by Barry Cottam
The fifth annual OFNC members photo night almost didn’t happen. A last-minute glitch forced cancellation of the initial event, scheduled as usual on a January evening to help ward off the winter blues. But Doug Luoma, one of the presenters, just happens to work in the activities department of Villagia in the Glebe Residence. He suggested the ball-room there could accommodate our event and we jumped at the chance. Most of the original presenters booked on and, joined by several others, away we went for an evening that some thought was our best one yet. The ball-room was a lovely venue, with a large screen, podium with mic and light, a projector, laptop and laser pointer. Not to mention coffee, tea, juice and cookies – oh, my!
And so, on the evening of April 21, fourteen presenters took us to many places through different kinds of photography. We were an eclectic bunch, some first-timers, some veterans, all with a passion for nature and capturing that passion through our photographs and videos. One of the things I enjoy most about these evenings is the surprise, every time, of just how well-travelled and well-versed in local lore our members are. Interests are diverse, and the presentations reflected the passion and knowledge that Club members have of the natural world, whether here in our Ottawa / Gatineau environs or in the various countries they have visited.
NOTE: We’re having difficulty setting up slideshows on the new OFNC website, so to see our members night photos, please click on this url:
We started locally with Annie Bélair and Connie Clark. Annie started out at her backyard bird feeder, which had a surprising number of redpolls and Pine Siskins in April 2016; she even had a siskin eating out of her hand. We then kayaked into the Constance Creek flood zone in 2017, with logs everywhere lined with map turtles. Connie injected her special brand of humour into the evening with a series of critter photos labelled with ‘human’ expressions – not that she was anthropomorphising, she explained! Jay-Dee Purdie presented “Bees and Birds” – well, that was the title, but she covered many more animals, as her photos here show, capturing moods and colours in addition to detailed accounts of the creatures themselves. Club president Diane Lepage is also well-known to members as an amateur expert on moths. And moths there were in her presentation, but many other insects as well, including leaf-hoppers and a colourful net-wing beetle, not to mention fungi and several small, low-lying, easy-to-overlook plants, as in the examples here.
Botany was well served by several presenters. Owen Clarkin, the Club’s resident expert on all things trees, discussed his discoveries of Red Spruce, previously unrecorded for the Ottawa area. He has perfected a technique for using long-distance photos to identify them, following up with reports to iNaturalist, a site he encouraged us all to use. Eden Bromfield has two objectives, to record the natural world in all its beauty, but especially to follow and record the spring ephemerals at various sites. He sets off his photos of them with a creative use of bokeh. He included a series showing the movement of a slug off a mushroom cap – you can see here how it managed to get down to the ground. Kendra Cann specializes in the wild orchids of Gatineau Park – one can be forgiven for not knowing orchids grew there, but they do, often in delicate and exquisite forms, so easily over-looked, so well captured in Kendra’s photos. Each of these presentations demonstrated how the important activities of field naturalists enhanced our knowledge of local biodiversity.
The travelogues kicked off with two presentations combining local with far-away places. Doug Luoma’s “Nature in Motion” video synthesized several tramps around Mud Lake with a trip to Oregon. His dynamic, skilfully edited footage of flickers as well as dragonflies and other creatures got some of us thinking video! Jakob Mueller is particularly interested in reptiles and amphibians. He recounted a September OFNC event at MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre in Cumberland, held at the right time to find several species of salamander, some common, some rare, all testimony to the wisdom of protecting this tract. His recent trip to Cuba provided shots of various Anole lizards but he was also very fortunate in the birding department, coming home with some great shots of Cuba’s endemic birds, including the tiny, hard-to-find, harder-to-photograph Tody. We stayed close to the region, relatively speaking at least, with my presentation of our recent trip to Finca Estrella in southern Costa Rica, across the gulf from Osa Peninsula. Birding was as easy as sitting on the deck of our casa with cups of coffee, binocs and camera at hand. Despite being the dry season, I found new-to-me insect species every day – and night, for they flocked to the house lights, as a couple examples here show. Roy John highlighted several of his trips, from Yellowknife to Baja California, Australia and Japan. Everywhere he went, he met his goals of finding and photographing endemic birds, but also captured marine life in the Baja, including dolphins and whales and the incredible numbers of tiny krill – he brought a net for the purpose! – they dine on. Keith Wickens took us to the Loire Valley, in southern France. The trip started with his son’s wedding at a castle, but soon he was ensconced in a refurbished cottage to which the birds would flock; he also noted numbers of water fowl, all identified and researched for our education. Gordon Robertson was on a tour of southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam. He enjoyed the birds – which were hard to find in one country, owing to its dietary interests – but the butterflies were an even bigger draw and he treated us to many a colourful creature.
The evening closed out with a silent slideshow from the one presenter who dropped in. He hadn’t registered, owing to a potential conflict with another event; given the numbers of presenters who had, he sat back and enjoyed the evening, which happened to end with enough time left to put on his show. No commentary, just photos of nature, a chance for all of us to relax and contemplate why it is we are out there doing what we do. I didn’t quite catch his name, but thank him here for a perfect end to a full and interesting evening.