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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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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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Teaching kids about nature AND curriculum… it’s easier than you think!
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Teaching kids about nature AND curriculum… it’s easier than you think!

[caption id="attachment_36047" align="alignleft" width="150"] Shannon Leitch, NatureHood Communications Intern[/caption] This blog was written by NatureHood communications intern Shannon Leitch. Children are increasingly spending less time outdoors and in nature. Hundreds of studies have shown that being in nature has both health benefits and improves your capacity to learn. By exposing kids to nature on a regular basis, they’ll reap the health benefits and increase their capacity to learn. Nature Canada's NatureHood program provides children and their families increased opportunities to explore and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature in their communities, and contribute to a healthier lifestyle. NatureHood aims to inspire children with a sense of wonder and appreciation for nature, creating future leaders to protect the natural places in our communities. Nature Canada developed a Do-It-Yourself Toolkit for educators that includes resources and support for nature-based learning. And the best part? You don’t have to leave the schoolyard! The NatureBlitz Toolkit is a guide for educators on how to run a NatureBlitz in the schoolyard. What is a NatureBlitz? It’s simply observing the plants, animals and environment around us in a given amount of time. A NatureBlitz can be done in any season, and almost anywhere - including a schoolyard! It will feel like a field trip, but without all the paperwork! NatureBlitzes are easy to plan, execute, and incorporate into the curriculum. What’s more, NatureBlitzes can be tailored to work with any subject that students are learning about. Link together math with finding patterns in leaves, languages with writing about what was seen during the NatureBlitz, and science with observing what sort of animals frequent your schoolyard!  Still curious about what a NatureBlitz is and how you can hold one in your school’s yard? Take a look at a video from a past NatureBlitz at Regina Street Public School (in Ottawa, Ontario), and hear about what both a teacher and a student have to say about their experience! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13EmKOlN8vc&t=12s Reconnect your students to nature, and have fun teaching them about curriculum subjects at the same time. They’ll thank you for it! Click here to download the NatureBlitz Toolkit.

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‘Tis the Season … To Hibernate
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‘Tis the Season … To Hibernate

With winter finally here in full force, I see the appeal of stuffing myself with food and sleeping until all this snow melts away. While snow-covered trees and trails are beautiful, there seems to be less wildlife to look at in the winter. As animal sightings are less frequent, it had me wondering where they all go.image of a Grizzly Bear and her cubs When you think of hibernation, most people probably think of bears first. And while this is true, they’re aren’t actually the “truest” kind of hibernator, which includes a lowered heart-rate, breathing, and metabolism. This is because bears are in a much lighter sleep and can still be awakened. They get up more frequently than true hibernators, but can still sleep for days, weeks, or months — they go into what is called torpor. Skunks and raccoons are other mammals that can sleep for long periods of time to avoid the winter elements, but aren’t true hibernators. Bats, however, have some of the longest hibernation capabilities and can survive on taking just one breath every two hours. And did you know that bees hibernate in holes in the soil? Well, the queen bee that is. Worker bees die off every winter, but the queen bee hibernates in the ground for six to eight months until it is warm enough to rebuild. Garter Snakes are relatively harmless, but the idea of stumbling into a den of hundreds or thousands of them is not a pleasant one. While most snakes just become less active in the winter, garter snakes actually hibernate in dens in large quantities to stay warm. One den in Canada was found to have 8,000 garter snakes! And did you know? Climate change is already affecting the hibernation patterns of some animals, like chipmunks. Bears also give birth and raise their young during the hibernation period, which could lead to very negative effects on their populations if hibernation times are reduced. Acknowledgments: Live Science, Science News, Earth Rangers

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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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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What does the fox say? And do?
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What does the fox say? And do?

[caption id="attachment_19831" align="alignleft" width="150"]Valerie Assinewe, Professional Writing Program Intern Valerie Assinewe, Professional Writing Program Intern[/caption] With this month's featured photo as a fox and we wanted to provide you with some fun facts that you may not have known!

Facts on the Red Fox

  • Red Foxes have the widest distribution of any member of the order Carnivora: it is native to North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa and introduced to Australia.
  • Red Foxes can produce 28 different vocalizations. You can often hear the mating calls, which is a sharp, high-pitched shrieking/screaming noise, which can also sound quite terrifying.
  • A male fox is called a “dog”, a female fox is called a “vixen,” and a young fox is called either a “kit,” “pup” or “cub.” A group of foxes is called a “skulk.’
  • The Red Fox’s tail is known as a “brush”. The fox curls into it in cold weather; it aids in balance, and it is used as a signal flag to communicate with other foxes.
  • Foxes signal each other by making scent posts—urinating on trees or rocks to announce their presence.
  • Foxes have can climb trees and settle on low branches.
  • Foxes have whiskers on their faces and their legs. These help the fox find their way
  • A fox’s den is normally a burrow underground, also known as an “earth,” but they can also live above ground in a cozy hollow.

