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.

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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.

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 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.

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

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.