Thursday, December 27, 2012

Urban Ecology of Ponds (Ottawa)

Interesting study by Christopher Hassall from the Department of Biology at Carleton University entitled:

Ottawa's ponds as an open-air laboratory for research into urban ecology

Here is the summary from the weblink:

This project investigated the biodiversity of urban water bodies used for storm water management in Ottawa, Canada. Preliminary findings suggest that some of these managed water bodies contain similar levels of biodiversity to unmanaged, "natural" water bodies, although there are a number of highly degraded managed sites with very low biodiversity. The presence of fish in 10 out of 20 managed ponds suggests relatively healthy ecosystems. Analysis of mosquito monitoring data suggests that the presence of managed water bodies does not affect the number of mosquitoes in an area. In conclusion, urban ponds can contribute ecosystem services including storm water management and biodiversity without increases in insect disease vectors.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

local funding for green

Evergreen Funding in Ottawa (2011 - 2012):

Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation – Manotick, ON
Graham Creek Restoration Project
Founded in 1970, The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation is a registered environmental charity that works to protect and conserve the Rideau River valley in eastern Ontario. The Graham Creek Restoration Project, located in a public park, will focus on restoring a section of the tributary creek through a combination of bioengineering techniques and public shoreline plantings.

Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE) – Ottawa, ON
The Children’s Garden – Sustainable Living Ottawa East created Ottawa’s first public garden four years ago. Designed for and with children, the SLOE garden is dedicated to teaching kids how to grow food organically right in the middle of the city. The garden has built links with schoolchildren and youth groups, attracted families to events and provided sanctuary for anyone who wants to escape into the wonder and magic of this urban oasis. This season they will continue to offer programs and activities that provide children with hands-on opportunities to engage their curiosity about the natural world through gardening and nature-based activities.

Fletcher Wildlife Garden – Ottawa, ON
Tree Planting - Funding for this project will support the removal of several dead trees from the Fletcher Wildlife garden site, and the addition of various native trees as replacement.  The new native trees will be sourced from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s native plant nursery which supports the organization’s restoration and wildlife habitat development initiatives.

Sustainable Living Ottawa East – Ottawa, ON
Community Park Participatory Planning - This project is Phase 2 of a community park planning process developed by SLOE in consultation with local community members.  SLOE staff will work with community members to develop a plan for a local park and protected forest area through various hands-on activities and educational tours of the site.  This project will also see the installation of more educational signage along a pathway in the park with information on native plants in the area.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

sea tree



"Waterstudio has designed a new concept for high density green spots in a city, the sea tree. This sea tree is a floating structure that hold in many layers green habitats for only animals. Under water the sea tree provides a habitat for small water creatures or even when the climate allows it for artificial coral reefs. The cost for the shown Sea Tree design is estimated at 4.5 million dollar." 

More on their website.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Biocentric Cities: Bicycle Power Generated at Gyms

Fortum Active - an energy generation idea from Scandinavia.  Check it out on You Tube:

They are also doing this in Philadelphia - check out Green Revolution!

D & C's Biocentric Cities post is a monthly post that features options for energy and heating systems that would reduce our demand on natural and non-renewable resources outside the city.  A city's consumption is many times its city limit size and impacts nature that we don't even see. My hope is that a city can produce its own energy, heat and clean water within its city boundaries.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Portland's bioretention facilities

Portland's Green Street programme redevelops formerly asphalt areas into bioretention facilities. Before the Green Street treatment, this was an asphalt parking lot that routinely flooded. 

Image via Streetsblog San Francisco. Thanks to David Mann on Pinterest for the find.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Snapping Turtles Habitat (near Hamilton)

At a wetland restoration course I attended this summer, I met someone from Hamilton Conservation who mentioned an interesting project to protect turtle habitat and nests.  This was during a day-trip where the class saw some man-made turtle basking and nesting sites that South Nation Conservation had implemented. They were along Chippenhook Creek (where it crosses Skakum Road).  The Hamilton project took it one step further, in that volunteers monitored the nesting sites and protected them against predators during the summer and then helped the baby turtles when they are hatching.

Here is some information about the project:
- Turtles move from their wintering sites in late May and their peak nesting period is mid-June.  
- Dundas Turtle Watch volunteers identify, monitor and rescue turtles at risk from traffic. Cootes Paradise (where this work is being done) is a remnant marsh near McMaster.
- Female turtles of some species take approximately 16 years to reach breeding maturity so the protection of females of breeding age is essential to their survival.
- Volunteers also protect nests from predation wherever possible - this is done by identifying and marking sites and also putting grates or chicken wire on top of the nest.
- Volunteer work begin in late May, with a summer break usually in July and part of August. Then the monitoring starts again as the eggs begin to hatch and continues through September.

The Dundas Turtle Watch project targets the Snapping Turtle (on Federal lists as a 'species of special concern') and the Blandings Turtle (which is endangered). There may be only a single breeding pair left in Cootes Paradise.  This project is organized in close cooperation with the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), whose qualified staff provide orientation sessions for the volunteers. All the information gathered is relayed to the RBG and the data is used for educational and research purposes. Full details are here.

The Turtles At Risk Study in South Nation, (which received funding from EC's Habitat Stewardship Program), will hellp "better understand turtle distributions and enhance turtle habitat by identifying and mitigating threats through the utilization of inventories, community involvement, and stewardship activities".

 And two other examples of people helping with turtle nesting spots:
- Northumberland - Hamilton Woman Works to Protect Turtles
- Metro News - Windsor Employees Save Snapping Turtles

Image from Louise Daughter Blogspot

Friday, November 30, 2012

Urban Wild "Express" (the art corner of D & C)

Ned Kahn - installation artist "Articulated Cloud"

See other pieces by this artist on You Tube here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 1)

Canada Lands Company (CLC) and the team of consultants selected to do the planning process and development strategy had their first public meeting this week regarding this site.  They provided information on the current conditions of the 125 hectare site and existing infrastructure (including sewar, stormwater and transportation - such as bike/ped networks and transit) and some concepts for "green and blue" that could help guide the process forward.  The public was encouraged to participate at this Ideas Fair through comment sheets, recorded messages, ideas clouds and even at a children's station.

