Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Songbird Nursery Closing for the Winter—the Birds will be Here Soon!

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

September 6, 2013

Songbird Nursery Closing for the Winter—the Birds will be Here Soon!

Click to link to press story “Talking to Gaia, Goddess of Earth” written after the lecture  

The goldenrods and asters are turning our roadsides yellow and blue again. The grackles have already left, and the goldfinches are preparing to leave. The bears are fattening up on a bumper crop of acorns. Yes, it’s autumn. And one of the regular events of autumn is the start of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) new lecture series, this year entitled Knowing and Caring Connect Us With Nature.

MVFN is very fortunate to have an outstanding speaker to start the season. In her presentation, “From Our backyards to the Boreal and Beyond,” Caroline Schultz, executive director of Ontario Nature and conservation biologist, will speak about the enormous boreal forest (half of Ontario’s land area) which is just to our north, how it is connected to our backyards, and how our backyards are connected to nature beyond the boreal.

Woodland Caribou-Tessier (1024x690)

Meet a woodland caribou in our boreal forest. Believe it or not, nature in your backyard is connected to nature in this vast forest region just north of us. Learn how at the inaugural lecture of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ upcoming lecture series Knowing and Caring Connect Us With Nature, September 19, 2013 (photo by Paul Tessier, iStock)

The boreal forest is the land of conifer forest, home of the woodland caribou, and a vast nursery for songbirds and waterfowl. Many of these visit Lanark County each spring, on their way north, and each autumn, on their way back south. Songbirds that breed on the very edge of the tree line near Hudson Bay may very well rest in a tree in your own backyard on their way back to the rain forest for the winter. As well, the boreal forest has vast wetlands—the Hudson Bay lowlands region is one of the ten largest wetlands in the world. Its extensive peatlands store massive amounts of carbon keeping it out of our atmosphere where it could do great damage to our climate. Its vast freshwater ecosystems play a major role in global hydrological cycles. Boreal forest conservation further ensures an abundance of wild forest and freshwater foods and sustainable livelihoods for northern residents.

Many of wild the boreal inhabitants are about to move south in the coming month. Not the polar bears or caribou of course. At least, no one in the field naturalists has yet seen flocks of polar bears flying south. But certainly most of the birds are on their way. Geese, grebes, loons, herons, cranes, grosbeaks and blackbirds will be passing through soon.

Thus our backyards matter—whether they are measured in square feet or square kilometers. Nature-friendly gardening and land stewardship can provide resting areas for migrating birds and can help pollinators such as native bees and butterflies. We can plant trees, protect our forests, leave the shoreline at the cottage natural, or plant native shrubs to replace lakeside lawns—there is something each of us can do to make Lanark County better for wildlife. The cumulative effects of such simple actions are very powerful when thousands of people do them. This will help to ensure that Lanark County not only keeps its natural beauty, but increases it in the future. Working to ensure that municipalities have robust natural heritage systems in their Official Plans and opening the doors to the wonders of nature, especially to our youth, are also vital for ensuring that we protect the biodiversity that sustains us.

But, our backyards are connected beyond the boreal! Everything we do here in Ontario has an impact beyond our borders. This ranges from the importance of sustaining vital migratory or breeding habitat for birds to minimizing our carbon footprint to sustaining our freshwater systems that are part of the global hydrological cycle. Everything is connected. Imagine, we have responsibilities as global environmental stewards and we should be proud of this. But Ontario has the fourth highest ecological footprint compared with 60 countries around the world. Canada has the eight highest. We need to earn the right to be proud as proactive environmental leaders.

Lanark County is a beautiful place to spend the year, but life is always more enjoyable when you know enough about your surroundings to appreciate them. Where else in the world could you live with enormous protected wetlands on the edge of town, great blue herons on the side of the river, hackberry trees lining the waterfalls, and large tracts of deciduous forest just outside the town? Sounds great. But just what is living in those wetlands and forests? Much more than just deer and bears. The theme of this year’s public talks is about exactly this— connecting with and appreciating our natural surroundings and understanding how they are linked to big picture nature conservation.

So how did Caroline fall in love with nature and come to connect with Ontario Nature? Discover this, know about nature in your backyard, care about the boreal forest, and forge connections to nature in distant places you may never visit by attending Caroline Schultz’s talk “From Our Backyards to the Boreal Forest and Beyond” at 7:30p.m., Thurs. Sept. 19, 2013, Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.

Photo: Meet a woodland caribou in our boreal forest. Believe it or not, nature in your backyard is connected to nature in this vast forest region just north of us. Learn how at the inaugural lecture of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ upcoming lecture series Knowing and Caring Connect Us With Nature, September 19, 2013 (photo by Paul Tessier, iStock).