Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and Wildlife Habitat

These days we often here talk of climate change and the potential impact that global warming will have on our society. But what about the affect of climate change on wildlife and wildlife habitat.

According to Dr. Paul James, Director of Environmental Monitoring for the Province of Saskatchewan and a research fellow at the University of Regina, many of our wildlife species are completely dependant on a very narrow band of acceptable climactic and environmental conditions in order to survive. Serious study of the effects of climate change on habitat must be undertaken and planning models must be tuned to reflect the new reality.

In short, when an ecosystem undergoes a dramatic change it can no longer sustain resident and migratory wildlife populations. New species of plant and animal life take over and indigenous species disappear.

So why don’t animals and birds simply move as their habitat changes? The fact is that they do, and much can be learned by the studying the slow migration of species into regions where they were previously unknown. But what happens if they can’t move? Take the animals and birds of the northern tundra for example. They rely on food sources that are only produced in regions of permafrost. As the permafrost vanishes due to sustained periods of higher than normal temperatures new types of vegetation will take over. These species simply cannot move further north to find food sources because it will simply cease to exist.

Species like the ptarmigan, arctic fox, and polar bear will simply cease to exist. And guess what? It is very likely to happen in our lifetime. Many scientists firmly believe that this is a “when”, rather than an “if” scenario.

There are other fragile ecosystems like the prairie pothole region that runs from the north central US through Southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and into Southern Alberta. This ecosystem provides a stopover for almost every migratory bird along the Mississippi flyway accounting for 80% of the waterfowl in North America. This ecosystem is already at risk due to improper farming and development practices. Over the next 50 years the potholes that provide a safe secure stopover for a wide variety of waterfowl will simply cease to exist.

Don’t take my word for it! Do your own research and form your own opinion, but you will find that in spite of government rhetoric many of these changes are inevitable. Dr. James stated “Wildlife studies must now focus on how to plan for the new reality and forget about sustainable management models of the past.”

While governments dither, wildlife habitat disappears!

Visit Southern Ontario Outdoors. Your source for news, information, and destinations related to your favorite outdoors activities throughout Southern Ontario.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Optics for your Outdoor Adventures

Whether you’re hiking the rugged Bruce Trail, paddling the Grand river, or hunting in the farmlands of Southern Ontario a high quality pair of binoculars or spotting scope should be an essential part of your outdoors gear.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to binoculars; compact or full size. If you can manage a full size pair, that definitely is the way to go. Although you can buy some very high quality compact binoculars that will get the job done, the only real advantage they offer is the fact that they are indeed compact.

Full sized glasses allow for a larger objective lens; this is the end closest to your subject, providing the viewer with a crisper clearer image while capturing more light. This is particularly important during those times just before dawn and just after sunset when light begins to diminish.

People often get confused over the meaning of those numbers like 10x32 or 8x40 but I assure you there is no real mystery involved. The first number simply refers to magnification. For example, if the first number is 10 the object will appear to be 10 times larger than if it were viewed with the naked eye. The second number refers to the diameter of the objective lens. Again, this is the end closest to your subject. The larger the number, the greater the size; generally, bigger is better, but remember that overall size and weight will also increase.

Because of their high magnification and large objective lens, spotting scopes change your experience from that of a casual observer to a close-up participant. If you have the means to pack a scope you’ll be able to check out that trophy before you make the long trek up the mountainside, only to find that it wasn’t really a trophy after all. Serious birders will find that they are able to make highly accurate observations from a much longer distance than with a pair of binoculars.

Don’t be fooled by low cost knock-offs. In terms of quality you really do get what you pay for and there is no substitute for high quality glass and superior craftsmanship. Choose wisely and you’ll have a great outdoors accessory that will last a lifetime; and more.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

GPS for Off-Road Navigation

The Global Positioning System, generally known as GPS has evolved into an accurate easy to use navigational aid for professionals and casual outdoors persons alike. Consumer GPS devices can be broken into three main categories; general purpose, automobile, and marine. For the purpose of this dissertation I’ll focus on the general purpose GPS, however they all work on the same basic principle; they are simply configured to optimize certain tasks.

