Bird bullies are just protecting their resources

Sometimes we see smaller birds apparently bullying larger birds of prey. Here is why

Bird bullies are just protecting their resourcesWhen birds bully others of their own or other species, there are no malevolent feelings involved as is often the case with humans. Bullying is defined as “using superior strength or influence to intimidate, typically by force.” In essence, this is exactly what happens in nature on a very regular basis. Protection or retention of…

Get those bird feeders up and enjoy the show

Here are some tips so the birds – and those who enjoy watching birds – get the most out of your feeders

Get those bird feeders up and enjoy the showThe last few days have been really exciting bird-wise as hawks, ducks, geese, loons and many small passerines (e.g. kinglets, sparrows and finches) are on the move. Winter is here whether we like it or not and those hardy northern birds have decided it’s time to migrate. North winds and cool nights have caused an…

Why Christmas bird counts matter

Why Christmas bird counts matterIn the latter part of the 19th century, sportsmen would gather to take part in annual winter bird hunts called “side hunts.” Everything they saw was shot, regardless of whether it was edible or rare. This was a popular pastime and undoubtedly contributed to significant avian declines during the period. Frank Chapman, author of Handbook…

Interpreting daytime skies

Sky watching isn’t as simple as looking at fluffy clouds

Interpreting daytime skiesWatching the night sky has always fascinated people but daytime skies can be just as interesting. In July, I travelled to Nunavut as a ship naturalist on an expedition to northern Canada. I had the rare opportunity to explore parts of Baffin Island and Ungava Bay that few get to see. While I saw wonderful…

How trees produce spectacular autumn colours

The intensity of the colours is related to weather conditions before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is declining

How trees produce spectacular autumn coloursWe’re fortunate to live in a place and a climate where our four seasons are distinct. Enough natural foliage persists for us to see and admire broad palettes of colour in September, October and even early November. Although foreshadowing the onset of winter, hues of orange, red, yellow and brown intermingle with shades of green.…

Iqaluit and beyond, through snow and ice

Everyone was on high alert, and while the crew sailed and fretted, we watched the parading wildlife

Iqaluit and beyond, through snow and iceI left you last time off the coast of Baffin Island, where we shared the shore with polar bears and followed the tracks of early explorers. Let’s see what happened next on my 20-day journey northward. Nunavut was separated from the Northwest Territories in 1999, as a result of the enactment of the Nunavut Act…

The polar bears were the showstoppers

The polar bears were the showstoppersI left you in Hebron, Newfoundland and Labrador, where an eye-opening tale from the past brought home that the stability of home and property we enjoy hasn’t always been a reality for northern people. From Hebron, we travelled ever northward to a place I’ve never been before – Torngat Mountains National Park. This vast expanse…

Sailing ever northward in search of wildlife, culture and history

Venturing to rarely-visited sites along the Newfoundland and Labrador coast on the way north

Sailing ever northward in search of wildlife, culture and historyI get to travel to some great places as an expedition guide. A few months ago (pre-COVID-19), I travelled to parts of Canada I had never seen before and filled in gaps on my lifelong adventures in Canada’s remotest reaches. I thought I’d share some insights about Canada’s northern regions as we celebrate Canada’s 150-plus…

Survival of the fittest, from a very young age

Some orphaned babies are unlikely to survive if very young but others can fend for themselves at an early age

Survival of the fittest, from a very young ageI was working on a breeding bird survey recently and encountered a scene that was both moving and shocking. Huddled in the short grass on the shoulder of the road was a baby raccoon, only days old, snuggled up beside its mother. At first I thought the scene was a Disney moment – one of…

Crickets, grasshoppers, songs and heatwaves

Grasshoppers existed long before dinosaurs. And crickets are eaten, reviled and revered around the world

Crickets, grasshoppers, songs and heatwavesFolklore widely claims that you can tell the temperature simply by listening to how fast crickets ‘sing.’ Is that really true? Read on and I’ll share the truth by the end of this column. But first, let’s learn something about these little guys and their buddies. Crickets are related to grasshoppers and resemble them a…

Jewelweed is a jewel of a weed

Herbalists have long espoused the benefits of jewelweed, primarily as a remedy for the treatment of poison ivy and poison oak rashes

Jewelweed is a jewel of a weedIn many areas of the country grows a little plant that has remarkable medicinal qualities: jewelweed. In my last column, I wrote about my encounter with poison ivy and the discomfort my carelessness caused me. Now I want to share more of the story. Natural medicines are well-known and much studied, here and abroad. Jewelweed…

Being careless around poison ivy can cost you

There’s a high likelihood of a rash arising as a result of contact with the plant. Have I mentioned I’m in agony?

Being careless around poison ivy can cost youI write this week’s column from a position of grave discomfort, for my careless attitude toward poison ivy has left me blistered and in some agony … sigh! I always thought I was immune to this dangerous plant, for I have tromped through it all my life and never even had a glimmer of an…

Pollinators in peril and need our help

Pollinators are responsible for about one out of every three bites of food people eat. Without them, we would starve

Pollinators in peril and need our helpWe hear with alarming frequency that honey bees are in decline around the globe due to mysterious diseases, climate change, pesticides and habitat loss. But what of the other pollinators – solitary bees, bumblebees, pollen wasps, bee flies, ants, midges, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and beetles? How are they faring? Pollinators don’t have to be tiny…

Don’t squish that spider!

