Friday, November 11, 2011
The tree I am painting splays its grand cluster of trunks tall and now mostly leafless against the autumn evening sky. Little Balsam Fir grow here among the ferns and clubmosses. There are a few leaves of the Yellow Violet and a single Pyrola spray, which are the only proper forest floor herbs or sub-shrubs. There's Vitis riparia (Frost Grape) cabled up into the canopy of the larger Maples, and fallen bunches of Grapes lying on the forest floor, perhaps cut by Red Squirrels. Perhaps they feel safer chewing up the Grapes on the forest floor than up in the canopy where hawks might see them. The Birches here are fallen and rotten, having given way to the succession of more shade tolerant trees, but on the other side of the old fencerow the woods have the close texture of a coat of hair, as young Maples shoot up narrowly among the already narrow Birches.
Fred found one 25 cm Common Buckthorn, and many Cherry bushes all distorted by Whitetail Deer browsing, as well as White Pine seedlings that also look stunted or browsed back. As I paint, he moves back and forth, in and out of view among the trees, carefully turning logs and collecting centipedes and sow bugs, but no salamanders. Undertaking his standard search for Eastern Redback Salamanders, he turns 100 pieces of cover within a 100 metre area. Before it's too dark to see, he has checked under 84 logs, ranging from long-dead to falling-apart rotten, but he finds no Salamanders or slugs or snails, and only a few Centipedes, Millipedes, and Earthworms. When land has been grazed, the soft forest floor which is naturally full of holes from rotted away roots and punky remains of logs buried in deep leaf litter becomes trampled and compacted. The soil is compressed, leaving no access to underground spaces for salamanders to hibernate below frost level.
All afternoon we've been hearing the local birds, who will stay here for the winter - Blackcap Chickadee, Blue Jay, and Robin. Red Squirrels chirrrr and, a Spring Peeper practices a few territorial peeps. A male Wood Frog hops past, heading for a safe spot to freeze solid for the winter.
As we leave, there's Branta canadensis (Canada Goose) going over or around in various flocks (provoking discussion of how many Geese can be covered by a "gaggle" and whether the proper collective for these huge migratory flocks shouldn't be "clamour"?), with a sky-filling low overflight at 18h00.