Personally I was thrilled that so much consideration was given to current ecological conditions that included both water and land features and established species.  Not only did maps indicate where "significant tree groupings" and individual trees (there is a 160 year old Bur Oak on the property) were located (Landmark Trees of Ontario noted on their Facebook page that there are multiple large Bitternut Hickories, Sugar Maples, Basswood, Rock Elm and Slippery Elm spread throughout the site), they also showed "periodic standing water" features and potential locations for rain water ponds.  Two adjacent woodlots were highlighted - including the ecological land classification of these woods (Great Lakes-St. Laurence Forests) - and the aquatic scenery of the Ottawa River was noted.  Between the woodlots and development areas, buffers were proposed, allowing for a transitional zone which would help protect the integrity of these forests.

“Our vision is for the complete integration of landscape architecture and urban design, which I think is quite ground-breaking.”

- Don Schultz, CLC’s real estate director for Rockcliffe
Daily Commercial News, May 2013

All in all it's a great place to start and allows the public to envision an urban space that is truly integrated with its surroundings.  And who wouldn't be inspired when they see images like this:

There is still time for you to provide your input.  Review the presentation and display boards online at the CLC website and then share your ideas and comments through the link on the Contact Information page.  This is a year and a half-process, so there will be many other opportunities to have your say and show your concerns and/or appreciation as the project develops.  Next spring the consultants will provide their conceptual design options for the property - which they will start to develop after receiving public comments from the meetings this week.

All images are from:


Winter 2013 Update:

The Public Consultation Report from this Open House/Ideas Fair was published in January 2013.  It was shown that there was overwhelming support from the public to "preserve as much of the natural topography as possible and enhance the area's walkability and connectivity" (see page seven of the report):

The largest group of similar comments focused on protection of existing trees, forests, birds, animals and open space.

Also as mentioned above the CLC Real Estate Director views this project as an opportunity to integrate the landscape with the urban design and the landscape architect that is part of the consultant team believes in the importance of creating and maintaining urban oases public space which bodes well for the project.  She was in Ottawa in 2006 doing a presentation for Carleton's School of Architecture Lecture Series:

Here is the full quote: Why is landscape important?  Because it feeds your soul. Someone won't sit down and write a poem, but they will design a garden. We have to put pressure on government to say that public realm spaces are really critical in terms of quality of life, especially as we're doing more development. We need theses oases in the urban areas that surround us.

As the project continues, I will provide more details on the progress in my series of posts!

Posts on Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment:

First blog post: September 2011

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 2) - April 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 3) - September 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 4) - October 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 5) - November 2013

Thursday, November 22, 2012

native vs cultivated (Toronto)

The City of Toronto  is in the middle of changing its Bylaw in regards to "Natural Garden Exemption".  The Local Scoop has a blog post notifying local gardeners to be aware of the changes and provide comments if interested here are some suggestions/concerns:

"The details of the proposed changes are somewhat complicated. As a minimum, you may wish to at least make a general statement incorporating some or all of the following points :
- naturalized gardens are to be encouraged, not discouraged
- they provide many benefits (e.g. biodiversity, supporting pollinators, absorbing storm water)
- they should not require any special permit, inspection or approval process
- people should be able to have such gardens without fear of removal or cutting orders or fines
- natural gardens should not be singled out for special investigation by Municipal Licensing and Standards (MLS) by-law officers
- MLS should restrict its role to issues of health and safety and specified noxious weeds
- all clauses relating to garden height, size, maintenance, aesthetics, plant material etc. should be removed
- in two legal challenges launched by Toronto gardeners, Ontario courts have affirmed that citizens have the constitutional right, protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to tend a natural garden on their private property and on the city-owned road allowance in front of their property.
The terms "invasive" and "noxious" are bandied about very loosely and incorrectly.

Definition of Invasive (according to Ontario Invasive Plant Council):

Invasive species - Alien species whose introduction or spread negatively impact native biodiversity, the economy and/or society, including human health.

Alien Species - Plant, animals and micro-organisms that have been accidentally or deliberately introduced into areas beyond their native range. Synonyms may include introduced, non-native and exotic.

They say they may "request" removal of specific "noxious" weeds, but actually, they demand removal of weeds that are not noxious. 

Note: Under the Weed Control Act (Ont.), the only species listed as a noxious or local weed in the City of Toronto is Purple Loosestrife (through a bylaw). Ragweed and Poison Ivy are not invasive because they are native species. However, they are a human health hazard and should be regulated in urban areas. The Scoop recommends that Toronto declare them as local weeds under the Weed Control Act (Ont.), Section 10. Giant Hogweed should also be included, but is not listed here. 
European buckthorn is an invasive species and only noxious in rural areas, i.e., not in urban areas unless regulated as a local weed through the proper channels. E. buckthorn, DSV and Garlic Mustard should all be declared as local weeds. For starters, add Japanese Knotweed, too. Since the Weed Control Act (WCA) applies to both private and public lands, all species declared as either noxious or local must be removed within the municipal boundary. The local weed, Purple Loosestrife must be removed everywhere it occurs in the City of Toronto. If additional species are declared local weeds through bylaws, they must also be removed wherever they are found within Toronto."

Image and Italicized Text from the Local Scoop

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wetland Areas for Wildlife

Found this great article online about enhancing wet areas for wildlife:

"Animals favour ponds for different reasons. Adult amphibians use them to lay their eggs. Grass snakes use them to search for frogs and tadpoles. Birds use them to drink and bathe. Whether you add these features for the benefit of wildlife or to complement your garden design, you might be surprised how much pleasure you can get from wildlife watching. "

Here are some ways from the article to enhance areas around ponds:

Damp areas: Emerging amphibians are very susceptible to drying out (dessicating) in the sun. Avoid dry features (like slabs and cobbles) that heat up quickly.

