Today is the day we officially celebrate wildlife around the world. Even though March 3rd is officially set aside as World Wildlife Day, I encourage any readers to seek out nature and wildlife any day of the year. Spending time in and with the wild is a constant reminder to me that we need to conserve our wilderness and protect our wildlife. Below, I’ve shared five wildlife experiences that I hope inspire you to spend some time outside.
I took this photo of the fox shortly after it had chased a wolverine out of its territory. I know it sounds like I’ve got it backwards, but this is one impressive fox! During that summer, he and his mate raised 5 beautiful fox kits. Daring Lake, NWT.
I was at Mud Lake flipping logs when some hikers passed me. I got the impression they thought my behaviour a little odd. Luckily I found this salamander just after they left and I was able to call them back. It was the first time any of the hikers had seen a salamander and they seemed quite captivated by it. I was glad I could share a wildlife moment with them. Ottawa, ON
This summer I was lucky enough to take part in a Common Tern census of a breeding colony off the coast of NB. The day we arrived many of the chicks had just hatched or were in the process of hatching. Later going back to the region, I was able to see older tern chicks, like the one above (who is begging for food). It was great to see them at many stages of development. Tabusintac, NB
If you’re looking for a wildlife experience but don’t have great access to the wilderness, don’t forget nature in the city. I love participating in citizen science initiatives, such as eBird and eButterfly, and many of my observations, like this American Snout Butterfly, come from in-city parks. Spartanburg, SC.
Having grown up inland, I have very little ocean experience. I was thrilled this past summer, when I spent some time in a tidal flat and saw so many interesting creatures. This particular fish is a flounder.As flounders age, they transition from swimming upright to swimming in a flat position, like it’s being held in the above photo. During this this transition, the eye that is now on the bottom of their body migrates to the top of the face with the other eye! Charlottetown, PEI.
I don’t really need more excuses to go out birding, but I’ll take them as they come regardless. Last weekend, from Feb 12 to 15, was the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a worldwide citizen science project that tries to capture an ‘annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds’. Contrary to it’s name, the GBBC does not require one to bird in a backyard (great news for us apartment dwellers).
I focused my efforts on Wellington county, my new home turf, and was able to find some new birding spots. For the second GBBC in a row the temperature was frigid, but that didn’t keep the birds at bay. Over the course of the count, I found 28 species including some highlights; Snow Buntings, Purple Finches, and a Merlin!
In addition to seeing many great birds at Algonquin Provincial Park last weekend, my group was treated to a handful of fantastic mammal sightings. This was the first Pine Marten I’ve ever seen and it gave us quite the display. Within seconds of us spotting it, it nearly nabbed a Red Squirrel. After the squirrel got away, the marten treated us to a display of tree climbing gymnasts.
I think it should be noted however, that all of the mammals in my photos came out into the open because of previous incidents where park visitors have fed them (note: no one in my group fed any of the animals below). While it may be tempting to leave out some food in order to see these fabulous creatures, being fed is often to their detriment (and yours, as you will be fined). Feeding can cause human/wildlife conflicts, increase the chances of the animal being hit by a car, and can harm the health of the creature. I’m grateful that I got to see fox, marten, deer, and squirrels last weekend, but I really do prefer spotting my wildlife far from the influence of humans where I know that the animals’ safety is not at risk.
This past weekend I went to Algonquin Provincial Park with some good friends. It was both my first time at Algonquin and my first time seeing a few of the boreal birds we came across. Though it took me awhile to get to Algonquin the first time, I don’t think it will be long before I’m back. It is a beautiful park!
In honour of World Wetlands Day, I thought I would contribute a collage of my experiences in various wetlands. Wetlands (bogs, fens, marshes, swamps, and shallow open water) filter our water, prevent flooding, provide habitat for various wildlife, and add to the beauty of our natural world, amongst other ecological services. I am glad that spending time in wetlands is a part of my life.
2015 was another great year. Highlights included moving from Ottawa to Fredericton, then to Kitchener, and then to Guelph, working as an intern for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in NB, and then landing a full-time position with NCC in Ontario, seeing one of my close friends married, and welcoming another little niece. 2016 looks like it’s shaping up to be another interesting adventure, with trips to South Carolina and potentially Alberta, my first ever excursion to Algonquin Provincial Park (!!!), summer weekends by Lake Huron, and many bird and nature excursions in between. New Year’s resolution: Post more blogs!
At the end of 2015, NCC issued a challenge to look back at our year in nature. To help us out, they provided some questions to answer.
What species did you learn about for the first time this year? Piping Plover. I got to learn about these birds from their conservation champions out east and even see about two dozen Piping Plover in the wild. The best sighting was a family of plovers in northern NB, where the parent plovers successfully fledged four chicks.
What is your most memorable close encounter with nature from 2015? Finding a butterfly hotspot in Tabusintac, NB. This one patch of clover had about 50 individual butterflies from 6 species. I was in heaven!
What fact did you learn about the natural world in 2015 that most surprised you? Moose are endangered in NS, even with a healthy population in neighbouring NB.
Three things did you do that helped the natural world in the last year? 1. Interned with NCC. 2. Taught some Girl Scouts and some Cub Scouts about birding and ornithology. 3. Volunteered with the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club.
What natural areas did you explore for the first time? All of NB and PEI!
What species did you learn to identify, by sight or sound? Bird: Olive-sided Flycatcher, Butterfly: Salt Marsh Copper, Plant: Dragon’s Mouth Orchid.
Here are some photo highlights from 2015:
2015 was the summer of butterflies. As part of my internship in New Brunswick, I kept track of the butterflies I came across while out in the field. On fair-weathered weekends, I spent my time searching for more in parks and at gardens. I was lucky to be able to photograph (with varying quality) each species of butterfly that I found, so that they could be submitted to the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas. I only missed a few species that I hoped to see out east, but I learned a tonne this summer and I look forward to next year’s search.
In no particular order, for your viewing pleasure: