Passport to Nature Kicks Off With an Ode to an Icon

In Uncategorized by couchiching

The maple leaf.

It’s the shorthand for Canada. For the nation we have become and the nation we aspire to be.

It appears on the shoulder patches of Canadian soldiers in far corners of the world and the logo of The Couchiching Conservancy; on the tails of cutting-edge passenger jets and on the backpacks of hikers; it adorns big league hockey sweaters and sweaters knit by loving grandmothers.

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“So this is one of those rare invitations that has absolutely no down-side, no catch.”

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So it seemed like a good place to start our third annual Passport to Nature program on the 150th anniversary of the founding of Canada. It’s a gentle nod to a gentle symbol of home.


But how much do you actually know about the iconic tree that produces our national symbol and our tastiest treat?

On April 22 at Grant’s Woods, naturalist Dave Hawke will lead two hikes through the forest to talk maples: sugar maple, hard maple, soft maple, red maple silver maple Freeman’s maple, Norway maple — you name it. Dave will show you how to identify these different trees, and explain where they fit in our diverse environment. You’ll learn about sap flow and spring renewal, all in the setting of one of the most beautiful forests in the region. Dave is running two hikes: one at 10:30 a.m. and one a 1:30 p.m.

This is how Passport to Nature works. It’s a nature festival that takes place right around the calendar with events every month in different parts of the region. From canoeing to birding, to diving into the weird world of lichens (What on earth are they? A species? An ecosystem? A mixed party that goes on for centuries?) to hiking the wilds of the Canadian Shield, Passport to Nature is a ticket to explore your wild neighbourhood. And thanks to the generous community sponsors who support it, it’s free to attend.

So this is one of those rare invitations that has absolutely no down-side, no catch.

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The second event of the season lands at the Thomas C. Agnew Nature reserve just outside of Washago. This time it’s a chance to spend some quality time with award-winning nature photographer Arni Stinnisson. If you’re a budding nature photographer, this is a great opportunity to up your game, learning secrets like the ability to blur a background to make the main subject stand out, and understanding lighting and exposure. All you need is a camera, a tripod, sturdy shoes and a certain tolerance for bugs. It’s scheduled for May 27th after all. The activity starts at 8 am and runs until noon.

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“The Passport schedule continues through the year with events at various locations throughout the region.”


And it’s important to note that the event is a go, rain or shine. Hanging out with naturalists, you’ve got to follow the adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing.

The Passport schedule continues through the year with events at various locations throughout the region. Though they are free to attend, most require registration and I’d suggest you register early, since they have been regularly booked full in past years.

So go to and have a look through all the events lined up for the coming months. You’re sure to find something that opens your eyes to the beauty around you.

Mark Bisset is the Executive Director of The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit, charitable land trust which has helped protect more than 12,000 acres in the Lake Couchiching region since 1993 with the help of members, volunteers and supporters.