Montreal Nature (formerly Ottawa Nature

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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I grew up in Ontario and Nunavut, and went to university in New Brunswick. For two years I lived in Ottawa, on the green belt. While I was there I wrote about nature. Then I moved to Montreal and I wrote nothing for a year. We've got nature here too, so I'm going to write about it.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I've been doing a fair bit of snowshoeing these days. The snow isn't terribly deep, I admit, but I do get a bit of flotation, and the exercize is good. As an added bonus, snowshoes let me go off the trail a bit. Since other animals tend not to stick the the human trails, the ability to go off trail is invaluable to the amateur naturalist.

I believe I've said before that you're far more likely to seen animal tracks than you are to see the animals themselves. Snowshoeing, I see, maybe a few deer if I'm lucky, and possibly some chickadees. However, I see the tracks of pretty much everything that lives in Ottawa's green belt. I'm starting to love snow for that very reason. I would, of course, prefer to see the animals themselves, but any port in the storm.

Firstoff, I saw coyote tracks aplenty. Now those who know me will know fully well how highly I think I think of canis latrans. I've heard them howling at night, and I always knew they were around academically, but I'd never seen their tracks before

for the record, though I couldn't manage a decent photo of it, those tracks veered off shortly thereafter, in the general direction of some rabbit tracks. Looks like it was a bad day to be a rabbit.

The BIG news, though, wasn't the coyote tracks. i ran across some tracks that were unfamiliar to me...small ones. So I snapped a picture, brought it home and studied it (thanks again for the camera, mom. it makes these things easier. That picture isn't as showy, so I'm not sharing it here, but it was clear enough for me to make an identification. It was an animal I have never seen, one I didn't even know lived in this area. it was a short tailed weasel, also known as an ermine mustela erminea. Apparently they're active all year round, and, as I saw, they often move in bounds. Nice to see, that.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why you don't want to take dogs when you're out naturalizing

So there I was, walking along a rather picturesque, snowcovered trail. Ahead of me, I spotted a Red Squirrel, which, befrighted by this large beast approaching it, retreated. In point of fact, it retreated through a hole in the snow, which looked like it had been used frequently....tracks, fallen bark, sunflower seed shells, bits of pinecone. I thought to myelf "how interesting", and pulled my camera out to take a picture. By the time my camera was on, toby the dog had pounced on the hole, and destroyed the entire affair. I think it was a midden, such as is maintained by squirrels. However, since the dog pounced it, I didn't get the chance to study it further, in person or through photos.

Lesson learned: If you study rodents as a hobby, don't expect to get anything interesting done when you're walking your dog. This is also true of small plants, and mustelids.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Well, winter has finally hit the O-town, as I persist in calling our great city. So, this being me, I went for a walk in the snow the other day. The animals, being, as I have commented so many times before, much saner and probably more intelligent than myself, were not in evidence, but I did spot a few signs and such. morover, due to the generosity of my mother (known to most people as "Gwen" and Stephen, I have pictures to share.

Geordie the dog looking a bit bewildered, as he so often does. Possibly wondering what a very small dog can do to avoid getting snow on the undercarriage.

tracking in the snow....this is why cameras are fun. Near as I can determine, those are the tracks of none other than the red squirrel tamiasciurus husonicus , of which we get many around here. I threw in a mechanical pencil for perspective....I didn't have my swiss army knife on me, more's the pity. Tracking is fun, if a trifle complicated. You very rarely get perfectly formed tracks, so there's a fair bit of guesswork involved. I'll be more certain as I get more practice

Also, I think I need to post one more dog picture

primarily because dogs are cute. They aren't really *nature* as such, but they are IN nature.