! B: I enjoy doing all kinds of outreach, whether it is TV, radio, writing, or documentaries.  As a scientist, it is important to write scientific papers and advance knowledge, but I find it is increasingly important and satisfying to me to get the message out to the general public in all kinds of ways. E: What is your favourite TV or film experience? B:  SOS Songbirds which was a Nature of Things episode. I advised the producers and directors from day one and so it was exciting to see their years of hard work featured on such an iconic program. It is a good length at 40 minutes and delves into about the right level of detail for the general public, I think. E: What inspired you to become one of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature? B: Being part of Women for Nature is such a great opportunity to work with a unique and diverse group of women to help Nature Canada’s nature conservation work.  There are so many interesting women involved, and I bought a couple of friends to the amazing Nature Ball last fall where I met some Women for Nature – it was so inspirational! E: You’ve had, and continue to have, a big impact on nature conservation. What is your proudest accomplishment?  [caption id="attachment_22359" align="alignright" width="319"]image of an american gold finch American Goldfinch[/caption] B: I think my biggest accomplishment was writing “Silence of the Songbirds”.  It was my first book – I didn’t know I could write before that, and to have it shortlisted for the Governor General’s Prize was amazing.  And Margaret Atwood was involved in promoting the book, seeing posters in bookstores and in Toronto subway cars of her holding my book was a huge honour. The experience made me realize that outreach is really important to my scientific career, and looking back I realize that I wouldn’t have had such a fulfilling career if I hadn’t embraced public outreach in such a big way. E: As a scientist how do you feel about the future?  Are you concerned or optimistic? B:  Both really.  It’s hard not to be concerned about the future with all the evidence we have of the rapid rate of biodiversity loss.  I don’t have grandchildren yet, but with the rapid rate of biodiversity loss in what is being called the Anthropocene extinction I often worry about what kind of wildlife will be around for my future grandchildren. But on the other hand, there is lots to be optimistic about too.  There is a lot of interest about conserving the environment and organizations such as Nature Canada are leading what I hope will be an environmental revolution with people putting the environment as a high priority in daily lives and eventually elections.  We’ve seen a lot of social revolutions in my lifetime already around religious rights, gender rights, sexual rights–why not an environmental revolution? E: What advice do you have to young women today who want to make a difference and protect and conserve nature? B: Follow your passions!  I think a lot of people today are trying to assess the job market and make decisions based on where they think they can get jobs, instead of focusing on what they enjoy. I never worried about whether I would be able to get a job, I just followed what I found I loved to do and am having a wonderful career.  Today there are so many opportunities in field ecology and nature conservation, if someone is very passionate about it they can find a way. I think role models are very important – 50 years ago there were few female field researchers, but now it is normal for women to be working in remote field camps, or leading research groups, I hope that the visibility of women in these roles will show young women that they can follow their passions. To read or hear more about Bridgets passion for songbirds, check out these stories below: Ottawa Sun- Songbirds now report their locations as they fly Bridget Stutchbury Sneak Preview -  The MESSENGER Documentary

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Common Bird Feeding Myths
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Common Bird Feeding Myths

[caption id="attachment_22916" align="alignleft" width="150"]Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator Samantha Nurse, Web and Social Media Coordinator[/caption] Feeding birds can be a rewarding experience, and a great way to connect with nature. But are you really helping your feathered friends? Here's the truth about some common bird feeding myths:

Myth: Feeding birds prevents them from migrating.

Fact: Birds migrate in response to factors such as length of daylight and weather, not because of food availability. In fact, birds need more food during long migrations, so your feeder may be a welcome stop for species you don't normally see in your area.

Myth: Birds become dependent on feeders.Image of a bird at a bird feeder

Fact: Most birds use many sources of food and do not rely on just one. If your feeder happens to go empty, most birds will find food elsewhere, although you'll have to work harder to bring them back to your yard. Loss of natural habitat due to human development does make it more difficult each year for birds to find the necessary food, particularly during the winter months, so providing a ready source of seeds, fruits or suet can give many birds a leg up.

Myth: The mixed seed at the grocery store is bad.