Grass piles: After mowing your lawn consider making a compost heap. Secluded sunny spots are best and wildlife visitors might include hedgehogs (to hibernate) and grass snakes (to lay eggs).

Toad homes: Build a toad home for your back garden (visit All you need is some basic DIY skills. With adult supervision, this can be an excellent exercise for children. When the shelter is complete, just put a few leaves and twigs inside and pop it in the garden.

Amphibian wintering sites: For amphibians you could consider making a ‘hibernaculum’: an area where frogs, toads and newts can see out the winter. To do this lay down some old logs, brick-rubble or even hardcore, and cover this with excavated soil. Make sure your hibernaculum is in an area which is not in full sun, and that the soil drains well. Encourage moss and grass to grow on the top of stones and bricks by covering with a layer of soil or turf.

Log piles & rockeries: Leaving logs and rocks around the edge of the pond helps emerging invertebrates and amphibians find shelter, particularly in winter. In addition dead wood attracts invertebrates on which amphibians can feed whilst they hide. Log piles can ensure many amphibians will stay in your garden all year round.

Lizard rockeries: South-facing rockeries might attract nearby common lizards, and other reptiles into gardens. Use the soil excavated after digging your pond.

Butterfly banks: After creating your pond, consider using leftover soil to create an excellent wildflower bank for invertebrates like moths and butterflies. Sow the soil with native wildflower seeds. Like rockeries, south-facing sunny banks are best.

Grasses and wildflower areas: Depending on the size of your garden, think about a secton/strip for wildflowers, herbs or even a hedge. This will create a more varied mosaic of wildlife habitats - butterflies and bees will particularly favour these areas.

Compost heaps: Any type of compost heap can be beneficial to wildlife even if it is enclosed. This is because a compost heap attracts lots of invertebrates such as slugs and snails - an ideal meal for any hungry frog or hedgehog. A traditional open compost heap will produce a large amount of heat as the vegetation is rotting down, which will be especially favourable to slow worms, particularly if you lay some old carpet over the top. Grass snakes visit some compost heaps in the late spring to lay their eggs.

Plants for a boggy area:
  • Common Bugle Ajuga repens
  • Marsh marigold Caltha palustris
  • Hard rush Juncus inflexus
  • Lady’s smock Cardamine pratensis
  • Ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi
  • Marsh wouldwort Stachys palustris
From World of Water (U.K. Company)
Image from: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Biocentric Cities: poop power in dog parks

 From Wired Science:

"Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta is using dog feces to power lampposts in a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (His "art" comprises) a special “methane digester” that converts freshly scooped poop into methane.  Dog owners collect their dog waste in a special biodegradable bag and throw it into the digester –- an air-tight cylindrical container, where the dog feces are broken down by anaerobic bacteria. A byproduct from that process is methane, which can then be released through a valve and burnt as fuel. In this case it is being used to power an old-fashioned gas-burning lamppost in a park."

Read more about it here: Park Spark Project.

Image: Park Spark Project. 

D & C's Biocentric Cities post is a monthly post that features options for energy and heating systems that would reduce our demand on natural and non-renewable resources outside the city.  A city's consumption is many times its city limit size and impacts nature that we don't even see. My hope is that a city can produce its own energy, heat and clean water within its city boundaries.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Steve Vogel on Daylighting (Detroit)

Two minute video on You Tube:  Detroit architect, Steve Vogel discusses the topic of day lighting and it's benefit to the environment.

Also an article from The Nautilus, Spring 2011 about the potential for one project for Bloody Run Creek.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Reconnecting to Wonder

At 40 I chose a new path.  It had been percolating in me for awhile.  I knew I wasn't happy at work but really didn't know what I wanted to do.  For awhile I thought a trip to India would be a good place to soul search but that would be a few years in the making.  While I pondered and saved, I started looking into local opportunities that peaked my interest.

First it was an urban stream monitoring program, where local citizens got in hip waders and took measurements of urban streams.  It was amazing to get outside - it reconnected me to my childhood and the river's comforting rush of water.  Next it was a lecture on urban meadows and the opportunity to create habitat where there never was before and create new opportunities for birds and birders.  Then I went to a tree planting session and heard from someone who recalled planting trees when he was 20 and how rewarding it was to go back 40 years later and see the living legacy that he had helped create.  All of these events and experiences led me to a new career of urban ecology.

Now I'm at school learning about scientific protocols, animal tracking, statistical reliability and restoration projects but it's hard to see its applicability in urban settings sometimes as it's such a new field.  What I'd like to do next year is fly to Europe and visit some of the cities that I have read about in magazines and on the web where they are doing incredible work in this area: creating beautiful urban meadows of flowers in the Prenzlauer Berg District in Berlin, designing urban nature zones and adding ponds to the different arrondissments in Paris, adding wetland habitat in the London Olympic parklands in Lea Valley and preserving the market gardens and greenbelt in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

It would be amazing to have what I learn, leap off the page and become real for me - to really live and breath the amazing opportunities that there are and to be able to learn from what Europe is doing and apply it to cities in Canada!

(Air Canada Entry - contest open until December!)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

urban wildlife (Ottawa)

Amy's picture of the Eastern Redback Salamander found in Rockcliffe Park reminded me of other great nature sightings in the city:

Eric Darwin, blogger of West Side Action posts some great pictures of animals in his blog, as he's an active cyclists and pedestrian.  Some of his nature photos include turtles basking, comorants on the Ottawa River and beavers in lebreton flats.  The two I've included here are a snake along the bike path and a great blue heron on the Rideau Canal.

