The Macoun Field Club’s Nature Study Area

What do you do
in a ‘Study Area’?

We go there a lot all year round and poke into every corner we can think of.


Photo of Macoun Club member examining moss clump

A study in progress

We observe closely,

and make a record of our findings

Sometimes we have a purpose — a “study” — but mostly

we just explore the possibilities until something really grabs our attention

Where is it?

The Macoun Field Club has had a series of study areas over the past 60 years. This one, which we have been studying since 1970, is within the western greenbelt of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, between the former village of Bells Corners on the northeast, and the new Bridlewood development in the west. It is owned and maganged by the National Capital Commission.

Local people will recognize it as being part of Stony Swamp. Everything you can see from the Sarsaparilla Trail observation dock is well within our study area. The land is owned by the National Capital Commission.

What is it like?

It is about a square mile (2.5 square km) of second growth forest and wetlands, with a limited number of public access points and trails. In 1970 it was still part of a rural landscape on the fringes of a growing city; now it is practically embedded within a larger urban environment.

Who is doing the studying?

The members of the Macoun Field Club are school-aged children (up to age 18) who are so keen on nature that they are out in the woods together every second Saturday. Some go on into careers in the natural sciences. The leaders of the Macoun Club are naturalists with varying degrees of scientific background.

What have we learned in 48 years?

  • We learned how to find our way around. We made our own vegetation map!
  • We started making lists of all the plants and animals.
  • We have mapped where some of them occur.
  • And we offer every member something easy to study — their very own tree!

To make our map, we traced the pattern of vegetation from aerial photographs and went out in the field to determine what was there. There have been several versions made to keep pace with changes: 1972, 1986, 1992, 2000, 2005 and 2008. The colour version was created especially for the web site.

We have listed:

Photo of Tube Lichen (Hypogymnia physodes) on twig

Tube Lichen

Photo of goldenrod in flower

Goldenrod in flower

Photo of American Beech with leaves and nuts

Beech nuts

Photo of Red Fox hunting mice in snow, ears turned forward and down

Red Fox hunting mice

the lichens the wildflowers the trees
the mammals

We are currently studying:

Photo of Snapping Turtle face, head pulled in

Snapping Turtle

Photo of Eastern Gray Tree Frog

Eastern Gray Tree Frog

Photo of worker ant (Lasius minutus)

Worker ant (Lasius minutus)

the mound-building swamp ant Lasius minutus

We have studied:

Photo of sand grains under microscope

Sand grains from Ottawa Valley

the sand grains in the soil
Leatherwood Treehoppers Scale insects on Sugar Maples invasive earthworms destroying the forest floor

We have mapped the distribution of:






We also all have our own study trees — a single, unique tree deep in the forest that is our own.

All of the observations on which our studies are based, are recorded in our Nature Journal, a comprehensive notebook we share with the National Capital Commission and the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club.

All photos donated or provided by members and leaders, past and present. Created April 2002; most recently modified May 15, 2016. Section updates: Ant mounds (Jan. 18/ 2010); Amphibians (Dec. 2009); Map (Aug. 11/ 08); Scale insects (Mar. 23/ 07); Tree list (Dec. 5/ 10 — Butternuts, Dec. 29/10, White Poplar, Feb. 9, 2010); Lichens (Nov. 2010); Study Trees (May 1/05); Porcupines (March 9/ 03); Deer (July 22/ 06); Mammals (June 12/ 02), Leatherwood Treehoppers (Aug. 6/ 15).