The Best of Nature Online (when you can't go out!)


Oh yes, the weather outside is frightful and this year (here in Ottawa at least) it seems so unpredictable also - rain, sub zero temps, wind chills and freezing all adds up to the desire to hibernate!  How has winter been for you in your area?  Spring still feels like a long way off.  If you are wondering yourself, when you will be able to get out again, don't despair, you can still get the positive effects of nature even at home!  Studies suggest that looking at green flora or other green scenes and watching nature tv programming can still provide benefits.  The immersion of both the visual and auditory senses in this way provides the same experience as if you were actually outside.  You could even give yourself an extra boost if you add a natural scent like pine or spruce.  Watching birds outside can also be a great mini-nature dose.

Here are some online places to go when you want a dose of nature but can't go out.  Some are educational and others provide the realism you may be craving.  Other more artistic links may not give you the same exact reality immersion, but connecting to delightful, peaceful images that provide interaction, immersion and the feeling of connection along with a sense of awe, whimsy or fun is another type of boost that many may need during these darker, colder months.  So check out the list below and see what awakens a sense of curiosity or draws you for some online pursuits!



In the Tallgrass (vimeo video) 

This is a delightful three and a half minute artistic video by Erin Anfinson showcasing the flora and fauna that you can find in tallgrass prairies.  The beautiful animation follows the path of insects, flying around beautiful flowers and also other many legged bugs that climb up stalks and visit the variety of blooms.  It also provides a condensed experience of a full day to highlight both day and night visuals.  It's a charming creation that allows you to experience the sensations of walking in a meadow ecosystem in full summer.  Just what we need while we are immersed in the depths of winter!

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Nature 365 

This YouTube channel (link) has been providing its viewers short glimpses of nature (some wilder than others!) for a full year. While it seems that the project is completed, the 365 mini videos are still available online.  Some are set to relaxing music, others provide crisp, clear natural sounds, that make you feel like you are right there!  Viewers are able to experience small moments of contemplation whether up close on a feather or tracking birds through the sky and also take in the more visceral active experiences of survival in the wild.  You'll get to see not only a large variety of flora and fauna but also different weather, seasons and natural phenomenon.

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Aniscense (online app)

This delightfully designed interactive educational game is a joy to view and makes learning familiar flora and fauna species names fun and appealing for all ages!  It's main character, Little Mouse, can be directed to different terrain and those playing can explore what she sees with the available magnifying glass.  It does have a U.K. focus - so not all species identified will be familiar to Canadian or American viewers but it's still a lovely way to spend your time during transit or while waiting in line.  It's first version brought visitors underground, through a field and to a pond and now there is the opportunity to explore a forested area!  It's truly a beautiful and serene interactive story that is a delight to play.  You can add this to your smart phone (Android, iphone), tablet or computer.

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Official Canadian Bird Quiz

How about spending a few minutes trying out your birding identification skills with the "Official Canadian Birds Quiz".  While I don't know how "official" it really is, it does provide some great mental stimulation compared to the passive activities that can become prevalent at this time of year.  Written and designed by Bird Protection Quebec, I noticed that this was a very popular quiz with birders when it was released earlier in 2017 and even if you are not a birder, it's fun to go through it and see what you know about your provincial birds.  The website has a few other quizzes also such as the Black Friday Bird Quiz and one to test your Owl IQ.  Large detailed photos and other trivia facts make these quizzes a great way to spend your time online.  Check it out and learn some new bird species - some of which may be very nearby!

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Chirming (graphic design project)

Something a bit more abstract but visually stunning is a incredibly well conceived design project by Sukgo at the Sejong University.  Taking into account the frequency of the bird's singing, the bird's vocal range, foliage density, time of year and layering the various birds vocal mandalas, the end result is something so lovely and textured and colourful that it almost seems alive itself.  Above is just one of a group of visual representations and if you check out the details of the project (on the pdf) you can also understand the logic behind these designs.

If this is the type of stuff that excites you - look through more of the design projects here at Design Awards.

