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‘The weirdest bird I’ve ever seen’: Sighting of flamboyant duck brightens birders’ January

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When Christopher Deane first caught a glimpse of the mandarin duck in the Lower Mainland, he knew it wasn’t from around here.

“I thought that’s the weirdest bird I’ve ever seen,” the hobby birder told CBC News. “It looks like a parade float! They just don’t look like a normal bird. They’re all fancy and frilly!”

The mandarin duck is native to East Asia, but has made appearances in the Lower Mainland. Dean spotted one in Stanley Park last year, and in Burnaby just a few days ago.

In fact, recent sightings in Deer Lake Park have prompted dozens of wildlife and nature photographers to crowd the lake in hopes of catching a glimpse.

Colourful critters

Male mandarin ducks are known for their intensely colourful plumage, which includes a purple crest and two large orange “sails” at their rear.

Avid birder and professional photographer John Priessl was one of the first to spot the bird in the Burnaby park, Dec. 28, 2018, while he was leading a wildlife tour.

Birders and photographers crowded the boardward along Deer Lake attempting to catch a glimpse of the colourful bird. (John Preissl)

“We stumbled upon it just by accident,” he told CBC News. “We decided it was a good place for a lot of photographers and people from the birding community to view the duck, where it was.”

Dozens of people lined the boardwalk near the northern end of Deer Lake park following the initial sighting. Priessl says the duck only makes itself visible a couple of times per day.

The mandarin duck has colourful plumage, including a purple crest and two large orange feathers on its back. (John Preissl)

Unfortunately, Priessl says, several people attempted to lure the bird out by giving it food.

“That’s a big no-no in the wildlife photography world,” said Priessl. He warns food can be harmful to its health and even attract it into areas where there are predators.

Where did it come from?

According to Georgle Clulow, former president of the B.C. Field Ornithologists, this particular bird was likely the same one spotted last year in Burnaby Lake Park, when it was a juvenile.

George Clulow says the mandarin duck is native to parts of East Asia that have similar climates to the Lower Mainland. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

“This is almost certainly a bird that’s been released, probably initially at Burnaby Lake,” said Clulow. “As the years progressed, this bird has moulted into a beautiful, male mandarin duck. It’s such a beautiful bird, it’s attracting a lot of attention.”

Mandarin ducks are typically found in Japan and in eastern parts of Russia and China. Clulow says its native climate is similar to that of the Lower Mainland, enabling the bird to live comfortably in local parks.

He says the bird is closely related to the North American wood duck and is likely looking for a mate.

“There are known hybrids between mandarin ducks and wood ducks, but for the most part … they’re not fertile. So there won’t be a breeding population of hybrids.”

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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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