Ten Bird Calls you Probably Already Know!


Before I went back to school for ecology, I might have been able to identify five bird calls.

Maybe I could identify more (I never tested myself), but I certainly wasn't really paying attention to the sounds of birds as I went around the city. My urban nature outings never involved working on  distinguishing one call from another, neither was I trying to associate a specific call with a specific bird.

Nature to me was a blur of colours, flowers and trees known more as groups than as individuals and the background sounds all blurred into one - a relaxing sound of birds.  I immersed myself in the big "N" of nature and enjoyed being immersed.

But when I had the opportunity - both at school to learn bird calls and to go to a birding class in the city after graduating, I found that knowing bird calls give me an extra enjoyment when I'm out in nature and even as I walk around the city.   There are more species of birds in urban areas than you might suspect.  Over twenty percent of birds are found in cities!  I also found that using my ears helps me identify birds that I don't even see.   (There are so many more birds around than we realize - many are high up in trees or hidden in shrubbery!) And best of all - learning bird calls really wasn't as hard as I had thought!

I thought it would be fun to list ten bird calls to start testing your birding ear with.

American Robin - Let's start with the American Robin.  Everyone knows this one right?  We see the Robin every spring and enjoy its cheery call!

Cheer-i-up, cheer-ee-o

American Crow - Oh how I love the gregariousness of this bird and the loyalty it has to its family.  Their call is probably familiar to many!  (And don't forget to look for their daily sunset commute to their winter roosts!)

Caw-caw-caw


Blue Jay - Such a talkative bird and what a delight to see that flash of blue in your yard or in a local park.  I had to really work with the mnemonic to remind myself that this was the Jay call.

Jaaay-jaaay-jaaay


Black-capped Chickadee - This small friendly bird has a plethora of calls that includes one that echoes its own name: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.  At school a classmate shared with me a new mnemonic that identifies a second call of this bird which I love - see if you can catch this call when you are out.

Cheeese-bur-ger  (hungry yet?)

Mourning Dove - Who doesn't know the calming "coo" of a mourning dove?  And no worries if you don't - you can learn it quickly and easily, as it is a very unique sound.  (Pictured above in title photo)

Hooo-ah hoo-hoo-hoo


Mallard - Every duck has its own unique distinctive call - I had no idea!  So if you are familiar with the mallard's "quack" then you can identify this duck by ear!

Quack quack quack (as simple as that!)



Northern Cardinal - Another colourful bird that is a favourite backyard bird for many.  It has two lovely easily identifiable calls.  You will here two parts to the first one - a quicker chirp that lasts for 12 to 15 quick beats with the Chew, chew, chew after and then the very distinct "Purty purty".  Hearing the Cardinal calls are another marker of spring for me.

Purty-purty-purty

Red-breasted Nuthatch - In class, we were instructed to see if we could here the "low slow beep" that you might here when a large truck is backing up.  This was the best way for me to quickly hear this bird outdoors!

Beeeep-beeeeep-beeeep


Red-winged Blackbird - This beautiful black bird with the red epaulets is one of my favourites as I grew up around wet fields and rivers where their territorial call notified us of the end of winter.

Ov-er-heeeere!

Pileated Woodpecker - Once you hear this ghostly dusky call, it might bring you back to camping days when you were walking around at sunset.  But you can also find this bird in urban areas as long as there is some wooded greenspace around.

Wok-wok-wok-wok-wok-wok-wok

* * * 

You can listen to all these calls at the Nature Instruct Dendroica Site - choose your country and then type in the bird name in the "Filter Species" box (bottom right corner).  Or visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds site that has photos, videos and all the details for every bird you can imagine!

Keep in mind that the distinct call or song that you use to first identify the bird, may be just one of many sounds that the bird species makes.  Pay attention and when you see (or hear) a bird you recognize, stay awhile and notice what other songs, notes, noises it makes.

For those in Ottawa - the Ottawa Bird Count offers an incredible Bird Songs course every spring for its volunteers.  The above list was inspired by their first class which goes over some of the more familiar bird calls!

*** Please be aware that listening to bird calls at home with your indoor cats may cause some confusion and "ears up" action!***  Our dear cat Max, kept looking for the birds he heard (as I was writing this post and reviewing the bird songs), even jumping up on my desk!

