Wednesday, December 14, 2016

More Green Space in Chicago!

Photo by Justin Breen The Field Museum

Chicago continues to inspire!!

First I found out about their bird friendly skyscraper design and then next it was Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor.  After that I read about all these other green nature initiatives that had been happening:

 - City Hall's Rooftop Garden
- the Green Roof Grant Program
- Nature and Wildlife Plan
- Green Alley Program
- Urban Forest Agenda
- 606 (green line)
- Chicago Botanical Garden's "Horticultural Therapy Program"
Burnham Wildlife Corridor

and now it's Northerly Island!

They are rejuvenating the island with 400 trees and 12000 shrubs by 2017, which will add a more diverse habitat and resting spot for birds.

From DNA info "Northerly Island Is Now A Bird Paradise With 250 Species And Counting" by Justin Breen:
Stotz said that Northerly Island's new look has saved the lives of countless birds. The island used to feature only dry grassland, which kept birds from landing there. Instead, they would fly from Lake Michigan into the city and often crash into McCormick Place. 
"Northerly Island has become an important habitat for preventing birds from hitting McCormick Place," he said. "There used to be no place to stop, and now there is."

Read more about it at DNA Info article and "Northerly Island Reopens" by The Field Museum, Joshua Engel.

Another great organization in Chicago is Open Lands which "has helped protect more than 55,000 acres of land for public parks and forest preserves, wildlife refuges, land and water greenway corridors, urban farms, and community gardens."  Currently they are working on a green vision for some empty industrial sites along Lake Calumet.

Very inspiring!!




Sunday, November 20, 2016

New Boblink Habitat in Hamilton


Interesting project in Hamilton - so great that they are creating Bobolink habitat!  From the webpage:

Hamilton’s Bobolink community is getting the boot from their current home in Greensville and being re-located to a former dump. 
The city is hoping that the “threatened” bird species, will feel right at home at the old Upper Ottawa Street dump. 
Bobolinks had been living behind Greensville Public School but their habitat has been taken away by the construction of a new Johnson Tew park and arboretum. 
“The likelihood is that they will continue to be there until the trees start to grow up, then the Bobolink don’t like that habitat as much.” said Cynthia Graham. 
The city is hoping to entice the Bobolinks to move here, to the old Upper Ottawa Street dump, but the Bobolink is a very picky tenant, and the city will have to cut down some trees and plant prairie grasses in order for the birds to feel more at home. And the Bobolinks don’t like visitors. 
“It already is grassland, so there is the potential to establish the habitat they like which is mostly grasses. It’s restricted to public access and bobolinks are birds that don’t like a lot of disturbance.” 
They are an elusive bird, and are considered “at risk.” 
“Certainly the Bobolink are suffering because of habitat loss across their range, so whatever we can do to create habitat suitable for them is within our mandate to do so”
When they are in town, the nesting birds prefer staying on the ground in tall grass or crops. 
“The reason we chose that is because it has potential to be Bobolink habitat, but they’re not currently using it to full extent, so there’s an opportunity for enhancement.”
The move is estimated to cost $120 000 and another $200,000 is being requested from the city’s park project budget next year, to cover consultation with bird experts, and ongoing monitoring of the success of the project over the next 20 years.

http://www.chch.com/relocating-at-risk-bird-species/

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Green Roof in Ottawa

Image from Google Earth

From Metro News:

Ontario Completes Ottawa Courthouse Green Roof (2012)
"A new green roof at the Ottawa Courthouse will reduce energy costs, improve air quality and help Ontario meet its long-term energy conservation goals.  (The roof's green space is bigger than four hockey rinks put together, or one football field.) 
The Ottawa Courthouse's green roof is a living landscape that supports 60 varieties of plants and protects the building's structure from the elements. There are 26 separate green roofs spanning multiple elevations, for a total of 70,000 square feet of green space that will help keep Ottawa's air clean. 
While a conventional roof lasts only 20 to 25 years, green roofs last at least twice as long. The new green roof will save $23,000 a year in energy costs by reducing summer cooling and winter heat loss by 26 per cent."

I found this after reading about Ottawa investing in solar energy on their municipal buildings:

Ottawa gets green with solar energy project (Metro News, September 2016)

"Eight municipal buildings now equipped with solar panels."


Monday, September 26, 2016

Via Verde project in Mexico City (citizen-led)


Have you seen this?  Even just looking at this image makes me feel calm!  I'd love to drive on a highway like this - imagine if Toronto did this to their highway downtown!

