Sunday, October 27, 2013

What Birds are in Your Neighbourhood? (Ottawa)

What the Ottawa Breeding Bird Count can tell us:

When I first looked at the OBBC presentation from 2009 to the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club I was amazed. It was an incredible wealth of information from only a couple of years of observations. This information (after five years of data) must be so much more robust! What a great organization to partner with if you ever wanted to show the importance of your patch of forest or that scrubby field that has never been developed. I was thinking that it could be an amazing tool for those who were opposed to the new provincial bridge - showing how the locations they were proposing were some of the last havens for urban birds (end of the Aviation Parkway - Kettle Island, end of Rockcliffe Parkway - Green's Creek, Petrie Island Corridor).

Let's take the Aviation Parkway - Kettle Island Corridor for an example. From the 2009 OFNC presentation it shows us that around 16 - 22 Native Bird Species have been observed there (after three years of field surveys) and of those bird species three or more are conservation priority species. This area at the end of the Aviation Parkway (where the Space and Aviation Museum and the Rockcliffe Airport are located) has a Partners in Flight Priority Score from 212 - 275 (by adding up all the individual species priority scores) which is on the high end for the City of Ottawa.  There are 10 - 13 species with declining populations in this area.  In the following maps (just ignore the blue circle around the Mer Bleu - Greenbelt area) you can see the end of the Aviation Parkway and Kettle Island (in white) - close to the North arrow.

You'll see below the abundance of specific bird species - all at least present in or around the Aviation Parkway and along the Rockcliffe Parkway in that area.  While they are not high (compared to areas around the Greenbelt and suburban areas) they are still observed and their presence inside the urban core (within the Greenbelt) is a wonderful urban asset for those who cannot travel easily to the outskirts or Conservation Areas and Parks in more rural areas.

There have also been some observations of grassland birds (Savannah Sparrows), over five species of open-shrub birds (including the Northern Cardinal, along with the SOSP and AMGO shown above) and a few forest species (including American Redstarts) that visit the Manor Park area and the forest strip between the Rockcliffe Parkway and the Ottawa River (just east of the Space and Aviation Museum). 

You'll also see that the Green's Creek corridor (which is part of the eastern Greenbelt) has a high number of bird species.  Petrie Island does not have elevated numbers of birds and it would be interesting to find out more about this area and the data collected.  As you can see this information could help inform development projects like the Interprovincial Bridge location and or other development proposals including larger scale ones like Lebreton Flats.  It would be interesting to see what five years of data could provide in terms of observations.  Speaking about large-scale development proposals - it might be a great study if data could be collected from before, during and after the new Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment occurs!  And perhaps the OBBC data could be linked up with the City of Ottawa's Urban Natural Features Strategy to show how even small green spaces and corridors are providing habitat for birds?  I wonder what has been found out about Pleasant Park Woods or the NRC forest in Rothwell Heights

So if you are curious - take a look at the 2009 presentation and new data as it comes in from the Ottawa Breeding Bird Count.  Perhaps you may even want to volunteer with them when they start up again next spring?  Ottawa is going to learn a lot about its native population of birds thanks to the data collected through this project!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Insect Hotel (Vancouver)

Did you read this article in the CBC online News this summer:

Vancouver buzzing about new insect hotel

Old telephone booth now used to attract butterflies, birds and bees

Hartley Rosen, executive director of the Environmental Youth Alliance, and Nathan Lee helped build an insect hotel out of an old telephone booth.  The new hotel is part of a trail of green spaces to encourage more travel and pollination.  There are 12 cedar boxes filled with various materials, like maple logs, known to attract bees found inside.

The insect hotel at Oak Meadows Park is part of a 1,500-square-foot pollinator garden on West 37th Avenue between Oak and Willow streets

Thursday, October 17, 2013

vancouver bird houses

Found on Urban Guide for Alternative Use:

"Designers Jeffrey Liu and Andrew Siu saw an opportunity to give birds a better shot at a happy home in the city by using Vancouver’s existing lamp posts and street signs as the supporting infrastructure for plug-in urban birdhouses.

By using powerful magnets as the attachment device, the birdhouses have the flexibility to not only attach to any metal post, but also to external metal buttresses, bridges, fire escapes, or any of a city’s many metal structures. The birdhouse colors were inspired by the work artists Haas & Hahn did to transform some of Brazil’s favelas, and their entry points were designed for easy access for birds from different directions, and a challenging point of entry for predators."

Additional photos and full process details can be found here.

Image Source

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 4)


So how to get people on board in terms of the potential for this type of biophilic development?  Tell them all about the local birdwatching opportunities, the beautiful landscaping, the zen-like rainwater ponds and the idyllic setting that they would be living in.  Opportunities to forest-bathe, enjoy nightly avian performances, take in the pleasures of pollinator parks, meet new neighbours like chimney swifts or purple martins and play the old fashioned way.  People will benefit in so many ways by having a more natural surrounding and being drawn outdoors.  How else can the Rockcliffe Lands be redeveloped so as to allow the green surroundings and its fauna to flourish?  


