Summer Scent-scape (and all five senses outdoors)

I know I've written a bit about this before but I was reminded of it during a bike ride I took a few weeks ago and also while reading the amazing book: The Cincinnati Arch by John Tallmadge.  He touched upon so many things in 2004 that are being brought into the forefront now and discussed in detail now: invasive species, nature deficit disorder, modern life outside of nature, etc. which included the difference between our indoor sheltered life and the rich sensory experiences of outdoor excursions.

When we get out in nature it can be a five sense experience!

If not all five senses, it definitely augments our soundscape, our viewscape and our scent-scape and even our sense-scape (think of the feeling of the wind on skin or different types of ground underfoot or even just the sun on our face).  We can even augment the physical sensations by swimming, biking (feeling water and apparent wind) and other physical activities.  Taste can even grace our outdoor experience, through sweat on our face that falls on our lips or if we are knowledgeable about native plants and feel like tasting some of our finds.  (Are there other taste-scapes we experience by going outdoors?)
apparent wind* ( \ ə-ˈper-ənt wīnd): the movement of air experienced by an observer in motion and is the relative velocity of the wind in relation to the observer (link)

But my bike ride was a reminder that the scent-scape of these warm long days is something truly pleasurable to experience especially in high summer when we can smell white clover or that slight aroma of dried grasses in a field.  We also looped along the river where the air was a bit humid and reminded me of childhood scents from searching for crayfish in the shallow riffles near my home.

And I have to admit that even a slight odour of a musty skunk spray that lingered from a night or two ago along one portion of the path, made me smile, as if I had better tracking skills than I actual do.

So I just wanted to share a short "public service announcement" as a reminder to get outside while the days are still warm and the evenings are still long and enjoy all five senses including experiencing the outdoors.

I also noted that there are so many white blooms around and enjoyed taking photos of some of the great surprises that greeted us.  Some times it's hard to remember, but each time we go out, even in the same location, there will be interesting and unique experiences and observations.

As always - happy wilding!

And remember Every Minute in Nature Counts!

*ever since I learnt this definition in a sailing class, each time I'm in a boat or on my bike, I note to myself "and there is the apparent wind" - as if it's a magical, hidden entity that I can only entice to show itself when I get out on the water or on my two-wheeler
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Cool Urban Nature Maps

I love meeting and finding other people who adore urban nature as much as I do.

One type of project that thrills me are visual maps that illustrate cities in this new way.  And it's not surprising that there are many to be found in England, with their BBC nature loving programming including Springwatch!  Here are a few - I hope they delight you as much as they delight me!


From Vicky Woodgate's website:

"Urban Jungle is a 38 city map book exploring the cities and the incredible wildlife found. Concept - authored - designed and illustrated by Vicky Woodgate and published by Big Picture Press an imprint of Templar."

Link to Vicky Woodgate's beautiful artwork and website.

Michael A. Hill from Maps Illustrated:

From Maps Illustrated website:

"2010 illustrated bespoke map of a walk around Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire."  (This one may not be exactly "urban", but the bird images are just so compelling!  I want to go for this walk just because I might run into a Kingfisher!)

Link to Maps Illustrated delightful maps and website.

Emma Metcalfe's Map of Colchester Cemetery

From Emma Metcalfe's website:

"The client required a bespoke map which would appeal to both casual visitors walking in the area and also those making a special trip to visit the grave of a loved one... The large format version includes a small selection of many wildlife species that live in the cemetery, including Mutjac deer, woodpeckers, bats and owls."

Link to Emma Metcalfe's lovely illustrations and blog.

Lost In London by Lucy Scott & Tina Smith

This one is a recent find and I have to thank goodreads for "recommending" it to me!  The map sits inside the front and back cover and illustrates where each of the chapters have been written.  You can read a few excerpts from Lost in London on Lucy Scott's website:

Mystic Marshes
Chasing the Wandle
Tidal Treasures

Photo of London map (illustrated by Tina Smith) on the inside cover of "Lost in London"

Oh and this reminds me a bit of the Wild Things Publishing Guides - which includes wild swimming, lost lanes and even tree climbing.  Oh Britain you inspire me so!