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Never Alone (video game)

Finally, if winter is your thing but you can't always get out, this video game could be a welcome distraction from being indoors.  The video game received much well-deserved press when it was released in 2015 (A friend shared with me the link a few years ago - thanks Carla!) and its main character is a girl!  Here is a quote directly from the website providing inspiring details on how it was developed:
"Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is the first game developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people. Nearly 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members contributed to the development of the game. Play as a young Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox as they set out to find the source of the eternal blizzard which threatens the survival of everything they have ever known."
Check out the Never Alone trailer here on Vimeo.
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Finding Natural Areas for Dog Walking in Your City (both off leash and on leash)

Best Dog Walking Spots in the City

This post is an extension from the winter dog walking trails in Ottawa post last month.

I was trying to think about how I found out about the Hunt Club - Uplands corridor (and that it was a great spot for dogs) - so here's how it happened:

NOTICE AREAS AROUND YOU AS YOU DRIVE + CHECK MAPS

I had been noticing it as a wild space as we drove by this spot frequently and knew it was a hydro corridor as well.  So I decided to check it out on Google Maps and it was shown as a taupe/grey "unclassified" space.  Not green (showing parks, golf clubs and other more formal green spaces such as the Arboretum) and not mid-grey that shows residential areas).  Zooming in, I noticed that at a very low scale (1:200 or so) informal trails were marked out in the area.  Google Satellite showed shrubby and grassy areas and even with Satellite I could see some of the more popular trails carved out into the landscape.  And by looking at where the trails connected with more formal pathways and roads, I noted some good places to park my car.

DO SOME GROUND TRUTHING

I don't own a dog, so if it's really hard to tell whether you can take a dog there, I'd suggest driving by and seeing if there are any signs.  We went (sans dog) for the first time in the fall and ran into some dog owners which helped confirm what was sanctioned (in terms of off leash or on leash).

On Leash and Off Leash Locations for Dogs


KNOW YOUR MUNICIPALITY POLICIES

Another thought on how to find out if you can bring your furry friend is that you could check out your Municipality or City's policy in terms of informal green spaces like this.  While you will find that specific parks have a Leashed Dogs or Unleashed Dogs policy (and some even have a "No Dogs" policy) these wilder spaces might not have one and a quick phone call or email may easily clear this up.

Finding Great Dog Walking in Your City

VERIFY PARK OR GREENSPACE OWNER

Check to see if you can find out who owns the property.  Here in Ottawa, we have to consider whether the space is under the jurisdiction of the National Capital Commission along with other institutional property owners (such as university or government campus).  Within and outside the city you may find other conservation organizations and authorities might be in charge of these spaces and some may even be wildlife refuge areas and have very specific policies about allowing pets or not.

FINALLY - WHEN YOU ARE THERE LOOK FOR ON-SITE SIGNS

Best Method of Finding Spots that Allow Dogs


OTHER METHODS:


GREENSPACE MAPS

Some cities have great information online or in other forms.  While we were visiting London Ontario this summer, I found this great map (above) that was installed in a local park that provided information on some of the other greenspaces that we might want to visit.  (If there is an indication (on the map) of the jurisdiction, contact the organization directly to confirm if it's a potential dog walking spot!)

ONLINE & IRL RESOURCES

Some cities have great dog park websites, either put together by the local government or perhaps by a local dog lover!  The City of Ottawa has finally published a great map - before they only provided a list of parks and restrictions.  Ottawa was lucky though to have the "Ottawa Dog Blog" for many years but unfortunately it was closed recently for personal reasons.  Reddit can be a wonderful resource and of course other dog owners are an IRL resource.  I have been offered a few great "lovely nature spots to visit" tips when outdoors from friendly dog owners even though we weren't out walking a dog!  Check out this full page of resources to find great nature spots.


ENJOY YOUR TIME OUTDOORS WITH YOUR POOCH!

And as always respect signs and keep control of your furry friend when out in nature and take full advantage of the off leash areas!  Know exactly where to take your dogs so that they too can enjoy being out in nature as much as you do.  And then you can respect the areas that do prohibit dogs and know that some areas allow wildlife to flourish just as the other areas are there specifically for the benefit of your favourite pooch!

And check out my other Urban Nature Exploring pages for other ideas on how to find nature spots in your city!

Let us know the best ways that you find new places to take your pup!

Happy trails!

Winter Dog Trail Wild. Here.