In simple terms GPS units tune in to signals being sent from NAVSTAR satellites orbiting 12,000 miles above the surface of the earth. The accuracy of your GPS at any given time and place will vary depending on how many satellites you are tracking. The more satellites you are tracking at a given location the higher the degree of accuracy. The GPS then relates the signals from the satellites you are tracking to a specific position on earth letting you know, often within feet, where you are.

Even low end GPS units contain the basic functions necessary for navigation. They not only tell you where you are at a given time but allow you to save waypoints. A waypoint is simply a specific geographical location. For example you will want to mark your camp as a waypoint and if you are hiking or hunting, you will likely mark the location of your vehicle as a waypoint. You will then periodically mark trail crossings and other points of interest you may pass so you can easily return to them at some time in the future.

A set of waypoints can be saved to create a route, allowing you to follow a specific path over and over again. Or, you can use the “GO TO” function to select a specific waypoint – perhaps your car – that you want to head for. The arrow on your GPS will keep pointing to the waypoint until you reach it. You will also get information like distance traveled, distance to waypoint, and average speed. Even if you need to make a detour around a marsh or lake the arrow on your GPS will always point in the direction of the destination you have selected.

Higher end units give you the ability to download topographical maps, road maps, and charts directly to your GPS unit. You will not only see your location and waypoints but you will see them relative to the map you are using.

I would like to leave you with a word of caution before you head confidently into the wilderness with your new GPS. Sometimes I think GPS technology has become too easy to use, in fact it has become so easy to use that the average outdoors person is now able to get themselves into trouble in half the amount of time. That’s right, don’t use a GPS for wilderness travel unless you know how to use a topographical map and compass, and have them with you.

Here are a few cautions to keep in mind when using a GPS:

1. A GPS does not work, or may give inaccurate readings, under heavy tree cover!
2. A GPS does not always function well in river bottoms surrounded by high hills or cliffs!
3. A GPS can be affected by dense cloud cover and adverse weather conditions!
4. A GPS requires power to work! Loose you batteries and you’ve lost your ability to navigate with a GPS.
5. Use the neck lanyard or wrist strap. Most units don’t float.

The portable GPS has opened opportunities for outdoors lovers that were only dreamed of 15 years ago. I highly recommend that a GPS becomes a part of your outdoor gear, but learn how to use it and never head into the wilderness without a compass and topographical map. Getting lost in Southern Ontario farmland is an inconvenience; getting lost in our huge northern forests can be life threatening.

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©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hiking in Southern Ontario? Bee Prepared!

You’ve likely heard the phrase “there are two things you can count on in life; death and taxes.” Well if you venture off the beaten path in Southern Ontario I’ll add a third constant; biting insects.

We have black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies, sand fleas, and a host of others just waiting for a tasty human snack. For the most part these miniature carnivores are nothing more than pests whose bites and stings quickly fade into the memory of your outdoor experience. But then there are bees and wasps! Bee stings in the bush, particularly in remote areas, should never be taken lightly. They’re not only painful but can, in rare circumstances, be life threatening.

If you or a companion sustain a bee sting the first thing you should do is clean the area and check to see if the stinger is still in the wound…it will often appear as a small black dot. Remove the stinger by scraping. Never squeeze the stinger as this will inject more venom into the wound. If you have ice or even cold water, put it on the sting to ease the initial pain. An antihistamine pill or anti-itch cream can be used to ease the pain and itch.

Always watch a bee sting victim for signs of nausea, dizziness, slurred speech, drowsiness, or difficulty breathing. If any of these symptoms appear call an ambulance or get the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible. Although the vast majority of people exhibit only localized discomfort, allergic reactions can be very serious and even deadly. People who know they are allergic to bee venom should always have an allergy kit (EpiPen) with them and wear a medic alert bracelet. But even those that have never displayed an allergic reaction to bee stings can suddenly become allergic. This is bad enough in a populated area, but if you’re miles from medical help it can be deadly.