Fact: Some mixed seed can be bad, while other grocery-store varieties will provide quality for your feeder; the key is in the ingredients. Filler in cheap feed includes lots of milo, wheat, and barley. There may also be inedible objects such as sticks and empty hulls visible in the mix. These seeds are more likely to attract pesky birds and result in more wasted seed on the ground around your feeder. A good mix will have some form of sunflower seed and may also include peanut bits, safflower and millet.
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Connect with Nature: April Showers
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Connect with Nature: April Showers

[caption id="attachment_33210" align="alignleft" width="160"]Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy Guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy[/caption] This post was written by guest blogger Rebecca Kennedy. Variations of the English saying “April showers bring May flowers” date back as far back as 1660. With its longer days and warmer temperatures, spring across much of Canada typically means snowmelt and increased rainfall. Take pleasure in the new season with these ideas. Observe worms. After a rain shower, you have probably noticed earthworms on sidewalks or in the grass. Why do they surface when it rains? Contrary to a commonly held opinion, it is not to prevent themselves from drowning. Many scientists think that worms come above ground after rainfall to migrate (as they can move greater distances above than within soil) or to escape predators (as the vibration of raindrops on soil mimics that of roving moles). If you’d like to volunteer to monitor worms, learn about the WormWatch program. umbrellaLearn about clouds. There are three main groups – cirrus, stratus and cumulus. These are further broken down into ten general types, varying in their basic form and altitude. Clouds cover 60–70% of the Earth at any particular time, and only certain ones produce precipitation. Clouds even exist in outer space! The US National Weather Service provides a straightforward overview to get you started. Download the CloudSpotter app for iPhone by the Cloud Appreciation Society and develop a keener eye for formations in the sky. Watch a film. Stay dry indoors and spend a rainy day on the couch. The beautifully rendered animated film Ponyo, by Hayao Miyazake, features water prominently, and human relationships with the elements as a theme. Singin’ in the Rain is a classic Hollywood musical that is sure to put some “spring” in your step, especially with its exuberant and iconic sequence of the title number. And who can forget the final scene of downpour and declarations in Four Weddings and a Funeral? For more ideas of movies with memorable rain scenes, see this list by Taste of Cinema. Acknowledgements: Scientific AmericanEncyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences, 2nd ed.National Geographic SocietyThe Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs

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Preparing Backyards and Balconies for Birds This Winter
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Preparing Backyards and Balconies for Birds This Winter

As the winter draws near, it is a perfect time to set up your backyard for your winter visitors! Here are 5 tips to make sure your backyard is ready for birds this winter: 1. Think Food. Feeders in the winter provide an extra energy source for birds that stay in the area during winter. Provide a number of feeder styles and types of feed (sunflower, thistle, unsalted peanuts, sliced fruit, seed scattered on stamped down snow) to attract many different birds to your yard. Feeders can also be easily attached to windows using suction cups. Place feeders where they are sheltered from predators and weather, and clean feeders regularly. Small space? No problem! Some feeders are available with a suction cup attachment that can be stuck right to the window!Cardinal In Winter 2. Don’t remove dead flower heads in the autumn. Don’t cut back old annual or perennial plants. The seed heads that are left in place on plants such as coneflowers, sunflowers and thistle will provide a lasting source of seed for finches and sparrows. 3. Provide cover. Birds need shelter from harsh conditions, and vegetation in your yard will help to furnish it. Don’t prune back dead vegetation like vines and stalks – these provide both valuable winter cover and nesting material for birds in the spring. Balconies have a special opportunity to attract nesting birds as they provide great shelter. 4. Add habitat in your backyard in the form of a brush pile, which may attract foraging birds and mammals, and even over-wintering reptiles, amphibians and insects. 5. Think ahead to next winter by planning for spring planting. Choose species that are native to your area. Good sources of winter food for birds include rosehips of wild roses, the berries of sumac and dogberry, the seeds of maples and birches, and perennials like black-eyed susans.