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Small Footprints in the Snow

Winter paths in Natural Areas Ottawa Ontario Wild Here

We were watching a nature program over the holiday season and someone commented that they didn't know that mice were active in the winter and it reminded me about how surprised I was when in ecology class, I learned that mice will eat the bark of young trees in the colder months and that they burrow around under the snow in subnivean tunnels.
subnivean (sʌbˈnɪvɪən): existing, living, or carried out underneath snow (Link) from Latin: "under" (sub) + "snow" (nives)
It was amazing to learn about this winter activity that was happening just below the surface of what I could see.  With the blanket of the snow, the subnivean zone is well insulated; so when it's minus thirty with the wind blowing, those below at ground level, enjoy a mild temperature of around zero Celsius that stays that way all winter.  Also by being at ground level, these burrowing creatures such as mice and voles have access to a variety of food including mosses, lichen, seeds, plants and bark (as I mentioned before).  Just picture them winding their way through tunnels beneath grass and other leafy matter, with a snow cap top above them, following the scent of a variety of food.

These small creatures are drawn to the young tender sapling bark and this is why when planting new trees in urban and suburban areas you will see plastic spiral wraps or tree trunk guards placed around the bottom of the trunk.  In wilder areas, mice and voles would have a large selection to choose from as saplings pop up from various tree seeds planted by squirrels.  This could be another reason that trees produce so many seeds, so that some among them would survive all these various predatory animals that can eat seeds, bark and tender shoots while the new tree is developing.

Wild Here Animal Tracks in Snow Deer Mouse

A walk after the holidays provided us with a close up of mice tracks as they do visit above the snow level to cover longer distances from time to time.  In Ontario, the three tracks you are most likely to see in the winter are deer mice, white-footed mice and meadow voles.  (Jumping mice are true hibernators.) The mice tracks are easy to distinguish from a vole's due to the bounding pattern (feet are side by side rather than alternate) and the consistent "tail drag" as mice have longer tails than voles.  But don't expect to see many actual mice and voles as these are nocturnal creatures!


- Note the bounding pattern and tail drag in snow - 

So next time you are out along a trail through a meadow or near the woods, slow down and see if you can spot any of these small tracks.  It's amazing to think what is happening even while it looks like the winter fauna has all retreated from the cold weather.  And share with us what you are spotting outside at this time of year!  Are the squirrels active, are there birds visiting a nearby bird feeder or have you spotted some interesting tracks?

Enjoy adding a little wild to your week!

p.s. Voles are also known as "field mice" just to make things more confusing!

Bare Sumac Trees Silhouetted by Sunset


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weathering the winter + year end musings...here comes 2018!

Urban Wild Nature Park Ottawa Britannia West End

The shortest day of the year has just passed but it is hard to believe that as temperatures drop further below freezing that slowly and surely (albeit slowly) the days are getting longer.  Winter is typically a season to slow down and focus on indoor projects and hibernate away the cold, dark days and even here in the Wild. Here. office, I'm turning inward (a bit) to get down to some long overdue projects!  But I do hope that I continue to enjoy our outdoor winter walks and snowshoe adventures.  And possibly even get out for a few x-c ski outings!

2017 has been a wonderful year of learning and growing here.

I can't believe that it was only a year and a half ago that I pressed "publish" on the first new Wild. Here. post: Three Favourite Spots Downtown Ottawa (which BTW are still some of my top spots!).  Writing that post (after working on a "Weekly Dose of Wild" in 2015) was rather refreshing and truly clicked with the style of writing that I wanted to do.  And that post and the others that came after, have really propelled me down this path to where I am now.  From my soft launch to friends and family, to ramping up social media (which I'm still continually learning about), to find the right way to promote this blog (that reflects my values and style and feels "real" rather than sales gimmicky), to starting collaborations with friends that have been so much fun, it's been quite an amazing journey and I'm truly looking forward to what's next in the expansion of my offerings and products.

So in the tradition of reviewing the year's activities and looking forward to what's next, here's a little round up of favourites, popular posts and surprising collaborations!