Canoeists, campers, hikers, fishermen, hunters, or anyone that spends time in the wilderness should make a bee sting kit an essential part of their first aid kit…and know how to use it. What do I consider to be the wilderness; basically anyplace where you can’t reach medical help (clinic, doctor, hospital, first aid center, etc.) within a short period of time. Three quarters of bee sting victims that die from anaphylactic shock die within 45 minutes of being stung. Immediate attention is essential.

Remember that a minor mishap within easy access of medical attention can become a life threatening ordeal in the wilderness. Take time to learn the necessary skills and stay safe.

So is this cause for major concern when heading off the beaten path? I would say it is something to be aware of and prepared for rather than something to be fearful of. Statistics vary and seem to be a bit unreliable but suffice it to say that there are only between 40 and 100 deaths each year in all of North America. So I would say your odds are pretty good. Now get out and enjoy our great Southern Ontario outdoors.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Aliens Living in Southern Ontario

No you don’t need to worry about meeting ET or Klingons while paddling down the Grand River – at least I’m pretty sure – but as we approach Biodiversity Day on May 22, which is held exactly one month after Earth Day, we need to become more aware of what we are doing – and have done – to the natural order of things in Southern Ontario.

According to Biodiversity Education and Awareness Network (BEAN) biodiversity is “life in all its variety: over 14 million species found from mountain top to deep-sea vent. But it is much more. Those species connect, and interact. Those interactions create communities and systems, and those systems provide goods and services such as oxygen production, pollination, water filtration and storage, pest control, food production, carbon storage and erosion control.”

Problems arise when those natural interactions are altered. This occurs when “alien species” (those species not normally found in a particular ecosystem, often referred to as invasive species) are introduced. In Southern Ontario this has occurred as a result of both intentional and non intentional introduction of foreign plants, animals, birds, and aquatic species into our well balanced, yet fragile, ecosystems.

Some of these more invasive “alien” squatters are:
Zebra Mussels – arrived in the ballast tanks of foreign freighters.
Round Goby – arrived in the ballast tanks of foreign freighters.
Purple Loosestrife – introduced by European settlers as ornamental flowers.
Rusty Crayfish – migrated or introduced from the Ohio River valley.
Garlic Mustard – introduced by European settlers.
Asian Long-Horned Beetle – arrived in foreign hardwood lumber; likely shipping crates.

So what can Ontario outdoors enthusiasts do to prevent the spread of invasive species?

Join an organization like BEAN that promotes biodiversity initiatives.
Educate yourself about the various invasive species in Southern Ontario.
Always use locally caught minnows for bait. Never bring them from another area.
Always use local firewood.
Always wash the bottom of your watercraft before launching it in a new waterbody.
Never pick or plant invasive species like purple loosestrife or garlic mustard.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll be doing your part to stop the spread of “aliens” in Southern Ontario.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Toronto Sportsmen's Show Moving to New Digs

It hit me like a hammer; the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show is moving! That’s right folks after 63 years at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds Southern Ontario’s largest outdoors show, the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show, is moving to the Toronto Convention Centre.

I’m going to give this a while to sink in before wading in with my personal opinions of the move but I’m sure there will not be many fence sitters when it comes to the new venue. For those in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) the Convention Centre is very accessible and convenient for those that use public transit. For those of us coming from out of town it’s nothing more than a logistical nightmare. Oh well, decisions are made and this was likely not a knee-jerk reaction.

For now let’s take a trip down memory lane.

The Toronto Sportsmen’s Show has been a part of my life for just about as long as I can remember, so that means that I’m only a few years shy of having been there from the beginning. My grandparents lived in the east end of Toronto when I was growing up so events like the Sportsmen’s Show provided a great, low cost way for my parents to keep us kids amused for a few hours when we made the trip from Wingham to the big city.

Up until a few years ago the Toronto Sportsman’s Show occupied the Coliseum building at the CNE. Although the larger venue provided by the Direct Energy Building was greatly needed, it did in my opinion, loose all of its character and became just another show when the move took place.

