Featured constellation: Orion

For thousands of years, humans have looked up at the stars. The stars helped them try to understand their purpose, and the role they play in our lives.

To help memorize the different stars, patterns of connect-the-dot figures were created by many different cultures. Today, we recognize 88 official patterns or “constellations” of stars.

Today we will explore one of the most well-known constellations: Orion.

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Eyes on the skies – January

Welcome to the Ontario Parks “Eyes on the Skies” series. This “space” will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.

The cold, crisp days of the New Year often reward us with fantastically beautiful nights, rich with bright stars and interesting sights.

Of the 17 brightest stars seen from Ontario, nine of them are visible during winter nights and many interesting objects await the observer who is prepared to brave the cold.

Here are our astronomical highlights for January:

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2018 is Ontario Parks’ 125th Anniversary!

That’s 125 years of pitching tents, crackling campfires, mouth-watering s’mores, breathtaking sunsets, star-strewn nights, and unforgettable adventures.

It all started in 1893 with the creation of Canada’s first provincial park, Algonquin. Today, Ontario Parks protects 340 provincial parks, which encompass just under 8% of Ontario, an area larger than Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island combined!

We invite you to celebrate our anniversary all year with special events, cultural heritage programs, stewardship activities, a concert series, and a series of legacy projects. Make 2018 the year to visit the stunningly beautiful landscapes of our province, carry on traditions, and make new memories.

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Where to skate in Ontario Parks

The air is crisp and clean. The evergreens are covered with snow. If you’re lucky – and observant – you might spot a cardinal, a finch, a waxwing or a blue jay as you glide along the ice.

And when the sun goes down, you can huddle around a big bonfire with a cup of hot chocolate and warm up before relacing your skates and heading back out to skate under the stars.

It’s simply magical.

This winter, plan a skating trip to these four provincial parks:

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The scavenger hunt for survival

Today’s post comes from Anna Scuhr, a naturalist with Lake Superior Provincial Park. 

The arrival of snow and ice transforms the rugged landscape of Lake Superior Provincial Park into a stunningly beautiful, albeit unforgiving place to live.

As temperatures drop, the park can accumulate up to six feet of snow in the interior. This makes just about every aspect of an animal’s life more challenging.

Northern winters are a true test of an animal’s fitness. Let’s look at how they adapt to survive long, harsh winters.

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The beaver in winter

Pop quiz: do beavers hibernate? Today’s post — from Natural Heritage Education Specialist Dave Sproule — answers common questions about beavers.

beaverIf you’re near water, especially in our northern parks, you might see signs of one of the most important animals in the Ontario landscape, one that molds the landscape to its own needs.

But in the depths of winter, with much of Ontario frozen and white, what are these aquatic creatures up to?

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A winter birding challenge

Today’s post is from Justin Peter, who was a Natural Heritage Education Specialist at Algonquin Provincial Park from 2006 through 2013. Now a professional travel planner, Justin is a keen local and worldwide explorer, and looks for birds everywhere he ventures.

It’s tempting to say that winter’s not the best time to look at birds in our Ontario Parks. Many species have migrated south. We’re hesitant to venture into the chilly weather.

But the quieter (and leafless) atmosphere of our parks during winter provides an excellent and unique challenge for our sense of environmental awareness.

Up for the challenge? Here’s a selection of birds (and bird signs) you can look for this winter:

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Woodpeckers 101

Today’s post comes from Barb Rees, our Natural Heritage Education and Marketing Specialist in the Northwest Zone of Ontario Parks.

Winter is a great time to watch for woodpeckers. Why? Simply because there are less leaves on trees making most birds more visible.

Typically, there are also more birdfeeders placed out in the winter than the summer (since the bears are hibernating). So attracting birds closer to your home makes bird-watching possible right from the warmth of your living room window.

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5 things I love about being a Discovery Guide

Today’s post comes from Madeline McNabb, a 2017 Discovery Guide at White Lake Provincial Park

We all dream of turning our passion into a job.

My chance came this past summer when I worked at White Lake Provincial Park as a Discovery Guide.

The Discovery Program is a new program focusing on inspiring curiosity in park visitors and encouraging exploration of our natural environment. I made so many amazing memories this past summer. There are too many wonderful things I want to share!

After much deliberation, I have narrowed it down to five top reasons why I loved being a Discovery Guide:

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A nature-lover’s New Year’s resolutions

Today’s post comes from Alistair MacKenzie, Natural Heritage Education Supervisor at Pinery Provincial Park.

Alistair at PineryAs we begin a brand new year, many of us make personal resolutions to try to better ourselves, or to help our families and communities.

I’ll be making several personal resolutions (darn sour-cream-glazed dougnuts!), but in addition, I am choosing 2018 as the year to make some resolutions for parks and protected areas. 

As I work and play in Ontario Parks’ many incredible landscapes, most of my efforts will take effect there, but I am not planning on limiting my efforts…I’ll include any green spaces I can find!

I’m just one person, so I would encourage you to help.  You may want to create a different list for yourself, but our parks can certainly use the help, so please consider giving back to our protected areas.

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