Icebound Treasure With Trucks (oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.)

19 March 2014 finds me on County Road 14, 2.3 km NNW Ingleside, Ontario, looking across a snowy field where Hoople Creek winds toward the bridge on Highway 401. An intermittent stream of long trucks flows from east to west and from west to east, while the creek itself appears motionless, its stream running beneath ice and snow - but I can see its path where water has melted and re-frozen, pale sea-green and amber. We are 700 metres east-south-east of where the Transcanada and Enbridge cross Hoople Creek. This is the first of our visits to stream crossings along the route of the pipelines that are proposed to carry the Energy East bitumen to New Brunswick.

We hadn't been aware of Hoople Creek before our visit on 5 Oct 2011. We discovered it on the inland side of the Highwy 2 causeway between Hoople Bay and the St Lawrence, 3.5 kilometres west-south-west of Long Sault. The creek bottom was covered with old Zebra Mussel shells, with no native Unionid mussels to be seen. Then on 29 Aug 2012 we searched where Highway 401 crosses it here, we found many Lampsilis radiata, fewer Pyganodon and Elliptio companata, and a single doubtful Lasmigona valve on the rocky/cobble bottom. The lowest three kilometres of Hoople Creek, between these two sites, is the most likely place for a population of the Endangered mussel Ligumia nasuta - but that stretch remains to be explored.

After we found the abundant mussels at the 401 bridge, we checked the bridge where I'm standing now and the one upstream of it on County Road 18 without finding any mussels, and only very few snails. It seems that there may only be a pocket of vulnerable diversity at the 401 crossing and a little downstream.

Earlier this afternoon we located the pipeline on Morgan Road, 120 metres south-west of its crossing of Hoople Creek. I photographed the Enbridge/Transcanada pipeline warning signs, but we couldn't see the creek. We look forward to spring when more can be seen, but since winter has still not loosened its grip, there was just a wide snowy right-of-way stretching south-west/north-east, with woods on either side. Fred noted a few stems of Phragmites reed by the road, and a thicket of American Beech saplings at the south-west corner of an Ash forest where a couple of ragged Hemlocks live. 

Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting is for sale for $475 to support our survey of the Energy East Pipeline. If you would like to purchase it, please contact me   


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  2. The report on our first visit to Hoople Creek, on 5 October 2011, is that we were driving Hwy 2 along the St Lawrence, and Aleta left me in the marshy St Lawrence estuary bay upstream of the highway embankment as she sought gasoline and a Royal Bank in Ingleside. I didn't find any Unionid Mussels, or snail shells, despite low water that left the gravelly bottom widely exposed. This wasn't surprising since the bottom drift was dominated by Dreissena polymorpha (Zebra Mussel) and algal rolls. The high point of the sample was a single shed Orconectes virilis (Northern Crayfish) skin. There were lots of Branta canadensis (Canada Goose) out on the river. The shore of the embankment was mostly Salix exigua (Sandbar Willow), with Typha angustifolia (Narrow-leaved Cattail) along the edge of where the water was, and Butomus umbellatus (Flowering-rush) was the outermost vegetation on the drawndown shore. At the Hwy 2 bridge there were rolls of Vallisneria (Water-celery) on shore and heavy angler use indicated by trampling, monofilament line,
    cigarette packages, and Tim Hortons coffee cups.

  3. On 29 August 2012, Aleta dozed in the parked van on the exit ramp, in a break from the long drive back from New Brunswick, as I went down to the scene of the painting, in the creek at the culverts under the 401 exit ramp and highway. Amphibia were represented only by a single Frog's jump-in splash, but the rocky/cobble creek was thronged by Lampsilis radiata (Eastern Lamp-Mussel) and other mussel species, especially at the downstream end of the dual highway overpass. There were 15-20/sq m Lampsilis in the stream below the bridge. Our Lampsilis are morphologically variable, and these had a strangely rounded shape, with fairly heavy shells in adults, some with almost no rays, others with many narrow rays, flake-like pseudocardinal teeth, and some signs of sexual dimorphism.

    Other species seen alive included a few living Elliptio complanata (Eastern Elliptio; 2 shells collected), and Pyganodon (Floater;12 shells collected, ripply beak sculpture) . There was also an enigmatic heavy old broken rounded shell with strange teeth that looked like a Lasmigona, but may have a lateral tooth and be a pseudocardinally-deformed Lampsilis. There were a few Ferrissia freshwater limpets on the Unionid shells.

    We then moved 0.35 km NW at the bridge just behind where the painting was done from, a rocky/gravel creek at roadside through cornfields. In wading the creek around the bridge, one Helisoma trivolvus (Larger Eastern Ramshorn) was the only Mollusc seen - NO:Unionidae though downstream side had a lot of coarse algae that may have
    concealed shells or mussels. Atriplex was growing near the footing of bridge with Chenopodium botrys (Jerusalem-oak) - there's a heavy equipment yard upstream.

    We then went 4.2 km WNW to Hoople Creek/Co Road 18, 3.6 km WSW Osnabruck Centre. (45.02196N 75.04966W), a coolwater rocky creek in wooded creek corridor among tilled fields, and I waded around but found no Mollusca. There was a juvenile Orconectes propinquus Crayfish, and two large adult Lithobates clamitans (Green Frog).

  4. This looks very Ontario-ish! :)

  5. Nice Aleta and it tells a story. I am sadly aware that the environment and science has been pushed off the political radar. It is sad but we must keep trying to be positive.


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