Great Horned Owl visits Lawson Nature Reserve

Thanks to Megan Leedham for sending these photos from our December 2020 bird count.  With its long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow-eyed stare, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is the quintessential owl of storybooks.  It is one of the most common owls in North America, equally at home across all landscapes – wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics.   The great horned owl remains so widely distributed and remarkably tolerant of major habitat disturbance by people that its future seems secure.  It is listed as “Least Concern (Population stable).  However, it is always exciting when we see a bird of prey of this stature on our property.

Cool Facts:

  • Great Horned Owls are fierce predators that can take large prey, including raptors such as Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and other owls. They also eat much smaller items such as rodents, frogs, and scorpions.
  • When clenched, a Great Horned Owl’s strong talons require a force of 28 pounds to open. The owls use this deadly grip to sever the spine of large prey.
  • If you hear an agitated group of cawing American Crows, they may be mobbing a Great Horned Owl. Crows may gather from near and far and harass the owl for hours. The crows have good reason, because the Great Horned Owl is their most dangerous predator.
  • Even though the female Great Horned Owl is larger than her mate, the male has a larger voice box and a deeper voice. Pairs often call together, with audible differences in pitch.
  • Great Horned Owls are covered in extremely soft feathers that insulate them against the cold winter weather and help them fly very quietly in pursuit of prey. Their short, wide wings allow them to maneuver among the trees of the forest.
  • Great Horned Owls have large eyes, pupils that open widely in the dark, and retinas containing many rod cells for excellent night vision. Their eyes don’t move in their sockets, but they can swivel their heads more than 180 degrees to look in any direction. They also have sensitive hearing, thanks in part to facial disc feathers that direct sound waves to their ears.
The Canadian Bat Box Project

The Canadian Bat Box Project

By: Karen Vanderwolf

PhD student, Trent University
Research Associate, New Brunswick MuseumEnvironmental Life Sciences

If you have a bat box I want to know about it!

Bats in Canada face multiple threats from habitat loss and disease. As towns and cities expand, the large old trees that bats call home are being cleared, and bats are losing their roosts. Bats need a warm and secure place to roost during the day in the summer. A bat box is a simple and effective way to provide additional roosting habitat for bats, but little is known about bat box use in Canada. This especially important as three bat species in Canada are listed as endangered: little brown bats, northern long-eared bats, and tricolored bats. Bats now face additional persecution due to worries about COVID-19, but bats in North America do not have the virus that causes COVID-19 https://cwf-fcf.org/en/about-cwf/faq/faqs/should-i-be-worried-bats.html?src=blog 

Which bat species use bat boxes?

Of the 18 bat species that are regularly found in Canada, 13 have been documented using bat boxes, although these data come from studies farther south in the United States. Current recommendations on bat box design are based on research in the United States, especially Texas, and in Europe. Since the box design bats prefer varies by region and species, more information on bat boxes in Canada is urgently needed. There is very little previous research about which bat species prefer which bat box designs in Canada. Little brown bats are known to use bat boxes throughout Canada, big brown bats use boxes in some parts of Canada, and Yuma bats use boxes in British Columbia.

How you can help!

Our research seeks to determine which bat species use bat boxes across Canada, what box designs are preferred by bats, and which temperatures bats prefer for roosting in our northern climate. To accomplish this, we need to know where bat boxes are located in Canada, the physical characteristics of the boxes, and whether they are being used by bats! Participants will be sent temperature loggers to install in their box and supplies to collect guano (bat poop), as bat species can be identified from guano.

If you have a bat box and would like to participate in this study, please fill out this online multiple-choice survey with questions about your bat box. Your participation is important even if your box does not have any bats! https://trentu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_86og8C3MIgO2ff7

This project is in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Canadian Wildlife Federation https://wcsbats.ca/Our-work-to-save-bats/Batbox-Project/BatBox-Project-Canada-wide

More information about which box designs bats use in Canada will help bat conservation by providing recommendations for improving bat box design and placement in our northern climate.

Why install a bat box?

Installing a bat box gives bats an alternative to roosting in your house, and since all bats in Canada eat only insects, you may even notice a decrease in the insect population around your house! Bats eat a variety of insects, including agricultural and forestry pests. You can watch bats swooping around your backyard at dusk catching insets in midair.

How do I tell if bats are using my box?

