flora and fauna

Written by Denise Deby.

Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours

Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours

Ottawa is home to some amazing, creative initiatives that have the potential to make our city a better, more livable one. Ottawa (de)tours, which launched this spring, is one of these.

Ottawa (de)tours are themed walking tours with a difference. The walks, led by knowledgeable guides, reveal the city from a particular lens. For example, the “Food” walk brings home the global food system by showing some thriving community food initiatives, while the “Play” tour passes some of the city’s outdoor and indoor leisure spaces, but with a critical eye to who accesses those places and for what.

On the “Money” tour, you’ll look at how corporate banks and other financial institutions affect people’s lives, and discover some alternatives in our debt-reliant financial system. On the “Feminism” walk, you’ll visit landmarks that shed light on women in Canadian society and where their contributions have or haven’t been acknowledged.

Sound intriguing? Each tours lasts 60-90 minutes and is part leisurely walk, part active discussion and part social gathering—you may start or end up at a café or restaurant. You’ll also get links to resources to help you investigate the topic further.

I had the chance to meet up with Susan Johnston and Dan Monafu, community builders and Ottawa (de)tours co-founders, to find out more about what’s behind the initiative.

Dan explains that the walks are intended to provide an opportunity for people to talk about issues they care about. The tours also link seemly disparate elements of our public spaces, by showing the connections, for example, between the Bank of Canada, payday loan companies, credit unions and other elements of the financial system.

Ottawa (de)tours walks start from a historical perspective, but also critically analyze what is now and suggest what might be possible.

“The bracketed (de) gets at deconstructing terms and…defining complex topics, and using narrative and storytelling to get people to reimagine what could be,” says Dan.

“It’s really important to us to help people have a sense of ownership and agency around these topics, and to keep them slanted in the direction of positive changes possible,” says Susan. “The walk that we do on local food solutions gets into discussions around attractive edible gardens, reducing the barriers to urban agriculture, and what’s involved in learning how to create an integrated sustainable backyard.”

Ottawa (de)tours are an intriguing way to ground discussions of important issues and concepts in physical space, to look critically at the design of our city and to appreciate what we have.

A more detailed description of the themed walking tours is here, and you can reserve spaces online hereEach walk costs a nominal $2 in this, Ottawa (de)tours’ first season. Walks will continue until the end of October.

Ottawa de(tours) welcomes feedback and suggestions. They’re also hosting two special events at HUB Ottawa:

  • A Brown Bag Lunch on Thursday, September 25, 2014 called #SummerOfBeta: Quit, Pivot, or Persist? Susan and Dan will talk about Ottawa (de)tours’ first season of operation and how to know whether to continue a new business venture. Noon-1 p.m.
  • Ottawa (de)tours Wine Down on Friday, September 26, 2014 from 5-8 p.m. Celebrate the official launch of Ottawa (de)tours and the end of their #SummerOfBeta, and help them look forward to their 2015 season.
Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours

Photo courtesy Ottawa (de)tours


Written by Denise Deby. Thanks to Sarah Kirkpatrick-Wahl, Conservation Coordinator at Nature Canada, for the information.

BIOBLITZ Sept 2014

In the heart of Ottawa, you’ll find song birds, water birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, turtles and a huge variety of mosses, lichens and other plants and wildlife–all at Mud Lake.

Come out to look for them this weekend at Nature Canada’s 24-hour BioBlitz. From Friday, September 12 3 p.m. until Saturday September 13 3 p.m., local experts will be leading nature walks on the flora and fauna at Mud Lake.

For example, Patrick Killeen, lead taxonomist with the Mud Lake Biodiversity Project, will explore trees, shrubs and grasses on Friday afternoon and Saturday noon, while Nature Canada’s Alex MacDonald leads an evening “Critters and Sounds” walk. Bill Halliday and Julie Chateauvert look for reptiles and amphibians on Saturday.

By participating, you’ll be helping Nature Canada document the species in the area, and getting to know the treasure that is Mud Lake and the Britannia Conservation Area.

Check the Nature Canada website for more information.


Written by Denise Deby.

Long weekend - D. Deby

Back to school, back to work, new activities, changing weather—this time of year is often a time of transition.

Here, we savoured the last day of the August long weekend with a bike ride along the Ottawa River and a picnic at Britannia Beach. New routines start today, but I’m hoping we can continue to relive the good parts of summer as we head into a new month.

Some ideas for extending the green of summer:

Go outside

As summer holidays wind down, getting outdoors can be challenging. Spending time in nature has great physical and mental health benefits, though. Walk or bike to work or school. Balance screen and structured activity time with outdoor pursuits. Go for a walk, fly a kite, stop at the park or by the river.

Go recycled

If you’re stocking up on school or office supplies, look for eco-friendly notebooks, paper and other gear. Go for 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and avoid plastic and vinyl. For paper products that are a little special, check out Ecojot, sold in many shops around town. You can also find wonderful pencil cases, backpacks and bags made from recycled materials; try terra20EcoEquitable or EnviroCentre.

