Wolf, caribou scat offers vital clues to migration, possible renewal

Scientists are combing the backcountry of Ontario this winter scooping up samples of wolf and caribou scat, hoping the DNA-rich pellets will provide precious clues into the lives of these endangered species.

The collection is part of ongoing efforts to capture the important data far less invasively than by trapping or collaring the animals. Every winter for the past few years, scientists have flown by helicopter over parts of the province and landed where they have spotted certain tracks. They then follow the tracks on foot and bag the scat along the way. That way they can capture the samples they need without ever having to frighten or interact with the animals in any way.

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Plan an exotic winter adventure at Ontario Parks

Summer campers love Ontario Parks but many have never experienced their favourite park in winter.  Ontario Parks aims to change that. Nineteen provincial parks are open this winter season with cross-country trails to ski.  Thirteen have groomed or track-set trails. And eight of the nineteen have comfortable roofed accommodation for rent. Designated snowshoe trails are in many parks. Some have skating and tubing too. Three parks will host ski loppets. Another will host an annual snowshoe race and at least five plan to celebrate February’s Family Day weekend with special events. Below are tips to help visitors plan their own exotic park adventure this winter:

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Christmas is for the birds at Killarney

Christmas bird counts have been a tradition that has been taking place for the past 114 years.  In 1900, A single man set out to count the number of different bird species and now these counts take place in over 2000 localities in Canada, US, Latin America and the Caribbean.  Bird Studies Canada now coordinates with all the local organizers to help make these counts possible.  This year, all counts must take place between December 14 and January 5.  Birds are counted in a 24km diameter circle; the same area is then used every year.

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Flocking to Wasaga Beach

Many people flock to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park for the sandy beach… but so do the birds!

Piping Plovers are small shorebirds seen scurrying along sandy shorelines or backs of beaches where water has pooled, searching for insects and small crustaceans.  Although well camouflaged, Piping Plovers are identifiable by their short orange bills and bright orange legs.  These shorebirds may be little, weighing about 2 ounces and 6 inches in length, but they are mighty.  Twice a year they migrate approximately 2,000 miles to the Atlantic Coast of Mexico.

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Fall hiking: more than just red leaves

Every year, more than a million people visit Ontario Parks to witness the splendor of the fall colours. After all, there are 8.2 million ha of provincial parks that set the horizon on fire, with their ever-turning reds, greens, oranges and yellows.

But is there anything else to see other than the leaves? Absolutely! With 1800 km of trails across the province, you just have to know where to look and what to look for.

Fall hiking is one of the best ways to appreciate the splendors of autumn that continue long after the leaves have fallen.

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American Eels in Voyageur

Government agencies of both Ontario and Quebec, as well as hydropower producers,  Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Algonquin’s of Ontario, and other stakeholders are working together to restore the American eel (Anguilla rostrate) within its historic range in Ontario waters. Earlier this summer, over 400 juvenile eels (yellow eel) were collected from the eel-ladder at Hydro-Quebec’s Beauharnois Generating Station in Quebec and released in the Ottawa River at Voyageur Provincial Park. This marked the first assisted passage of American eel into the Ottawa River, and the beginning of a long journey to help restore populations of eel in the Ottawa River Watershed.

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The many moods of Lake Superior are beckoning: Kakabeka Falls anyone?

If you are looking for an enchanting way to ride out the rest of the summer or early fall, why not tour the coast of Lake Superior and finish your journey at Thunder Bay and Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park?  The coastline boasts several different parks that follow Lake Superior north and west.  When you reach the lakehead (Thunder Bay, Ontario’s western end of the lake), travel inland to Kakabeka Falls, home to the second largest waterfall in Ontario.

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Discovering the beauty of Ontario’s southern belle: the Carolinian Forest

Why not enjoy a deliciously lazy afternoon fanning yourself beneath a leafy sassafras tree, sipping lemonade and reading your favourite book? Or take a relaxing stroll among the tulip trees or red oaks, with their luxurious canopies whispering from above?

Inhale the beauty, exhale the stress.

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Year of the salamander

The next time you take your kids or grandkids for a trek through your favourite Ontario provincial park, stay on the lookout for salamanders.  Some of these wondrous little amphibians are on the endangered species list so if you see one skulking through your park, snap a selfie and send it to Ontario Nature, or download a free app at ontarionature.org/atlas. Your scientific discovery could help scientists understand more about why these fascinating creatures are disappearing.

According to a study done by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, amphibians such as salamanders, frogs and toads are experiencing one of the biggest declines globally. In fact, 41 percent of amphibians worldwide are endangered or threatened, including here in Ontario.

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The joy of citizen science: see it, save it, send it

Imagine having the power to help endangered species become not so endangered. Actually, you do! Right here in Ontario! All you have to do is grab your binoculars, smart phone or digital camera and become a Citizen Scientist.

Citizen Science is taking off around the world as a way for everyday people to become directly involved in helping to record nature and preserve endangered species. No scientific degree required, just a healthy dose of curiosity and concern for the environment and a way to share your information.

 

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