And last but not certainly least, this week we've contributed a post to Nature Canada's great website: "Cats and Birds" - highlighting two favourite Migratory Backyard Birds that we love.  Read the blog post here!  Thanks so much to the Cats and Birds staff for inviting us to write a blog post!


Read more »

How Did I Not See This as a "Thing" - I'm a Walker!!


Favourite Pastime: Walking  Walks in the City

I said it!  Yes!

I'm a walker!

It has been declared - wow.

This may not be a revelation for many of you but I had a lightbulb moment this winter.  I have never really considered walking as a sport.  I know friends who are swimmers or kayakers or see people stating that they are skiers or that they are hikers.

But being a "walker" does not seem to hold the same weight.  Maybe it's just me but I never saw it as a true activity.  I considered it as more of a pastime.  I would say:  "I'm going out for a walk" in the same way I'd say "I'm going to read".

So, why isn't walking seen as a thing in itself?

Or perhaps it IS just me?

This winter, I joined a new group online (Girlfriend Circles - I've shared a link to an article Shasta Nelson wrote here) and I saw that many people listed "walking" as an activity.  People who "enjoy walking, love to go on walks, favourite hobby is walking, love walks (walks in nature, walks on boardwalk, etc)". Wow!  I had never seen so many walkers!

This is what made it click for me.

Yes - I can be a walker!

I really enjoy getting outdoors and have done many activities including jogging, cycling, rowing, swimming and a bit of kayaking in the warmer months.  But lately I've found that my favourite  outdoor activity that connects me to nature is walking.

It's so easy - just put on the right shoes (or boots!) and go!

And especially with Viliam, we'd grab our cameras and go check out a trail or green space - either one of our favourites or a new one.

It's such a simple yet pleasurable activity and I like it because we can really see details and notice things while we are outside.

So I can now proudly say:  I'm a walker too!

Enjoy Walking as a Hobby
-- Photo by V. Glazduri --

What do you think?  Are you a walker?  

Do you think walking isn't taken as seriously as other sports?

* * *

If you like challenging yourself - here is some inspiration for a walking challenge:
Main Street Hiker (Algonquin College - Student Blog)  
Holly Drew challenges herself to walk all the streets of the city she lives in like her father has done before her.  Take a look at her walking challenge map, packing for your walking challenge, and challenges of walking every street
Ottawa_Trails (Instagram account) 
"My mission is to hike, run, or ski every public trail in Ottawa.  East and south greenbelt done, river pathways done." (Challenge started April 2016)

Some Tips for Urban Nature Walking:
  • If you stay on paved or gravel paths there is less to think about: you won't likely encounter poison ivy, ticks, etc. These are things you should consider if you go off path and are walking through grass and/or other plants that you cannot identify.
  • You can find mosquitoes, black flies, etc. even in cities.  In Ontario, June is the worst month for biting insects, so you may want to avoid thicker forested or boggy areas during the hotter summer months.  Last summer mosquitoes in Ottawa tested positive for West Nile virus so take this seriously and apply "a Health Canada-approved mosquito repellent containing DEET or Icaridin to exposed skin and clothing" (link).
  • The summer months may be better for walks along urban water paths such as rivers or lakes where you may find less insects especially if there are some summer breezes coming off the water.
  • Check the weather forecast before you go, especially if you are going for a longer walk.  Sometimes, it IS as easy as putting on your shoes and getting out but other times you may need to consider weather protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, rain jacket, etc) and you may want to carry water.
  • If you do go off path, remember that ticks can be found in long grass and on other vegetation.  If you wear light clothes they are easier to see; consider tucking your pant legs into your socks and definitely do a tick check when you get home.  
  • Also if you go off path, ensure that you are able to identify dangerous plants such as poison ivy and poison hemlock.  Ottawa has signs where you may find Wild Parsnip - even if it's not as dangerous as some say - still worth giving a wide berth!

Exploring Nature in City Walking in Parks

Happy urban WILD walking!

Read more »

Bat Video of Congress Avenue Bridge Mexican Freetail Bats (Austin, Texas)


Here is Gerald Dykstra's video of the bats in flight - it gives you a real sense of how many bats there are! 

CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON TWICE (and don't forget to EXPAND TO FULL SCREEN VIEW to enjoy to the fullest!)

Read his Wild. Here. Guest Post about his urban nature experiences during his trip to Austin, Texas here: Beyond the Festival Scene in Austin Texas: Amazing Urban Nature Experiences!
Read more »

Beyond the Festival Scene in Austin Texas: Amazing Urban Nature Experiences! (Guest Post)


Today I'm really thrilled to have a friend (yes someone I have known since university!) contribute a guest blog post about a city that he visited last summer.  When I saw his photos I was so incredibly jealous because even though he told me that he was going to Austin, Texas I had forgotten that Austin, Texas was THE CITY where the Congress Street Bat Bridge was.  (Ever since I saw this picture I have wanted to go!)  Along with these photos, he also shared images of another beautiful natural site that he spent time at while he was there.  His photos reminded me that Austin, Texas needed to be bumped back up to the top of  my "Must Visit" list!  (There's also the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center there!)  I'll let my friend Gerald tell you all about his trip so that you too can add this city to your urban nature travel list pronto:

Amazing Nature Experiences In Austin Texas

When most people think of Austin Texas they think of all the spectacular festivals: South by Southwest, music, film and television festivals. It is famous for its music scene year round. But there are a few natural outdoor attractions that you could miss if you just focused on the big fancy festivals. Here are a few that you may want to check out!

In between my festival-ling, I managed to go out to the Congress Ave Bridge just before sunset one night. You want to grab a spot on the lawn on the southside of the bridge which is a short walk from the downtown core. The bridge goes over the Colorado River which is quite wide as it snakes through the city.  The Congress Avenue bridge that spans over the river is quite large also.  And it needs to be because of what is found underneath it.  Not trolls but Bats!



-- Bats in Flight - Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

For some reason, this bridge houses approximately 1,500,000 Mexican Freetail bats. During the day they sleep and at dusk they start to wake up and fly out from under the bridge and down along the river to (I assume) collect a ton of insects that hang out near the river's shore. 1,500,000 is a lot of bats but they do not all wake up at the same time, so it is a steady stream for at least half an hour of continuous bats that are waking and flying away in large groups from under the bridge.

They're not giant bats and they move very fast (Wikipedia says up to 160km/h) so getting a good photo with a camera at dusk facing the river is a challenge. I tried to take a few photos and videos with the city skyline in the background. But it really doesn't do it justice. If bats don't freak you out you can sit and watch them as they take flight. They don't seem that interested in the hundreds of people on the river bank and on the bridge.  They just wake up and go about their business.  See my video of the Mexican Freetail Bats HERE (click link)!  It gives you a real sense of how many bats there are!  On this occasion there were storm clouds rolling in, so once the rain started, I abandon ship and crossed back over the bridge to downtown Austin where I stopped for some good old Texas BBQ.

-- Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

The next day after the last panel for the festival I was attending was over, I jumped on a bus and headed to the Barton Springs Pool. I did my research before going to Austin and was really looking forward to swimming in this all natural spring-fed pool. It is a large 3 acre pool  in the Barton Springs Park. You do have to pay to enter the pool (a little more if you are a non-resident). But it was totally worth it.


-- Natural Edge of Barton Springs Pool - Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

The pool is cemented on three sides so there is a proper pool deck but it still retains a natural feeling surrounded by grassy hills.  You find yourself in a natural setting as you walk around the pool  The water on the east side of the spring is quite shallow and probably good for kids.  And then to access the other side (which was the sunny side when I visited) you needed to take a small wooded path. I laid out my towel and immediately went to the diving board that was set up in the center of the pool.
After diving in and getting over the initial shock it was very refreshing and it felt very clean. No chlorine and suntan lotion feeling, and no sand and silt to murk up the water. I'm not sure how deep the pool was but the water was black.   The interesting thing with a spring-fed pool is that the water is always very cold (a constant 68 degrees) even in the Austin Texas sun and heat.

-- Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

To climb out there are ladders set up like a regular pool, but there you can also just climb out from the side, but you need to be extra cautious as it is a natural pool and the rocks under foot can have quite a bit of algae on them which makes them slippery. When not diving in the water, I did try swimming to the western edge of the pool, although not too many people were doing this.  I realized why once I got there, as there was a fair amount of algae/plants at the one end. I did walk around the whole pool and it was interesting to see where the pool fed into the Barton Creek on the other side of the western fence.  There you see lots of children, adults and dogs jumping and playing in the water.  It was a fairly steady waterfall at the start of the stream on the other side of the pool.  From there, it is a short distance for the creek to feed into the Colorado River.


-- View to Austin Highrises from Barton Spring Pool - Photo by Gerald Dykstra --

If I lived in Austin this for sure would where you would find me every Sunday afternoon.

I love this town for many reasons but these two wild wonders make it even more appealing to visit.



-- Silhouette of First Street Bridge from Congress Avenue Bridge - Photo Gerald Dykstra --

Guest Blogger Gerald Dykstra studied environmental studies at Waterloo University and now lives in Toronto Ontario, where by day he works at The Royal Conservatory of Music but by night he pursues his interests in film and film festivals, including: volunteering (20 years at the Toronto International Film Festival and counting), screenwriting, and festival tourism (travelling to other festivals outside of Canada).
Read more »

Give Your Friend the Gift of Nature!


In recent years, I've been making an effort to suggest a variety of different outings with friends rather than just the usual - "Let's Catch Up Over Coffee!".

Don't get me wrong - it's great to meet up for "coffee" (insert whatever your favourite hot and/or cold drink is) or food as there is nothing quite like sitting down and being able to really focus on your conversation with a dear friend.  Meeting up in this way can provide a good environment to have a supportive talk without interruptions (with cell phones off, of course!).  But I was feeling that some of my friendships were being held together with just food and drinks, so every so often I've thrown in a Nature Outing option for a different kind of get-together.

I've found that once people pair off and/or have children those fun outings that used to involve friends are now done with families and partners.  And without those adventuresome activities, this didn't give me as many opportunities to build memories with friends.

How about you?  Are you finding that many of your get-togethers are catching up over coffee, drinks or food?


Going on an outing can still include time to sit down and focus on deeper conversation - it could be during the drive to an outing or it could be during your adventure when you find a moment to sit down to enjoy the view or take a break.

And this way - you get to enjoy the best of both worlds!

And if your fun outings include nature you'll be giving your friend all the benefits of nature on top of all the great benefits of friendship also!

I'm lucky to have friends who share my love of nature and who are interested in getting outdoors and enjoy our local greenspaces.  Some of the fun outings I've had include:
  • going snowshoeing and seeing deer near the trail
  • inviting friends out for a downtown swift watch (that included beers after!)
  • a late afternoon of kayaking with a friend on a local river
  • weekly evening jogs along some riverfront pathways in the summer
  • and more recently joining a friend on her walking loop that takes us through parks, along a river and through a small woodlot

-- Pictured: Me and my friend Gerald Dykstra* who has the same love of nature and recently contributed a blog post to Wild. Here. --

Or if you don't have many friends that enjoy nature but want to meet more who share this specific interest of yours, consider participating in nature activities to meet like-minded people.

I've met some wonderful people through various activities such as:
  • tree planting and streambank clean-ups
  • regular activities at a local conservation area
  • volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation centre
  • taking a bird song course to help with urban bird counts
  • attending nature talks offered by a local stewardship council


When you DO go out with your friend, remember the bonus benefits of doing something active (whether it's walking, biking, paddleboarding, etc) and/or going somewhere new!  And doing something new together creates deeper bonds, walking and talking can get the creative juices flowing and you'll both be appreciating the beauty of the outdoors (which was something that Katrina Onstad underscored the importance of in her newest book).


Nature: It Really IS a Gift You Can Give Your Friend!



What's your favourite urban nature outing to do with a friend?

Do your friends enjoy nature like you do?



Treeclimbing with a friend or niece or nephew - why not?

P.S. and a BIG SHOUT OUT to Viliam Glazduri my partner (in crime!) a.k.a. my husband who has always been amazing at capturing our nature outings and helping us to preserve our memories.