***All map design images are from the personal illustrators websites.

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The Best Kept Secret - Urban Hiking Joy!

I read this spring that "hiking will be surpassing yoga in popularity as the newest health trend" and I think that is super news!  I see more people sharing hiking photos on social media and I see new resources for hiking: women hiking groups, local hiking websites, hiking apps.  It seems like the message of "getting out" and "nature is good for you" has been heard and it's wonderful to know that more people are appreciating the benefits of nature and choosing this activity for their weekend fitness outing.

What I'd love to see would be one small tweak to this - I'd love to see URBAN hiking becoming a trend!
hiking (ˈhaɪ.kɪŋ):  is an outdoor (sporting) activity which consists of long, vigorous walks in natural environments (on trails or footpaths), often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. (Link)
I cobbled this together from a couple of definitions.  Most used the word "countryside" to describe the environment.  One included "wooded areas".  Almost all indicated that it is a LONG walk or great distance, with two using strenuous or vigorous (Is this because some walks are uphill or because they are meant to be long and tiring?).  I wanted to include the word "sporting" due to the fact that hiking IS seen by many as a sport, whereas "walking" isn't - as one of the definitions confirms.

Wikipedia goes on to say that "walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks" in Canada and the United States, whereas the term "walking" is acceptable to describe all forms (and distances) of walking in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland including our North American "hiking".

So if we take out "countryside" and consider that we can do a long vigorous walk in the city that can even offer us scenic terrain, urban hiking becomes an option.  And in many cities this can even be possible in natural environments if there are bike paths along rivers or lakes or in larger wooded areas.  Check out two examples of people who are doing some urban hiking on my Wild. Here. Walking Post from last month.

-- Beautiful scenery on an early morning urban hike.  --

So why is the Joy of Urban Hiking the best kept secret?  Here are 7 reasons:

You don't need all day to do it. No long drives, consulting confusing trail maps and looking for trailheads in unfamiliar areas.  Urban hiking can be done close to home and a two-hour hike can be done in two hours!

There are no busy parking lots. As countryside hiking becomes more popular and weekend warriors are looking for their next nature fix, you won't have to be fighting for the last parking spot for miles.

You won't encounter masses of people.  Yes hiking is a great way to get away from it all and to escape the busy-ness of the city, but isn't it frustrating to go seek solitude and then find big groups of people in the parking lots, at the picnic ares and all vying for that one shot of the scenic view?

Easily accessible peaceful spots - whenever you want, need or desire a visit.  Your favourite nature spots can be right here, close by in the city, rather than a two hour drive away that are only accessible on the weekend.  (Have you ever done a meditation where they ask you to imagine your favourite space in nature?  Well you don't have to imagine it - you can go visit it!)

-- Peaceful spot along the Ottawa River Parkway --

Your hike can be as strenuous or easy as you wish.  Urban hiking can offer paved, flat trails; stone dust paths along large rivers and even boardwalk "hikes" through marshes.  Some even offer benches where you can rest and enjoy the view.  What's not to like about that?  And for those who have mobility challenges, they can still enjoy longer walks at their speed and access to nature in the city thanks to paved paths, scenic spots and lots of benches.

Transit-accessible nature. If you don't have a car, hiking in the city is a great options and you get to contribute less greenhouse gas emissions (compared to the emissions to drive outside the city to go for a hike).

Train your mind to accept distractions. This is one of the biggest arguments people have about wanting to connect with nature outside the city.  They are seeking pristine nature far outside the city that can offer them that opportunity to escape, to get away from noise, to find peace & quiet.  I equate urban hiking to practicing yoga off the mat, or to what those at meditation retreats are reminded of: the real practice begins at home when you get back to the real world.  I find the more that I can enjoy nature wherever it is, the more peaceful daily life can be.

BONUS: The probability of your favourite coffee shop, juice bar or eatery being close by is higher!  Enjoy a super treat right after your hike - it's well deserved and we all enjoy a sweet, tasty reward every once in awhile right?

Read these Six Tips to Make Your Urban Nature Hiking Outing More Enjoyable (found at the bottom of the Wild. Here. April Walking post).