Also Fernando Farfand who is active on Flickr managed to capture the deer in Rockcliffe Park, the same year, my partner and I saw it (but only managed to get a blurry photo of its rear!).  Another photographer on Flickr had some great pictures of the prolific rabbits in Major's Hills Park.

What type of urban wildlife have you seen this fall?

Monday, November 5, 2012

dark skies lighting

We hear about light pollution and how not only is it wasteful but also how it affects wildlife (nocturnal and those that migrate at night).  Here's a "Cool Green Feature" in Tartan's new development in Barrhaven called Havencourt (taken from their website):

Dark Skies Street Lighting
The purpose of streetlights is to light streets and sidewalks, not to block out views on starry nights. Havencourt will feature innovative downward directed street lighting—focusing the light where it’s needed. Get out your telescopes!

Read about more sustainable features on Heartfelt!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Invisible Cities - Urban Biodiversity Conference (Toronto)

Invisible Cities: An Urban Biodiversity Conference

Royal Ontario Museum
Organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources
May 20th, 2010

From the website:  

"It brought together an audience of professionals, including architects, urban planners, scientists, and the media to talk to people about how to manage biodiversity in an increasingly urban world. A mix of keynote speakers and panellists discussed real-life examples of integrating ecology into cities and debated some of the current concerns around the extent to which it is possible for cities and species to co-exist. The conference was a great success and we are pleased to be able to share it with you. We hope you enjoy them, and that they move you to think more about how we can live with nature in the modern world."

Link to videos which feature some highlights from the conference: Invisible Cities Event

Speakers included:
- Dr. Pavan Sukhdev, Special Adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative.
- Geoff Cape of Evergreen talking about his vision of tree-filled cities, and an overview of the Evergreen Brickworks project in Toronto.
- Jon Grant, Chair of the Ontario Biodiversity Council.
- Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends Of The Greenbelt Foundation.
- Laura Reinsborough, Founder of Not Far From the Tree.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Urban Wild "Express" (the artist corner of D & C)

The Espresso Fern

Perched high up on a palm tree was a little fern.
Overlooking a café, she could see the barista.
The gurgling. The hissing. The knocking.
Now comes the best part.
The unification of black and white; 
see what appears.
White milk swims in rich earth extract 
and slowly her image appears.
It’s the highlight of the day.
She has seen this repeated many times 
And she still smiles happy every time.

From: What I see When I run (Botanical Portraits)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ottawa flora & fauna

Great Resources:

- Flora and Fauna of the Upper Ottawa Valley: Example of the Water Arum

- Ottawa Valley Naturalist: List of Common Mammals in Ottawa

- Fletcher's Front Yard Challenge - going native in front of your neighbours!

Photo from Ottawa Valley Naturalist

Monday, October 22, 2012

Street Canyon Ivy

Here's a link to a new study that suggests that ivy growing on walls may be better than street trees in cleaning the air in "street canyon" situations.  (Street canyons are roads surrounded by tall buildings, where air tends to linger.)

Here's more from the website:

"The researchers ran computer simulations to determine how green walls and roofs might affect pollutant concentrations at street level. Adding plants to walls would cut nitrogen dioxide levels by 15 percent and small particulate matter by 23 percent, the authors estimate. In areas with little wind, those numbers could reach 40 and 60 percent. Green roofs didn’t perform as well because they don’t directly affect the air near the street. 

Trees also help clean the air, but they can keep street-level air from mixing with the air above. At low to medium pollutant levels, planting trees will still reduce air pollution, the team predicts. If a city is very polluted, however, trees could actually increase nitrogen dioxide levels near the street."

Read more here:

P.S. Check out my latest "urban wild" nature blog: Wild. Here.
(2017 update)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bird Houses near Aviation Museum/Rockcliffe Parkway

Bird houses along entrance to Rockcliffe Flying Club and Yacht Club - does anyone know who put them up and who maintains them?  There are also some bird houses in Rockcliffe (Sandridge and Hillsdale Road) - would it be the same individual/organization who put these up also and are any of these houses for specific birds?

Any info would be appreciated!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Biocentric Cities: constructed (sewage treatment) wetlands

In my first semester Ecology and Environment text book, this picture of John Todd's "neighborhood sewage treatment facility" is an incredible design for a biocentric city.  I love that it's shown right against a sidewalk in between pedestrians and the street.

The description reads: "Water trickling through the containers of aquatic plants is cleaned and purified by biological processes.  Under optimal conditions, both odours and costs are minimal."  John Todd and his partner Nancy Jack Todd run Ocean Arks International.  Some of their other design concepts show how these systems "harnesses the biological processes that operate in nature within the form of an engineered treatment system to successfully meet discharge standards and permitting requirements"  and they are easily integrated into cityscapes.  Follow the link to see the concepts: "sustainable water management".

Here's an article on these living eco- machines: "Clean Green Waste-water Recycling" from Inhabit:
"Converting sewer sludge to fresh water is no easy job; traditional treatment plants consume massive amounts of money, energy, and resources. John Todd’s innovative solutions for waste-water management re-envision the process as an eco-conscious endeavor, conserving water and reducing overall treatment costs with minimal sludge disposal, water purchases, sewer surcharges, and chemical use."

D & C's Biocentric Cities post is a monthly post that features options for energy and heating systems that would reduce our demand on natural and non-renewable resources outside the city (or in this one case - save energy).  A city's consumption is many times its city limit size and impacts nature that we don't even see. My hope is that a city can produce its own energy, heat and clean water within its city boundaries.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Open Field Restoration Project

Cool Restoration Project in the U.S. of 720 acres:

"Open fields in the heart of the forested Ozark hills are a precious commodity because not many exist, according to MDC Wildlife Management Biologist Ryan Houf. He said the fields play a vital role in wildlife management for bob white quail, swamp rabbits, cottontail rabbits, Eastern wild turkey, whitetail deer, elk, butterflies, insects, small mammals, and numerous song birds.