We may be genetically programmed to fear spiders, but they're here for a reason. Leave them alone to eat other insects

Don’t squish that spider!“The itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. …” So many people are afraid of spiders, but I’ll bet almost none of them can tell you why. According to a new study out of Columbia University, it may be genetic. Our ancestors had to fear spiders – in Africa, where our roots all take us,…

Serenaded by cicadas

Their song is produced by a complex vibrating membrane on their sides and a hollow resonant body cavity

Serenaded by cicadasEvery year in late June to mid-July, I await the return of the cicada. (Actually, they never left, but more on that in a moment.) For me, this is the song of summer. As I write, one is serenading me outside my office window. Long after the April rains have passed, May flowers have bloomed…

We can – and must – stop our plastic legacy

Countless animals ingest plastics and die. Do we care? Do we care that these plastics are now in the human food chain?

We can – and must – stop our plastic legacyWe often see news items about the environmental impact of single-use plastic straws. And we want to do something, which is good. Costa Rica plans to ban single-use plastics. At a recent G7 summit, the nations condemned single use straws and said they will discuss the matter at a future meeting. But no action has…

Buckets of rain put wildlife in peril

With climate change, unrelenting rains can be challenging for wildlife and plants

Buckets of rain put wildlife in perilaa Rain is a good thing. It has so many beneficial properties – a source of drinking water for everything, a source of nutrition for plants and micro-organisms, a refreshing relief from the heat, a mechanism to replenish aquifers and lakes, a means to clean overlooked homes and cars, fun for kids of all ages,…

Exploring Alaska’s remote, enchanting shores

Joining the few privileged to travel to remote and obscure offshore islands like Baby, Unga, Haystacks, Aghyuk and the Aleutians

Exploring Alaska’s remote, enchanting shoresMy anticipation heightened as I waited for my flight. I was about to join the few privileged to explore Alaska beyond the usual ports of call, travelling to remote and obscure offshore islands. Nome Nome is where it all began for me. I was surprised at the appearance of this small coastal community, for it…

Prying into the private lives of birds in love

Wild things don’t actually fall in love, since reproduction is a serious business that involves advertising for the sole purpose of mating

Prying into the private lives of birds in loveAh spring, a time for flowers and April showers, birds and bees, a chorus of frogs, greening of the earth and love at first sight. Well, wild things don’t actually fall in love, since reproduction is a serious business that involves advertising for the sole purpose of mating. We’re all very familiar with spring birdsong…

Vernal ponds are at the heart of the forest life cycle

Frogs, toads, salamanders, insects and other invertebrates teem in vernal pools, depending on where you live in the country

Vernal ponds are at the heart of the forest life cycleHave you ever walked in a forest in early spring and seen all the beautiful little ponds that dot the landscape? Have you gone there again in July and wondered where they went? I can explain what’s happening here and why they’re so critical to many animals. Vernal pools – also known as ephemeral, autumnal,…

California condor back from the brink

Only 22 birds were left in the wild in 1982. They were all captured as part of a breeding program. Now more than 500 live in the wild

California condor back from the brinkI’ll tell you the beginning and the end of the story first because they have nothing to do with California condors and everything to do with them. My first sighting of condors was on a cloudless day in January 1995. We were travelling from Apartaderos to Timotes in Venezuela along the spine of the Andes.…

In search of Borneo’s elusive ‘man of the forest’

Deep in a jungled land, where monkeys and apes share the trees with myriad snakes, birds and giant insects – and the orangutan

In search of Borneo’s elusive ‘man of the forest’As the flight neared the Borneo shore, the forest merged from the fog. The steam wafted skyward, slowly and mysteriously revealing the grandeur of the last remaining patches of Malaysian rainforest. Thoughts of strange wild men and headhunters still lingered as I contemplated my imminent arrival in Kota Kinabalu (K.K. to the locals), the capital…

Environment big winner from the COVID-19 pandemic

There are many positive environmental outcomes as the result of a dramatically slower economy

Environment big winner from the COVID-19 pandemicThe media is filled daily with dire stories about COVID-19. Is there anything good coming out of this pandemic? Beyond the sadness and unease, some benefits will positively impact our lives and the health of the environment. The most obvious environmental benefit is that travel has diminished significantly across the globe. Tens of thousands of…

Monarch butterflies here today, gone tomorrow

Surprisingly, plenty of insects migrate. Just like birds, they seek to escape the cold, and find food and places where competition is lessened

Monarch butterflies here today, gone tomorrowMigration is a concept most people don’t really understand and have difficulty relating to, since it’s something we humans just don’t normally do. When we think of migration, we think of birds and mammals primarily, for these are the most obvious creatures to migrate. Twice each year, billions of them travel to or from their…

The amazing wild horses of Sable Island

As we approached the island, our anticipation rose and ebbed as we watched the weather. We weren’t sure if, after travelling so far, we could even land

The amazing wild horses of Sable IslandAs a guide, I often get to travel to exciting destinations. For example, I recently participated in an adventure to the Canadian Maritime provinces that took me to Sable Island. I’ve felt the urge, almost the need, to visit this magical place for most of my adult life. I’m not sure really why since it’s…

It’s still winter but my trees are getting chubby

In January as the days get longer, the trees start preparing for spring and the buds start to swell

It’s still winter but my trees are getting chubbyEvery year about this time, I get quite excited as my trees start to get chubby! They aren’t really putting on weight, but their profile looks different than it did in November and December, when it was easy to see the sky through the branches since the buds were very small and the twigs weren’t…

Surefire ways to find out if you’re a naturalist

Troy Media is pleased to introduce a biweekly column by naturalist and author Geoff Carpentier

Surefire ways to find out if you’re a naturalistTroy Media is pleased to introduce a biweekly column by naturalist Geoff Carpentier. Geoff’s interest in nature started when he was 13, wandering through the woods near his home in northern Ontario. He studied zoology and biological sciences at the University of Guelph before working for more than three decades in senior positions with the…