*P.P.S. Gerald wanted me to mention that our outing that is pictured above (from 10 years ago) was on one of the coldest days in January in the winter (sunny but cold and we still got out!)  :  )
Read more »

How to Enjoy More Mammal Sightings

Wild. Here. Urban Nature Mammal Sighting

Yes, that's a good question:

How to enjoy more mammal sightings!

When you go out into nature, we are blessed to always have some birds overhead and to be serenaded by their songs but mammals can be much more elusive.

Sure we get to see lots of squirrels and chipmunks and suburban dwellers might enjoy rabbits and groundhogs galore (hee hee - should I tell them that they are lucky!) but what other wildlife do we get to see regularly?  When we are talking about urban nature, it can feel like certain wildlife is very difficult to see.  With loud noises (road traffic, etc.) and other (distractions), it is true that urban wildlife may be more well hidden.  But they still might be there and you may be surprised at what you might find: foxes, raccoons, minks, etc  I've found that we've been rather lucky with our mammal sightings over the years.   They are not regular (we don't see certain mammals very often) but we do occasionally find something really special!

So to help you out on your own urban nature outings here are a few tips:

Get Out Regularly

This one may be a no-brainer but do keep it in mind.  It's not a Disneyland out there - Bambi won't be frolicking with his friends right out in plain sight (despite how great that would be!).  The more you go out, the more you are likely to see wildlife.  (I use this as a reminder for myself all the time!)  Think of it like the law of probability - if you are out there enough, it's got to happen at some point! I also like to think of that it is due to the fact that you start getting to know animals habits and favourite haunts.  Which brings me to my second suggestion...

How to See more Mammals when out in Nature
-- Photo by Viliam Glazduri --

Get to Know Mammal Habitats and Habits

Did you know that porcupines has a varied diet through the year, eating buds such as elder, poplar and willow in the early spring?  Check for these types of trees when you are out and about in spring.  Another possible time to look for their habitat is winter where they eat the inner bark of their favourite trees beech, white pine and hemlock.  (1) Or another fact that I just learned is that grey squirrels take shelter in their dreys during the warmer months but shelter below ground in the winter? (2)  The more you learn about the fauna you'd like to see, will help you understand where to look for them and fine tune your observation skills.  Yes, a little bit of identification and or knowledge can go a long way!
drey (drā): nest of a squirrel, typically in the form of a mass of twigs (link) and leaves high up in the tree branches

Enjoy more Outings around Dusk and Dawn

Many animals are on the move as the ambient light shifts from the brighter sunlight to the darker evening illuminated by star & moon light.  Diurnal creatures will be searching for resting places as the sun goes down and nocturnal animals will be starting to wake up.  You'll get the bonus of crepuscular animals also!  And of course it shifts again as night becomes day again.  If you can get up and out around either of these times (also known as the "golden hours" by photographers) your chances of seeing unique mammals should increase.


Be Quiet, Calm and Slow Down

When out with friends, I find it hard not to chat but if you can have a pact of solitude (even for 15 to 20 minutes) while you enjoy a walk in a greenspace you will probably see more wildlife.  Slow down your walking in nature to a calmer pace and keep arm swinging and gesturing to a minimum.  With a slower speed and less movement overall this will ensure that there is minimal alarm to the creatures inhabiting the space.  Remember prey animals such as rabbits have almost a 360 degree view (3) as their eyes are spaced much wider than ours.  This is to help them be aware if any threatening movements.  (Cool fact - rabbits can even see above their head!)

Tips for seeing more Mammals when Out
-- Photo by V. Glazduri --

Observe

When you start slowing yourself down (at an Adagio or Lento pace), you have the time to really observe and take in the details.  Start looking for signs and activity.  Most of the time I have found that it will be some movement that will give an animal away, rather than a noise or seeing a shape (remember these animals can be camouflaged).  Pay close attention to rock piles, tree cavities, large camouflaged tree limbs (which could be a good place to rest), snags and riverbanks.  I've spotted some minks this way along riverbanks and you can also spot mammals in water (minks, otters, beavers).  Remember not too explore too closely or disturb animals that need precious energy credits to survive.
snag (snæɡ) : dead or tying tree, often missing a top or most of the smaller branches, which provides important ecological values to other organisms (link)

Do a Full Stop at least Once or Take some Shorter "stillness" Breaks

It's always worth stopping every so often and being completely still.  Allow yourself to blend into the surrounds.  This allows you to more easily capture the movement of what's around you.  If you can find a spot where you can rest for awhile that has a good vantage point.  It takes around twenty minutes for the alarm signals (especially those from birds) to die down and for wildlife to settle back to normal once you stop moving.  But it can be worth it if you do this.

