World Wetlands Day

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 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.

Playing in a Tidal Flat

Tidal Flats

Being from Ontario, I have almost no experience with oceans and their wonderful creatures. Working in the Maritimes this summer has been a new adventure, and I’m slowly piling up ocean experiences.  One evening during a work trip to Prince Edward Island, my colleague and decided to investigate beaches near Charlottetown. While we never found the beach we were looking for, we ended up at an even better place, the Tea Hill Park tidal flats. Between the flounder trying to hide under our feet, or the shrimps hitching rides on our ankles, it was a magical place. Before we knew it, the sun was going down and the evening had flown away.

Last Summer for the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary – Fredericton, NB

When I moved to New Brunswick, I was aware of the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas, a project of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, but I was disappointed to find out that 2014 was the last season for participation. I don’t really need an official purpose to go out an look for butterflies, but it’s nice to know that your data is useful. So, much to my delight, it was announced just over a month ago that the data collection period for the atlas was being extended to cover 2015 as well. The extension was made to match the end date of the Maine Butterlfly Survey, so that the results could be published jointly. For those already keeping track of the butterflies they see, participating in the atlas is as simple as submitting your records (with a photo) to eButterfly. So, if anyone reading this blog happens to be from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Maine for that matter, next time you see a butterfly this summer, think about snapping a picture and contributing to this great citizen science project.

Here are just a few of the butterflies I’ve seen this summer that are now submitted to atlas:

 

Spring Butterflies of the Maritimes

Since moving to Fredericton, I have been keeping track of all the butterflies that I come across on my outings (see eButterfly for my lists).  Even with the many rainy and chilly spells we have gone through, I have managed to find eight different species of butterfly. Just like my stay in the Arctic last spring, my first butterfly was the Northern Spring Azure.  Widespread and common, these butterflies are out in droves on nice weather days.  I never manage to get a picture of them with their wings open, but the Forget-me-not flowers, on which my photographed specimen is perched, are a good reference for the azure’s forewing colour. I’m most excited about finding Mustard White, Green Comma, and Brown Elfin individuals.  These are all new butterflies to me and were fun to try to identify. The Green Comma was the trickiest, but I settled on this particular species due to the thick comma mark and the overall dark colouration of this individual. And lastly, I want to call attention to the overwintering strategies used by these particular butterflies, particularly in relation to their early flight times.  The first butterflies of spring (first seen in April or even a warm March) are typically those that overwinter in northern climates as adults.  These species go into a dormant stage over the winter and awaken from hibernation in the early spring when triggered by warming weather.  This strategy is employed by the Mourning Cloak and the commas. The Red Admiral also overwinters as an adult, but typically not as far north as Fredericton. The second strategy used by the whites, the Brown Elfin, and the Northern Spring Azure is to overwinter in a pupal stage and emerge from the chrysalis as an adult in the spring. These butterflies represent the second wave of spring sightings around mid-May. In the Maritimes, butterflies that overwinter as eggs or larvae typically do not reach adulthood until late spring or early summer.

New Brunswick Explorations: Photo Update

Mushrooms

Wildflowers

Wildlife

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: