Jean Iron presented slideshow from recent excursion to local club


Jean Iron speaks to the Orillia Naturalists Club at a recent meeting.

SUBMITTED PHOTO Jean Iron speaks to the Orillia Naturalists Club at a recent meeting.

Jean Iron spoke to the Orillia Naturalists’ Club recently about the wildlife of Arctic Canada, Iceland and Greenland.

Iron travels to many parts of the world, studying and enjoying wildlife, human history and digital photography. Her photos are featured in many nature publications. When not leading trips, she speaks at nature clubs and festivals. She is a member of the Brodie Club, one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious natural history clubs.

At the March meeting of the Orillia Naturalists Club, Iron made a slide presentation of her 2013 and 2014 visits to Iceland, James Bay, Nunavut and Greenland. Her presentation showed the diversity of habitats, birds, other wildlife and wildflowers found in these areas of the North.

Iceland’s seacoasts, spectacular mountain scenery, fine birdwatching and wildlife viewing, friendly people and excellent food create an ideal destination for keen naturalists.

In early July, blooming Arctic wildflowers, breeding birds and rugged landscapes make Iceland distinctive. Iron showed the club how the terrain of Iceland had changed from birch forested land to agricultural land, dominated by volcanoes. The steep sea cliffs provide nesting sites for black-legged kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins. The birds — more than three million — outnumber the 320,000 people. Iron showed shorebirds including the black-tailed godwit. The Icelandic species, along with the High Arctic Canadian birds, migrate to Europe and Asia each year.

In early August, Iron joined a crew doing shorebird surveys along the southwestern coast of James Bay to document the international importance of the subarctic stopover see to shorebirds. Abundant invertebrates in the vast tidal flats refuel the endangered rufa red knot and thousands of other shorebirds on their long southern journey. The crew checks the number of birds in 24 species each day and read the read the flags on the legs of the red knots.

Iron introduced the club to the Motus monitoring system that uses small devices with long antennae attached to the birds that are tracked by stations down the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the East Coast. The devices eventually fall off.

In late summer, Iron went to Nunavut and through the Northwest Passage in the High Arctic by ship to Greenland, seeing polar bears, musk ox, walruses, whales, ivory gulls, impressive seabird colonies and Arctic flowers. She showed the rugged scenery and the minute Arctic woolly bear caterpillar.

The caterpillar stays mostly frozen solid for seven to 14 years, only to become a moth that lives for one day.

Iron’s strong interest in conservation led her to serve as a board member on Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas Management Committee and as a board member and co-author of the Ontario Shorebird Conservation Plan.

She supports the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s efforts to acquire globally rare habitats such as the Carden Alvar.

The club’s next meeting will take place April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Orillia Museum of Art and History.

The guest speaker will be Liat Podolsky, staff scientist with Ecojustice, who will talk about the health of the Great Lakes.

Podolsky is the leader of the Great Lakes program, working for Ecojustice to restore the health of the waters, which comprise the largest freshwater ecosystem on the planet.

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