Winter activities in Ottawa: Feeding the Birds at Mer Bleue

While Misty is dreaming up ways to make things feel a bit more winter-y I'm all for embracing the warmer temperatures and doing some of the outdoor things I usually avoid because I don't like being cold. 

This weekend I thought we would enjoy the lovely weather and get outside and we headed to Mer Bleue Boardwalk to see if we could find some chickadees to feed. Mer Bleue is a few minutes down Anderson Road from the 417 so it's a short drive from a lot of the city.

What to feed the birds

I'm no great expert on this but we stopped at bulk barn and for $2 or so of the wild bird seed I got enough seed that we could visit at least 5 more times without running out. Someone else who recently went to feed the birds said the birds seemed to love black sunflower seeds even more (and you can get that at bird shops). I stopped for coffee for myself on the way and asked for three small empty cups for the kids so they could each have something to carry a reasonable amount of seeds in on their own.

Where to find the birds

I've only done this a couple of times but here's what I've found to be key (please leave a comment if you have other/better ideas :).... listen for the chickadee dee dee noises... they tend to be close to treed areas, and then put some seeds in your flat hand and wait to see if they show up.

It's not very scientific, we found the birds in quite a few different places around the boardwalk, including in the tree right next to where we parked in the main parking lot. In fact, the most photos I got that I love were taken within 10 feet of my van!

I learned something pretty quickly with my three though. While the birds will land in a completely flat hand that isn't moving, the sensation of having a bird land on your hand is kind of strange and the kids didn't love it so much. My daughter dealt with it best. The boys each tried it once and then wouldn't try it again.

So what do you do instead?

Birdseed on the head! The birds happily landed on all three kids' hats within a few minutes of me putting some seed there.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Birdseed on hat works well. Beware the six year olds who will take off their hat and dump the seed directly into their hair.

Enjoy the Boardwalk

The Mer Bleue Boardwalk is a nice 1.2 km walk that is completely flat. The three kids (9, 6 and 6) made it the whole way without anyone trying to convince me to carry them or having to be left behind (at least not for long). It's beautiful, there's a self-directed tour if you're interested and if you're lucky your kids will pose for a few pictures for you.

If you're more of a winter person than I am, you can go and check this out once there's snow on the ground too!

There are so many great activities in Ottawa, leave us a comment and let us know where you like to go out and enjoy nature with the kids.


Flashback: Camping with Kids

This was a great post that got lots of comments last year by Julie. We're bringing it back for all of you who are going to be camping this summer! by Julie

Did you give up your camping adventures the minute diapers entered your home? Ya, me too.

I had never camped as a child, only as an adult. I fell in love with camping for:

•    The satisfying feeling that would come over me from having pushed my body hard from the hiking, canoeing or portaging to get to the site. •    The heavenly feeling of being in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do but read my book or take a nap. •    The romantic nights, sitting around a campfire sipping red wine.

Now, review that list again and imagine putting children in the picture. Doesn’t work, does it? All the reasons I loved camping … *poof* … gone.

But recently, my husband and I have headed back into the outdoors – two kids in tow. Although our much-loved list is now adapted, we haven’t had to give it all up entirely.

•    If you’ve been a hard core camper, the notion of “car camping” is depressing indeed! But rather than throw in the towel, seek out quiet, more rustic sites (hint: look for sites that don’t offer facilities like showers). These will have far few people and don’t line up camping sites in a parking-lot style. Instead, each site has been carefully developed for some privacy and remains treed. (You can see photos of a camping site we recently stayed at in Algonquin Parkhere.) •    Take turns with your spouse to allow for some quiet time. One parent takes the kids for a hike or simply stays as the alert and awake supervisor, while the other is free to doze off or get completely absorbed in a book. •    After all that time in the fresh air, your children will be tired and ready to drop into bed! But, unfortunately, so are you. Try hard to stay up for at least 15 minutes of time together – alone – cuddling and staring at the camp fire, before you join the kids in sleepy-land.

There are plenty of great tip-lists available via a simple google search on camping with kids, so I won’t even try to replicate them.

Instead, I will share with you a list of tips directly from my seven-year-old daughter.

•    Go for hikes! Go on an animal safari and look for garden snakes. •    If not in public, let your kids swim nudie! •    Let the kids get as dirty as they want. •    Collect sticks and make a tipi or a fort. •    Let the kids read as late as they want! •    Bring your two-wheeler bike. •    Make s’mores after dinner.

And, last but not least, she offered these wise words of wisdom to camping parents:

•    Don’t be worry warts!

Julie is an Ottawa local and mother of two. Her personal blog is Coffee with Julie.

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Embracing winter with a trip down memory lane

by Carly As I trudged out the door to shovel for the third time today, I was quickly struck by how beautiful it was.  The sun had set, the streets were quiet, save for the sounds of shovels and the falling snow was alight with sparkles.

Since I'd already been out twice, this last shovel of the day was an easy one (for me, at least - no so for Dad as he was stuck with the plowed-in end of the driveway).  When the driveway was clear, and with the Little Man happily stumbling around helping me, I started a little project of my own.

As a child, my favourite winter memories are of the snow forts, slides, homes, tunnels, stairs and chairs we'd spend hours building, refining and tweaking in the snowbanks along the driveway.  We have snowball fights with the neighbourhood kids across the street, then all pitch in to clean up one another's "bank" before heading in for the evening.  We did this all winter, just about every day.  Our forts ended up being quite elaborate and sometimes we'd even be allowed to use water to set the walls and furniture.

I couldn't resist a quick trip down memory lane this evening, and so we made some stairs and a slide from the biggest snowbank down to the driveway.  He was thrilled to have his very own sledding hill, and even though the hill wasn't very big, it was enough to shoot him all the way across the driveway so he'd end up crashing into the opposite bank.

The Mom in me really can't recommend the tunnels, or the slides we made that shot us into the street rather than the driveways back in the day, but the rest of the play was great fun.  For our Little Man who isn't the best sleeper, this was a great way to tire him out before bed and fun and healthy way to spend an evening as a family.

Carly has red hair and occasionally the temper to match.  She loves potatoes, rainy nights, photography, her husband and her 4 year old son, Jacob.  Probably in reverse order.   She also blogs.

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