Wild Raptors in Ontario!

On Tuesday, November 14th, our class had the opportunity to meet with Wild Ontario! We learnt a lot about Raptors!

First, we met Kyle Homer who is the coordinator of this program and learnt a little about Wild Ontario and what they’re all about. Wild Ontario actually first started out as a rescue and rehabilitate clinic run out of the Ontario Vet College back in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, due to funding, when the university needed to cut their budget they had to close this program as it was expensive and it wasn’t creating any profit. Following this, a group of volunteers decided to change the program and make it about educating the public about Raptors, why you shouldn’t try to domesticate them and what you can do to help.

Kyle Homer explaining about the two different types of bird’s feet in his hands

Following the brief history of Wild Ontario, Kyle passed around some bird feet and wings for us to take a closer look at. Fun Fact: a Great Horned Owl is the second strongest owl with a crushing power that ranges from 200 up to 500 pounds per square inch, or ten times the grip strength of an average human hand.

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The first bird we met with was an adorable Kestrel named Artemis. A Kestrel is North America’s smallest raptor, who’s often mistaken for a songbird, just due to their size.

As for Atermis’ story, Wild Ontario believes that she was stolen out of her nest and someone decided to try and keep her as a pet. Due to this, she has no fear of cages or people, nor does she know how to catch her own food, and this makes her non-releasable. Now, Artemis spends her days educating the public so that more people will choose to admire from a distance.


Then we met with a majestic Peregrine Falcon by the name of Chinook and we learnt that there are two pretty cool facts about them. The first fact we learnt was that Peregrine Falcon’s have a very fast dive speed; they can reach over 200 miles per hour. The second fact we learnt about them is that they are one of the most widely spread species across the world; they’re found on every continent except Antartica.

Chinook was deemed non-releasable because she has an injured wing that never healed properly. This happened when she was just starting out, on one of her first flights. Chinook crashed to the ground and injured her wing.

If you’re ever walking downtown, take a look at the top of Rivermill Condos, there’s a Peregrine Falcon that nests there.


Following Chinook, we were acquainted with a hot Broad-winged Hawk named Whistler. Whistler had a similar story to Artemis, she also was a “Human Imprint” case. Human Imprinting is when the bird believes that the human who took them out of their nest is their mother. They believe then that they are also a human, and so they aren’t afraid of humans and are unable to hunt for themselves.

Fun Fact: Whistler is 19 years old.

Broad-winged Hawk’s are long-distance migrants, they migrate in very large flocks called “kettles”. They soar through pockets of warm air, this allows them to conserve energy by using the rising currents and columns of air to gain “lift” and allow them to fly without flapping their wings.


After Whistler, we met a gorgeous Red Tailed Hawk by the name of Freya. Freya doesn’t have a story like the others, she was picked up by the Toronto Wildlife Center with severe feather damage as if some of her feathers had been burnt off. Once she had healed, she was released wasn’t leaving the area and would follow the volunteers around on their rounds. This was indicative that she also was a Human Imprint and unfortunately, she was considered non-releasable.

Red Tailed Hawks, we learned, are very conservative hunters. They attack slowly, it is a controlled dive with their legs outstretched. That way if they miss their prey, they do not expend a lot of energy and are able to continue hunting.

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And finally, we met a brilliant Barred Owl named Mowet, because the show just wouldn’t be complete without an Owl. Mowet has a pretty sad story as well, he was hit by a car and he suffered brain damage due to the impact. He slowly started to get better and they were debating a release when they found an old injury to his wing and so this combined with his brain injury, he was deemed non-releasable.

A Barred Owl makes an interesting hooting call that sounds like he’s singing “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”

If you want to get involved with the organization this is their website: http://www.wildontario.ca/index.html 🙂

First Impressions and SQUASH!

Woohoo! Lets reminisce on the first time we met Martha, our beloved small organic farm owner. For me this was the first time I ever stepped foot on any organic farm, let alone one walking distance from a University. To be completely honest I was expecting a traditional farm with perhaps extra vegetation. When we finally arrived at her farm I was surprised upon the realization that there were no chickens running around or farm dogs and cats. Her farm was small, dirty, scattered, and different. Of course, after being shown around more and actually getting the opportunity to volunteer there, I soon realized how important this small, dirty, scattered farm really is.

Martha showing us a green fruit of some sort with a spiky shell. Very cool to look at!

Of course, a spontaneous task was assigned! Of course we all agreed we would be happy to help her. This first visit included gathering squash for the farmers market. Half of us were scouters looking for squash and cutting them off by the stem. The other half os us resembled an assembly line and passed down the squash to the be sorted in an orderly fashion.

Here you can see the squash being passed down in a line, how cute!
This is Will displaying the art of placing squash in an end loader.

Posted By: Alexa Aleman-Pastor

Field Trip to Mount Nemo

Going on a hike was the first official field trip we took as a class. We went to Mount Nemo Conservation Area located in Burlington, Ontario. Doing this was a great way to introduce the outdoors to all of us. It was a first hand experience to interact with nature together. This may not have been my first time being here but regardless, hikes are always enjoyable. Hiking is done for many purposes. For example, it could be for the reason of exercising, meditating, observing plants and animals, and/or exploring.

Nicole enjoying the view (as most would do on a hike and hope someone takes a picture).

I remember about halfway into our hike we realized that we didn’t have much time left to complete the full 5 km. It was around this point when we decided to pick up the pace while being careful with the obstacles along the way. For example, there were large roots and steep slopes as well as narrow passageways between rock. It was incredibly hot that day and on top of physical activity, I think it’s safe to say we all broke a sweat (or two).

Classmates walking cautiously down a narrow path between rock.

Posted By: Alexa Aleman-Pastor

Bird Tagging With Chris

During one of our Outdoor School classes we had the opportunity to participate in a workshop ran by Chris Earley. The workshop took place at the J.C Taylor Nature centre, in the Arboretum. We learned about bird calls and participated in some hands on activities, involving bird tagging.

After spending some time inside learning the basics about birds, we headed outside to set up some ground traps in the hopes of catching a bird. However, after waiting for a good 15 minutes we were met with empty traps.

With hope starting to dwindle we switched our sights from catching and tagging to birding. However, we decided to check the traps once more.

To our surprise we found a small Dark-eyed Junco trying to escape from one of the ground traps.

We were directed back into the nature centre, where Chris taught us how to properly tag the Dark-eyed Junco, and how to properly record the physical description of the bird – to input into the online data base.

Finally, our very own Jaedyn completed the honourable task of releasing our Junco ! 🙂


Written by: Brett Studden & Narda D’uniam.

Bovey Greenhouse Excursion

On October 31st, the Outdoor School class headed across Gordon to the Bovey Greenhouse. We’ve seen some pretty incredible things throughout the semester, but nothing quite like the Bovey Greenhouse.

We started out in a massive room filled with large tanks. It looked futuristic, with different bright lights and metallic walls, and Rodger explained to us that this was the area in which they did research for organizations like NASA! There were several different stations set up in which they were experimenting with different growing conditions, and their ultimate goal is to be able to grow in space.

When we walked into the next room, Rodger showed us an example of how they can use light to grow plants in different ways. He showed us lettuce grown under different wavelengths of light, and each sample looked totally different! One was a dark green, one was lighter and the last one was purple. They didn’t just look different, Rodger explained that they actually all have distinct tastes. This was so interesting, because it shows the level of control humans can have over food, and it was a large contrast from the farm and how Martha grows her plants.

Next, we moved into a room that was filled with tiny samples of plants. One entire wall was filled entirely with shelves of plants! In this area, the plants are grown from tiny cells or sections, and the wall displayed the plants in all of their different stages of life.

We also got to see a greenhouse where people can conduct research projects. There were plants being grown as medical treatments, and even for materials such as rubber. Scientists can conduct research in there, and they can take their results back to the companies they are working for and determine whether using that plant is viable.

Finally, we arrived in my favourite room. It was a large, high ceilinged greenhouse filled to the brim with tropical plants. We saw everything from pineapples to cactuses, there was even a little pond with fish swimming around! Many of the plants I’d never even seen before. I had no idea that this place even existed, let alone that it was open to students. People can come inside whenever they want and eat their lunch, study, or just be with nature. This is such an amazing resource to students and staff, because it is so beneficial to be in green spaces, especially in the cold Canadian winter.