Explore nature in a bioblitz

Wintergreen bioblitz banner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last December we participated in the annual Christmas bird count, North America’s longest running citizen scientist project. We recorded all our sightings and reported it to the National Audobon society, which uses the data to study trends.

The Christmas bird count is one example of a bioblitz—an intense period of biological surveying that records all living species in a designated area.

Next weekend, Wintergreen Studios near Westport is hosting its fourth annual Land Art BioBlitz for five days, from May 30th to June 3rd. All five days are free, and they invite you to come and explore their 200-acre property and learn more about sustainability, and the biodiversity of our region. The idea is to bring together scientists, naturalists, and the general public to track and learn about wildlife identification and explore the outdoors.

You can drop in any time—no registration is necessary and the events are geared to all ages. Over the course of the five days, there are workshops, guided hikes, music jam sessions featuring sounds of nature, art installations and forest therapy walks. Matt Ellerbeck, the snake man will be there and they’re even holding a square dancing session/astronomy lesson under the stars.

If you’ve never been to Wintergreen Studios, it’s a marvel and a treat. The main lodge is straw-bale construction. There’s a small cut-out in one of the walls so you can see the thickness of the bale. We’ve mainly attended dinner concerts there and have always had a wonderful time.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get back to nature this spring and learn something new about sustainability and the biodiversity of your region.

More happyacts on biodiversity

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Make friends with fearsome creatures

rat snake in corner of hot tubLast weekend, I opened my hot tub lid to find this handsome fellow, a five-foot black rat snake luxuriating in the steam on the corner of the tub.

Later that morning, I was cleaning the chicken coop, and a garter snake wound its way from our barn to the back woods. After lunch, our resident water snake Sammy spent the afternoon with us curled up on the end of our dock. Clare and I avoided using the ladder so we wouldn’t disturb him and swam around him for the rest of the afternoon.

It was a three snake day.

Snakes are one of the most beautiful, misunderstood creatures on the planet. I remember years ago visiting a small zoo called Reptile World in Drumheller Alberta. The owner was from Australia. He loved snakes but was deathly afraid of cattle, which we found kind of funny since he was now living in Alberta.

It’s amazing how many people are afraid of snakes. In some cases, their fear stops them from doing the things they enjoy. And yet, nearly every species of snake in Ontario is completely harmless. We only have one poisonous variety, the Massassagua rattlesnake and it will only bite if threatened.

Most snakes are extremely timid, but will act aggressive if they are threatened. I’ve seen milk snakes in our garden raise their heads as if to strike when a dog is threatening them, but never strike. Some snakes will imitate rattlers by raising and rattling their tail, but it is almost always a defence mechanism and they don’t bite.

Snakes also are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. They eat rodents and can even help prevent lyme disease since small rodents can be carriers of the debilitating disease.

water snake on dock
Sammy our resident water snake

We are very fortunate to live in a region where there are many species of snakes but most are now endangered or threatened, such as the black rat snake.

This week’s #HappyAct is to not let foundless fears get in your way of enjoying the last vestiges of summer. Make friends with fearsome creatures.

 

 

Nominate an amazing place

Holleford Crater
Holleford Crater

Recently I spent two weeks in Ireland with my girlfriends. To say it was an amazing vacation is probably an understatement. Ireland is a country full of amazing places and we were lucky enough to discover and explore many of them in our travels.

The Frontenac Arch biosphere, where I live is another amazing place in the world, and they are asking people to nominate an amazing place in our region before September 3, 2015. Long Point and Georgian Bay biospheres are also asking for nominations.

I know how lucky I am to live in Canada and Frontenac County. The Frontenac Arch biosphere is a unique palette of rich fields, limestone, granite, towering pines and crystal blue lakes. It was designated by UNESCO in 2002 as globally significant for its diversity of plant and animal life and geographic features.

I’ve been thinking for the last couple of weeks about which place I would nominate and I’ve decided to nominate three amazing places.

1) Wintergreen Studios on Canoe Lake Road near Westport. Wintergreen is a non-profit year-round education and retreat that hosts programs on the arts and the environment on its 200 acres. We discovered Wintergreen about five years ago and I still think what they are doing there is amazing and commendable. The main lodge is made entirely from straw. We’ve attended some of their music nights, where you get a scrumptious catered meal, followed by terrific music. What makes this place truly amazing is the passion and commitment of Rena Upitis, its founder to educate people on off the grid and sustainable living and to provide people with a unique and beautiful retreat to spark creativity.

2) SpindleTree Gardens in Tamworth. You may remember I blogged last year about this very special place. When I was in Ireland, I toured many beautiful gardens nestled among ruins and castles. I think SpindleTree rivals these great gardens for its beauty, creativity and for the vision of its owners to carve out a piece of paradise from the Canadian shield that reflects and retains the geographical features of this area. It is an amazing place.

3) The Holleford Crater, mainly because it’s just down the road and I think it’s kinda cool that we have a crater formed by a meteor that struck the earth 550 millions of years ago in our own backyard. There is a plaque there that says the meteor was travelling 55,000 kms an hour and blasted a hole 244 metres deep and 2.5 kms wide. That’s pretty amazing.

Now it’s your turn. This week’s #HappyAct is to nominate an amazing place by September 3. Share it here—I somehow doubt the Holleford Crater will make the list but you’ll thank me when you make the trip up here to see it. (Ok, maybe you won’t, but if you drop in, I’ll at least give you a cold beer!)

Gardens
Spindletree Gardens