All photos by Viliam Glazduri (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributing Creative to Wild. Here.

-- You never know what you will find! --

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Horse Chestnut: The Overlooked Spring Bloom that should take Centre Stage!

Confession time: I didn't know what a Horse Chestnut was until I had one in my backyard.  The first house I purchased was a small urban lot and I moved in that summer.  There were a couple of shrubs in my front yard and one mid-sized tree that had unique leaves plus a large Maple in my backyard.  So it wasn't until next spring that I looked in my backyard and thought:

What is that amazing tropical bloom that has just appear in my yard?

It's incredible to see a floral bloom so colourful and large in a country that is well known for its snow.  Snow that covers our land for at least four months.  You would think that nothing that big and beautiful would be able to bloom in the short season we have up here.  But I've been surprised with some of our various native flowers over the years and here was a native tree that seemed to want to hold a LUAU!

While the only native species of this tree is VERY rare in Canada, it is not uncommon to see Horse Chestnuts (or Buckeyes) in various Canadian urban centres.  It's a great mid-sized tree that offers some eye-catching details, so how is this tree overlooked?  There are Lilac Collection tours to various arboretums and Cherry Blossom Festivals and everyone talks about Magnolia blooms but I just don't hear much talk about Horse Chestnuts here in Canada.  Why are there not more people raving about the beauty of Horse Chestnut blooms?  Why is there no Horse Chestnut festival here in the province?

Maybe it's because it has no heady scent?  Perhaps it's the misleading name or maybe it IS because they are rather rare and prefer milder zones.  Or it could be that if you don't catch their 1 - 2 week bloom, they don't stand out that much and they just become part of the green backdrop.  (Except perhaps when the Horse Chestnut's round nuts (also called conkers) drop!)  For whatever reason - this tree seems to continually be overlooked which I think needs to change!

Here are some great facts about this tree:
  • The only Horse Chestnut species (Aesculus) that is native to Canada is the Aesculus Glabra: the Ohio Buckeye which has only been documented to grow wild in Canada on Wapole Island.  That's rare!  (Ontario Trees)
  • Preferred habitats include moist to mesic deciduous woodlands, wooded valleys along rivers and rocky wooded slopes in sheltered areas.  At optimal sites larger Ohio Buckeye trees have been found exceeding 21.3 metres (70 feet). (Illinois Wildflowers)
  • This is a tree that prefers temperate climates and there are four types found in North America - including a shrub variety. (Encyclopedia)  
  • Their blooms can be 10 to 30 centimeters tall, with colours including whites, yellows (the colour of the Ohio Buckeye flowers), oranges, pinks and scarlet. (Kentucky Dept of Horticulture
  • The blooms are pollinated by Hummingbirds and long-tongues bees (such as Bumblebees, Mason Bees and Anthrophorine Bees) and the tree provides nutrients for various insects including Lace Bugs, Beetles and Aphids and squirrels which sometimes feed on the sweet pith of the twigs. (Illinois Wildflowers)

Have you noticed this tree while walking around town?  

What do you think - is it worthy of some extra notice?

For those in Ottawa there is a wonderful collection of Horse Chestnuts in the Dominion Arboretum!

You can see where there location is in this map: Nut Trees of the Dominion Arboretum (Ottawa).  (They are marked in yellow on the map.)  These trees bloom in late May so if you have a chance one evening this week or on the weekend, I recommend visiting them to enjoy their beauty!  I find them truly impressive and it is definitely worth a trip to see the various species at the Arboretum.

You May Also Like:

Crabapples: The Flowering Tree Everyone Loves to Hate (Not!)  (May 2017)

Spring Blooms in London (Ontario) - A Walk Along the Thames River (April 2017)

The World Within One Tree - Weekly Dose of Wild (September 2015)

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Let us Help YOU Connect to Nature in your City!

Urban walking path under shade trees Wild Here

It was our two year anniversary for this blog last month!  

I started writing the newest version of this blog in May 2016.  And with two years of posts, there is now quite the library of articles to help you connect with nature in your city.

