Happy World Wildlife Day!

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.

Red Fox by Claire Elliott

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.

Blue-spotted Salamander2

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

CommonTernJuvenile

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

American Snout 1

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.

Flounder

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.

Weekend Algonquin Rendezvous – Mammals

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.

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:

New Brunswick Explorations: Photo Update

Mushrooms

Wildflowers

Wildlife

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.

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.

Exploring the Natural World of South Carolina: Birds Part 3

Troglodytidae – The Carolina Wren was life bird for me on this trip. I started birding after I had moved to Ottawa where this species would be nothing more than a rare visitor.  For its diminutive size, this bird can pack a punch vocally.  It was easily the loudest bird my partner and I came across during our trip.

Polioptilidae – Another life bird was the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  I had not anticipated how many gnatcatchers we would see during the trip, both at the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve and Lake Conestee Nature Park.  These little birds were in constant motion, and a few times we got to see one catch and consume an insect.

Turdidae and Mimidae – Apart from American Robins, the thrushes we came across were quite secretive and hard to photograph.  This Veery posed briefly, allowing me to snap a quick picture.  I’m glad it did, because I’m not sure I would have procured an ID otherwise. Veery was settled upon due to the lack of speckling seen on the breast. I was also lucky to see all three mimids native to eastern North America.  I was surprised at how common Northern Mockingbirds were in the area. We saw many individuals during our hikes, but they were also one of the most common telephone wire birds as well.

Bombycillidae – I traded Bohemian Waxwings in Ottawa for Cedar Waxwings in South Carolina.  We only came across small numbers of waxwings roosting in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve.  It was nice to hear their high-pitched whistles again after a long winter.

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