Out for a hunt

[caption id="attachment_22535" align="alignright" width="300"]Photo by: Carter News A fox hunting in the snow. Photo by: Carter News[/caption]
  • Foxes are great nighttime predators because their eyes are specially adapted to night vision. Behind the light sensitive cells lies another layer called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back through the eye. This doubles the intensity of images received by the fox. This is why their eyes glow green when light is shone into them at night. However, they can be seen hunting during the day as well.
  • Red Foxes are solitary hunters who feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small game, but their diet can be as flexible as their home habitat: they will eat fruit, vegetables, fish, frogs, and worms. If living among humans, foxes will opportunistically dine on garbage and pet food.
  • They catch small rodents with a characteristic high pounce. This technique is one of the first things cubs learn as they begin to hunt.

The Pups

[caption id="attachment_22541" align="alignleft" width="300"]Red fox kits. Photo by: Phil Myers Red Fox kits. Photo by: Phil Myers[/caption]
  • While they are solitary animals, during breeding season (winter) when they court and mate, the dog fox will support the female (vixen) by bringing food for the family (early spring).
  • The vixen typically gives birth to a litter of 2-12 pups between March and May every year. The cubs are born blind, deaf and toothless. They weigh about 120 g and are brown or gray. The cubs’ eyes and ears open after two weeks—their pupils are slate-blue. At four weeks, they will emerge from the dens. A new red coat usually grows in by the end of the first month, but some Red Foxes are golden, reddish-brown, silver, or even black. Both parents care for their young through the summer before they are able to strike out on their own in the fall.
  • Vixens are occasionally assisted in rearing their cubs by a non-breeding sister or a female cub from a previous litter. These “aunts” gain valuable experience which helps them to rear their own litter successfully the next season. Occasionally there can be two dog fox’s associated with one vixen.
  • Many cubs die prematurely due to predation by dogs, badgers, and other animals. The worst danger is the motor vehicle. They also can die of starvation or cold during hard winters.
  Since the Red Fox is a common animal to see Canada, we have a few tips on how to live with foxes in your NatureHood.

Tips to live with nearby wildlife such as the Red Fox:

  • Do not put out food for foxes.
  • Keep waste in secure bins or store bins in a secure building or container.
  • Do not put waste bins out until morning of pick-up.
  • Make sure outdoor compost containers are wildlife-proof.
  • Remove fallen fruit from trees and scattered birdseed from feeders (these foods attract rodents which, in turn, attract foxes).
  • Keep pet food inside, and do not leave small pets outdoors unattended.
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Endangered species stand a chance of recovering with young nature lovers on their side
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Endangered species stand a chance of recovering with young nature lovers on their side

"What kinds of obstacles do migratory birds face?", asked a Nature Canada conservation specialist during a visit to an Ottawa grade one class. "No food!", said one child. "Predators!", said another. As part of Nature Canada's outreach and education activities, we have been working with elementary schools across the city of Ottawa to raise awareness of the challenges migratory birds face and provide suggestions for small things kids can do at home to protect wildlife. Hundreds of school children from grade one to grade six have heard mini, child-friendly presentations by Nature Canada staff on local endangered birds. They've also made colourful bird masks, played a game simulating the challenges of migration and have even used their creativity to help produce a unique stop-motion animation featuring three endangered birds found in the area. [one_third]kids with masks - Copy[/one_third] [one_third]close up of kids with masks[/one_third] [one_third_last]kids running with masks - Copy[/one_third_last] Just yesterday, the kids of Regina Elementary School were invited to the Canadian Museum of Nature to tour the museum's Birds of Canada gallery with a Nature Canada conservation specialist on hand to enhance the experience. They had an amazing time and were fascinated by the variety of bird species in Canada. kids at museum looking at bird displayThey later joined a reception for Nature Canada members held at the Museum of Nature and were able to watch the first version of their stop-motion animation video. They were very pleased with the video they had helped to create! When Eleanor Fast, Executive Director of Nature Canada, wrapped-up the reception, she ended her remarks by asking if anyone had questions or comments. A Regina School student's hand shot up. "I'm very sad about Blanding's Turtle," he said. Indeed, we are all very sad about the decline of Blanding's Turtle. Thankfully, Blanding's Turtle stands a chance of surviving when kids like this little lad care about protecting it.  

