Thursday, May 17, 2007

Something else Yellow…

The photo artist and conservationist C. Bayne of BayNiche Conservancy sent me this beautiful photo of Marsh Marigolds,

cbaynema.JPG thanks for viewing on my browser their web pages and slide shows, "Manifestation Superior" and "Snapping Baselines", and sending comments on how they look from here. I got all excited! In "Manifestation Superior" they invite everyone to hike, canoe, and kayak the shoreline of Lake Superior during August 4, 5, and 6 this summer, with a view to conservation - marking points in time and place with each person's observations. "Snapping Baselines" introduces the concept of photo point reference, an invaluable technique for recording changes in the landscape that is simple enough for anyone who can point a camera and click. All that is required to turn tourist photography into a powerful tool for conservation in any part of the world is a well-marked point of reference and some dedicated person or institution to archive the photos in a database for long term storage, retrieval, and comparison. Like snapping a carpenter's chalkline, we can snap images of the landscape in a baseline with which to measure changes in vegetation patterns, clues to disturbances like pollution, alteration in drainage, climate change, new patterns of animal use, insect infestations, and even natural forest succession. "Snapping Baselines" also describes how Geocaching naturally provides points of reference for repeated photos through the seasons by strangers who are keen to share what they have found. This is Citizen Science at its best - and simplest! Bravo BayNiche!

I have a .pdf of the flyer for "Manifestation Superior" that I can send by e-mail if anyone would like to print it and/or distribute it. Gathering data about an awesome and vulnerable shoreline will transform for many people what might have been a simple holiday excursion into something much more meaningful - to themselves, and to Superior itself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Ostrich Fern fiddleheads!

In the face of a very tight schedule over the next few days, I respond to the seasonal imperative of spring sprouts, and head out to Actons Corners to harvest fiddleheads. Fred checked the database and gave me instructions on how to locate a big patch of Ostrich Fern that he had spotted on 27 May 1993. As I drove a bit too far east while searching for the area he described, I saw a Bittern fly up from the ditch along Actons Corners Road, and heard Toads trilling, at 11:45. Creeping down onto the fern flats of the creek called Murphy's Drain, I walk among fountains of Ostrich Fern fronds in all stages of unfurling, rejoicing that I am not too late, and after taking some photos, settle down to picking contentedly, snapping one or two tender, green, orange-scaley knobs from each clenched fist of rhizomes, leaving the rest to grow up into feathery fronds.

Ostrich Fern fiddlehead ostrichf.JPG

At home, I tipped the bag into a pot of boiling water, and after it returned to a boil, waited for a few minutes as their green deepened, before dipping them out into a collander and then rinsing the chaffy brown scales off in a sink of cold water. Three ziplock bags of fiddleheads went into the freezer - except one bowlfull that I marinated with fresh lemon juice, a dash of Umeboshi plum brine, and olive oil, as a supper salad. Then I cooked up the more loosely curled fiddleheads for Fred and I to enjoy right away with butter, salt & pepper. As long as the frond is new and tender, it is good to eat!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Three Little Hares

Hares have been scarce these past few years, but their cycle is finally on an upswing. We have a long-term monitoring transect along part of Bolton Road, a narrow gravel road through Jack Pine plantation and Cedar fencerows. This evening I was passing that way on my way to Meeting, and saw three Hares - the most in as many years! The first one vanished into the woods without having crossed the road. The second one, half a kilometre south on same side (west), was sitting thoughtfully, not noticing me at all. Perhaps it was in shock, having just witnessed the fate of the next Hare I saw, which was being eaten on the shoulder of the road by a gray & white raptor – male Marsh Hawk I think. I made a sketch of it on my handheld computer, not having brought my camera. When I drove past the hawk at first, I noticed it as a white bird sitting at the edge of the ditch, less than half a metre from my passing wheels. It hardly looked up from its eating. When I backed up, glancing around for my absent camera, it looked wary. As I stopped and stared, creeping the vehicle forward a little, the hawk became nervous, and flew up, lifting the carcass a bit before dropping it to take off eastward across the road and away. Pale grey back, wings & tail, and white rump. The Hare's flesh was exposed about its shoulders. I took off too, leaving the Hare to the hawk, supposing that it would still be wanted - but stopped again to do my quick memory sketch.

memory sketch of Marsh Hawk and Snowshoe Hare


As we stepped out of Ray's doorway after meeting, one of us stepped on a June Beetle – I retrieved it as evidence of early emergence. No-one has seen them before this.