Wonderful Sightings of Mammals in Urban Areas
-- Photo by V. Glazduri --

Stay Downwind

If you are sussing out a specific spot or see something far off that you want a better look at, consider where you are in relation to the mammal and the direction of the wind.  With the wind blowing at you when you are facing the animal you know that it won't as easily catch your scent.  Consider this also as you walk along a path and/or sit down in a spot.  Be aware of which way the wind is blowing so as to be aware of where the notification of your presence (by scent) is being sent.

* * *

These are seven tips that you may want to keep in mind when you go out in your favourite green spaces in the city!  Let us know if you have any more!

So what do you want to see, what would you like to spot?  Beaver? Raccoons? A Mink?  Would you like to see a fox or perhaps even something more unique to a city?  Share your mammal sighting stories or your wish list below!


A Few Final Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Be wary of skunks but not overly fearful.  Skunks are very near-sighted and they will usually perform a warning "stomping" before spraying.  Give them a wide berth, move slowly and stay up wind if you can (so they don't smell your scent).
  • Porcupines do not shoot quills.  When threatened the quills, that normally lie flat on a porcupine, will raise and they do detach easily if something comes in contact with the animal.
  • Beavers can be very protective during birthing season.  This can be a dangerous situation for dogs, if they are near to or swimming in a pond where the beaver will perceive the dog as a threat to their kits (baby beavers).
  • Seeing raccoons during the day does not necessarily mean that they are rabid.  If they are a small size, they may be teenage raccoons that are active during the day so as to avoid larger territorial nocturnal raccoons.


***ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT WILDLIFE, EVEN URBAN ONES, ARE WILD.  HAVE RESPECT FOR THESE WILD CREATURES AND DO NOT APPROACH THEM.  Even if an animal seems habituated to humans, it's better not to encourage this type of behaviour.  Do all you can to allow them to stay wild.


References:

1) North American Porcupine (from Wildlife in Ontario)
2) Nesting Habits of Gray Squirrels (from Animals on Mom.Me)
3) Do Rabbits Have Good Vision (from Crossroads Rabbitry)


You May Also Like:

- Ottawa - the Sunset Capital of Canada (July 2016)
- Hidden Corners and Quiet Nature Spots (July 2016)
- Wild and Wonderful Urban Nature Encounters (October 2016)
- Three Places to Get Up Close to Wildlife in Ottawa (2017 Series - three posts)

Read more »

Let's talk about Wild. Here. - local nature that you can access close to home!


In terms of my winter posts, I recently realized that I might be doing a disservice to those who are looking for Wild. Here. (local) ideas rather than being shown places to escape to from our cold drab urban cities.  Showing Palm Spring photos, talking about greening up your social media and researching other locations to visit!  I haven't really been talking about local nature opportunities. My apologies!!  (Yes - this is such a great conundrum - what IS there to do when the city seems cold and drab??  It's actually inspiring me in terms of a new post to write! What can we get from getting out during the grey times???)  

I have a friend who walks her dog daily and I was thinking yesterday about dog walkers - are they people who enjoy walking and seek out a furry companion for their activity or are they animal lovers who are now out daily - getting outside and around their neighbourhood, in a way they had never even planned.  Are they being converted to local nature appreciation by this new activity? (Don't worry, I do know it's a bit of an overthink!  Dog lovers first right?)

However my brilliant dog-walking friend also noted that colours stand out more prominently against a white backdrop - could it be the same for grey ones?  So definitely something to think about in terms of a new post!  Love that the inspiration just keeps coming!!  For now I just wanted to say that after the cold April morning, we had a sunny afternoon and I got out for a walk!

I hope you find your opportunities to get out and enjoy the wild that you find locally.  Here at Wild. Here.  we are all about the local wild - yes the wild here (not "there" outside the city) - the wonderful wild nature that you find right at your doorstep and/or a short walk, bus ride or drive away.  There definitely IS plenty of nature to be found right here in our cities!   So I'll share with you some photos from my walk last weekend and I hope you all get outside soon to enjoy your Wild. Here.  (Yes, even when the weather is not optimal and I'm going to remember that myself also.)