FAVOURITE NATURE POSTS TO WRITE

It's not really surprising that two of my favourite posts to write were on wildflowers.  I had so much fun reflecting on the beautiful blooms that bring me joy that I had to write not one but two posts that grace us with their beauty every year.  (The other reason was of course the difficulty in narrowing my favourites down to just ten!)
10 (plus) Favourite Wildflowers & the follow up 10 (more) Favourite Wildflowers

Another incredible (eye-opening) and educational post to write was in regards to the plethora of First Nation events and programs that every one in Ottawa could join in on.  And while the title won't ever attract a huge SEO, I wanted it to reflect the importance of this post:
Honouring Unceded Algonquin Lands

Another great post to put together was the Guest Post that I wrote for Eva Barrows Blog as it was an interesting perspective to take - thinking more about the bigger natural attractions in Ottawa rather than the hidden unique greenspaces that I gravitate towards here in the city.
Scenic Nature spots are A Must Do When Visiting Ottawa

And finally I always like a good round-up and it was so much fun to put together one on Ottawa Nature Blogs - as there are quite a few that are worth bookmarking to include in your weekly feed.  From musings on river culture to field observations of a very small suburban greenspace patch, they provide a unique urban nature vantage on our city!
Local Ottawa Urban Nature Blogs for your reading pleasure!


MOST POPULAR URBAN NATURE POSTS

For 2017 the "most popular Wild. Here. post" goes to: Ottawa Urban Nature Lovers Bucket List*, which was a joy to write as I really wanted to shine a light on some of the smaller, overlooked nature spots in the city.  It was shared widely on Facebook and still to this day is visited regularly.  I also supplemented this post with two updates for autumn and winter as I hadn't provided as many ideas for these two seasons.

The second most popular post has been a more recent addition but quickly surpassed the "Number of Visits" of many other posts I had written this year: Mindful Modalities to Connect to Nature.  Nature therapy is becoming a very popular stress-reduction and restorative modality - Forest Bathing (Shinrin Yoku) being the most widely known so it's not surprising that this one resonated with readers and it was great to feature some newer modalities and initiatives!

And another top-five post was Crabapple Trees: The Flowering Tree Everyone Loves to Hate (Not!) (thanks to much appreciated social media shares by the Friends of the Farm).  With the enthusiasm for this post, I'm planning to profile another flowering tree (one of my faves!) in 2018!  BTW, the Friends of the Central Experimental Farm provide amazing programming for nature lovers in the Arboretum (which is such a nature gem in the heart of our city) along with all the extensive volunteer hands they provide in taking care of this lovely landscaped space (doing pruning, weeding, digging, watering, recording observations, etc).  This greenspace would not be the same without them!  So if you love the farm consider supporting them!

Finally an honourable mention must go the Ottawa Nature Volunteer Resource List page.  I was deeply grateful for the high profile that this page received due to it being shared by other Ottawa media.  It was a labour of love to put together as I wanted to feature volunteering opportunities that were close by and/or could be done as a "one off" which would make it easier for people to consider volunteering.  This is now the second most popular page/post: "Lend a Hand For Nature - Ottawa Volunteering".

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*I think at some point in the future there will have to be an Update to the Bucket List so that I can create a consolidated list (from the three posts) for both tourists and locals alike.  What do you think?  Can we create a list of Top 50 Urban Nature Spots & Experiences in Ottawa?


OTTAWA NATURE COLLABORATIONS: LARGE and SMALL

As mentioned in my spring nature blog post we were fortunate to have two supportive collaborations this year with Sustainable Enterprise Alliance (Ottawa) - working on the June Scavenger Bike Hunt and with Rout/e Footpress (along with Grunge Papers) through the CSArt Ottawa project - helping to plant poetry in the city.  It was great to work with different organizations and businesses and to help connect more people in Ottawa to the natural surroundings and the people I got to work with were wonderful!

Beyond those two larger collaborations, there were some other simple and generous collaborative efforts that we are grateful for:

WHAT TO SAY ABOUT 2018?

Our third spring of writing for this blog will be in 2018 and it still feels like we've just scratched the surface.  There are just so many other things I (Katherine, as the main writer) want to cover!  

It was a thrill to be able to include three new cities in 2017, with one provided by our guest blogger Eva Barrows.  It's so great to be able to highlight the opportunities to connect to nature within a city and it's amazing to see what different cities offer in terms of nature outings and experiences!  So hopefully we can find a few more guest post collaborations in the new year along with considering the potential for visiting some new cities in 2018 ourselves.  

I also want to do another Earth Day project and possibly features some other international days such as Forest Day, World Cities Day or even International Volunteer Day.  These themes remind us to stop and take a break during out busy days and consider bigger ideas and important messages.  And they also introduce us to new concepts and opportunities.  I can't wait to explore some of these themes!