Kids make movie about local species at risk
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Kids make movie about local species at risk

When children from Ottawa elementary schools were asked to name a species at risk most answered with 'polar bear!'. Endangered bird species that nest or roost in Ottawa were rarely mentioned. Hoping to bring greater awareness to local species at risk, Nature Canada's NatureHood team paid visits to over a dozen Ottawa-area schools, meeting with 700 children in kindergarten through to grade seven. Staff gave presentations about four of Ottawa's species at risk - chimney swift, bobolink, barn swallow and monarch butterfly - and introduced simple actions that could be taken to help protect the species, ranging from keeping cats indoors to installing a bird feeder. The children were also invited to participate in the making of a unique video about the species. Made from the compilation of colourful drawings made by the children, the movie will depict scenes from an average day in the life of all four species. Below is a selection of drawings that caught our eye. Stay tuned for the video! [caption id="attachment_17768" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Chimney swifts roost inside a brick chimney. Chimney swifts climb a brick chimney.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17771" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A bobolink in flight A bobolink in flight[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17769" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A barn swallow flying over a farmer's field. A barn swallow flying over a farmer's field.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17767" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Chimney swifts entering and leaving a chimney. Chimney swifts entering and leaving a chimney.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17772" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A barn swallow with its young. A barn swallow with its young.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_17773" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A chimney swift in flight. A chimney swift in flight.[/caption]

Inside the Mudlake Biodiversity Project
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Inside the Mudlake Biodiversity Project

“Do we have this one yet?” Harold Sotomayor asked his friend and project partner Patrick Killeen after we came across a white capped mushroom covered by bushes to the side of the trail. “Well, let’s snap a photo of it anyways, just in case.” Welcome to the world of the Mud Lake Biodiversity project, an ongoing citizen science experiment in which the goal is to document and record every living organism in the Mud Lake Conservation Area of Ottawa, Ontario. The project, which has attracted photo contributions from outside members of the community, is a mix of deductive science and taxonomic gamification and has helped its creators learn a lot about their local environment and its biodiversity. [caption id="attachment_17602" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of the Mud Lake Biodiversity project team Patrick Killeen (left) and Harold Sotomayor (right)[/caption] Sotomayor explained the initial idea stemmed from the television show and video game Pokemon which he used to watch and play as a child. “When I started, the idea for the project was to create a catalogue like a Pokedex” Sotomayor said. “I genuinely thought we would come out here and find like five birds. I had no idea about how much I did not know.” Home to over 200 species of birds, around 50 varieties of moss and hundreds of different trees and plants, Mud Lake is a naturalist's dream. Located just west of downtown Ottawa, the area contains many ecological biomes including: a riparian section along the bank of the Ottawa River, a woodland area and wetlands around the lake itself. Unlike the mass of wildlife found at Mud Lake, the project has remained reasonably quiet and contained. For the past four years, Patrick and Harold have been making trips out to the lake with a camera and documenting any life they find. Nothing is omitted from the project. Plants, animals, fungi, insects... even bacteria and protists, which Harold collects and analyzes at home under an electron microscope, are included and added to the growing database and website. [caption id="attachment_17603" align="aligncenter" width="300"]photo of White breasted nuthatch at Mud Lake White breasted nuthatch at Mud Lake[/caption] “We began with just animals and plants, but once people started visiting the website, we sort of felt an obligation to expand and include everything,” Sotomayor said. Patrick Killeen, 20, makes up one half of the pair. He is currently a computer science student at the University of Ottawa and is credited by Harold as having the greater taxonomic knowledge of the two. “I wasn’t really interested in biology before the project,” Killeen said. “Growing up my dad would tell me stuff and I was sort of forced to learn the information. But then, after the project began, I actually wanted to learn so that’s when I gained a huge boost of knowledge.” Harold Sotomayor, 29, is the creative mind behind the enterprise. He is currently using the site to work on his programming skills while working part time and also managing the biodiversity project. The two have been able to parlay the project into educational opportunities with outside organizations. Harold and Patrick have led educational tours through Mud Lake with adult high school students as well as by leading tours at Nature Canada's fall BioBlitz event. [caption id="attachment_17604" align="aligncenter" width="200"]photo of microscope use Harold gets a close look at bacteria and protists under the microscope[/caption] The pair want the project to remain small and without ads and said their next goal is to include more of the areas diverse mosses and insects. For those interested in learning more about the project, or contributing to the growing collection of photos you can check it out at: www.mudlakebiodiversity.com. The site is also expected to receive a coming user interface revamp in the coming weeks with new graphics. Thank you to our guest blogger Dylan Copland for this post and photos. Dylan is a journalist and media specialist living in Ottawa, Ontario. He is currently volunteering with Nature Canada where he is writing about animals, nature and the people who love them. You can reach him at dmcopland@gmail.com and find his portfolio on the web at: dylancopland.wordpress.com.

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