Go on! Get outside!

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

The weather outside is… not frightful, but it’s snowy, cold, and may be a brilliantly sunny blue-sky day or… something else. The latter can be sleet, freezing rain, snowsqualls – or a sudden melt where dramatic icicles hang from eaves and windowsills.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

The weather outside is… not frightful, but it’s snowy, cold, and may be a brilliantly sunny blue-sky day or… something else. The latter can be sleet, freezing rain, snowsqualls – or a sudden melt where dramatic icicles hang from eaves and windowsills.
Whatever’s happening, it’s winter, we’re Canadian, et dans la belle province, on dit comme Gilles Vigneault, “mon pays, c’est l’hiver.”
I thrive during winter. I love this season. The cold? If you dress appropriately for it and get outside to be active in it, it’s exhilarating.
But where to get out and about – and what to do while outside?
Birds: feeders & outings
Although Christmas Bird Counts are over, it’s still interesting to put out some bird feeders and see what species come to eat nyger, sunflower seed and suet blocks.
It’s fascinating to observe resident winter birds to properly identify them, learn their idiosyncrasies, and report if there is an increase or decrease in a species’ population.
We’re increasingly told that citizen science is important. So, if we keep a record of species, and if we report data to organizations like Le Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais or Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club, further knowledge is captured. Last year, for instance, north of Quyon there were many sightings of a Tufted Titmouse – an extremely rare species for this part of Canada.
Thirdly, an interest in birds usually indicates an interest in the outdoors and environmental issues. For instance, my feeders are popular this year with blue jays, evening grosbeaks, common redpolls, hairy and downy woodpeckers, American goldfinches, pine siskins and dark-eyed juncos.
The evening grosbeaks represent an exciting return. During a talk by Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club, members learned this species’ populations are linked to spruce budworm cycles. I expect that seeing 9-25 of these gold, black and white birds daily may indicate the spruce in our forests are succumbing to that insect. Perhaps not a good thing for the trees – but lovely to see the return of these
grosbeaks.
Outings? All the clubs I’ve mentioned offer guided outings for members. Check their websites and get outside to look for snowy owls through to golden or bald eagles – as well as mallards and a host of other species. It’s fun – and you’ll learn lots about our natural world in winter.
Winter activities
The Outaouais offers a glorious environment where we can go dogsledding,
snowshoeing, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, biking and more.
Dogsledding? Otter Lake’s Escapade Eskimo offers dogsledding, tobogganing,
and snowshoeing. Bristol’s Timberland also has dogsledding. Before you know it, you’ll be dashing along, with the eager dogs yelping with excitement as they pull you through the snow-clad trails.
Buy a snowshoe or cross-country skiing pass at Gatineau Park Visitor’s Centre in Old Chelsea to access
more than 50 ski trails. Snowshoeing and fat biking trails beckon, too. Further afield, try snowshoeing in Duhamel, along winding forested trails: Route des Zingues is a less-known destination offering stunning lake views from rocky promontories.
Downhill skiing or boarding? Camp Fortune near Old Chelsea is popular. Or, along the Black River/Rivière Noire, find the challenging descent of Mont Chilly.
An easier outing?
Want a gentler skiing and snowshoeing experience? SkiPontiac fits the bill, with easy woodland and even golf course trails, adjacent to Pine Lodge, Bristol. Connie Renaud and Shirley Russell envisioned and, with their team of volunteers, created the perfect spot to try out these sports.
Winter? It’s glorious. Get outside and enjoy it.
Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com and view her art at facebook.com/Katharine
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