Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Metcalfe's Victoria Park (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

The afternoon of 12 October 2011 finds me in Metcalfe, in Victoria Park, painting the footbridge that crosses Cassidy Municipal Drain. This is a culvert-fed, turbid rock/rubble/mud stream through a village green lawnpark, a tributary of the Castor River. A man in a plaid shirt walks a brown and white bulldog across the foot bridge and along the brick path to the park bench. When I look up again he is crossing the street to the bank, the dog swinging its tail cheerfully.
Beside the bank, the "Main Bar & Grill has its neon "open" sign lit up in the window and a couple of women stand, talking in front of the door. The next time I look up from my painting they've been replaced by the man with the dog, who has stopped to discuss the dog's special body harness with a woman who has just stepped out of the door. He gestures over his own back and shoulders to explain how the harness goes. The lady leaves and the man waits there with his dog until a woman in black outfit comes out. He hands something to her and they walk along the sidewalk together, talking volubly. They cross the street to the park and follow the brick path toward the footbridge, where they greet a lady who is sitting on one of the park's two purple benches. She rises to talk with them. A man sits in a minivan in front of the bank, reading a paper. When I look up again the parking spot is vacant. Cars and pickups, dump trucks and school buses all slow at the four-way stop and then make their turns or proceed ahead with their various attendant noises - rushes, whirrs, rumbles and roars. The park is not large, but charmingly landscaped with flower beds and bushes around trees and rocks, with a large gazebo in the midst. The banks of the narrow creek have been left wild.

Fred found Pyganodon grandis (Common Floater), Great Pond Snails (Lymnaea stagnalis), native Oroconectes virilis Crayfish, and Champlain Sea fossil Hiatella arctica clams here in 1998, but today the water is too high to search the bottom, since the stretch through the park is uniformly deep, with steep banks, and the only shallows where the bottom can be dimly seen is under the bridge and the culvert. In addition to high clay-turbid water, the bottom is obscured by lots of Elm and Manitoba Maple leaves.
The shrubs along the stream through the park are invasive Rhamnus frangula (Shining Buckthorn) and Lonicera (Honeysuckle), but someone has recently planted a few small native Cornus stolonifera (Red-osier Dogwood), and there are a couple of birdhouses on stakes along the creek.

In 1998 Fred found only the native Orconectes virilis here, but in 2009, after Eric Snyder announced the local discovery of this species' burrowing relative, O. immunis (Calico Crayfish), a resident contacted us about Crayfish she'd found in the drain behind her house in Derby Street, a few hundred metres downstream. This was just before we headed out on a trip around Ontario and Quebec to revisit places where we'd found this species beyond its contiguous range in the 1970s. Fred visited her, and confirmed  that she has O. immunis here. She had just recently moved from British Columbia to Ontario, and was "pleasantly surprised" when she found an abundance of aquatic life in this clayey ditch through a Manitoba Maple-dominated riparian strip in an old housing subdivision. It was a delight to Fred to see so much enthusiasm for Leeches and Crayfish, and for one of the little clay-bed creeks of the South Nation drainage which are so often deprecated as "just ditches," but which often have substantial populations of interesting species.


This original painting is available at $275. For information on purchase and shipping, please contact me at karstad@pinicola.ca

1 comment:

  1. I think I'd like that place. I certainly like your painting, and your descriptions of the people.
    Thanks for taking me with you, Aleta.

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

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