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Getting out into nature is for the birds
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Getting out into nature is for the birds

For bird enthusiasts that is!

Our NatureHood Partners were busy over the holidays helping kids and families explore nearby nature. From Halifax to Regina to Vancouver, hundreds of kids and families took part in the annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids). Inspired by the Christmas Bird Count, CBC4Kids is a fun winter activity and a great way for families to learn more about local urban birds and bird conservation.

Many of our NatureHood partners organized local CBC4Kids events that included nature walks led by volunteer guides to help identify local birds, followed by hot chocolate and snacks for the young citizen scientists to sip when they return. Their findings were then submitting through eBird, an online checklist managed by Bird Studies Canada.

Christmas Bird Counts for Kids are a great way to get kids active outdoors during the winter months and learn more about local winter birds and wildlife found in their area. Spending time in nature year-round will encourage kids to continue to explore the natural world and develop a long-lasting relationship with nature.

© Nature Alberta

Here’s a snapshot of a few of the CBC4Kids events that took place across the country:

Nova Scotia

The Young Naturalists Club of Nova Scotia held their 5th annual CBC4Kids at Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. They welcomed 100 participants and saw 25 bird species and 350 individual birds. Some kids even had the thrill of a chickadee land on their hand to eat seeds. The biggest excitement came when a bald eagle soared over the group!

Saskatchewan

Nature Saskatchewan held their annual CBC4Kids at Wascana Lake and had their best turn out yet with 93 participants. The four groups enjoyed the beautiful -5c weather as they counted a total of 12 bird species and 298 individuals. After the count, everyone enjoyed some hot chocolate and snacks as they listened to a presentation from Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation who brought two thirteen lined ground squirrels.

Alberta

Nature Alberta's Nature Kids had a great time looking for birds at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre in Red Deer. They started the day playing a bird migration game and then set off on the trails to explore nature. They found 8 different bird species such as Downy woodpeckers and Red-breasted nuthatches. They also found other animal signs such as, nests, moose droppings, and squirrel middens! (fun fact: squirrel middens is the mess they leave after eating).

British Columbia

NatureKids BC along with its partners held their 8th annual CBC4Kids at Stanley Park in Vancouver with 100 keen birdwatchers of all ages. Participants were led through a bird identification training session prior to the count to help identify the birds they saw. Here is a lovely message that was sent their way following the bird count:

"Our family had a wonderful time at the Christmas Bird Count at Stanley Park. We sincerely appreciated all of the care that went into putting this day together. The facilitators were extremely kind to us, we loved the activities/snacks, and we truly enjoyed going out for the count with our enthusiastic and joyful group leader. Thank you very much for your work in putting this together for all of us!"

With sincere gratitude,
Jen, Dylan, Nala & Makaio 

NatureHood Partner Spotlight – BC Waterfowl Society
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NatureHood Partner Spotlight – BC Waterfowl Society

[caption id="attachment_30818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jill Sturdy Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager[/caption] Last week, we received a lovely thank you card from a class of Grade 4 students at Holly Elementary School in Surrey, BC, who had the opportunity to visit Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC, as part of the NatureHood program. The BC Waterfowl Society, our local NatureHood partner, leads nature tours at the bird sanctuary for school groups and the public. Students learned about the diversity of local wildlife and habitats by exploring the trails, and also got an up-close experience feeding the birds. For many of them, this was the “best field trip ever!” Image of kids feeing birds Part of the funding we receive from Environment and Climate Change Canada enables school groups to visit places like Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Alaksen National Wildlife Area. Opportunities for these students would not otherwise be possible without the grant provided. BC Waterfowl Society, is one of 13 local NatureHood partners across the country who are providing hands-on nature experiences to kids and families. Experiential learning in nature, and wildlife viewing is exactly what NatureHood is all about! Providing opportunities to spend time in and explore nearby nature will help to foster a relationship with the natural world, and ultimately help develop a new generation of nature lovers! You don’t need to go far to explore in nature! You can find it almost anywhere. Now that winter has arrived (in most of the country), embrace the season and explore in the snow. Look for animal tracks in the snow and see where they lead to. Bundle up and spend some time in nature over the holiday season! “I really enjoyed being out in nature for the day” – Brooklyn “My favourite part was when the birds landed on my hand. Thanks for the Best field trip ever!!” – Marihar “I like how Gus the Goose followed us” – Michele "The class and I shared such a rich learning experience! Without you this would not have been possible. Thank you!" – Ms. Steffler, Grade 4 teacher at Holly Elementary Image of NatureHood Thank You Card

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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature NB
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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature NB

NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers. [caption id="attachment_33005" align="alignright" width="225"]understanding our Nature Hood Understanding our NatureHood[/caption] Nature NB’s Citizen Science Programs offer New Brunswickers opportunities to learn not only about the diverse bird and plant species in their communities, but also about the importance of environmental stewardship. More recently, a new set of programs were added specifically targeting youths under the appropriate name of Junior Citizen Science Programs. Junior Citizen Science Programs operate mostly within schools and seek to educate students about the importance of the environment around them. All programs start with a short presentation teaching students about their chosen topic and then taking them outside to apply their new knowledge in a hands-on way. During the 2016 year, a variety of programs were offered for schools to choose from including FeederWatch, Animal Tracking and PlantWatch. FeederWatch programs have students making their own bird feeders to set up around the schoolyard. They check the feeder periodically to observe and make notes of the kinds of birds that hang around. FeederWatch programs generally take place during the autumn and winter months, so this gives students a good opportunity to learn about both the migratory birds on their way south for the winter, and the kinds of birds that stick around even when it gets cold. By the end of the program, students have a greater knowledge of the birds that live in their area and how the changing seasons affect them. Students participating in an Animal Tracking program have the opportunity to take a look at some of the wild animals living in their community. Mud traps are set up in an area chosen by the students (typically near their school or at a nearby park) and then baited to attract animals. The traps are left overnight to give wild animals a chance to walk all over them so that they’re covered in tiny footprints in the morning. Students are then able to identify the animals who left those footprints and are encouraged to think about the habitats and lifestyles of those animals. [caption id="attachment_33004" align="alignleft" width="300"]Playing with nature Playing with nature[/caption] PlantWatch programs have students set up their own monitoring quadrant - a small area that is marked off from its surroundings - and then observing the plant life within it. Students count the number of individual plants and different species found in their area in order to learn about the local plant life in their community and note when the plants bloom. Once the students are finished their observations and counts, Nature NB returns to do a review of what was found and discuss the importance of plant blooming time as an indicator of climate change. In October and November of 2016 alone, 18 classrooms participated in programs through Nature NB and feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. The programs are linked with the schools’ curricula to show both students and teachers the real-world applications of the activities and encourage them to continue their ecological education even after the program is finished. Nature NB’s Junior Citizen Science programs will be returning full-force in spring 2017.

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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Young Naturalists Club of Nova Scotia
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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Young Naturalists Club of Nova Scotia

NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers. In October of 2016, the Young Naturalists Club of Nova Scotia built a pollinator hotel for the Common Roots Urban Farm with the help of the Halifax Builders Cooperative. A pollinator hotel is a structure meant to house solitary pollinators. This not only attracts them to the area the hotel is in, but also provides them with somewhere to live which helps them survive the winter. [caption id="attachment_32723" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a pollinator hotel A pollinator hotel. Photo by Young Naturalists Club of Nova Scotia[/caption] In the Halifax area, the most common solitary pollinators are Mason Bees, Leafcutter Bees, Sweat Bees and Digger Bees. As the name suggests, these bees all live solitary lifestyles and make their own nests rather than in a hive like the Honeybees people typically think about. These solitary bees can do all the same pollinator jobs as Honeybees, but because they don’t have a hive to defend, they are much less aggressive and rarely ever sting. Members of the Young Naturalists Club had the opportunity to take up some drills and saws to tailor make their hotel for the solitary pollinators found in the Halifax area. Hotels need to be filled with many small tunnels for the bees to live in. In this case, the hotel was made with tunnels eight inches long and ranging from five-sixths of an inch to three-eighths of an inch in diameter to give pollinators of different sizes enough space. A variety of nest materials were used including apple crates, wood beams, lengths of bamboo and even some bricks. This structural variety accommodoates many different species of pollinators, increasing the number of species that are able to make their homes in the hotel. Some other factors the Young Naturalists Club considered when building and positioning their pollinator hotel were environmental factors. The hotel was positioned in a location where it receives early morning sun but is protected from the hottest midday sun. A sturdy roof and back are also necessary to protect the hotel from wind and rain that the pollinators would otherwise be unable to handle. Another very important factor is easy access to mud. When female solitary pollinators lay their eggs, they like to block up the tunnels containing them with mud. This provides protection and insulation to the eggs and is also an easy way for observers to tell if the hotel has any guests. The contribution of a pollinator hotel to the Common Roots Urban Farm will attract new solitary pollinators to the farm, as well as allow them to survive the winter and be productive as soon as spring starts. This is very important not just for the pollinators themselves, but also for the plants growing on the farm. The presence of pollinators encourages biodiversity, meaning members of the Young Naturalists Club can be proud they built a structure that will help keep the farm’s ecosystem balanced. And if you ever get the chance to visit Common Roots Urban Farm, be sure to keep a lookout for the pollinator hotel and take the opportunity to check on its guests!