Pop the cork! 100 Bird Species Counted
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Pop the cork! 100 Bird Species Counted

[caption id="attachment_21694" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Ted Cheskey Ted Cheskey
Senior Conservation Manager – Bird Conservation, Education & Networks[/caption] Ted Cheskey, the Senior Conservation Manager here at Nature Canada explains his recent excitement of identifying 100 different bird species around his home in Gatineau, Quebec!  Below is Ted's story on his birdwatching journey. There are a couple hundred bird species that nest to the north of Gatineau, where we live. They migrate over my head twice a year, north each spring and south each fall. Some of them stop to rest and feed in the neighbourhood, but many just fly over, never stopping. Occasionally those that fly over betray their presence by a call note – perhaps to keep in touch with their conspecific buddies. I count all birds that I can identify by sight or sound from our flat. My rules are simple:  if I can identify it, I count it. I have to be either inside our 2nd floor flat or on the balcony. I don’t count birds that I observe from any other place. Many species are on my list because I heard them from bed – sometimes over-night, sometimes before getting out of bed in the morning. The bedroom window is usually wide open, allowing sounds from outside to filter in. During the workweek, traffic sounds from busy Alexandre Tache Street drown-out most nature sounds. On the weekend it is different – often quiet enough to hear and recognize distant call notes from birds overhead. [caption id="attachment_765" align="alignright" width="305"]Image of a Northern Parula by Ted Cheskey Northern Parula by Ted Cheskey[/caption] On my last post  in my blog, I was musing about my goal to observe another 9 new species from the large pool of possibilities that slipped past in the spring to get to that magical 100 for the year. Perhaps it is silly to be obsessed over a number – but I can think of worse obsessions. I have been travelling for work in August and again more recently, and for vacations with Cris. I’ve been away many weekends. When I have been here on Saturday or Sunday, I make an effort to spend as much time as I can spare birding from inside or on the balcony. I added three species in August – Greater Yellowlegs – the only shorebird other than Killdeer – heard calling while flying over. There is no shorebird habitat around our place so the only way to observe one is by hearing its flight calls. A singing Eastern Wood Pewee wandered into earshot in my neighbourhood for a few days, likely practicing for next spring, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak turned up in the Japanese Elm by the balcony, lifting me to 94 species by the end of August. September held more promise for species missed in the spring. A Common Merganser flew into view above the Ottawa River. Never easy to observe, this species is a regular on the Ottawa but as I don’t have a direct view of the River seeing one requires some luck! There were two warbler species observed in mid-month that slipped passed unnoticed in the spring. Blackpoll Warbler and Northern Parula both made pit stops in the neighbour’s magnificent spruce trees that, no doubt, resemble the tree that they are most familiar with. Watching them glean insects from the foliage is a reminder how much birds do to keep our forests healthy. Even the migrants coming through are busy forestry workers. Another attractive bird, a Philadelphia Vireo, foraged for several minutes in a Manitoba Maple across the street on the edge of Gatineau park. By the end of September I was up to 98 species. Surely with three months to go, 2 more species would be easy? Once at 99 species, I assemble a hypothetical list of the remaining possibilities and how to maximize my opportunities to observe a new species. There were several species associated with the Ottawa River – gulls and waterfowl mainly, that should be possible. There were still some raptors that migrate high above, following Gatineau Park south to the Ottawa River when the weather conditions are right. Then there are the songbirds that migrate late into the fall: finches, Snow Buntings, Sparrows. I just needed to put in time for all of these possibilities and I know that there would be a reward.Observing species 99 was all about being in the right place at the right time. On October 12, while scanning the Park across the street, an Accipiter floated up above the tree line, moving north into the park. [caption id="attachment_816" align="alignleft" width="229"]Image of a woman holding a Blue Jay Cristina Navarro holding her favorite species: a Blue Jay[/caption] It flew directly past. It was a new species for the year, a Sharp-shinned Hawk – specialist in eating small birds. I could hear the Chickadees react to the hawk on the other side of the house. Chickadees are sentries for other species, warning of danger. We love our Chickadees and imagine that this sentiment is shared by many other species. On the morning of November 12, just after waking I heard it. A clear call note, followed by a distinctive trill. I blurted out the name “Snow Bunting” to Cris, who is remarkably understanding and supportive. While I tore myself from the bed, grabbing pants and a shirt, Cris located my binoculars. Of course it took far too long for me to get on the balcony and the bird was long gone but there was no doubt: species 100 is a Snow Bunting. Today, November 13, I was up at 8 am, sitting on the window ledge, window wide open, me half hanging out, when I heard another Snow Bunting’s crisp and clear clarion note, followed by the trill.

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