I am so lucky to have a plethora of natural spaces within walking distance - two ponds, a lake, a river, a wooded area, fields, trails and other park and park-like spaces.  We get to enjoy the view above (title photo) on some of our drives and I always feel so fortunate to be able to enjoy that scenic outlook.  Our small pond offers the only local beach so it is another fun place to visit in all seasons.


There is a dedicated group of volunteers that help control invasive species in this small conservation area and visitors get to enjoy both lakeside views and views from higher up (on the other side of the lake).


I took a few videos of this location also - love hearing the Red-Wing Blackbird calls (you can see one (the black dot in the photo here) hanging out on the dead marsh reeds) - such a super reminder of spring (but hoping that they find enough nourishment with them coming back early this year - strange climate change effects!) - birds migrate due to sunlight changes but insects hatch depending on weather temperature (read more here).


Possible beaver or muskrat activity - creating canals through the marsh reeds - ice cover still on the lake.

What do you do during these in between months, 
when it's still cold but you can't enjoy your outdoor winter activities?

Or if you are not a winter person, how do you connect to nature after a long winter - do sunny days matter?

Where do you get your local nature fix on grey days?

Let us know!


Really enjoyed this part of the walk under these conifer trees - sometimes the smell of them brings me back to days of camping!  Such beautiful boughs to walk under no matter what season!

And I'll get back to you on that grey day post soon!  ;  )
Read more »

My Wild. Here. City Tour Urban Nature Wish List (Day Tripping + Weekend visits from Ottawa)


Urban Nature Street Trees Ottawa Canada

As the blustery April winds blow and the cold front continues, it's that strange weather where I feel self-conscious dressing for winter when the ground is bare and grey, so rather than venture out I'm holing up inside this morning and thinking about my Urban Nature Bucket List for travel destinations beyond Ottawa.  Here's a few to start with:

Cornwall, Ontario

This should be an easy one for me as it's only an hour's drive.  I read about Lamoureux Park's Eco Garden years ago and am curious to see how the park is doing now, since the article was written five years ago.  Located along the shoreline of the St. Laurence River, rock reefs were built along the river to create protected areas for fish to forage and nurse.  It also includes a small creek that provides alternating shallow riffle areas and deeper pools offering a home to spawning chinook salmon and cutlip minnow.   And although I haven't read anything about Guindon Park it looks like it has some paths and wilder spaces also that could be explored.

Montreal, Quebec 

This is one of our favourite cities to visit for a day trip from Ottawa and as mentioned before we always gravitate to Mont Royal for a slice of nature when we go for a visit.  We've been here before but it's still on my wish list (always) because there are so many places in this city to explore including: Jardin Roerich (a.k.a. Maguire Meadow and/or Champs de Possibles) which is such an inspiring urban nature space, the Green Alleys of the city (which I'd love to spend an afternoon wandering through) and of course the foodie in me wants to finally try ricotta gelato and visit the outdoor terrasse of Montreal SAT's Foodlab.

Burlington/Hamilton

Last summer we got rerouted off of the 403 and found ourselves driving along Plains Road West and York Boulevard and I was smitten by the views from our car of the Royal Botanical Gardens.  Wow!  I've definitely heard of the RBG before but just had no idea.  When I started thinking about what else I'd like to see in the area, I was pleasantly surprised to see three projects that I had bookmarked happening around the city including Cootes Paradise by McMaster University (Parking Lot M), a tall grass prairie project and a new habitat for Bobolink in the Upper Ottawa neighbourhood.  I'm also curious about the Escarpment area and think Highlands Garden Park would be a great spot to check out!

Stay tuned for more - including a guest post from a friend who's visited one of my "must" urban nature experience cities in the United States!  Lucky man!

What about you?  Do you ever consider travel destinations based on natural green tourist areas?  

What are your top ones currently?  

Where do you want to explore?


p.s. and yay I got out in the afternoon once the temperature got warmer!
Puddlegram in Ottawa Tree Reflection in Melting Snow Nature Connection


Read more »