This area and its surroundings is a big draw for birds.  Not only is there the Ottawa River to the north but you have two marshes and a stream connecting them on the west side. At least a 100 birds have been seen in this area including the Bobolink and Bluebirds.  The project has already identified small stands of trees that should remain and the wood lot in the north-east corner.  To support and increase the diversity of birds in this area, habitat for birds needs to be included, along with efforts to decrease hazards for birds.  Habitat can be hedge borders, shrubby areas, open fields and trees.  It can also include manufactured constructs such as purple martin housing or chimney swift towers - see links above.  (It would be a great opportunity to build some demonstration towers here as new development does not include brick chimneys such as houses used to have.)  There also needs to be water and food for the birds - which can be provided by the proposed blue areas and hedge borders and shrubs (for berries and seeds).

Also bird-friendly design guidelines should be recommended.  Buildings (especially glass towers) can be a hazard for birds and result in deaths due to collisions especially during migration.  Any new highrises should be designed to minimize dangers to birds.

Hand in hand with birds of course are bees!  And when designing pollinator parks, it is beneficial to include insect habitat such as mason bee condos and insect hotels.  Mason bees are not known to be aggressive and are a great benefit for pollination of a green urban environment.  Going beyond that, insect hotels provided different sizes, shapes and materials for sheltering many types of insects and will ensure greater biodiversity in neighbouring gardens and lands.  And another beneficial neighbour would be bats.  These flying mammals help regulate winged insect populations, especially mosquitos so building design and/or park design could include recommendations for increasing habitat for them.  Some golf courses are encouraging bats to reside on their property.

Images from: Freshkills Park Blog, Pacific Horticulture (online), Sierra Club local chapter blog

If people are going to live in a more biophilic environment what needs to go hand in hand is an education program to help people adapt to more frequent encounters with all types of fauna and how best to discourage unwanted visitors.  There are ways to COEXIST WITH (coyotes, skunks, crows, etc) WILDLIFE in a less confrontational manner.

NEXT UP: DEVELOPMENT GUIDELINES AND HONOURING ALGONQUIN LANDS. Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 5): November 2013


Posts on Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment:

First blog post: September 2011

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 1) - November 2012

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 2) - April 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 3) - September 2013

Rockcliffe Lands Redevelopment (Part 5) - November 2013


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Constructed Wetland for Wastewater (Washington D.C.)

The Sidwell Friends Middle School in Washington D.C. has gained international recognition as the first LEED Platinum K-12 school building in the world built in 2006.

"Its green features include a constructed wetland that treats wastewater on site, recycled building materials (such as reclaimed wine caskets to make the building's skin), three green roofs (that provide habitat, reduce urban heat island effect and insulate), sunshades, solar chimneys (which enhance natural ventilation), and rooftop photovoltaic panels (that provide for all the school's electrical needs)."

More on the Constructed Wetland:

"Constructed wetlands use less energy to process waste than traditional municipal systems while creating habitats for plant and animal life. After first flowing through a treatment tank to remove solids, wastewater is treated using biological processes. Aquatic plants, water, microorganisms, sun, soil, sand, and air filter and clean the water. The process is completed with additional filtration of particulates and an ultra violet (UV) filter. The constructed wetland behind the Middle School building treats wastewater to the same standards as the city’s municipal system but due to current health codes, the water is reused only in the toilets and urinals. Models show that the building uses 93% less District water by treating our sewage in the wetland and reusing the water, as well as through water-efficient landscaping"

More information here: Green Building (Sidwell Friends Middle School)

All Images from Sidwell Friends website.

P.S. Check out my latest "urban wild" nature blog: Wild. Here. (2016 update)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

natural playgrounds

Did you know that the City of Ottawa has a natural public playground?

Ottawa Start first posted about this back in August 2010:
"A new natural playground park for the enjoyment of families at the Fairlea Park in Gloucester-Southgate ward is being built this Thursday through a partnership between the City of Ottawa, ING DIRECT Canada and Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds."

The term "playscapes" instead of "playgrounds" is used:

From Bienenstock website: "Playscapes are Natural Playgrounds. They are designed with the intent to bring children back to nature using: fallen logs, tree stumps for seating, vertical logs for forts, slides embedded in the side of hills etc... Playscapes and Natural Playgrounds offer a wide range of open ended play options for children while remaining safe."

You may have read the 2012 National Post article: Return of Risk: The Growing Movement to Let Kids Play Like Kids:

In 2012 "advocates lobbying for a more natural, challenging schoolyard announced the formation of the International School Grounds Alliance, a global voice to address the “increasingly sedentary and risk-averse generation of children disconnected from nature.” Its members hail from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States — all countries hoping to trade ideas and become an influential force that will help schools see the learning opportunities that can come from peering under rocks and maybe even skinning a knee during recess."

Urban Planet has also blogged about the new phenomenom: Natural Palygrounds.  And if you are at all interested in this movement you MUST meet Willa Black:

 "My employer, ING DIRECT put forward a staff challenge to come up with an idea to get as many employees as possible involved in a community improvement project. I put forward the winning idea of building the city of Toronto’s first natural playground.  On September 17th 2009, close to 500 ING DIRECT employees transformed McCleary Park into an innovative playscape featuring a hill slide, climbing boulders, sand area, musical instruments, mature trees as well as an inverted tree."

FAIRLEA PARK OTTAWA: between Holly Lane and Fairlea Crescent (south of Walkley)