Great facts about the project:

- 40,000 meters of roadways and concrete pillars will be covered
- will fight pollution, beautify the city and decrease stress levels of motorists
- the green walls will generate oxygen, absorb pollutants and moderate traffic noise
- an automated irrigation system supplied by rainwater will be used
- the project is being funded by private donors, government and advertisers

From Upworthy and Now This:


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

More about SNAP - Black Creek (TRAC - Toronto)

From SNAP - Black Creek:

San Romanoway Revival: Greening the Corner of Jane and Finch.

The Black Creek SNAP transformed underutilized spaces around the low-income apartment towers at the corner of Jane and Finch into a vibrant park, with a 63 plot allotment garden and Toronto’s largest urban orchard. The project also includes pollinator gardens, naturalization areas with hundreds of native trees and shrubs, interpretative signage and a beautiful arbour structure, designed to offer shade and harvest rainwater to support the gardens. Hundreds of volunteers participated in the development of the park.

Balcony Gardening program

114 edible balconies in five low-income, high rise apartment towers were implemented during the summers of 2014 and 2015. Eight residents were hired as community leaders to mentor their neighbours

Black Creek Orchard Co-op

Black Creek SNAP homeowners with fruit trees have been joining forces to tend their collective urban orchard. Comprised of a very diverse group of fruit tree owners, the group meets regularly to exchange information and attend presentations led by professionals. A short term goal is for members to help one another prune trees and harvest fruit, and a long term goal is to create a social enterprise opportunity by pooling the harvested fruit and creating a Black Creek Orchard wine label, which can be sold at markets around Toronto and even beyond.

http://sustainableneighbourhoods.ca/wp/black-creek-snap/

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More about SNAP - Bayview Glen (TRAC - Toronto)



From SNAP - Bayview Glen

On September 28 the Markham’s City Council approved the proposed design concept for Glencrest Park and endorsed it for implementation in 2015-2016.

The updated Glencrest Park will include a modern playground and a shade structure near the entrance to the park at Ladyslipper Court and amenities such as a labyrinth, a meditation garden and an open play space. A proposed trail system will connect key features within the park and will provide an off-street pedestrian linkage between Laureleaf Road and Ladyslipper Court.

The re-creation of the valley feature with raingardens will transform the landscape within Glencrest Park from maintained turf to a rich mosaic of ecotones, creating a naturalized landscape and supporting the attenuation of stormwater runoff. A looped trail system of approximately 600 m surrounding the raingardens and the mediation garden will afford opportunities for walking and jogging within a naturalized landscape setting. Tree planting is proposed extensively throughout the park with the intent of expanding the tree canopy and promoting evapotranspiration.

Glencrest Park has received a $60,000 grant from the RBC Blue Water Project. This grant will support the implementation of the raingardens and tree planting and creation of a naturalized landscape that enhances the evapotranspiration and infiltration of stormwater.

Link to Map

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chimney Swift population decline is not due to lost habitat.



Just came across this Chimney Swift study "Swift Watch - Summery Report" published in 2012.  It has some great findings about the preference of Chimney Swift habitat and the availability in Ontario urban cities.
"These descriptions revealed that Chimney Swifts preferentially used chimneys with a greater length exposed above the roofline of the building and a greater inside area than those available to be used. The average chimney used by swifts extended 2.86 m above the roofline and had an internal area of 1.0079 m2. 

We also found that 73% of active chimneys were found on non-residential buildings. Interestingly, the majority of building types surveyed by volunteers were residential houses (63%), followed by commercial buildings. However, the building types with the highest number of sites occupied by swifts were commercial (mostly found in downtown urban habitat), churches and schools.  

... We found that among 139 open and suitable habitat chimneys available, only 24.4% were actually occupied by swifts. These results suggest that in urban areas there is more nesting habitat available than being used by Chimney Swifts and it is likely that declines in Ontario’s swift population are primarily driven by a process other than habitat loss, such as prey abundance and availability."
They also did a study on natural nesting sites in both logged and unlogged areas in Ontario.  It would be great to know more about the study area (is it in Southern Ontario or Northern Ontario?) and whether there are preferred spots and distances away from cities where Chimney Swifts choose these sites. I've never read about chimney swifts nesting in anything other than chimneys!

Here's a bit on that study:
"Deciduous trees hosted 24 used sites, whereas 17 used sites were in coniferous trees. The most commonly encountered tree species to host nesting or roosting Chimney Swift were: white pine, sycamore, yellow birch, and cypress. In three reports, the entrance used by the Chimney Swifts was an entrance previously created by Pileated Woodpeckers."
You can read the full report here: http://www.birdscanada.org/download/CHSWONReport.pdf

And this newspaper article reports on Chimney Swifts nesting in hay barns out on the East Coast:

"NOVA SCOTIA NATURALLY: The world of spectacular swifts
written by Donna Crossland  published on July 19, 2015 in the Chronicle Herald.