Go green

For lunches, single-serving packaged foods can seem convenient, but they produce a lot of garbage. Buy in bulk, prepare portions at home and use reusable containers–many stores carry stainless steel and cloth options. Use a reusable mug for coffee or tea. When it comes to clothing, shop vintage or used when possible, or organize a clothing swap. This time of year is a great time to (re)discover drying laundry on a clothesline–another way to get outdoors.

Laundry - D. Deby


Written by Denise Deby.

Ottawa and the River from Gatineau Park - D. Deby

Two events this weekend are a reminder of how we are a part of nature and how much we need to be a part of protecting the environment on which we depend.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, the Ottawa Riverkeeper hosts Ottawa’s first Interprovincial Swim between Parc des Cèdres, Aylmer/Gatineau and the Lac Deschenes Sailing Club in Ottawa.

Ottawa Riverkeeper, in partnership with Swim Ottawa, organized the 4 km, 2-hour swim to highlight the need for governments and agencies on both sides of the Ottawa River to collaborate in keeping the river healthy. (The Ottawa River falls under the jurisdiction of two provinces, four conservation authorities, several provincial and federal agencies and over a hundred municipalities over its 1,271 km length.)

The swim supports Riverkeeper initiatives, particularly the purchase of water quality test kits for its Riverwatch Program. Donations are accepted at giveeffect.org or at 613-321-1120.

On Sunday, Aug. 17, CPAWS-Ottawa Valley and MEC Ottawa are holding the MEC Big Wild Challenge. It’s a run/walk along several trail loop options in Gatineau Park. Organizers promise an active day with “plenty of fun streams to cross, rocks to climb, natural obstacles to maneuver around, and amazing views over the Outaouais region” as well as entertainment, snacks and prizes. Funds raised go towards CPAWS’ campaigns across Canada to protect at-risk wilderness.

For more information and registration go to http://action.cpaws.org/site/TR/Events/BigWildChallenge?sid=1002&type=fr_informational&pg=informational&fr_id=1070, or contact Amy at CPAWS. The run starts at Gatineau Park parking lot P7B at 9:00 a.m., with pre-run sign-up at 8:30 a.m., and costs $20.

Written by Denise Deby.

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile sp.) by Bob Peterson on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/pondapple/5190457579/in/photostream/ Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile sp.) by Bob Peterson on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/pondapple/5190457579/in/photostream/ Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

In an earlier post, I mentioned some local sources of information on how to turn a yard, garden or balcony into an inviting area for butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

This week, Just Food is holding a talk on Creating Native Pollinator Habitat. The speaker is Susan Chan, a pollination biologist, advocate for native bees in Ontario and manager of the Native Pollinator Program at Farms at Work in Peterborough. She’ll be talking about the importance of native pollinators for food production and conservation, and how to create habitat for them.

The talk is on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 at the Ottawa Public Library Main Branch at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). $10 admission.



Thanks to Katherine Forster at Friends of Petrie Island for the River Day information.

Petrie Island River Day Poster

River Day is from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Check the Friends of Petrie Island’s Facebook page for updates.

Written by Denise Deby.

Great spangled fritillary on common milkweed butterfly speyeria cybele. Credit: Dr. Thomas G. Barnes/USFWS http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_spangled_fritillary_on_common_milkweed_butterfly_speyeria_cybele.jpg

Great spangled fritillary on common milkweed butterfly speyeria cybele. Credit: Dr Thomas G Barnes/USFWS. Via Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_spangled_fritillary_on_common_milkweed_butterfly_speyeria_cybele.jpg

If you have a garden, you can create a space that nurtures pollinators and other earth-friendly insects. If you don’t have a garden but have a bit of outdoor space, you can still offer habitat to butterflies, bees, birds and other important species.

Where to start? Well, the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a great resource. Located just south of the Arboretum off Prince of Wales Drive (across from the Experimental Farm), the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is a wonderful place to walk around. With several habitats including a meadow, wooded areas, fields and a ravine, the six-hectare site also has an interpretive centre and a demonstration backyard garden where you can learn about native plants and find out which will suit your garden. (It’s open Sunday afternoons from May through October.) There’s also lots of information, and inspiring photos, on FWG’s website.

Even better, this Saturday, June 7, 2014, Fletcher is holding its Annual Native Plant Sale from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They’ll be selling a variety of wildflowers and offering information on gardening for butterflies, building a backyard pond and other neat stuff. (Among the plants for sale is milkweed, a hard-to-source native plant that’s an essential food for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies, whose numbers were in decline last year.)

For inspiration, people are also welcome at the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s demonstration garden in Kanata. Various sections of the garden–a Bird Bed, a Pond Bed, Shade Beds, a Pollinator Bed and a Bog Bed, for example–are home to specific trees, shrubs, perennials and other plant species. You can pop by for a visit, call in advance or check out the garden maps and plant lists on CWF’s website, which has other great resources for wildlife-friendly gardening (e.g. planting tips, a database of native species, a native plants suppliers’ list and links to other gardeners).

It’s important that we preserve large areas of natural habitat in the city, but planting even a few native plants can make a difference to local wildlife and ecosystems, too.

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