You can tell whether your box is being used by bats by searching for guano underneath your box and watching your box at sunset in June to count bats as they emerge for an evening of eating insects. You can watch an example of bats flying out of bat boxes in Prince Edward Island here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqZbyjhC0XI&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1qGaCvi6ucbCdgaJkTES2O517H1uzhTbGeqAN6Srf_oLGrYmPH4TPj5L0 You can also shine a light up into the box during the day to see if there are bats inside from May to October in Canada. The boxes will be too cold for bats during the winter.

How do I get bats to use my box?

Not all bat boxes will be occupied in the first year after installation. Occupancy depends on many factors, ranging from the period in which it was installed to the fact that bats are very selective and might need a little time to familiarize themselves with your bat box. There are no lures or attractants, such as guano, that can attract bats to a bat box, although larger bat boxes with multiple chambers more commonly attract bats than smaller boxes.

Bat boxes are most successful when attached to houses or poles as opposed to trees. Trees shade the box and can block access to the box entrance. If bats are not using your box after two years, try moving the bat box to a new location.

Like tree hollows, bat boxes need to have temperatures that bats like. Bats like hot temperatures, but even in Canada some bat boxes get too hot during the summer, which can increase bat mortality. Temperatures of over 40˚C in bat boxes is too hot, and temperatures in some bat boxes in Canada have been recorded over 50˚C!

Our research group measures the temperature inside bat boxes using temperature loggers that can take a reading every hour over the whole summer. One way to ensure that bats can choose their preferred roosting temperature is to install multiple bat boxes as they will vary in temperature depending on how much direct sunlight they receive.

This bat box on the side of a house in New Brunswick houses little brown bats and their pups during the summer. Photo by Karen Vanderwolf

Little brown bats in a bat box in the Maritimes. Photo by Jordi Segers.

What’s Happening in the Nature Network

What’s Happening in the Nature Network

Connect to and learn from organizations across Canada engaging communities in discovering, restoring, and defending nature. Keep scrolling to get inspired by initiatives happening on the ground. Thank you for being a part of the movement!  

Connecting to Nature through Art

One thing we have certainly come to appreciate this past year during COVID-19 is the value of nature in our neighbourhoods: our NatureHoods. Both Nature Canada’s NatureHood program and Bateman Foundation’s Nature Sketch program are built on connecting people to nature. Our partners at Bateman Foundation have written a guest blog all about connecting with nature through art, and provided access to a number of free useful educational resources, great for homeschooling folks, educators, adults and children alike! 

Studies have shown that reconnecting with nature can help lift depression, improve energy, and boost overall well-being and mental health. Sketching nature has its own benefits; promoting knowledge, understanding, and connection to the environment, and the act itself is a mindful one: taking the time to stop, look and sketch can be a useful tool for managing anxiety and depression. 

Given the benefits reaped from nature, it is of the utmost importance that the nature community collectively continues to acknowledge, understand, and act on the barriers to nature experienced by racialized, and marginalized communities.

Read more and access resources here.

Webinar: Understanding and advancing nature-based climate solutions in your community

Nature Canada is hosting a webinar with the Sustainability Network on March 4th at 2pm EST about Nature-based climate solutions at the community level. Participants will learn about ways nature-based climate solutions can be incorporated into climate plans, and how to advocate for their inclusion. We will discuss how local groups can get involved in the implementation of nature-based climate solutions in their communities. In addition, we will create a space to provide feedback on these ideas, and discuss the opportunities and challenges to advancing nature-based climate solutions in their local communities.

Register for free now.

Bird Friendly City: A conversation with Jesse Hildebrand

Recently, Nature Canada’s Urban Nature Organizer, Aly Hyder Ali sat down with Jesse Hildebrand, lead for the Conservation Stories Canada project to talk about Nature Canada’s Bird Friendly City certification program. Check out the link below to learn more about the launch of the program, and urban conservation in Canadian cities.

Learn more about Nature Canada’s Bird Friendly City program, and if you are interested in making your city a Bird Friendly City, reach out to the Bird Friendly City program coordinator: Aly Hyder Ali AHyderAli@naturecanada.ca.

Learning to See: Identifying Trees from Bark to Bud 

Here is some eye candy for all you forest lovers out there! Check out this video to learn how to identify trees from their bark. Cameos appearances will be made by the white, chestnut, and red oaks, the American Beech, Wild Cherry, and the Shagbark Hickory. This is a great video to watch as we get excited for the federal 2 Billion Tree program. Although it is still early days of the program roll-out, this is a good time to be asking whether your municipality knows about the program, and if they are planning on participating. If you want to ask these questions we would love to hear from you! Please fill in the form so we can get in touch. 

