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Calendar Image: The Lynx
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Calendar Image: The Lynx

The Lynx is a medium-sized wildcat, easily recognized by its short tail, long legs, large paws, and its tufted ears. There are four species of lynx found around the world. The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) tend to be larger than the North American species, the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). There is also the familiar Bobcat (Lynx rufus) that is the most abundant wildcat in the United States. The final lynx species, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is also the world’s most endangered cat, with a population of about 400 individuals. Lynx species tend to weigh approximately the same, ranging from 5 kg to 14 kg, and measuring around 90 cm in length. The habitat range of lynxes varies between species. For example, the North American bobcat is widespread in the United States, and can be found in southern Canada as well as Mexico. Whereas the Canada lynx can be found in most boreal forests across Canada, and in western Montana, Idaho, Washington and Utah. The Canada lynx tends to prefer forested habitats, such as old growth boreal forests, where they can make their dens underneath fallen trees, tree stumps, or thick bushes. However, the lynx will populate other habitats providing there is an adequate number of prey, and minimal forest coverage. Lynxes tend to be very territorial and solitary animals, only being around other lynxes during the winter breeding season. Mating usually occurs between February and March of each year, with the young being born in April and May. The kittens are born under brush piles, uprooted trees, or in hollow logs to provide shelter from the cold, and are reared solely by the female. Female lynxes can start breeding as they approach one year of age, but this depends on the availability of snowshoe hares and on their own physical conditions. Figure 1. Habitat range of the Canada lynx (Canadian Geographic).In the winter, more than 75% of the lynx’s diet consists of the snowshoe hare. When snowshoe hare abundance is large, a lynx may kill one hare every one or two days. In the summer, the lynx’s diet appears to be more varied consisting of hares, grouse, voles, mice, squirrels, and foxes. Like most members of the cat family, the lynx hunts silently and will hunt at night, watching and listening to their prey. The lynx has a few predators, including cougars, wolves, and coyotes. However, the biggest threat to lynxes are humans. In Canada, fur trapping is one of the biggest causes of death for lynxes, apart from the population decline of their main prey, the snowshoe hare. Lynxes are fairly easy to catch, and when prices rise for their fur, most lynxes can be removed from a given area. Even today, the lynx is trapped in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Luckily, there are regulations put in place to restrict the number of lynxes that can be killed during the given year. Biologists have also suggested closing trapping seasons if the lynx population drops into a low cycle. It is important to keep studying the effects of fur trapping and monitoring the populations to ensure the Canada lynx does not become a threatened or endangered species!  

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  

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.

Calendar Image – The Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher by Tim Hopwood
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Calendar Image – The Belted Kingfisher

This month’s calendar image is a stunning photo of a Belted Kingfisher, which was captured in autumn by Tim Hopwood in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in Calgary. Of this encounter, Tim said that “On an early autumn afternoon, a spur of the moment decision to visit Calgary’s Inglewood Bird Sanctuary led to a chance encounter with this Belted Kingfisher that perched for a few moments above a poplar-lined lagoon, watching for unwary fish.

Tim's shot truly captured a Belted Kingfisher in its natural element – perched above a body of water, on the lookout for fish and ready for flight.


We recognize Belted Kingfishers by their blue-gray feathers and fine, white spotting on their wings and tail, white underparts, and their large heads that have a crest on the top and back. They have a stocky build, with short legs, and a medium length, and square-tipped tail. Another discerning characteristic of the Belted Kingfisher is its loud rattling call – which can often be heard when it flies quickly up and down rivers and shorelines where it feeds and nests. This large water kingfisher lives near streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and estuaries, and spends much of its time searching for small fish from its perch of choice along the edges.  Belted Kingfishers nest in burrows that they dig into soft earthen banks, favouring those consisting of higher contents of sand than clay. Their nests is usually adjacent to or directly over water, and  in a horizontal tunnel made in a river bank or sand bank and excavated by both parents. This bird species is native to North America and spends its winters in areas where the water doesn’t freeze in order to have continual access to their aquatic foods. Beyond small fish, Belted Kingfishers also eat crayfish, frogs, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. The Belted Kingfisher's breeding habitat is near inland bodies of waters or coasts across most of Canada, Alaska and the United States. They migrate from the northern parts of its range to the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies in winter.

Interesting Facts about the Belted Kingfisher

  • Contrary to many bird species, the Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more brightly coloured than the male.
  • As nestlings, Belted Kingfishers have acidic stomachs that help them digest bones, fish scales, and arthropod shells.
  • Both parents feed their young. At first, they give them partially digested fish, and later, whole fish. Interestingly, the male may make more feeding visits than the female. The young leave the nest between 27-29 days after hatching.
  • In certain regions, human activities (such as the digging of sand & gravel pits) have created nesting sites that have actually stimulated population growth and enhanced opportunities for range expansion. Despite this species' diet, environmental contaminants do not seem to have affected its productivity as it has with other fish-eating birds.

