The beaver: architect of biodiversity

Ontario Parks is recognizing iconic Canadian species this year to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Next up, we join Natural Heritage Education Specialist Dave Sproule for a chat about the ecological and cultural significance of the beaver, which became Canada’s official symbol in 1975.

We all know beavers are industrious. They builds dams, canals and sturdy homes called lodges, which are warm in winter. They repair all those dams and collect enough food to survive long northern winters.

We know beavers are well-suited to the Canadian environment. Beavers are amphibious – more at home in the water than on land — with webbed hind feet, nostrils that can close, a third see-through eyelid that protects the eye when they’re underwater, and a big flat tail that acts as rudder while swimming.

The biggest reason to celebrate the beaver during Canada150, however, is that the beaver built Canada, shaping both its historical and ecological landscape.

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April is for beaver-watching at Algonquin

One of the best parts about spring is that it offers some of the best viewing opportunities for two of Algonquin Provincial Park’s most famous mammals.

May has become famous for moose watching in Algonquin but April is prime time for viewing its smaller, toothier associate, the beaver.

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5 ways to empower children to be explorers

Today’s post comes from Camille Koon, a Learning and Education Leader with Ontario Parks. 

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” – Alexandra K. Trenfor, educator

Every child who visits a park should see it as an exciting adventure waiting to unfold. With lakes, rivers, beaches, forests, fields, and more, the opportunities for discovery are endless.

By observing the diversity of plants and animals found in the outdoors, children discover the wonders of nature and develop a deeper appreciation for it.

Here are five ways we can empower all children to become explorers of the world around them.

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Beyond the light of the campfire

Today’s post comes from Park Naturalist Roger LaFontaine, a classically trained biologist and amateur Sasquatch researcher. He has spent nearly two decades researching and documenting the occurrence of Sasquatch in Ontario.

I have always had an interest in the creatures that others were not fond of: invertebrates under a log, salamanders in the soil, nocturnal creepy crawlies, and even a shy mammal that stays just beyond the light of my campfire.

My interest in obscure creatures began many years ago when I found a strange track along the bank of a river…

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Lake monsters in Ontario Parks

Today’s post comes from Roger LaFontaine, park naturalist, classically trained biologist and amateur lake monster researcher. He has spent nearly two decades researching and documenting the occurrence of mysterious creatures in Ontario.

We think that we know our lakes and rivers well, but, in reality, we have barely scratched the surface. Unknown to us, the real action may be happening beneath the surface.

Ontario is home to some of the deepest and largest lakes in the world, and many campers and local communities tell stories of strange things seen in their waters. Tales are told of large creatures that can cause rough waters and storms.

But what do we really know about lake monsters?

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Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve: biodiversity on the Bay

The eastern shore of Georgian Bay is a pink necklace of islands scattered on a turquoise sea. A freshwater sea, that is.

Georgian Bay is part of Lake Huron, and Huron is one of the Great Lakes, the largest expanse of freshwater in the world.

Eastern Georgian Bay is world class. In 2004, the area was designated as a world biosphere reserve by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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IBAs of Ontario Parks: tundra swans and spring songbirds

This installment of our 2017 blog series IBAs in provincial parks — brought to you by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada —focuses on the spring migrations at two of our southwestern parks.

On my recent trip to Rondeau Provincial Park / IBA for the Wings of Spring festival and the Port Franks Forested Dunes IBA (close to Pinery Provincial Park), one thing was clear…

…tundra swans make a big impression.

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The amazing journey of Ontario’s provincial tree

What is it about White Pine? No other tree species in Ontario seems to inspire as much reverence and passion.

The history of White Pine is deeply intertwined with the history of people in Ontario. It has been an important species for Indigenous people for millennia, played a huge role in establishing Ontario’s cities, and has faced some tough challenges, including one that led to one of our province’s most amazing ecological restoration stories.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves — let’s start at the beginning!

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St. Patrick’s Day “green”ery

Our parks are wearing the green this St. Patrick’s Day and you don’t have to be Irish to appreciate it!

“You do need to be observant, though,” says Algonquin Provincial Park biologist Alison Lake. “But it will be well worth the effort.”

Taking St. Patrick’s Day stroll? Here are 7 shades of green you might spot in our parks:

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Keeping up with the Canada Jay

Today’s blog post comes from bird researchers Alex Sutton and Koley Freeman, PhD candidates at the University of Guelph.

In the world of Gray Jays, winter means one thing: it’s breeding season!

Gray Jays, also known as Canada Jays, are common in Algonquin Provincial Park. Continuing a 54-year-old tradition, a dedicated team of researchers is monitoring breeding pairs. This is the longest study of its kind in the world!

With each passing year, more is learned about the breeding behaviour and life history of these remarkable birds.

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