Earth Hour 2021

Earth Hour 2021 will take place on March 27, 2021 – 8:30 p.m. your local time.

A message from WWF International:

The road to Earth Hour 2021 has begun, and we’re incredibly excited to have you on this journey!


To our Earth Hour fam joining us from last year, welcome back and virtual hugs! And for those joining us for the first time this year, we’re here to empower you to speak up for nature, wherever you are in the world. 🌍

We know what you’re thinking – “Why are we talking nature loss, climate change, and our planet’s issues when there’s a pandemic to be worried about?” Just like everyone else, we’d like nothing more than to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19. But there’s never been a better time to talk about the state of our planet than right now.  Our health is directly linked to the health of our planet, and we must fix our broken relationship with the nature if we are to minimize the risk of future pandemics and ensure our long-term health and quality of life.

After all, Earth Hour has always been about two things – people and planet – and with your support we can remind the world just how important this relationship is. 💪

New Year, Same Goal

Things are a little different this year, but there’s never been a better opportunity to make an impact. Discover what’s new this year?

New to Earth Hour? Discover what we’re about!

We feel you – whether it’s at school or at work, being the new kid on the block can be scary. But not when it comes to Earth Hour! As long as you understand why we’re doing what we’re doing and want to play a part, you’re part of the team! Learn more.

What We’re Up Against

Whether you’re team Marvel or team DC, team Mac or team Windows, or team pineapples-on-pizza or team no-pineapples-on-pizza – one thing’s for certain: when it comes to the issues our planet faces, we’re all in this together.

Be a MVP for team Earth by learning more about nature loss and climate change – the biggest challenges of our time. Find out more.

New Canadian Environmental Protection Act Webinar

New to the CEPA Webinar Series  – Friday January 22, 2021 at 1:00 pm ET 

Are Canada’s Environmental Laws up to the Challenge?  Protecting Communities, their Rights and the Environment from the Threats of Biotechnology

Announcing a fourth webinar in the series on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).  The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) is collaborating with Nature Canada on this webinar.

Please join us.

Registration Required:  https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvfu6sqDgqHtFzXbT-twfSd4WL47GDJpTr

Date: Friday January 22, 2021

Time: 1:00 p.m. ET (Time zones: 2:00 p.m. AT, 12 noon CT, 11 am MT, 10 am PT)

Length: 1 hr. 15 mins

For over 20 years, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) has been used to evaluate and manage genetically engineered animals and other products of biotechnology. In this webinar, we will explore how CEPA has performed, and whether it is protecting nature and communities exposed to products of biotechnology, particularly Indigenous people and their rights. With recent advances in genetic engineering, such as CRISPR, as well as more products of biotechnology entering the Canadian marketplace, an assessment of CEPA’s effectiveness is long overdue. In the September 2020 Throne Speech, the federal government made a commitment to “modernize” CEPA.  This webinar will highlight the recent example of AquAdvantage Salmon and the changes needed to better regulate future proposals to manufacture or import new GE animals.

We will have presentations by experts on biotechnology issues and CEPA, including:

·  Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network

·  Charles Greg Sark, Professor, University of Prince Edward Island   

·  Hugh Benevides,  Advisor (CEPA Reform), Nature Canada

·  Elaine MacDonald, Senior Scientist, Ecojustice

Who should participate: Concerned citizens, Indigenous peoples, health and environmental NGOs, labour organizations, students and academics, scientists.

To register for Webinar #4: Visit CEPA Webinar series at the following: Webpage link – https://cela.ca/changes_to_cepa/

Registration link – https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvfu6sqDgqHtFzXbT-twfSd4WL47GDJpTr.

Note that your registration will be immediate and you should receive a confirmation from CELA<no-reply@zoom.us>  

For more information, contact: Fe de Leon, MPH, Researcher and Paralegal, Canadian Environmental Law Association, deleonf@cela.ca (email); 416-960-2284 ext 7223 (office)

Background References:

Government of Canada.  Canadian Environmental Protection Act review https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/canadian-environmental-protection-act-registry/review.html.