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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory
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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory

NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers. The Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory is an important bird area as well as a location key to the observation and tracking of migratory birds in southern Ontario. Although the facilities are not fully equipped to run through the frigid winters, the autumn and spring seasons are incredibly busy. From August 15th to October 31st and April 15th to May 31st each year, there is an extensive bird migration monitoring and banding program going on at the Observatory. The banding program consists of daily censuses and incidental sightings of birds by both staff and National Wildlife Area visitors. This is a good way to get a general idea of all the birds that pass through the park, but sometimes more specific observations are necessary. Banders will actually catch and band birds before releasing them to continue their migrations. This allows them to not Image of a Northern Saw Whet Owlonly keep track of where the birds end up but also track how many of their birds return after the winter. There are also a number of season-specific events in addition to the standard banding. During the fall session, migratory birds are observed as they head south for the winter. The most common birds at this time of year are thrushes, kinglets, and owls, but the occasional hawk is seen as well. In addition to the standard events, a variety of activities took place over the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend. Among them were nature walks, hawk watches, banding demonstrations with owls, and a variety of presentations and activities specifically for kids. At the end of the season, the unheated banding stations are left empty for the winter until the staff returns with the birds in the spring. The spring session, on the other hand, catches birds as they return from their winter vacations. The most common species at this time of year are warblers of all kinds. The 2017 spring banding session will include a spring bird festival and several related events taking place between the 14th and 23rd of May. The festival is going to include guided bird walks, day-long birdwatching events, a butterfly flap and monarch migration, and a number of talks from bird experts. Sign-ups for many of these events are already open, so anyone interested should check out the Prince Edward Point website to claim a spot. In a good year, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory sees up to 300 species of birds and may see 15,000 individuals. During the autumn season of 2016, more than 700 Saw-whet Owls alone were observed and recorded. Prince Edward Point is connected with the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network which allows staff to share their data with other organizations in the network and contribute to a nationwide bird conservation effort.

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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature Saskatchewan
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NatureHood Partner spotlight: Nature Saskatchewan

NatureHood is a national program of Nature Canada, with a goal of connecting people of all ages to nature in their neighbourhoods – aka their NatureHoods! Through strong partnerships with our grassroots naturalist clubs and organizations across Canada, NatureHood promotes nature awareness and exposes a new generation of nature lovers. Nature Saskatchewan recently worked with three schools in Regina to give students in five classes the opportunity to participate in the FeederWatch program. FeederWatch is a program that encourages young people to set up bird feeders and periodically check on how many birds show up to their feeder and what species those birds are. The flexible nature of the program allows participants to choose two consecutive days to check the feeders (and on the same days each week). It’s a program that not only helps track the winter bird populations across the continent but also encourages students to learn more about the birds living in their area. [caption id="attachment_23984" align="alignright" width="300"]Image of a Downy Woodpecker A Downy Woodpecker at a feeder[/caption] Nature Saskatchewan representatives went to the three participating schools and gave the students a short presentation on what kinds of birds they might see. Throughout the program, students might catch glimpses of finches, magpies, blue jays, or even a partridge in a pear tree. After the presentation, students were provided with materials to make and decorate their own bird feeders. Nature Saskatchewan will also be supplying them with enough seed to get through the winter. Students then set up their feeders under trees or near windows; prime spots for feeders that either protect their visiting birds from the cold when they come to feed or allow the kids to keep an eye on the feeders without always having to go out in the cold themselves. Participating students will check their feeders for visitors during either their recesses or after school programs depending on the school. Their observation period started between November 12th and November 19th depending on the school, and will likely continue until mid-April. This gives students a chance to see a large variety of birds from the hardy ones that stick around for the Canadian winters to the migratory birds who will have begun to return by April. Additionally, teachers of participating classrooms were put in contact with FeederWatch Canada as well as teachers at other participating schools. This will allow teachers and students alike to share exciting bird sightings and ideas about the program. When the FeederWatch program in these schools comes to an end, students will be left with their own lists of observed birds as well as shared data from other schools and other FeederWatch participants from across the continent. After the observations are over and the feeders are taken down, the kids will know a little bit more about the feathered friends that hang around their schools and homes, and maybe some of them will be inspired to set up their own feeders at home to continue watching for birds through the spring and summer.

 
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