The "Getting Out" series and "Wild. Here. Explore" series will be continued along with some new "How to" series and some other features.  And next year will be the first year of nature connection products for Wild. Here. - so stay tuned!!

And thanks as always for all the likes, shares, comments and support!  We really want to help YOU connect to nature and enjoy the wild right outside your doorstep in Ottawa and in other cities!  Let us know if there are any nearby nature interests you'd like us to write about.


Enjoy Your Urban Wilding!




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Birding: Finding Ottawa's Winter Birds in the City

house sparrrows urban winter birds wild. here.
-- Winter House Sparrows at our Local Grocery Store --

As mentioned in the Winter Urban Nature Bucket List extras, Finding Winter Birds can be a great activity to do in the colder months.  There are more birds around than we might realize!

I've talked a little bit about finding wildlife in the winter.  This "Get Close to Wildlife in Ottawa" post included some ideas of where to find Chickadees and Wild Turkeys and I also wrote a post about the unique urban irruption of crows that we've been experiencing the last winter or two in the city.  For the most part, their main roosts are still in the same spot but there have been large numbers of crows looking for other roosting locations.  These resident (rather than migrating) birds fly back to their large group roost every sunset in winter and you'll see them in larger and larger numbers at the end of the day (check skyward as you are driving home from work).  This may be where we get the saying "as the crow flies".

But these three birds along with the ubiquitous city pigeon (which is actually a fascinating and colourful bird if you spend some time observing them) are just scratching the surface of the birds that can be found in Ottawa in our colder months.  The winter bird list includes familiar urban avian faces such as Starlings, House Sparrows, Blue Jays and Cardinals, (some individual birds of these four species migrate but others do stay for the winter!).  There are however many more, that while less visible, can be sussed out with some effort.

Yes!  There is so much more to find - whether you are just a bit curious or looking for a winter adventure or if birds are a new or growing passion for you!  (What corners of the city have you explored and what unexpected encounters have you enjoyed?)

Ottawa's Winter Birds include:

Wild Turkeys Urban Wildlife Nature Lovers Wild. Here.
-- Ottawa Wild Turkeys - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --

- Wild Turkeys (as mentioned above) can be found rather easily at the Wild Bird Centre in the west end of the city but we also found turkey tracks while snowshoeing at night around Leamy Lake Park.  And I've seen them in the winter at the end of Rockcliffe parkway (Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway) just before St. Joseph Boulevard.  Look for them or their tracks in greenbelt areas.

Winter Woodpecker Ontario
-- Downy Woodpecker - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --

- Winter woodpeckers and nuthatches can be found in forest stands (look for dead wood - mast trees) and smaller wood patches that include pine trees.  They are not only looking for protein from hibernating insects and larvae but will also eat a variety of tree seeds including nuts and acorns.  Because of this, some woodpecker species and nuthatches can also be found near local bird feeders in green spaces as they are drawn to this food source in the winter.  Woodpeckers (including *obviously* Sapsuckers) also seek out sap at the end of winter.


Urban Ducks Overwintering in Ottawa
-- Overwintering Mallards - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --

- Water fowl (dabbling and diving) that stay during the winter months can be found where there is open water.  Some, such as Mallards will be seen in shallower waters and diving ducks can be scoped out on the Ottawa River and deeper areas of the Rideau River.  (For specific Ottawa locations - stay tuned for another post this winter!)

-- Golden Eye on the Ottawa River (Diving Ducks) --

Bohemian Waxwings that move south into our region in the colder months (flocking in large numbers) can be found gorging on different berry bushes including Serviceberry, Chokecherries, Moutain Ash (with those bright orange berries) and even Common Buckthorn.  And Ottawa has a lot of those!  ; )

Owl in Tree Wild. Here.
-- Owl Spotted on Right-Hand Tree Stump during Snowshoe Outing - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --

- And let's not forget that Ottawa has three permanent resident owl species: Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl.  The reason we don't see them, is that all three are nocturnal. But if you are lucky there can be sightings of these owls near dusk and dawn.  If you do find one during the day, remember that they are trying to get much needed sleep, so it's extremely important to not disturb them and essential that their location is not revealed to anyone else - even that nice chatty photographer friend that you pass by at the end of your walk after leaving the owl's resting spot.  Yes, even them.  :  (

(Think about it - The owl could be disturbed by kind-hearted owl lovers for the rest of the day, if even just one naturalists continues to pass the news on to just one more person - creating a long chain of owl seekers.)  More on this in another post!

-- Fuzzy Unexpected Owl Encounter Photo = Happiness --

- And a different type of treat, but not at all urban, is the opportunity to look for unique winter birds that can be found in snow covered fields and by the side of gravel roads if you have a car.  Last winter while searching out some less common birds on the outskirts of the city, I found some Snow Buntings (see photo below) on a quiet dirt road along farms in the east end but for this you have to have a car.

Snow Bunting Wild. Here.
-- Snow Bunting in Countryside, East side of Ottawa --

What other birds have you seen in the winter months?

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In the City - The Lone Tree


There are times a tree sticks out - it may be taller than the others surrounding it or it may be larger but it is not the same as a lone tree.  These solitary trees seem to make a statement, look as if they've "endured" and may give us a point of reference in the landscape.  Some are majestic and stand out framed by fields and sky while others blend into their urban surroundings missed entirely.  We may walk by them every day and not even notice.

And if we do look up it may only be as we conjure up feelings of sympathy for this single, lonely tree.

I know that's what I felt when I took this picture of a tree in a Boston suburb many years ago.  There were feelings of sympathy for this parking lot natural token offering.  I wondered if anyone really ever noticed it and whether ti would survive where planted especially as it was under this artificial synthetic sun twenty-four seven.

These types of lone trees, may even be a symbol of our own lifestyle, mimicking disconnected we are to natural surroundings and even in some ways to each other and even to ourselves.

In the urban environment you'll see these lone trees around.  There's one in my neighbourhood that really caught my eye.  I do appreciate all the evergreen trees in our city and you really don't even realize how many there are until the winter is upon us.  But some of them can be found in very solitary positions.

I haven't read Peter Wohlleben's "The Hidden Life of Trees" but it's interesting to think of all the communication that might be happening underground and then to realize that a solitary tree is a very unusual situation.  Most trees in a forest aren't found that far away from the parent plant.  They may be carried further away from their community by small mammals but usually they will still be found in a forest setting.

Is it in this book or in an article that comments that this could be why many urban street trees don't do so well as they don't have that connection to others to help them out when needed? To look after each other "like an old couple"?

And in the same vein, I was amazed to learn that Aspen are a colony and are truly just one plant but with many trunks.  Every time I find myself in an Aspen grove I have to stop and take in this magical idea.

But back to the lone tree, back to the solitary urban survivor...


Do they make you pause?


Can you see a benefit to a lone tree in the same way being immersed in a forest can provide healing energies (such as forest bathing)?


Or perhaps in this instance is it us that provides the healing energy to the lone tree?


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Winter Bucket List Additions... finding your zen below zero

Winter evergreen Wild Here

Now that winter is on it's way, this is an opportunity to review the recommendations on the 2017 Urban Nature Lover Bucket List.  I know I had come up short for this season when I was putting it together last spring and I'm excited now to be able to offer some other ideas for the colder months!

Just as a reminder the ones that were listed included:
- Vanier Sugar Bush is the only urban sugar bush in North America and a short distance from downtown. While the map sap runs at the tail end of the winter, it's still a lovely place to explore and go for a walk on a sunny day! 
- Ottawa's Winter Crow Roost can be found in patches of woodlot both north and south of the Ottawa Hospital on Smythe Road (Balena, Coronation, Pleasant Park, Valour).  They've been moving around lately though so you may even spot the crows around sunset downtown
- Central Experimental Farm - Tropical Greenhouse - while not native plants, this lush greenery is a great way to boost the mood during winter season.  And the Arboretum itself is a great place to go snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing and walking the dog.
Urban Nature Lovers Winter Bucket List Wild. Here.
-- Vanier Maple Bush --

The full Ottawa Urban Nature Lovers Bucket List can be found HERE - including some suggestions for "year-round" outings.