Other Posts on Chimney Swifts:

All about Chimney Swift Towers and the Birds (2011)
Chimney Swift Tower in Toronto (2011)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

urban forest in Detroit


You gotta love this!

(Hauled from my archives.)

What about creating an urban forest overnight?

"This week, 150 mature trees — 20 feet high, trucked to Detroit from as far away as Buffalo, N.Y. — are being planted at Van Dyke and Goethe on vacant lots. They add heft and height to John Hantz's big idea: That reclaiming land for agriculture or trees will help restore pride and beauty to an area that's been demoralized by abandonment."

Here are two views of before (2011) and after (2015).  It'll be great to continue to monitor this urban forest!

Detroit vacant lot (before):


Detroit urban forest (after):


News Articles: 

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/metro-detroit/2014/10/13/overnight-detroit-forest-years-hantz/17218305/

http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/michigan/2014/10/14/trees-hauled-detroit-jump-start-urban-forest/17238189/


Plus: read these other posts about the urban ecology opportunities for Detroit streams called daylighting (for Michigan urban waterways)!



P.S. Check out my latest "urban wild" nature blog: Wild. Here. (2016 update)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

North American Urban Ecology Centres


Here's a starter list of urban ecology centres: some are run by the city, some are non-profits, some are research centres.  Some implement public education programs, some run environmental remediation programs and other are studying (with the help of students or citizen volunteers) urban ecological issues.  Share with me others that you know of!

CANADA:

Montreal Urban Ecology Centre
http://www.ecologieurbaine.net/en/

"Projects include the Green, Active and Healthy Neighbourhoods where the organization’s expertise grew to include greening, urban agriculture, planning, active transportation and participatory democracy.  Today, the MUEC has expanded its scope of activity to other municipalities in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. It remains, however, true to its approach and scope of action: citizens and their neighbourhoods." (from the MUEC website)

Humber College’s Urban Ecology Centre
http://humberarboretum.on.ca/humberandthearb.php

"The Humber Arboretum is a joint venture of the City of Toronto, Humber College and Toronto and Region Conservation. The park includes trails and boardwalks through gardens, forests, meadows and wetlands. The Centre for Urban Ecology provides a first-rate venue for education and research on urban ecology and an up-to-date example of environmental sustainability. The Centre for Urban Ecology teachs by example how we all can help work towards a healthy sustainable environment in our own urban spaces." (from the Centre's website)

John Janzen Nature Centre (City of Edmonton)
http://www.edmonton.ca/attractions_events/john-janzen-nature-centre.aspx

 Run by the City of Edmonton:
"A gateway to the heart of Edmonton’s River Valley, the John Janzen Nature Centre takes visitors for a walk on the wild side with programs, events and interactive exhibits designed to promote awareness and engagement with nature in an urban setting." (from the website)

Institute of Urban Ecology (Douglas College, Vancouver)
http://www.douglascollege.ca/programs-courses/faculties/science-technology/institute-of-urban-ecology

"IUE has been involved in a myriad of community-based activities and projects. These projects include: an environmental outreach and education program that reaches about 2000 participants in schools and community organizations in Metro Vancouver each year; working with the Britannia Food Garden Project; and giving input to a number of local and regional initiatives related to ecology and development, such as the Metro Vancouver Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. The IUE also undertakes a variety of research projects related to urban sustainability issues. Recent and current projects include: Urban Bug Gardens, which examined beneficial insects in a community garden and the Delta Migratory Bird Study, which looked at the impact of various land uses on migratory bird foraging behaviours." (from their website)



UNITED STATES:

Urban Green Spaces (Portland)
http://www.urbangreenspaces.org 

"Motto: In Livable Cities is Preservation of the Wild

Mission: To ensure that parks, regional trail systems, greenways and greenspaces are integrated with the built environment in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region, and to promote urban greenspace efforts nationally and internationally." (from website)

Urban Ecology Center (Milwaukee)
http://www.urbanecologycenter.org

"The Urban Ecology Center provides year-round educational programs for kids, families and adults of all ages. The cornerstone program is the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project serving kids in 55 urban Milwaukee schools each year. This program enables students to get to walk in the woods, stand in a river in hip waders or run along the beach at Lake Michigan when they might have no other opportunities to do so." (from website)