On my way home, I passed a large deer, still grey-coated, watching my lights on the road surface and hesitating. I realized how little hope I would have had of avoidance if it had decided to cross just as I passed.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Yes, fiddleheads - but no…

Osmunda fiddlehead

not edible Ostrich Fern fiddleheads. These photographed along the track just north of the Chalet on Limerick Road, are of the genus Osmunda, (Fred said) as we finished our tour of the automobile trails in Limerick Forest in the late afternoon today, failing to find fiddleheads for supper.

There were three Osmunda species pushing up fat fuzzy coiled shoots in Limerick Forest today - Royal Fern, Cinnamon Fern, and Interrupted Fern. They bear their spores beneath all of their fronds, while Ostrich Fern, and the small, non-feathery Sensitive Fern have special "fertile fronds" which curl up around their spores and hold them high and dry through the winter in narrow brown clubs. Limerick Forest has Sensitive Fern all over.

We had gone first to the patch of Ostrich Fern where I painted fiddleheads last year, finding the tall brown fertile fronds and the rhizome clumps all 'bed-head' with old grey frond litter. They still hold their embryonic fiddleheads in a scaley gray knot, which we did not disturb. Ken has told us that the fiddleheads are up a few inches high along the creek in Lyn Valley, but they are not up yet here on the north-facing side of the roadbed where perhaps the snow melted later. They might have been up elsewhere in Limerick, but we didn't find them where we looked. Not wanting to return home fiddleheadless, I satisfied myself with a photographic image of the "not edible" Osmunda fiddleheads. For supper we steamed store-bought Cabbage - and from our own garden, this year's first three spears of Asparagus.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Yellow things

Today's highlights were all yellow - except the first one wasn't as yellow as we'd hoped. The turtles we spottted during the "Turtle Tally" (attended by a few adults and several teens) at the ponds of the proposed Ottawa Urban Turtle Sanctuary were not "Species at Risk" Blandings Turtles, but the more common Painted Turtles. Although it was a sunny day, the wind discouraged more turtles from emerging on the many logs to bask. The Painted Turtles do not have bright yellow throats like Blandings Turtles, but they do have nice yellow plastrons.

Painted Turtle 5 May 2007

The second yellow thing was a Cepaea snail, under an old rotting railroad tie beside the unused portion of tracks near the Airport Parkway (GPS location to come) found by one of the Turtle Tallyers. It is surprising in its unbandedness, and one Cepaea snail that Fred found, by the North Pond, about 200 metres away from mine and on the other side of the tracks, was also unbanded.

Unbanded Cepaea snail

In the woods on both sides of the North Pond, Trout Lilies were blooming, very sparsely - the only "normal" forest floor herb, except for one Jack in the Pulpit and one Trillium both on the South side. The amazing thing about this forest floor, beneath second growth Sugar Maples, was the uneven lightness of the dry leaf litter. Mossy patches of soil, and even open soil, were very much in evidence, showing the work of what must be a massive population of Earthworms. This photo was taken for Fred to send to a newspaper reporter who is interested in the phenomenon.

Trout Lily and worm castings

The last yellow thing was a Dandelion - the early Taraxicum palustre in a field beside my framer & printer's place in Carlsbad Springs... acompanied by a large female Green Frog, unusually terrestrial as she hopped her way over landscape that must have felt very prickly for an aquatic frog, toward the flowing drainage ditch across the road. We wondered how far she had come across hundreds of metres of flat hayfields to the north - or whether she'd just made an excursion from the nearby ditch and was on her way back.

Dandelion and Green Frog

Friday, May 4, 2007

Shadblow in bloom, Cepaea snails loitering on old boards

Ahhh, this is better - although now you can't see how this page looked before Rory Tanner helped me retrieve the design.

Fred and I and dog Marigold walked "out back" together early this evening to count the young Leopard Frogs in Elsa's Pond. There were none of the previous multitude evident - just the swirl of a large body submerging - the big Bull Frog who may have eaten them all, or at least scared them away.

We checked under the old boards to see whether any Redbelly Snakes might be at home, and found many large Cepaea snails, active in their 'living rooms'. Some were loitering on top of their boards as well, as decorative as easter eggs, most yellow with spiral brown bands, and one pink.

Marigold chased something that must have been a Garter Snake into the big crack in the cement slab porch of the old red house we call "Pipers House"

Lilacs are starting to leaf out, Apple tree flower buds are peeking, and the Shadblow, or Saskatoon, is in bloom, reddish leaves still folded, as flat as a Japanese painting.

Shadblow in bloom

This image is photographic - in liew of the watercolour that I didn't do this evening. I watched the first part of the documentary film "Being Caribou" instead.