September Calendar Image : Spirit Island
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September Calendar Image : Spirit Island

This blog was written by Anne-Marie Macloughlin for the September 2018 calendar image of Spirit Island in Jasper National Park, which was shot by photographer Bill Settle. For many of us born outside of Canada, the Rocky Mountain vista as seen from the vantage point of postcard-perfect Maligne Lake is the archetypal Canadian landscape. Part of Jasper National Park, Canada’s largest at over 11,000 square kilometres and a UNESCO heritage site, the aqua lake with it’s other-worldly hue (a result of rock-flour from the glaciers) is what comes to mind when imagining the Rocky Mountains. The park is home to a staggering amount of wildlife, close to 70 different species whose survival depends on the park remaining protected. Three large glaciers loom over Maligne, the name translating to “Wicked” in French, possibly attributed to the turbulence of the spring runoff into the Maligne River which would have been treacherous to navigate for early explorers. Hard to reconcile such a negative connotation with the soul-stirring beauty of Maligne, the original indigenous name of “Chaba Imne” (Beaver Lake) more in keeping with the mythology of the surroundings, perhaps. And emerging into the lake like a mirage is Spirit island.   What is known as a tied island, Spirit Island is attached to the mainland by a slim spit of land, the iconic landscape globally familiar, used by Kodak Photographic in 1960 in a display in New York’s Grand Central Terminal to show-off colour photography. Depending on the season and water levels, Spirit Island can be cut off from the mainland if the Spring runoff from melting snow is significant. Accessibility in general is limited, tours by boat a popular option for visitors to the park, some of them affording an extended stay on the island to explore and fully appreciate the natural beauty. The island sits in a box canyon, a flat-bottomed lake surrounded by vertical walls of glacier with late afternoon in the summer an optimal time for photo opps, some tours even led by a professional photographer to capture the perfect image. With much of Canada’s history containing significant elements of indigenous lore, Spirit Island is no exception. A place of significance to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, it’s easy to understand the connection early settlers to the region felt with the power of nature in spite of its potentially harsh conditions (the average daily low in January a frigid -17.8C). According to First Nations mythology, the name comes from the story of two young lovers. A modern-day Romeo and Juliet, they belonged to warring tribes and used the island for their forbidden trysts. The young girl finally confessed to her father, one of the tribes’ chiefs, and he banned her from ever returning to the island. Her heartbroken lover continued to return to Spirit Island over the years, hoping to see her again. Sadly, she never went back and he eventually died on the island, his spirit wandering there for eternity. Ghost stories aside, Spirit Island and its surrounding park remains a popular go-to for tourists and nature lovers. With more green spaces diminishing in the name of urbanisation, development and the bottom line, protecting these sacred spaces is even more important than ever. UNESCO has an information monitoring system that provides data on the state of conservation of world heritage sites and the threats they face and Nature Canada, the country’s oldest nature conservation charity, has over the last 75 years helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada. As important as conservation is for the non-human park dwellers, we humans are deeply affected by our surroundings; recent studies are seeking to prove that exposure to nature improves mental, physical and emotional health. As Edward O. Wilson hypothesises in his book “Biophilia” (Wilson, 1984) we have a tendency to seek connections with nature and other living things. The haunting beauty of Spirit Island seems like a good place to start.

References

August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle
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August Calendar Image: The Bald Eagle

[caption id="attachment_36590" align="alignleft" width="150"] Tina-Louise Rossit,
Guest Blogger.[/caption] This blog is written by Nature Canada guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. The Bald Eagle is the second largest bird of prey in North America, after the Californian Condor, however, it is the only native eagle in North America. Within its ecosystem, the Bald Eagle is at the top of the food chain. Its diets consist primarily of fish, but will go for rodents, rabbits, small birds and/or mammals. In Canada, the largest populations of Bald eagles are found on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia since there are vast forested areas adjacent to large bodies of water -- a Bald eagle’s preferred habitat. Being among the largest birds, Bald eagles also hold the record for largest nest in North America! The Bald Eagle obtained its symbolic attributes from the culture and folklore of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas dating back centuries. A well-known mythology is that of that great Thunderbird, a legendary creature of supernatural power and strength, represented in physical form by the Bald eagle. There are many versions of the story, yet the Bald Eagle is said to a scared force of nature. Later on, in 1782, this raptor’s beauty and prestige inspired the newly established States of America, to select it as their national emblem. [caption id="attachment_38133" align="alignright" width="300"] A Bald Eagle perched on driftwood by the shore at Boundary Bay, captured by Tony Joyce.[/caption] Now, why are they called “bald” eagles? They’re not really bald, nor do they have hair, and by all means, they have lots of feathers on their heads! The term “bald” is derived from the word piebald which describes any animals with patterns of pigmented spots on unpigmented background. It can refer to hair, feathers, or scales. For other common examples, think of a Tobiano horses, magpie birds, and ball pythons. Thus, Bald eagles have unpigmented, or white, head feathers, on a pigmented, or brown, body. If you like to birdwatch, or if you wanna add something really cool to your bucket list, you’re going to want to catch a glimpse of the Bald Eagle’s spectacular courtship display. Breeding seasons depend on latitudes where in Alaska and Canadian regions, this is April to August, and in Southern US, November to March. Bald Eagles are monogamous which means they pair for life, or until one dies. Each year they will undergo a flying ritual that functions to reinforce their bond. In other words, Bald eagles are probably one of the most romantic birds since they sort of re-married every year! And if you like acrobatic shows, you’re in for a treat. Some bird enthusiasts describe the ordeal as a courting coaster because they literally fly up and dive down in embraced swirls. Check it out for yourself! Today the Bald Eagle is listed under “Least Concern”, but this is recent only. Their numbers hit a drastic low back in the 60’s when pesticides containing too much DDT was being used. Conservation programs were luckily set up quickly enough to save this iconic raptor. It is only because of these efforts that today the bald eagle has recuperated their numbers. This species is no longer under the full protection of the Endangered Species Act as of 2007, however, it is, and will continue to be, monitored to ensure no drastic declines happen again!


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Bibliography https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/animal-facts-bald-eagle https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/lifehistory https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/baleag/introduction http://www.arkive.org/bald-eagle/haliaeetus-leucocephalus/#text=Facts http://www.native-languages.org/thunderbird.htm

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