Urban Ecology Institute (Cambridge)
http://urbanecologyinst.blogspot.ca/

"The Urban Ecology Institute (UEI) was started in 1998 teaming up community and educational partners to improve the health of urban ecosystems through environmental education, action, and advocacy programs. Their programs reached more than 30,000 people each year throughout Massachusetts and beyond. UEI's core programs harnessed the potential of young people and the power of citizen groups to create physical and social transformations in the midst of neglected communities." (from their website)

Boston Metro Ecological Research (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
http://www.umass.edu/urbaneco/index.html

"Exploring past, current and future socio-ecological dynamics in a founding city - We are a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team of ecologists and social scientists at several universities and the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and partnered with the City of Boston." (from their website)

Wild Metro (New York City)
http://www.wildmetro.org/

"WildMetro, a non-profit organization aims to protect wildlife in natural areas within and around New York City. The organization advocates a sensible balance of development and nature protection in urban regions and promotes intelligent management of resources. It also works to involve communities in the protection of nature by offering various programs such as an after-school nature program and an ecological field techniques course." (from their website)

EcoCity Builders (California)
http://www.ecocitybuilders.org/

"Ecocity Builders reshapes cities for the long-term health of human and natural systems. We develop and implement policy, design and educational tools and strategies to build thriving urban centers based on “access by proximity” and to reverse patterns of sprawl and excessive consumption." (from their website)

Centre for Urban Resilience (Los Angeles)
http://cures.lmu.edu/

"CURes works with faculty, staff, students and community members to develop research and other interventions that lead to more resilient and just communities. Our goal is to pair the study of urban ecology with local issues that can benefit from the talents and resources at LMU. We support a variety of projects ranging from science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher professional development; urban biosocial research; graduate education; restorative justice; and regional climate change initiatives." (from CUR website)


P.S. I also wrote about Debs Park in Los Angeles which is another great example of an urban ecology centre!

*Image above of Milwaukee Riverside Park Centre (from website)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

More about SNAP - Lake Wilcox (TRAC - Toronto)

Great examples of front yard landscaping that helps with biodiversity, stormwater runoff and xeriscaping.  (Wish they had some estimates of costs - that would be great to know about!)

From SNAP - Lake Wilcox:

Two Front Yard Makeover demonstration projects were installed in July-September 2012.

These projects play an essential role in communicating the objectives of SNAP and profiling many of the key practices of residential eco-landscaping.

Regarding the new gardens - noted comment from a neighbour was ‘Environmentally friendly garden yet artistic and multi-use’.

Both watered, on average, once a week using only water from the rain barrel, no potable water was used. Neither design includes a lawn, thus both time and water were saved.

BEFORE:


AFTER:




 BEFORE:


AFTER:


Photos from SNAP website.

Some details:

  • Roof leader discharges to a bioswale or soak away underlain with AquaBlox units.
  • Discharge of another roof leader into a rain barrel with overflow directed to a dry river bed that leads to a soakaway or rain garden.
  • Discharge of a third downspout onto a permeable driveway/walkway.
  • Water efficient native plantings of trees, shrubs and plants.



Link to SNAP Lake Wilcox Project Page.

What is SNAP?


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Urban Foxes


Finally after fifty or more years, Lebreton Flats is being redeveloped.  I've always wondered about the area and all that green space so close to the urban core.  When I was thinking how great it would be for the city to have an Urban Ecology Centre centrally located (when I started my new career in 2011) I thought something off of Bayview would be perfect.  It would be close to the river, along a major corridor (that fauna may naturally follow) and there was all that open green area.  Just a beautiful spot and vista.

I started thinking about this area again today when my friend posted about seeing an urban fox in Chinatown.

"We just saw a fox trotting at a fast clip around Primrose and Empress in Ottawa's Chinatown tonight. It looked she/he was heading towards Somerset before he/she ducked between some buildings. Who knew we'd find a fox in Centretown?"

It would be an amazing sight to see in the evening.  On the Urban Wild Walks we were told that there was a fox denning in the Macoun Marsh area (which my spouse saw this week cross St. Laurent late in the evening) and our Animal Tracks tour leader also found a fox den (although empty at the time) up in Rockcliffe Park (the official park where the pavilion is, not the neighborhood "Rockcliffe Park").  But are urban foxes common in Canada?  I knew they were in parts of the U.K. as I have read and watched documentaries on London's urban foxes.

