17 November finds me perched at the base of a tree on the steep side of a short deep ravine surrounded by ploughed fields on Laurier Road north of Casselman, Ontario. I can almost see down into the entrance of a cave - the cave where First Nations people say is "the place where the Eels go into the ground". A creek meanders along the bottom of the ravine and disappears under a tangle of sticks and autumn leaves before the cave mouth. Above that a vertical bank rises 10 metres high, a wall of clay laced across by tree roots.There's not much moss or foliage there - looks pretty gloomy at this end. There are also another couple of charming scenes in that little ravine, and Fred wanders there collecting twiggy litter from the foot of the slopes including and a few small Arion slugs, one Deroceras reticulatum slug, several living small Anguisira alternata snails, and lots of shells, but no sow bugs. Clear water flows from a culvert under the road - the stream that feeds the cave. Staff at South Nation Conservation tell us that the creek emerges again in a neighbours' field. Raccoon tracks decorate the flat clay sides of the stream - most ground cover frosted Ferns, or Viola pubescens (Yellow Violet) with a few berries of Caulophyllum thalictroides (Blue Cohosh) and scattered plants of a Geum that has richly evergreen-looking leaves. And, of course, a scattering of seedling Rhamnus cathartica (Common Buckthorn) to threaten the future. The woods are Tilia americana (Basswood) Acer negundo (Manitoba Maple) and Fraxinus (Ash) with the major trees being 80-90 cm diameter Basswood.
As I paint, thick flakes of the first snow of the year begin to fall, reminding me of the large flock of Snow Geese that we saw when we arrived. They were sitting in the field by the ravine, mixed with a vast flock of Canada Geese, but separated off into their own flock when they all took to the air in a jubilant clamour. These are more Snow Geese than we've ever seen before in eastern Ontario.