To help restore the fields, encroaching woody plants and invasive species such as Johnson grass, fescue, sericea lespedeza, and autumn olive were removed. Fertilizer and lime were applied to the fields by local contractors. Once the fields were prepared, MDC staf used a no-till drill to plant the fields. “The higher quality forage will provide year round utilization by wildlife,” Ryan said.

Cool-season grasses such as orchard grass and native warm season grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, gama grass, Indian grass, and switch grass were planted. To help offset future fertilizer costs, legumes such as clover and alfalfa were added into the grass mixes. The legumes add nitrogen to the soil and provide protein to wildlife and livestock that eat the forage. A winter cover crop of wheat, rye, or barley will provide wildlife green browse during the long winter months and also prevent erosion.

All this work enhances wildlife habitat by reducing invasive plant species, replacing those plant species with more wildlife friendly plants that provide food, cover, and nesting habitat. By eliminating the invasive plant species, the watershed is improved and better protected as well, Ryan said."

These fields are still used as hay fields but Parks and Conservation set  "haying dates and mowing heights to better promote plant health and vigor and maintain open field sustainability for wildlife and plant species."

Really interesting project - read more here: Cooperative field restoration promotes local economy and wildlife habitat from MDC Online 2012.

 Photo taken by Kim Houf, NPS (from MDC Online)

Monday, October 8, 2012

the nature of cities

Great new blog about urban nature:

 “The Nature of Cities” is a collective of contributors — an essay site devoted to cities as ecological spaces. It was launched this summer by Dr. David Maddox.

 The contributors to this blog: "believe that nature in cities — by which we mean ecosystems, ecosystem function, biodiversity, ecological communities, and the habitats of species — needs more voices, more perspectives and expanded conversation about its critical importance and how it can be promoted, conserved, managed, and in some cases designed for the good of all." 

Read more here: The Nature of Cities.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rest Stops for Migrating Birds

Here are links to three studies/reports on Urban Forests and Greenways and their importance to Birds:

Study Released in 2009 (from Ohio):

"Even tiny patches of woods in urban areas seem to provide adequate food and protection for some species of migrating birds as they fly between wintering and breeding grounds, new research has found...Stephen Matthews (is the) co-author of the study... with Paul Rodewald, an assistant professor of environment and natural resources at Ohio State...The researchers captured up to 91 Swainson's Thrushes at a woodlot on the Ohio State campus while they were migrating through Columbus in May or early June, 2004 to 2007...The sites had forest sizes that ranged from less than one hectare (1.7 acres) to about 38 hectares (93.9 acres) in size. Results (from radio transmitters that were glued on the birds) showed that at the five largest release sites, all the birds stayed until they left to continue to their migration north. At the two smallest sites (0.7 and 4.5 hectares), 28 percent of the birds moved to other sites in the Columbus region.

The fact that a majority of the birds stayed at even our smallest sites suggests that the Swainson's Thrushes were somewhat flexible in habitat needs and were able to meet their stopover requirements within urban forest patches... The study revealed that the birds stayed at each site from one to 12 days, with the average being about four days. There was no difference in how long the thrushes stayed across the seven sites."

More details can be found here: Even Small Patches of Urban Woods are Valuable for Migrating Birds

Study Released in 2009 (in North Carolina):

In 2009 Salina Kohut, George Hess, and Christopher Moorman "surveyed bird species abundance and richness—how many and how varied the itinerants were—in 47 greenways in and around Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Details of the study can be found here: Avian Use of Suburban Greenways as Stopover Habitat.)

...It turns out that most birds were not picky and would stop at just about any greenway, regardless of vegetation, adjacent land use, or corridor width. That’s not to say all greenways were entirely equal. Overall, birds favored corridors with taller trees and lots of native shrubs teeming with fruit. And among birds that live in forest interiors far away from human development and even open fields, greenways wider than 150 meters (about 500 feet) surrounded by low-intensity development were the most popular."

From: Per Square Mile by Tim de Chant

Enivronment Canada Report on Urban Forests and Urban Birds (2006):

Environment Canada has a publication on Area Sensitive Forest Birds in Urban Areas.  This report discusses how  to encourage breeding birds in the urban matrix, how to restore and  enhance urban forests and how to determine if the habitat size is appropriate.

* Image of Bird Being Tagged from Wildlife Extra News: "A researcher fits a radio transmitter to a Swainson's thrush. They were attached with a special glue and fell off within weeks. Picture: Ken Chamberlain, Ohio State University"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Street Nature Score (in Beta)

This new website: Street Nature Score (designed in Beta for San Francisco and Seattle) rates neighborhoods by their access to nature just like the Walk Score rated areas by the amenities that were within walking distance.

"Street Nature Score is brought to you by sustainable design strategist and educator Jeremy Faludi, of Faludi Design.  By measuring urban nature, and making its benefits clear, we can help individuals, realtors, developers, and planners make cities more sustainable while also making them nicer places to live."

Check out the website to learn more about why "street nature" is valuable.

* Image from Street Nature Score website.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

More great blogs!!

Native Plant Girl Blogspot:

This blog has a glut of resources on the right-hand side and some great updates on courses and activities - mostly in Toronto.

Beans for Birds: Coffee Habitat Blog

Learn about pesticides used on coffee farms, why shade grown coffee is better for wildlife,  the different certification programs and what you can do!

Crowded Creatures (Houston)
Great blog on the humane animal "control" that is possible! They don't use traps or chemicals, and their techniques are endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States.

Meadow hawk's Blog: The Pathless Wood

Lovely naturalist's website about birding and nature adventures in Ottawa.  This summer there are many posts on butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

wildlife city

From the online link:

"The photo above (was) on public display in the "BTCV's Trust for Urban Ecology (T.R.U.E.) - Building a "Wildlife City" Discussion Thread of the "Natural Neighbourhood Flickr Group" of the world-famous KEW, The Royal Botanic Garden for showcasing what we are doing at our homes or in our local neighbourhood to help safeguard the diversity of plant and animal life, and celebrate the "International Year of Biodiversity 2010".