Some of my fondest memories are of jostling crowds, the smell of hay in the arena, creaking floorboards, and a multitude of stairways and hidden corridors. And then there was the ever present smell of pipe smoke. Those were the days when Brigham pipes used to sell their factory seconds for a very cheap price and were set up right across the aisle from a tobacco vendor. No, I’m not a smoker and certainly don’t advocate smoking, but that was a different era and like everyone else I became a pipe smoker for a day. To this day the smell of pipe smoke conjures up images of camping supplies, fishing tackle, and creaking floors.

I remember buying my first upscale fishing rod there; it was a Berkley Bionix and when you bought one you got a Berkley Lightning Rod for free. I never did care for the Bionix, but the Lightning Rod has accompanied me on every fishing trip since the mid 70’s and has landed – and lost – tons of fish.

Over the years we have bought tents, backpacks, fishing tackle, and every new gadget on the market. You know, now that I think of it the move to the Convention Centre may not be that much of a stretch. The move from the Coliseum for me was like loosing an old, albeit smoky, friend.

The great outdoors is still very much alive in Southern Ontario and the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show, regardless of the venue, will always be a memorable part of it.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

5 Key Muscle Groups and Exercises for Hikers

Spring is in the air and the hiking boots are starting to do the happy dance in the closet. You just can’t wait for the muddy trails to dry so you can get out and enjoy our wonderful Southern Ontario hiking trails. Soon the dark grey of late winter will explode into a hundred shades of green broken only by patches of beautiful wild flowers.

Now is the time to get your body in shape for the coming hiking season. The extent to which you need to do some pre season training largely depends on the kind of trails, and distance, you’re planning to hike. Here are a few muscle groups to pay attention to and some exercises that will help make your hikes safer and more enjoyable.

1. Abdominals
Crunches are a great strengthening exercise for your upper abs. Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and you hands on the side of your head near your ears. Keep your eyes focused on a point on the ceiling as you raise your shoulders about 8” off the floor and lower again. Work up to about 5 sets of 20 reps.

For the lower abs leg raises are very effective. Lay flat on the floor and support your lower back by placing your hands under your lower back; then with your legs straight raise your legs about 1 ft off the floor. Work up to 5 sets of 10 and remember, don’t let your feet touch the floor until you’re finished a complete set.

2. Back Muscles
Back muscles are a key component of core strength and yet the most overlooked. Strong abs and weak back muscles can cause poor posture and walking form. To strengthen your back muscles, lay on your stomach with your arms and legs extended in front of you. Keep your arms and legs straight; lift your arms and legs off the floor at the same time. Work up to about 5 sets of 10.

3. Quadriceps and Hamstrings
The quads are the large muscle group on the upper front of your leg while hamstrings are the large muscles at the back of the upper leg. Both are a key component of your forward motion and must be kept strong and flexible. Squats are a great way to work your quads and hamstrings. Stand straight with your feet a bit more than shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight and squat down until your thighs are parallel with the ground (or as far as you can comfortably manage) then return to a standing position. Work up to 5 sets of 20 and remember to do these slowly.

4. Calf Muscles
Even if you’re just strolling a groomed rail trail calf muscles can take a real beating. Strengthening your calf muscles is an important aspect of your overall hiker’s workout. Stand flat with your back straight. Lift your heels off the floor and lower. Work up to about 5 sets of 10.

A more advanced exercise would be to place your toes on a step and lower your heels as far as you can, then rise up on your toes for one complete rep. This exercise provides the added benefit of stretching the Achilles tendon as well.

5. Arms and Shoulders
Although there are many exercises that target specific muscles you just can’t beat the simple push-up for overall arm, shoulder, and upper body strengthening. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders (palms down). Keeping your back and legs straight push up with your arms until they are fully extended. Lower again until your chest is about 2” off the floor and repeat. Work up to about 5 sets of 10. For a less strenuous push-up you can keep your knees on the floor.

Start a simple exercise routine now and you’re muscles will be in prime shape for the rigors of this year’s Southern Ontario hiking season.

Note: Lloyd is an outdoors enthusiast and martial arts instructor with a sound understanding of body mechanics.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Monday, March 2, 2009

Southern Ontario Cold Weather Hiking

What do a sudden thaw, a quick blow dry, and a fast freeze mean to Southern Ontario hikers? Well right not it means that cold weather hiking just became a reality again.

