2015 in Review

2015: A year in nature

2015: A year in nature

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:

A Summer of Butterflies

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:

Playing the New Brunswick Tourist

Searching for Butterflies in Fundy National Park.

Searching for Butterflies, Fundy National Park.

A few weeks back, my partner Michael and I took a weekend to explore the Bay of Fundy.  Normally I am travelling New Brunswick for work, so it was great to get to travel as a tourist. However, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the places we chose to visit look a lot like the sites where I work. I’m a sucker for nature! The two highlights of the trip were our visits to Hopewell Rocks and Fundy National Park. Both are fantastic examples of Canada’s stunning landscapes, and I am very glad they will be protected for generations to come. All of the beautiful photos in this post were taken by Michael. He has been the inspiration for me to take a camera into the field to capture some of the animals and plants I come across.

New Brunswick Explorations: Photo Update




Bird Song

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler singing up a storm

The green spaces in Fredericton are bubbling with bird song. With spring migration continuing, and the start of the breeding season upon us, it is not unlikely to hear at least half a dozen warbler species and endless other song bird species calling to mates and proclaiming their territories in any of the large urban parks.  As a relatively new birder, I started learning about birds through visual identification, and my ear has had to catch up with my eyes.  Last spring I took a bird songs course with the Ottawa Bird Count that helped me tremendously.  In continuing my education, the best tool I know of to study bird song identification (outside of the field) is Dendroica, a program available on the website Nature Instruct. As part of my internship field work this summer, I will be surveying for Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Bobolink, all ranked by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as threatened. I hope that with all my field and home study, I will be able to put my best ear forward for the conservation of these species.

I moved to New Brunswick! Still Birding.

Last week I moved to New Brunswick for a summer internship. I had a few days to spare before I started work, so after I got my place set up I was free to get out and do some Maritime birding. As of yet, I don’t have a bike, so I’m limited in the places I can go. Luckily for me there is a large urban park in Fredericton, Odell Park, that is accessible from anywhere in the city. I have been three times so far, and I can already tell that it will become one of my regular haunts. The park contains mixed forest, a pond, streams, the Fredericton Botanical Gardens, over 16 km of walking trails, and most importantly (to me), lots of birds. Here is just a sample of the ones I’ve seen so far:

Exploring the Natural World of South Carolina: Butterflies

My last post in this series covers all the butterflies I was able to photograph and ID. Almost all of the butterflies were new to me expect for the Question Mark and Red Admiral. For identifications I used Butterflies of Ontario (I was banking on many butterflies being widespread across eastern North America) and eButterfly.

Exploring the Natural World of South Carolina: Birds Part 5

Emberizidae and Cardinalidae – While at the Lake Conestee Nature Park, my partner and I were lucky to witness a very quick flyby of a male Indigo Bunting.  Neither of us have very much experience with these birds, so we were quite thrilled to see the flash of blue. We were even more excited when on our last day, another male Indigo Bunting perched and sang in wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve as we were watching the Solitary Sandpipers and Green Heron.

Fringillidae – I did not expect to see Pine Siskins on this trip, and eBird confirmed my surprise at their presence when it made me verify my report due to their rarity at this time of year. South Carolina is firmly within the Pine Siskin winter range and it would be expected that by late April the vast majority of individuals would have left for their summer range.  The stragglers my partner and I saw were in a mixed flock with American Goldfinch, feeding on vegetation in shallow pools in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve.

Feel free to visit South Carolina birds part 1part 2part 3, and part 4, as well as my account of the dragonflies and damselflies of South Carolina, and a description of the parks I visited.

Exploring the Natural World of South Carolina: Birds Part 4

Parulidae – There seemed to be a yellow-brown-grey theme with the warblers we saw visiting both of the natural areas.  The only warbler I did not manage to photograph was a Hooded Warbler, a life bird along with the Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird. The Yellow-rumped Warbers were the most abundant in the forested areas we visited, and the Palm Warblers were most common in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve.  Apparently, my partner and I missed a big push of warblers into the area about one or two weeks before our arrival. Perhaps these birds had carried on in their migration and are now joining us further north in Canada. It is also possible I just missed them completely.  My ear is rusty from the winter, and I still have a lot to learn when it comes to bird song.

Feel free to visit South Carolina birds part 1part 2, and part 3, as well as my account of the dragonflies and damselflies of South Carolina, and a description of the parks I visited.