(A) real-life model of TRUE's "Wildlife City" (as shown above can be found) just outside the "Stave Hill Eco Hut & Visitors Centre" at Stave Hill Ecology Park, Rotherhithe, London."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

urban trees, plants and marshmellows...

Some great articles from online resources: 

The Easily Ignored Plants of Our Daily Life (From The Dirt)

About The Dirt (an American Society of Landscape Architects blog)

The Dirt blog covers the latest news on the built and natural environments and features stories on landscape architecture. Published weekly, The Dirt explores design and policy developments related to land and water use, urbanization, transportation, and climate change.

Planting Trees is Like Not Eating a Marshmellow (From Next American City)

About Next American City
Next American City is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting cities and informing the people who work to improve them.  (Check out the tags: landscape architecture, green infrastructure, urban trees and parks)

Photo Credit: Edward Marritz

Monday, September 17, 2012

avian research at trent

Some really interesting research on birds happening at Trent:

-  daily movements of Chimney Swifts
-  the effect of industrial mine-activity on the stress physiology of Whip-poor-wills
-  the community structure of birds on farm and  grasslands of all types in south-central Ontario
-  the role of habitat, insect abundance, and interspecific competition on nightjars

Read more here!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

tigers in the city

What thrills me is knowing — and seeing — that muskellunge thrive inside Canada’s fourth-largest city. Hendrik Wachelka admits he, too, is astounded by its ability to prosper here since, as a top predator, muskie reflect the health of the entire ecosystem. 
“It’s something we should be proud of,” he says. “It tells you there’s a pretty healthy fishery here for all species: from bluegills to golden shiners to walleye to largemouth bass to carp ... 
“I think it’s a miracle that in an urban environment like this, we have a naturally producing, wild population of muskie. It’s like having tigers in the city.”
Link to the full Ottawa Citizen article: A great big fish story: Tao of the urban muskie hunter by Andrew Duffy

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Landmark, Favorite and Heritage Trees (Ottawa)

Everybody has a favorite tree right?  One that is perfect to read a book under, or one that greets us after a long travel, a familiar trail marker or one that we personally planted.  But have we ever shared our favorite trees with others?

Justin Peters of the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club recently created a Facebook page where people could do just that:

His post reminded me that the Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee had held a 'My Favourite Tree' contest in 2003 and the 'Heritage Tree Hunt' project in 2005.  The Favourite Tree winner from 2003 was David Kitz's description of Orleans' Gentle Giant - a "10-storey tall" White Pine tree in a ravine near Jeanne d'Arc Hill in Orleans - a unanimous choice for the committee members.

The OFGAC has some great projects including the Ottawa Tree Canopy Mapping Project and a Native Tree Database (which the Ottawa Field Naturalists Club hosts).

Unfortunately at the end of this summer, the City announced that it was planning to cut back on their Advisory Committees.  RIght now there are 15 (including the OFGAC) and by the end of September (after budget approval) the committees will be streamlined to five.  Which means the mandate of the Forests and Greenspaces will be included under Environment which will also include mandates from Peds & Transit, Parks & Rec, and the previous Environment A.C..

Hear more about it here:

Photo from OFGAC website

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nature Careers

NEW NATURE-SMART CAREERS: 11 for the Future and for Right Now

from The New Nature Movement by Richard Louv

Two of the new careers that sound interesting are:

•Nature-smart workplace architect or designer. Studies of workplaces that have been created or retrofitted through biophilic (love of nature) design show improved product quality, customer satisfaction and innovation. Successful models include the Herman Miller headquarters building, designed for abundant natural light, indoor plants, and outdoor views, including views of a restored wetlands and prairie on company grounds. After moving into the building, 75 percent of day-shift office workers said they considered the building healthier and 38 percent said their job satisfaction had improved.

Urban wildscaper. Urban designers, landscape architects, and other professionals who develop or redevelop private yards and/or neighborhoods that connect people to nature through the creation of biophilically-designed buildings and preservation of natural land will be increasingly in demand. They will design and establish biodiverse parks, urban forests and community gardens, wildlife corridors and other wild lands. Seattle recently announced plans for a massive urban forest that will produce free food. Wildscapers will also manage wildlife populations.

Read more about it here.  (Image from NNM website.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"The Case for Urban Nature" - The New School Panel

Biodiversity in Our Cities: The Case for Urban Nature - watch this You Tube video on the Tishman Environment and Design Center Panel Presentation (from the New School) discussing "the status of urban ecology in regional policies and national trends and how cities can develop comprehensive, collaborative, and proactive strategies for biodiversity conservation, management and restoration through government policies, public education, grassroots initiatives, business strategies and living systems design."

Moderator: Marielle Anzelone, Conservation Biologist & Executive Director, NYC Wildflower Week


Marcia Bystryn, Executive Director, New York League of Conservation Voters

Chris Garvin, Partner, Terrapin Bright Green & Senior Associate, Cook+Fox Architects

P. Timon McPhearson, Tishman Environment and Design Center, The New School

Samara Swanston, Pratt Institute Graduate School of Urban Planning and Hunter College Graduate School for Urban Affairs and Urban Planning

Location: Eugene Lang Building, Wollman Hall.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Tishman Environment and Design Center |

Description for Panel Presentation:

Did you know that there is nature in New York City? The five boroughs are rich with forests, marshes, and meadows -- more nature than any other city in North America. Yet these natural resources are threatened by habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation - the same factors that threaten biodiversity everywhere. In fact, about one-third of the native flora and fauna in the United States faces extinction. In our urbanized world, the idea of cities as "concrete jungles" is inaccurate and only further alienates people from the natural world. Conserving and maintaining the ecosystems on which cities depend is essential to the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of their citizens.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Local Level Biodiversity

From their website: ICLEI's biodiversity graphics will address the importance of cities and biodiversity action at the local level. From the need for dynamic conservation projects to the value of ecosystems in Canada, they will offer the need-to-know facts about biodiversity practices in Canada and internationally.

