What’s with all the caterpillars?

You arrive at your campsite on a beautiful spring weekend for some early-season camping and begin to set up your site. You’ve already noticed that the trees on the way to the park look a bit thin, like they do at the beginning of spring.

Then one of the kids notices that one of the trees has a big clump of blackish stuff that’s moving…

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Pecking away at Presqu’ile: High Bluff and Gull Island bird colonies

This post was written by David Bree, Natural Heritage Education Leader at Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

While Presqu’ile is not the busiest park in Ontario, it can get quite hectic at times in the summer. However, I am pretty sure most people could not guess where the busiest place in the park is.

It is not the Friday line-up to register your campsite, or the beach on a sunny Sunday in July. It is not even the line-up for ice cream at the park store on a hot summer day.

It is a place most campers never go…

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Hitting the trail at Esker Lakes

This post is written by Dave Sproule, Natural Heritage Education Specialist with Ontario Parks.

If you are looking for a new trail to explore this summer, the Lonesome Bog Trail at Esker Lakes Provincial Park might be just the ticket! This 1.5 km interpretive trail sweeps around Sausage Lake and travels through a variety of habitats, introducing visitors to boreal forest ecosystems and ancient glacial landscapes.

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Orchids of the north: the life of the Pink Lady’s Slipper

When you hear the name “orchid,” you may automatically think of some bizarre or fantastically coloured flower from some remote and steamy tropical jungle.

But not all orchids hail from tropic climes.

If you’ve taken a hike in the woods in many of our provincial parks you’ve probably seen some native orchids.

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What’s a bioblitz?

Today’s post comes from Martha Martens, a Natural Heritage Education leader from Killbear Provincial Park.

I’ll admit: when I first heard the word “bioblitz,” I was confused. What does this strange word mean?

It might be helpful to break the word down in order to understand: “bio” means “life” and “blitz” means a  “sudden, energetic, and concerted effort, typically on a specific task.”

So a bioblitz is a brief period of time, usually 24 hours, that experts and amateurs come together to specifically record all nature sightings in a given area. All the records are compiled into a single data set of the biodiversity of that location at that point in time.

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Ontario’s trilliums and where to enjoy them

Today’s post comes from Assistant Zone Ecologist Pilar Manorome.

Spring is probably my favourite season as it brings new life to our parks in the form of migrating birds and emerging spring ephemerals, giving our forests’ their long awaited pops of vibrant colours and contrast. One of our visitors’ favourite sights is Ontario’s provincial flower, the White Trillium, as their blooms blanket the forest floor.

Most people know of the White Trillium — also referred to as Wake Robin or Large-leaved Trillium — as Ontario’s provincial flower. This is the flower featured on many of our provincial documents, from health cards to driver’s licenses.

Here are the top five fun facts about this iconic Ontario species:

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The Spotted Salamander, harbinger of spring

Salamanders are iconic and influential members of northern forest communities. As one of the most abundant vertebrates in eastern North American forests, salamanders are considered “keystone species” because of their disproportionate roles as predators and prey in regulating food webs, nutrient cycling, and contributing to ecosystem resilience-resistance.

In addition to fulfilling key ecological functions, amphibians are our modern-day “canaries in the coal mine,” serving as a measure of environmental health.

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Chilling out by the lake: arctic-alpine disjunct plants along Lake Superior

Today’s post comes from Park Naturalist Lesley Ng of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

Did you know there are blooming beauties which are adapted for the arctic tundra or alpine environments? In short, they like it cold!

And we don’t need traverse tundra or climb mountains to see them. We just need to take a spring hike along Lake Superior’s shoreline.

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Does the darkness need our protection?

Today’s post comes from our Natural Heritage Education Coordinator Brad Steinberg.

Not many researchers like being kept in the dark…

…except, that is, for scotobiologists!

Scotobiology is the science of darkness, a research topic that is growing in importance. Many birds, amphibians, insects and plants (and us!) have evolved to rely on uninterrupted periods of darkness during the night.

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