Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meet the Researcher at Algonquin Park!

Meet the Researcher Day
When: Thursday, July 28, 2011, 9am – 3pm
East Beach Picnic Pavilion
Event Type: Special Events & Guests
Age: All Ages

Algonquin's Wildlife Research Station invites you to spend time with researchers who use Algonquin Park as their laboratory. Meet those who study reptiles and amphibians, birds, small mammals, fish, wolves, and even humans (through archaeology).

A fundraising barbecue (noon to 2:00pm, or while quantities last) is hosted by The Friends of Algonquin Park in support of research in the Park, and free draws take place for great prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations. Suitable for all ages.

See more images of Meet the Researcher Day on Facebook

Fore more information visit the Friends of Algonquin Park website

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Batty About Bats

Bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects such as moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. Did you know that a single bat can catch hundreds of insects in just one hour? That can mean consuming from 30 to 50 percent of its body weight in insects each night!

Christy Macdonald, Fish and Wildlife Technical Specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources joined us for the third Nature Quest workshop of the summer to tell us about bats in Ontario and some of the challenges they face. Here are some of the highlights from the afternoon.

There are eight different species of bats in Ontario. Can you name them? Above is the big brown bat. Below, is the tri-coloured bat.

There is also the Hoary bat, the Eastern Red bat, the Silver-haired bat, the Northern Long-eared bat, the Eastern Small footed bat, and the Little Brown bat. Ontario's bats are a mix of cavity and foliage roosters. Cavity roosters roost in caves (or sometimes bat houses) in large numbers and hibernate over winter. Foliage roosters don't form colonies but instead live singularly in trees. The Eastern Red bat, the Hoary bat, and the Tri-coloured bat are all foliage roosters.

One serious issue Christy spoke with the group about is white-nosed syndrome. The Little brown bat above has the outward physical signs of this white fungus which first appears on the nose and face areas and has since spread the the wings. This fungus deteriorates the skin on these areas. There is not much known about this fungus that has only appeared in Ontario in the past year. It is only present in the colonies as they hibernate. Internally, the white fungus seems to cause strange behaviour in bats, such as waking up during hibernation. When they wake up they want to clean themselves of the fungus which uses their crucial energy stores. Sometimes infected bats will spend even more energy looking for food during the day-time or in winter. This is bad news, as these bats end up using their stored energy and dying of starvation.

What can you do to help? Don't go into caves or abandoned mines. And don't touch live or dead bats. You can also report sightings of bats with white-nosed syndrome by calling the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1-866-673-4781.

Bat houses are another way we can help bats by creating habitat for them. There are many factors to consider when building a bat house:

  1. Design & Construction

  2. Habitat (in Muskoka, near water is a must)

  3. Sun exposure (full sun, and paint the box black)

  4. Mounting (predator guards, not on a tree)

  5. Away from predators (like racoons)

  6. Away from uninvited guests (like wasps)

  7. Timing (fall is the best time to put up a bat house)

  8. Experiment (if bats don't visit, try another location)

You will need to do some research about the specific design and construction. Some helpful links to resources are below. I would love to hear how you fare!

Above: Christy speaks to the group about the different styles and the location of the 4 bat houses at the MNR office in Bracebridge. Can you spot the three different styles in this photo?


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Species at Risk in Muskoka: A guided walk of Torrance Barrens

For our 2nd Nature Quest workshop of the summer we gathered at Torrance Barrens to learn about Species at Risk in Muskoka. Torrance Barrens is a Conservation and Dark Sky Reserve established in 1999. The 1905 hectares is a region as a protected pace free from intrusion by urban light pollution. Its' rugged barrens, wetlands, and forested areas also provide habitat to at least 5 of Ontario's Species at Risk.

Natural Heritage Biologist Jan McDonnell led the group on a hike around Highland Pond and spoke to us about the valuable habitat the area provides and the species who call Torrance Barrens home.

Above: Here's Jan telling the group about turtles that are known to live in Torrance Barrens. Spotted Turtles have been seen here before and Blanding's turtle habitat exists here.

Above: a Spotted turtle, a species at risk classified as endangered

Above: a Blanding's turtle, a species at risk classified as threatened

Above: Participants in the workshop cross the bridge over the wetland. Wetlands are one of Muskoka's most valuable habitats. They provide many services like filtering the water to maintain water quality, help prevent erosion, and help control floods. Many species also depend on wetlands for habitat and food.

