Species of the Week: The White-breasted Nuthatch

Photo by Nata Culhane

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), a bird you’ve probably seen hanging out at your birdfeeder this winter! These birds are quite common in North America, and along with Black-capped Chickadees, are very likely to come close to humans looking for bird seed. Apart from seeds, nuthatches eat nuts that they store in the fall and forage for insects along tree trunks and branches. They have a distinct behaviour while foraging, moving from the top to the bottom of a trunk head-first. Nuthatches nest in tree cavities, and have an interesting method for deterring squirrels… they smear insects around the entrance! Nuthatches are non-migratory and prefer mature woodlands and edge habitats. We often spot them along the Rideau Trail and Sylvan Trail and hear their low-pitched, nasally ‘wha wha wha’ song just as often. Have you ever fed one of these cute birds?

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Species of the Week: Big Brown Bat

Photo by Adam Kalab

This week our featured #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus). These nocturnal insectivores use echolocation to feed on things like moths, caddisflies, beetles, and flies. The Big Brown Bat is the most common bat species in Canada and, with a wingspan of up to 40cm, one of the largest. They range from southern Canada to central America and are highly adapted to living in cities where they roost in cavities, buildings and under the bark of trees. Although this species is not threatened, it is still under pressure from human activities such as pesticide use which kills their food source, and from a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome. During the winter, the Big Brown Bat hibernates inside houses, barns, caves, tree cavities or rock crevices; often these sites are located less than 80 km from their summer roosts. This particular bat was sighted at the staff house at Murphys Point. Have you spotted any bats flying around the campgrounds in the evening here at the park?

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Species of the Week: Boreal Oakmoss

Photo by Adam Kalab

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is a strange-looking lichen. Boreal Oakmoss (Evernia mesomorpha) is a common and widespread lichen in northern boreal and mixed forests. Like all lichens, it is not a single organism, but a mutualistic relationship between algae or cyanobacteria and fungi. Boreal Oakmoss can use any coniferous or deciduous tree as its substrate. While the name suggests oak trees, it has a preference for conifers. It is tolerant of most pollutants, so it can grow near urban areas. Boreal Oakmoss contains usnic acid, which can cause severe dermatitis, so it is recommended to avoid touching it. Its growth form is called fruticose, or shrub-like, with numerous forked, hanging branches. The branches contain the soredia, which are clusters of algal cells wrapped in fungal filaments, and are used for vegetative reproduction. This is a type of asexual reproduction where the soredia break off and are dispersed by wind, then grow into a new lichen after settling on a suitable substrate. Lichens don’t take nutrients from their host substrate, they collect their own water and nutrients from the air. An often overlooked part of the forest, lichens can be remarkable in their shapes and colours. Have you seen any cool lichens in the park?

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