Yes the nearby nature that is easy to access, every day, close to home.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that connecting to nature doesn't mean that you have to go on a long hike on the weekend outside your city.  There is tons of wild - here - right at your doorstep and it can provide you with the same type of wonderful nature (Vitamin N) benefits that getting out of the city can.

Yes it can!  The green right inside your city has Vitamin N also.

That's how the name for the business came to be:  I wanted to inspire more people to connect with the wild "here", as opposed to the wild that people seek "there" - away from the city, outside the urban environment.

Yes - there IS wild right here!  And we want you to connect to it!

Friendly Wildlife that you see in the city

So how does this Wild. Here. website help you connect to nature?

And for those in Ottawa or visiting the city, the Wild. Here. website also offers:

And last, but certainly not least: 

Thank you so much for being here and joining out urban nature loving community!  

We want to be creating resources and writing about topics that YOU are interested in, so let us know in this short two-minute survey online:

Gulls and Ducks seen on Urban Pathway along Refreshing River

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Take it Outside

I was so excited to see inspiration this week on Twitter of this post idea "Take it Outside" that has been brewing here for a bit.  Someone tweeted a photo of a group of people having dinner outside in a park.  So simple but so incredible.

I just love this easy concept: 

Take something that you normally do indoors and do it outdoors!

This is obviously easier to do in the warmer seasons, but there are still opportunities in the colder months, it takes a bit more inventiveness and fortitude.  But as it's spring here in the northern hemisphere (and feeling like summer in my corner of the world), I'll focus on outdoor warm weather activities right now.

Think about some of the things that you normally do inside such as eating, exercise, reading, listening to a podcast, playing video games (on phone or tablet), meditating, yoga or even watching TV and consider whether you can do them outdoors.  Also consider your favourite hobbies such as: visual art, dance, hooping.  Would one or more of these activities be easy to do outside?  In your backyard, in a local park, on your balcony?

My friends used to host neighbourhood movie nights in their backyard (which would be incredibly fun) but sometimes we think that it has to be this complicated process and grandiose gesture.

It doesn't have to be difficult.

It's as easy as taking your laptop outdoors and relaxing in your patio furniture to watch a TV show.

It's as easy as creating a serving space on your kitchen counter and then taking out just your dinner plate onto your deck.

It's as easy as grabbing your knitting project and walking down to the local park.

There are lots of locations that support our desire to be outdoors more: parks with picnic tables or benches, meditation and prayer gardens and so many patios for meals and drinks during the summer season.  Do you know where your closest park or rooftop garden is near your downtown office or perhaps there is a river or lake that is a short drive from your business park?

So let me ask you: what do you like to do?   

Whatever it is, how about enjoying that activity outdoors?

Let's take advantage of these warmer, longer days and get outside!

Who is with me?

P.S. You May Also Like:

Urban Outdoor Adventures Under the Full Moon (October 2017)

Podcasts to Listen to on a Park Bench (May 2017)

Immersion into Nature at Different Speeds (September 2016)

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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 hopping around in our gardens and lawns 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!  I see them flying very high - there always seems to be at least one around when I'm out. (And don't forget to look for their daily sunset commute to their winter roosts!)


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.  Usually they are further away in tall trees in my neighbourhood.


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.  I find these birds easy to spot, very active, flittering from tree to tree.  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.)  I find that this is one of those calls where I hear the bird more than I spot it.  But it also has another unique fluttering noise it makes as it flies off (from under shrubs) that finds me quickly turning my head.

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!  And oh! I see these beautiful birds along our quieter river fronts (and in the rivers) whenever I'm along the water.

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.  If I spot one, I'll always quickly see if I can find it's lighter coloured mate.


Red-breasted Nuthatch - This may be a new call for you but you'll realize that it has been one of those background noises that was easily dismissed as a city noise.  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!  It's a smaller bird so a bit more of a challenge to spot but check tree trunks as it's known for searching for insects in the trunk's crevices.


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.  They are rather gregarious, so another that you'll probably spot soaring over marshy areas but they also hide in reeds and grasses so look low also.


Pileated Woodpecker - Once you identify 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.  It too can be spotted on tree trunks ready to drill holes in search of insects.


* * * 

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!

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