The last thaw pretty much destroyed x-country ski and snowshoe trails but there is an upside. The recent cold snap means that most of those muddy trails have frozen rock solid and approached with a bit of caution will provide all of the enjoyment of a brisk summer hike.

Rail trails may tend to be the best option right now because they are relatively flat and should be mostly dry and ice free. Bush trails and particularly trails that follow a high ridgeline – like many parts of the Bruce Trail – should be treated with caution because there will still be many icy sections and slippery rocks to navigate.

Even though we are back into the deep freeze be very carful when walking near or across ice; particularly river or stream ice. Currents weaken ice and what may appear thick enough to walk on may be irregular and very thin in places.

Regardless of where you go now is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy a late winter hike. It won’t be long before even the rail trails turn into a muddy sloppy mess, so why not get a jump on your spring hike before you need to done hip waders.

If you’re looking for a late winter distraction check out the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show for all the latest hiking gear and some great hiking destinations. The show runs daily from March 18 to 22...during March break.

Don’t forget to check out the new hiking destinations database at Southern Ontario Outdoors. Just click on the region of the map you are interested in and you will be taken to a page where you can select information about trails in that area.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Monday, February 2, 2009

Get Out and Try Southern Ontario Snowshoeing

Ever thought of honing your hiking skills throughout the winter months but got discouraged when you thought of the deep snow covering those beautiful summer trails. Well there is a way to keep in shape, hone your skills, and get outdoors to enjoy our wonderful Southern Ontario winter.

Once a necessity for survival, snowshoeing is now a great winter sport throughout most of Ontario. I guess it always has been but for many years it was necessary to travel north or west into the “snow-belt” to take find enough snow to make snowshoeing worthwhile. The last couple of years with great snow cover throughout Southwestern Ontario that has all changed.

Many of our conservation areas offer marked trails, facilities, and even snowshoe rentals; many are within a short drive of major urban centers. An added bonus is that snowshoeing is relatively inexpensive. Aside from a good pair of snowshoes, no special equipment is required; you can use the same packs and accessories that you would use for hiking in the summer.

I think that many parks and conservation authorities have made the move away from x-country ski trails and are promoting snowshoeing largely because of the high cost of maintaining groomed trails vs. the low revenues they generated. With snowshoe trails being largely maintenance free everyone benefits.

Here are a few places that promote snowshoe trails in Southern Ontario:

• The Grand River Conservation Authority has trails at Pinehurst Lake, Laurel Creek, and Shades Mills. Go to for more information.
• Ganaraska Forest Center
• Halton Conservation Authority

Check out the trails in your local conservation areas and community parks. Snowshoeing in Southern Ontario is a wonderful way to stay in shape and get outdoors during the long winter months.

©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hit the Trails on Snowshoes

The depths of our Southern Ontario winter need not be the end of your 2008 hiking season. Instead make it the start of your 2009 season.

What better way to enjoy those crisp, sunny, winter days than soaking in the solitude of the bush with nothing to hear but the crunch and squeak of your snowshoes. Snowshoeing hasn’t been an extremely popular winter pastime, especially in Southwestern Ontario, for many years; mostly due to the lack of snow. But, the last couple of winters have certainly changed all that.

Now you can not only head into the parks, conservation areas, and crown forests on a pair of snowshoes, but you’ll find that you absolutely need them.

Many provincial parks and conservation areas, like those managed by the
Grand River Conservation Authority, provide a variety of snowshoe trails of varying length and difficulty levels. As an added bonus many of them offer snowshoe rentals, food concessions, and warm-up areas so you can enjoy several different trails in a day and still have a central location to thaw out your fingers and toes.

If you’re new to the sport, start off on shorter trails and wear layers of clothes. You’ll likely find that snowshoeing is a lot more strenuous than hiking and there is nothing worse than working up a sweat when the temperature is well below the freezing mark.

Check with your local parks and conservation areas and get the family out on the trails this winter. This is the start of your 2009 hiking season.