Download the first in the series today: Biodiversity: Conservation Starts at the Local Level

"Cities now occupy 3% of the earth’s land surface, hold 50% of our population, and consume 75% of all natural resources. All of these pressures put the world’s biodiversity at risk. But cities large and small are both the problem and the solution. Local leaders are recognizing biodiversity’s vital role in sustainable development and its contribution to human wellbeing. Check out Biodiversity: Conservation Starts at the Local Level and find out more about why cities must drive action from the bottom up."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

hedgerows in cities?

Hedgerows may conjure up thoughts of the U.K. countryside or even parts of rural Canada but perhaps there could work in urban settings also?  It would be an opportunity to add beauty and biodiversity to parts of the city.  They could be used to line edges of a public park or they could be considered for infill development defining the border between neighbours.  Hedgerows could also be used along some parkways or as a transition from fields to forests.  In urban areas lighting would be key to address concerns of safety and a balance between busy corridors and quieter spaces would help create some access for wildlife.

Hedgerows provide plenty of benefits including aesthetics, buffers for noise and barriers for privacy.  Softscaping  can be less demanding on your pocketbook and it can help attract birds and other wildlife - forget bird feeders and bags of seeds - you can choose attractive plants that produce fruits!

Here are two articles that provide more info:

Hedgerows: Bringing the Countryside to the City by Maria MacRae (I Can Garden)

 Hedgerows offer variety and shelter to urban gardens by Valerie Easton (Seattle Times)

"The classic English hedgerow can be adapted to modern urban and suburban gardens just fine, helping add color and texture to smaller gardens while also giving shelter to birds, bees, butterflies and more... 

I started thinking about the value of city hedgerows when a designer friend told me how an urban client had nixed her suggestion of a huckleberry hedge. The designer was hankering to see a pruned huckleberry hedge that flowered in spring, burst with berries in summer, then flamed red in autumn. You can imagine the designer's disappointment when her client chose to plant boxwood instead. 

Just think if the client had taken a chance with the huckleberries, and perhaps mixed in oakleaf hydrangeas for bold leaf and summer bloom. And maybe added mahonia for fragrant winter flowers, and evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) for yet more berries and year-round foliage. The effect would be lovely, productive and practical in all seasons, and so much more noteworthy and wildlife-friendly than boxwood."

Hoping that the image of huckleberries, hydrangeas and mahonia gets you inspired... check with a local nursery for local indigenous plants that would create the best habitat for native species.  Here's two resources to get you started:

Creating a Hedgerow for Wildlife - Fletcher Wildlife Garden

Plant a Fruit Bearing Hedgerow - Canadian Wildlife Federation

Picture Credit: Mike Siegal / The Seattle Times

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Urban Bat Visitors

Interesting information on the urban population of bats:

- Bats can slip through openings the size of a dime, so identifying their entry points is tricky. They usually find their way in through chimney tops, vents, open doors or windows, broken screens, eaves and loose roof shingles.

- Warm weather drives bats from colonies within upper walls and attics to lower areas in houses.  During the daytime, bats sleepwalk down the spaces behind interior walls, later finding openings leading into houses’ living spaces where they fly about in confusion.

- Urban bat colonies tend to be quite small while buildings in rural areas can have populations that number in the hundreds. Rural populations are higher because of access to insects.

- A single bat can eat three times its weight in insects every night.

- This summer animal wilflife control companies in the area say calls for help soared in the recent heat wave  (more than 100 calls a day).

- The explosion of calls is also likely related to worries over a recent warning from the city’s health department that a dead bat in the Ottawa area was found to have rabies.

- Most of the bats are non-migratory big brown bats whose urban populations seem not to have been decimated by white-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly fungal disease that has killed millions of mostly smaller bats in Canada and the U.S.

Information from Ottawa Citizen Article:

Image from: EKU Working Group


For more information there is also a great post on a Big Brown Bat visitor on Seabrooke Leckie's Blog - The Marvelous in Nature.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a "Listen to the Night: Bats of Ontario" exhibition that can be rented which covers the following topics:   Diversity, Health, Hibernation,  Summer Roosts, Cave Roosts,  Attic Roosts, Tree Roosting, Flight, Senses,  Echolocation,  Conservation and Current Research.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Urban Wild in Boston

Two "wild" places to go in Boston:

Condor Street Urban Wild

This former marine industrial site, which borders Chelsea Creek has been redeveloped into an urban wild. The restored site features salt marshes, meadow grasses, and other coastal habitat elements as well as walking paths, a boardwalk, sculptures, and a viewing platform overlooking the creek.

Arnold Arboretum

The 265-acre arboretum is a “link” in the city’s Emerald Necklace, a collection of six parks designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. Nestled in nearby Jamaica Plain, the arboretum is the nation’s oldest, and a leading center for plant study.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Street Has No Trees (Toronto)

"My Street Has No Trees (MSHNT) is a public and participatory installation that utilizes the vestigial design of Toronto’s Post and Ring bike stands as armatures for micro-gardens. The intent of the project is to raise awareness about the imbalance between the hardscapes and softscapes of our streets, to encourage people to think critically about the transformative possibilities of our everyday environments, and to increase the beauty and joy of our neighbourhoods."

(From the website MSHNT)

Monday, August 13, 2012

learn about butterflies

I love receiving Jacquie Lawson cards - which works well because my mother loves sending them.  They are beautifully drawn cards which are animated.  They depict quaint little villages, idyllic winter holiday scenes and lovely nature vistas and up-close details of flowers, trees, etc.