So here are some additions for the WINTER Ottawa Urban Nature Lovers Bucket List:
- Take some Winter Sunset Photos - Ottawa is known as the "Sunset Capital of Canada" and with winter sunsets at a very early time (4:30 pm right now!), it's not hard to get out on the weekend for some impressive colours!  You want a day that's not extremely cloudy, but keep in mind a few clouds that can reflect colours can add to a sunset's glow.  There are some great sunset viewing spots listed in this Ottawa Sunset Post including Carlington Hill and along the Ottawa River.  A favourite Ottawa Instagram spot is Westboro Beach - photographed for 1000 days and counting by Nancy.  (I'm also wondering about the spot on Riverside by Edward Drake as it has a great cityscape with trees!) 
Ottawa Ontario Winter Sunset Ottawa River Viliam Glazduri
-- Ottawa Winter Sunset - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --
SJAM Cross Country Ski Trail (and Snowshoeing!) - Ottawa is incredibly lucky to have this urban ski trail in the west end of the city.  (I don't know how I forgot about it when making the list last spring.)  This is definitely a must do outing and even if you don't have skis, you can check it out or go snowshoeing on it!  (All details about this trail can be found in this X-C Ski Post.) 
 - Enjoy a walk around the Pond and McKay Lake - while the Pond is a popular summer location for swimming, this area, which is such a hidden gem in the city, gets completely overlooked in the winter months.  Here you will find active winter birds & mammals (esp red squirrels!) and great scenery -  and now with the new bus routes to WaterRidge Village (Ottawa) you can take various buses here.  Part of the McKay Lake trail is officially the Caldwell-Carver Conservation area but another part of this 3/4 loop includes a great overlook of the lake from high up. 
There are three access points: from Hillsdale Road, Pond Street and off Old Prospect Road (for the scenic overlook).  Please note - the path indicated on Google Maps is incorrect - it goes north around the Pond, rather than south.  The south area is private property.  But there is one path from Bittern Court that does take you along the west side of the Pond not indicated on any map. 
Winter Pond and MacKay Lake Ottawa Urban Nature
-- The Pond in Winter (Rockcliffe) --
- Get out for a Full Moon Snowshoe or Hike or X-C Ski or Walk - a full moon outing is not something you think about all the time in the city, as our lives can carry on even when the sun sets.  Street lights and lights from buildings and landscaping, give us this extra evening illumination even when the moon's not there to light the path.   I wrote about my first full moon adventure as a cross-country skier and that extra shimmer and shine that you get from the moon reflecting off snow is something that can make winter outings magical.  There's four more full moons before April 1st - don't miss your chance! (Last winter I went around Lac Leamy with friends and ending the night at Saint-Eloi Café Bistro made it the perfect winter outing!)
- Find some Winter Birds - I've talked a little bit about finding wildlife in the winter: including chickadees and wild turkeys (at the Wild Bird Centre) and also about the commuting crows and their roosts but there is so much more to look for if birds are a new passion for you.  I'll do a full post on this one but for the meantime, go for walks where there is open water or through wooded areas where there are berry shrubs, see if you can be out around dawn or dusk and visit nearby bird feeders in natural areas.  Our feathered friends are out there!
Winter Bird Feeder Ottawa Wild. Here. Viliam Glazduri
-- Winter Bird Feeder - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --
- Enjoy the winter skies with Ottawa Popscope - This group usually sets up shop with its telescopes for public viewings in November (at the National Gallery of Canada) and then they host a monthly event until the spring.  Also see what the newly renovated Ottawa Science and Tech Museum has to offer as they used to do Night Sky Observation nights!  (And if astronomy is of interest - check out these Astronomy Resources online!)

And don't forget that if you haven't checked out these urban nature beauties - they are worth a visit at any time but in the winter they can be magical:
- Balancing Rocks at Remic Rapids 
- Ottawa's Urban Conifer Plantations 
- Princess Louise Falls in Orleans
For more details - the three above can be found on the main Ottawa Urban Nature Bucket List as an "Any Season" outing - providing information on where they are located in the city and how to get there.


Where are your go to places in Ottawa during the cold weather months?

and/or what do you look forward to in your own city when the weather turns cold and everything is covered in white?


Ottawa Urban Wild Bird Chickadee Wild. Here. Viliam Glazduri Photographer
-- Chickadee Portrait - Photo by Viliam Glazduri --
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Best Spots for Winter Dog Walking in Ottawa


Last spring I met someone who had stumbled across my blog, when searching for the best dog walking paths for winter outings (especially for pooches that don't want to socialize all the time).  Not surprising, that she found this blog, as I mention dog walkers quite a bit here - since they create such great walking paths (desire lines) for any urban nature lover who wants to get out in the winter!