Nature Canada. July 2020. Protecting the environment from GE organisms: Proposed Amendments to Part 6, Canadian Environmental Protection Act

English: https://aaf1a18515da0e792f78-c27fdabe952dfc357fe25ebf5c8897ee.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/1909/CEPA+Amendments+Report+EN.pdf?v=1597840951000

French: https://aaf1a18515da0e792f78-c27fdabe952dfc357fe25ebf5c8897ee.ssl.cf5.rackcdn.com/1909/CEPA+Amendments+Report+FR.pdf?v=1597840953000

Canadian Environmental Law Association.  October 2018.  Proposed Amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act https://cela.ca/proposed-amendments-to-the-canadian-environmental-protection-act/

CEPA Webinar Series. November 2020. https://cela.ca/changes_to_cepa/

2020 Annual Bird Count – Lawson Nature Reserve

Northern Cardinal – (Cardinalis cardinalis) male

Thanks are extended to the nine club members who participated in this year’s annual Christmas Bird Count, held on December 28, 2020. Sightings of 19 species from the two and a half-hour walk are noted below along with count numbers from December 2017, 2018 and 2019, for comparison.  There was little activity in the Reserve – perhaps due to strong winds overnight and early morning, with cold rain.

Species2020201920182017
American Goldfinch1093517
Northern Cardinal80139
Dark-Eyed Junco180736
American Tree Sparrow0001
White-crowned Sparrow1000
Brown Creeper1202
White-breasted Nuthatch69119
Red-breasted Nuthatch  6000
Black-capped Chickadee25194323
American Crow10953
Blue Jay141518
Mourning Dove33111
Canada Geese24 (in-flight)14522
Herring Gull0810
Hairy Woodpecker0010
Downy Woodpecker54129
Red-bellied Woodpecker4534
Pileated Woodpecker  1000
Ducks (unidentified)00150
Red-tailed Hawk0010
Rough Legged Hawk  1000
Harrier Hawk  0100
Coopers Hawk  1 (in flight)100
Starlings  01500
Great Horned Owl  1100
Bald Eagle  0100
Rock Pidgeons  02000
Raven (heard, not seen)1000

The Bird Friendly City campaign is also seeking new partners – together we’re stronger!

Bird Friendly City is a national campaign, led by Nature Canada, which aims to create safer conditions in cities and towns across Canada for our bird populations by focusing on three main aspects: addressing and mitigating threats, restoring and protecting natural habitat, and conducting outreach, education and public mobilization.

We have developed a list of actions that aim to address all the threats birds face in our urban environments, as well as a certification standard to assess the bird friendliness of a city! 

To ensure that we are working towards improving conditions for birds, and by extension nature, we are partnering with local nature groups and developing coalitions (bird teams) to turn our cities into Bird Friendly Cities. 

We are aiming to certify at least 30 eligible cities as Bird Friendly Cities by World Migratory Bird Day 2022! 

Interested in working with us and making your city safer for birds? We would love to hear from you! Reach out to Aly Hyder Ali, Urban Nature Organizer at ahyderali@naturecanada.ca.

Join the growing NatureHood program and greater movement

NatureHood is a Nature Canada initiative that works through our network of partners to connect young people in nature in their neighbourhood and nearby Migratory Bird Sanctuaries and National Wildlife Areas through nature-based programming opportunities. 

The program’s growth focuses on engaging racialized communities through new partnerships in an effort to break down barriers that exist to accessing the benefits of nature. As we grow with focus, we have been thrilled to welcome four new partnerships this year: Green Ummah, Trails Youth Initiatives, Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s Beyond the Park program. Learn more about the work our NatureHood partners are doing here

Interested in being a part of the movement towards more equitable nature-based programming? Reach out to Camille Koon the NatureHood Organizer at ckoon@naturecanada.ca

Webinar Nature Canada on the 2 Billion Trees Initiative – Hope for Nature and the Climate?

Webinar Alert from Nature Canada: 2 billion trees – Hope for nature and the climate? Canada continues to record high rates of forest loss resulting in dramatic declines in biodiversity and worsening impacts of climate change. The federal government’s commitment to plant 2 billion trees (2BT) by 2030 has tremendous potential to help restore degraded forest ecosystems in rural and urban areas, helping to achieve Canada’s important biodiversity and climate goals. Join us for a free webinar hosted by the Sustainability Network on December 15, 2020 from 1 – 2 p.m. EST to learn more about the federal government’s 2BT initiative, challenges, and opportunities. Register at https://sustainabilitynetwork.ca/nature-canada-2-billion-trees/