I just received one that was titled Butterfly Bouquet - here's the link to the card on Jacquie Lawson's site.

What I really loved about this one is that if features five British Butterflies and I know this because at the end the website provides you with the option of printing the butterfly images and they provide the common names and the scientific names for all five butterflies!  (Check it out here.)

What a great way to share knowledge and increase people's interest in nature!

Congrats to the company for this brilliant idea!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Manor Park - Wildlife Sightings

I've been trying to determine what makes good Bobolink habitat. When I attended Mathis Natvik's presentation "Bringing Ontario’s Ecosystems To The Built Environment - Ecological landscaping for gardens large and small" at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden a couple of years ago, he was proposing urban meadows that would make good habitat for many open-field/rural birds.

 I'd ask people if they had seen bobolinks close to Ottawa - perhaps in the Agriculture Farm? - and discuss the habitat - why specifically hay? would any meadow do? - with others. I wondered if the open areas along the Parkways in Ottawa - especially around Manor Park, the Aviation Museum and the Robert O. Pickard Environmental Centre - would make good habitat. And today I have my answer by doing a bit of google searching. I tell you the internet is an amazing tool! 

Bird Sightings for July 1/06 to July 20/06 

Welcome nature lovers. Its been an extremely hot and humid two weeks. reports of sightings have been sent in. Favourite locations, eastern and rockliffe parkways have resulted in the following species of birds, been seen. Many yellow warblers, american redstarts, common yellowthroat, blue jays, killdeers, eastern meadowlark, kingbirds, bobolinks, savannah sparrows and cardinals. The pair of indigo buntings have not been seen for over a week but we are hopeful that they are still in the area. A Great Creasted Flycatcher was the highlite for this report. Also there are many wildflowers in full bloom and they are a delight to see. Butterflies are in abundance, notibles being the Monarch and Swallowtails. Watch for them they are amazing and extremely colourful. Further reports will follow. Bye for now.

From Manor Park Online 
by Dave Collyer (naturesencounters at rogers dot com)

Image from: Lees Birds dot com (©ramendan)

More about Urban Bobolink Habitat:
Ontario Bobolink Legislation (2012)
The Quest to Find an Urban Bobolink

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wetlands area in Greenbelt (Ottawa)

Found this during a google search today:

Just 15 minutes south of Parliament Hill, in the nation's capital you can find the Ottawa Greenbelt.  A place where the federal and municipal governments have managed to preserve local biodiversity and habitat integrity, their contribution to the future.

- Medeola Woods (Ottawa’s largest, stand of old growth trees)
- Monarch Waystation (City of Ottawa, owned)
- SAR Turtles found in wetland areas (Map, Painted and now Snapping)

Eight species of turtles live in the Province of Ontario. Four of these species live in the Leitrim  wetlands. This habitat contains: Blanding’s Turtles (THR), Northern Map Turtles (SC), Painted Turtles and Snapping Turtles. While all four of these species are special, 2 of them are on the Province and Federal Species at Risk list. 

With the help of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, the Blanding’s Turtle wetlands (Sawmill creek Tributaries 8, 9, 10) was added as part of the overall Sawmill Creek clean up crusade.

(Above map of area in between Hunt Club and Leitrim - Uplands to Bank - shows turtle sightings, etc. )

Taken from Ottawa Urban Turtle Sanctuary Presentation: Finding and fighting for road-free refuges in the National Capital Region (2008 or 2009 presentation?)

This is part of the larger Leitrim Wetland south of Ottawa - where they are building the Findlay Creek development.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Green Spaces in Urban Places (Ottawa)

Green Spaces in Urban Places - Urban (Forestry) Natural Areas Stewardship Program

A program to promote, create and sustain the Urban Green infrastructure in the City of Ottawa, while promoting other city planning programs and plans that are available. The focus of this program is to develop a methodology used to prioritize and evaluate the various urban natural areas in Ottawa for stewardship projects. A template/methodology was developed and is used to prioritize and evaluate the various areas in Ottawa for green projects.

Our Partners: Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, City of Ottawa, Carleton University (Practicum Placement Program), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Program website: N/A

From Ottawa Stewardship Council 2011 report


Also check out the City of Ottawa's Greenspace Master Plan (pdf) - August 2006.  In it they outline strategies for Ottawa's urban greenspaces.

Image from the City of Ottawa website.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Emergant Plant Installation (Ohio)

From University of Toledo (Ohio):

"Using plant plugs to vegetate the banks of the Ottawa River. The transition zone between normal high and low water is devoid of plants.  We are working on selecting native species to inhabit this zone."

The plants that they are using include:
- Water Willow (Justica americana)
- Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
- Emory's Sedge (Carex emoryi) - video on this plant
- Prairie Cordgrass (Spartina pectinata)
- Bald Spikerush (Eleocharis erythropoda)
- Hairy Sedge (Carex lacustris)
- Gray's Sedge (Carex grayi)

Another really cool video from them:  Indiana Bat Survey

Thursday, July 19, 2012

High Line Park (NYC)

I've been to the Promenade Plantée and rejoiced about the incredible forethought this took and delighted in the magic that it is now.  It opens up amazing views that weren't available before, it allows people to see and travel the city in a completely different way and it "takes you away" even though you are still immersed in the city.

A local Ottawa blogger visited New York City this spring and got to experience the High Line Park - which is similar to the Paris park and being appreciated just as much.  While watching the movie Urbanized, I was shocked to hear that it was a battle to get this created - that even though the Paris Park had been built there were doubters about whether the old rail line in NYC could be revitalized like the Paris one.  Now that it has been built, it's effect is being felt in the city and beyond (see Huffington Post article).  All I can say is that I'm so glad that people did fight to get this built.  It's such a unique experience and has become such a success!

Read and see more in Childfree's Blog: High Line Park.  (Images from Childfree.)