But they were hoping to find some recommended paths in the west end that could be used as a weekend outing when they had more time to get out and explore.  They mentioned that in the winter dogs are not permitted on any NCC Greenbelt trails* as these trails are used by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during these months.  Which limits dog-walking locations from the start of December through to mid April for those who want to get out into nature but don't want to go to popular dog parks such as Bruce Pit or Conroy Pit.  But there are some great greenspaces both in the greenbelt and other natural areas and also some in the suburbs.  Yes I know walking in the suburbs doesn't sound like lots of fun but there are wild areas there also that still give you and your pup that out of doors enjoyment while not being too far away from the city.  Sometimes even checking out another suburb's favourite dog-walking path is just what you & Fido might need!

Remember to always check signs for information about dog walking: whether dogs can be off-leash or if they must be on-leash and watch as there may be some restricted spots within larger areas where dogs are verboten.  Always look for information on site.

(Not in Ottawa but curious about how to find different dog parks beyond your regular haunts?  Check back soon!)


So if you are a local dog owner in the Ottawa area and like to be out in nature with your pooch (a.k.a canine best friend) here are some suggestions:

WEST END

  • Sheila McKee Park - Off of Sixth Line (down to Ottawa River) - On-leash City Park 
  • Behind Richcraft Recreation Complex (on Innovation Drive) and through Monk Env. Park (both On-leash City Parks) and take informal pathway to Beaver Pond (On-leash City Park) 
  • Craig Park to Gow Park to the small forest (Alice Wilson Woods) bordered by The Pkwy and Leacock Way - all On-leash City Parks
  • Monagan Forest (Fallowfield and Moodie Drive) - On-leash City Park
  • Off Lytle Avenue (near The Log Farm) which is off Cedarview - this is a nice half an hour walk through shrubby - open area. This is not City property - possibly NCC? You can see informal path on maps. (Please note that there are No dogs allowed in Lytle Park - off O'Keefe Court)

CENTRAL

  • Behind the Nepean Sportsplex - On-leash greenspace owned by the National Capital Commission.
  • Hunt Club - Uplands hydro corridor (access from various locations including McCarthy and Uplands Park) - Unsure as to ownership and/or regulations but I do see dog walkers here.
  • Central Experimental Farm (On-leash area) - great space to explore with your dog.  Two areas that are restricted to dogs: Ornamental Gardens and research fields.
  • Hearts Desire - Barrhaven (Off-leash area) - there are a number of linked parks along the Jock and Rideau here that offer some great natural spaces to explore.

EAST END

  • Bilberry Creek Valley Park north of the Queensway (access at Des Epinettes Avenue) - Off-leash City Park - over half a square kilometer of greenspace!
  • Princess Louise Falls and Fallingbrook Park (between Tenth line and Trim Road) On-leash City Park - great place to explore including linear park and open space above.
  • Aquaview Park (small but a nice walk!) can be extended north under hydro lines (includes crossing Innes at promenade Esprit Drive).  Or take it from the other end starting at Cardinal Creek Karst Path.  These are all on-leash parks and pathways.


If you are in the East End or visiting, remember Dogs are Not Allowed on Petrie Island (this includes the City beach area, the Bill Holland Trail and Grandmaître Ecological Reserve).  All of the above city park suggestions can be reviewed on the City of Ottawa Dogs in Park webpage (that includes a map!)


********

*Leashed dogs are welcome on the Capital Pathway at any time of year.

  • Greenbelt Pathway East (12.5 km - Green's Creek area: Northern section (Parkway to Blackburn Hamlet (Tauvette Street) Southern section (Ramsayville Road to Albion Road)
  • Greenbelt Pathway West (21.2 km - west end Shirleys Bay through Bells Corners to (east) Fallowfield Rd)
  • Watts Creek Pathway (9.6 km - west end March Road to (east) Carling Avenue)

Keep in mind that dogs are not permitted at any time at these N.C.C. locations: Shirleys Bay, Stony Swamp, Mer Bleue, Pine Grove.  (All of this information is taken from the N.C.C. website.)

This does make sense as there have been studies that the presence of dogs does influence wildlife behaviour including birds - so it's great that there are some conservation areas that are strictly for wildlife.


Enjoy your dog walking outings!








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