Two Canada lynx kittens from a family of five captured on a remote camera in Kluane, Yukon Territory last summer. When food is abundant, lynx have big families, like this one. When food is not abundant, females have fewer kittens or may forego having kittens altogether. Kittens stay in their mother’s den for several weeks after birth in May. In the peak of the summer, they begin to explore the world outside their den. This camera captured images of the family on one of its first trips out of the den.
Females will soon be establishing new dens and having new litters of kittens in Kluane. Food is abundant for lynx in the study area, and researchers expect big families again this year.
Photo and post by Darcy Doran-Myers.
What do -38°C, a spacesuit and a wooden post have to do with songbird research?
I could only hold the camera for a couple seconds before my fingers froze. My field partner, Logan, and I had just snowmobiled a half an hour from our truck parked on an ice road ~80 km south of the Nunavut border, in the tundra of the NWT. We were not actually wearing spacesuits, but our big onesies, snowmobile helmets and steel-toed winter boots made it look like we were. Our task was to collect acoustic recording units (ARUs) deployed by Environment & Climate Change Canada (ECCC). The ARUs were deployed last year when the ice road was open, but started recording in the spring, after birds had arrived. Winter is the only time this northern boreal/tundra transition area is accessible. 100 ARUs, mounted on trees and wooden posts (when there are no trees), span a 400 km south-north transect along the ice road. After retrieval, recordings will be analyzed to identify bird species. This marks the start of a long-term monitoring project to identify and track the northern limits of songbird ranges, a topic of great importance in the face of a changing climate. Students from Dr. Erin Bayne’s lab collaborate with ECCC on songbird research using ARUs.
Collaborators: Samuel Haché (Environment and Climate Change Canada)
Location: Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road, Northwest Territories
-Post and Photo by Emily Upham-Mills
Two young northern harrier chicks in Conklin, Alberta. Northern harrier hawks build their nests on the ground in prairies, fields, and bogs. Lionel Leston found this nest while hiking through a watery fen.
As spring approaches, trail cams sometimes turn into kiss cams
Photo from Kluane trail cams courtesy of Darcy Doran-Myers
A big part of fieldwork in the prairies is making sure you have good relations with those who occupy the land. These curious cows eye researcher Anjolene Hunt suspiciously as she approaches to monitor a Ferruginous hawk nest.
A group of Poplar admiral butterflies glean some extra nutrients from some dried up scat
-photo by Lionel Leston
The forest returns! Blanket of flowers two years after a forest fire
-Photo by Michelle Knaggs
One great benefit to using ARUs to study songbirds is that you can retrieve the data at a convenient time. Last week I went out the field one last time to collect 38 ARUs that I left out to sample the last few weeks of Olive-sided Flycatcher activity in bogs and burns around Fort Providence, NWT. When I last saw these birds in July, some of them had empty nests that were predated, some had hatchlings, some had fledglings and some had seemingly already left. When I analyze these data later, I may be able to hear when they actually left their territories to start their migration down south.
This was the first time I ever visited the boreal forest in the fall and a couple of things became apparent to me very quickly:
1) Despite often being conifer dominated in lowland areas, boreal bogs have beautiful fall colours! Tamaracks pepper the forest with golden hues and patches of aspens and deciduous shrubs add more variation of yellows, oranges and reds.
2) Revisiting and walking around boreal forest where I spent many hours in during the busy bird breeding season makes me realize how SILENT it is in the fall when everyone is gone. It feels like walking around empty circus grounds the day after a big weekend show… there is evidence of a party and the noise is almost ringing in your ears, but no one is there. Except the ravens and gray jays, those die hard resident partiers.
-Photos and post by Emily Upham-Mills