Above: Jan passes around a turtle shell and a snake skin for participants to look at as she speaks about suitable habitat for snakes such as Massassauga rattlesnakes and Eastern Hog-nose Snakes.

Above: Massassauga rattlesnakes (threatened on the species at risk list) use large "table rocks" as gestation sites. It is here that they give birth to live young every 2 years. It is too energetically demanding to do every year. The table rocks are used to thermoregulate; hide in the shade under the rocks or between the rocks when it's hot and lay on top when they need to absorb heat.

Above: Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes eat toads and tend to roam over vast areas in search of toads, open sandy areas & dry woods. They lay eggs under a log or in leaf litter in midsummer. Their eggs hatch after about 2 months.

Above: In a dramatic fashion, the Eastern Hog-nosed snake will play dead (and even hand its' tongue out!) as a defence mechanism. They are also known to "puff adder" to intimidate potential prey, although they are not dangerous. They are categorized as threatened on the species at risk list.

Above: At our last stop, Jan talks about the poor fen wetland in Torrance Barrens. Poor fens have a high water table and some flow-through, but not much fresh water. They absorb massive amounts of water and are exceptional at preventing floods, supplying a constant flow of water and water filtration.

Above: The Whip-poor-will is a nocturnal bird whose habitat can be found in Torrance Barrens. They like a mixture of open (for feeding) and wooded (for nesting) areas. Whip-poor-wills call at dusk and just before dawn and their name take after the sound of their call. They are also a species at risk, categorized as threatened.

The Five-lined Skink is Ontario’s only lizard. Juveniles have a bright neon blue tail (grey in adults as above). Skinks are active during the day and like wooded locations with sandy soil and open rocky habitat with crevices and loose rocks. They lay 6-10 eggs under a log or rock which hatch in late summer. They are listed as a species of special concern on the species at risk list in Ontario.

Watch for turtles out on the roads this season!

Slow down in areas where you see this sign.

Find out more:

Don't miss the last 2 Nature Quest workshops!

July 19: Batty about Bats

July 26: Woodlot Management and Tree Selection

GO HERE for registration information

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tree ID in Muskoka

It's that time of year again! The Nature Quest Stewardship Series is in full swing. Join us every Tuesday in July as we learn about tree identification, species at risk, bats, and forest management.

Participants look in their field guides and they identify a tree as part of the first Nature Quest workshop of the summer.

This week, the topic for the workshop was "Hike up your tree ID IQ". You might remember a workshop with the same title from last year. The new Stewardship Coordinator at the Parry Sound Muskoka Stewardship Council, Chris Near, refreshed the program this year and enthralled the audience in an afternoon hike at the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre.

Chris helped to give us the tools we need to become tree ID experts. Here he helps a young participant identify some needles from a coniferous tree.

Chris helps some of the participants note the differences between the leaves of hard and soft maples.

We started off with a list of ways that trees can be identified:

Coniferous or Deciduous

Coniferous are cone-bearing and have needles. Deciduous have leaves.


What colour is it? Is it rough or smooth? Does it peel? Is it hard or soft? Each tree has a distinctive bark. This is a good way to identify deciduous trees in the winter.

Leaf Pattern and Structure

Are the leaves compound or are they simple?

Do the leaves grow opposite on each side of the stem or do they alternate?
Along the edges, is each leaf lobed, single toothed, or double toothed?

What is the shape of the leaf?

When there are no leaves on the trees, it can also be helpful to look at the pattern of the buds on the branch.

Needle Pattern

Are the needles clustered together? if so, in groups of how many? Or, are the needles single shoots off the stem?


What is the silhouette of the tree when you stand back a little but and look at it? Round, pointy, bushy? This can offer a hint as to the species of the tree.


Is the tree bearing any fruit? What does it look like? What shape is it?

My list above is very brief and uses only words. It's a good idea to find a field guide to help you with your tree ID. There are also some good websites to help you along. Some suggestions are at the end of the blog. It's also a good idea to go for hikes to practice your tree ID. After all, practice makes perfect! Good Luck!

Participants walk along the trail and the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre. It was a beautiful day for a hike as we identified trees.

Suggested Resources

What tree is it? : an interactive tree ID website

Flemming College website

Highly recommended book: Trees in Canada by John Laird Farrar

For a sneak peek at the same book try this link

Another highly recommended book: Forest Plants of Central Ontario

Join us next Tuesday at Torrence Barrens as we discover Species at Risk in Muskoka!