"London is unique among western European capitals in that it has a fox population of any great size, concedes Trevor Williams, director of The Fox Project, which maintains a wildlife information bureau." (The Star, David Hewitt, 2012

"Stephen Harris, an expert on urban foxes at Bristol, says no reliable figure has ever been calculated, although he once estimated the number at 5,000 to 6,000 for London's boroughs." (L.A. Times, Christopher Werth, 2014)

London has no urban raccoon or skunk population (unlike here in Canada) but it does have increasing numbers of badgers, weasels, hedgehogs and other small nocturnal visitors.  Each creature has different territory size and the overlap of these territories may vary along with when each is on the prowl.

But back to Ottawa - pictured above and below are the areas that connect Lebreton Flats area to Chinatown (above the ridge) along Empress and Lorne.  There is a very scrubby areas along the ridge in both places which could offer urban mammals including foxes some cover and some easy accessible corridors to explore more urban territories above the ridge.


The pink area in the map below is the Saint Vincent hospital property and Somerset is south of this site.  The orange arrow pointing in the direction the fox was going.


Lebreton Flats (before current redevelopment started) had some great wild green and rocky areas that could offer den locations.  The fox at Macoun Marsh is found in the rocky area beside the marsh.  The den in Rockcliffe Park was dug in soil along the slopes down to the river.

Red foxes are a rare sighting but part of the reason for this is that we keep different hours.  Foxes are nocturnal like our skunk and raccoon neighbours but this still doesn't explain why they are rarely spotted here as I've definitely seen the other two creatures from time to time, so why not foxes?

They have been seen in the Fletcher Wildlife Gardens and the volunteers there estimate that there is just one family that uses the territory.  FWG's webpage indicates that despite being nocturnal, foxes will hunt during the day in the winter but this area with its fields, shrubs and woods is very different than an urban landscape. I'm guessing that urban scavenging is still best done at night when the city is more quiet.  Foxes are solitary and, even in areas where they are known to dwell, are rarely spotted.

The Toronto Wildife Centre states that foxes are more common than realized and can be found near ravine systems, large grassy fields and large parks where small mammals are plentiful (Toronto Wildlife Centre) and the MNR backgrounder states that foxes do den near human areas and are commonly found in many large urban centres in Ontario.

Charlottetown, however is one Canadian city where fox populations are similar to the London U.K. situation where "human-fox interactions are commonplace".  An urban research team studying these foxes "found 89 dens in Charlottetown". (Saltscapes)  Many residents of this city have spotted foxes - they have become a common sight unlike cities here in Ontario.

So my conclusion would be that they are more common than we realize but not as common as raccoons and skunks, which is probably a good thing!

Other great tidbits:
  • Foxes are omnivorous eating small rodents, frogs, insects, birds, snakes, acorns, grasses, corn, fruit and berries. (MNR)
  • They use abandoned groundhog burrows as dens. (Lethbridge College - the link for the LC Virtual Wildlife Project - digital Hubbard Collection is not working anymore)
  • Foxes can travel up to 10 km a day.  (Lethbridge College, Virtual Wildlife Project - Hubbard Collection)  It's 4 km from Lebreton Flats to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden.
  • They are extremely nimble - much more likes cats than dogs in this trait and can even climb trees. (FWG)
  • And let us not forget this brilliant fox who found a comfy resting spot for a morning! (#busfox)





Some other great urban mammal/wildlife posts:

Urban Crows (and supportive urbanites) (May 2011)

Helping Urban Skunks (March 2012)

Urban Coyotes (Feb 2012)

Urban Bats (June 2013 and August 2012)

Urban Fishers (Feb 2013)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SNAP Eco-Landscaping: Program and Information Guide



From their website:
The Sustainable Neighbourhood Retrofit Action Plan (SNAP) is an innovative pilot program led by Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) in collaboration with many municipal and community partners. The SNAP program aims to accelerate the implementation of environmental improvements and urban renewal at the neighbourhood scale. It takes an integrated approach to overcome urban retrofit challenges and address a broad range of objectives with locally tailored solutions. Each SNAP neighbourhood features unique initiatives to inspire residents, businesses and governments to take action. 
In partnership with local stakeholders including residents, businesses, local groups and institutions, the project seeks to develop action plans to improve the local environment on the neighbourhood scale and build resiliency against climate change by greening local infrastructure and encouraging positive behavior changes among residents. Based on existing conditions of each neighbourhood the project sets neighbourhood-level targets and identifies key actions on private and public property to address environmental objectives in the context of social and economic considerations for each neighbourhood. Each plan builds the business case for implementation by measuring individual and community benefits and cost savings.
http://sustainableneighbourhoods.ca/wp/eco-landscaping-how-to-information-and-garden-designs/