The “L” word and they’re everywhere!

A word that I have not uttered or thought about for probably thirty years popped into my head when looking at this picture of …….Lenticels. Although I was able to associate the word with the horizontal lines found on the Birch tree trunk I remembered nothing about the structure or function of Lenticels.

“Raised circular, for sale oval or elongated areas on stems and roots are known as lenticels.” After reading this I saw lenticels everywhere..on my carrots, beets, apples, potatoes and houseplants.

Lenticels function as pores to allow for the exchange of gases. It’s how tissues within stems, trunks and roots get oxygen.

For some tree species such as the Pignut Hickory and Northern Spicebush, the shape of the lenticels can help with winter identification.

http://www.namethatplant.net/gallery/gallery_glossary.shtml?term=lenticel

Split Rock side trail, Bruce Trail, Mono, ON

Lenticels

An Urban Weasel

WHAT’S BETTER THAN AN “ELF ON THE SHELF”?
HOW ABOUT AN “ERMINE EATING YOUR VERMIN.”
Orangeville residents Kirsten and Carmen Plester have a weasel living in their garage. Kirsten managed to photograph the very curious and seemingly unafraid weasel with her cell phone. The Plesters suspect that this little carnivore has been feeding on mice and Chipmunks.
They’re hoping to get another look at it in order to determine whether it is a Long-tailed Weasel, a Short-tailed Weasel or a Least Weasel.

Weasel29IMG_20151206_093004

 It was surprising to find that the best sources of information about these three species of weasel was from websites geared towards fur trappers such as this http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/…/wildlife/trapping/docs/weasel.pdf and http://www.furmanagers.com/#!weasel/czxh

FYI: In a 2012 article on Least Weasels by Gilbert PROULX in Canadian Wildlife and Biology Management said “The Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) is the smallest carnivore of Canada….no ecological studies were conducted on this species….The absence of field work on the Least Weasel in Canada….I argue that the lack of interest in Least Weasel research is due to its body size and elusive behavior, its difficulty to study, and its poor economic value.”

Once again it’s surprising to realize how little we know about a “common?” species.

Annual Christmas Bird Count 2015-6

xmasbirders

SATURDAY JANUARY 2ND – SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT More information coming soon about how you can participate in our local count. In the meantime find out more about this 100+ year old citizen science event that occurs all over North America, drug in many European countries and involves thousands of volunteers just like you.

http://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

cardinal & chickadee

(Ron Jasiuk)

The reason for FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program)

We installed new windows at home over the summer. Several times we’ve heard ‘thunks’ as birds hit the large shiny new window in our now-bright living room.

Then this …

The impact of a Mourning Dove on our new window …

The impact of a Mourning Dove on our new window …  (photo by Mark Whitcombe)

Look carefully at the photo. One wing extends right to the top and the other to the left edge; both legs show; individual feathers show; the breastbone clearly shows; individual feathers show …

The dove survived initially, weakly flying away after a few minutes. The next day at our feeder there was a dove with feathers missing from its head. But after that, there have only been two Mourning Doves in our yard, down from the three that we’ve had for the last while.

What is our living room with wonderful windows is not a living room for birds …

We’ve now put up stickers and hung window ornaments — with success so far.

Our next speaker from FLAP will be alerting us to ways that individually and as a society we can reduce the toll of birds hitting windows and buildings. FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) estimates the number of migrating birds killed annually in collisions with buildings ranges from 100 million to 1 billion birds. Oh my …

(by Mark Whitcombe)

 

 

 

The Supermoon Eclipse — before the clouds eclipsed …

Four of us turned out at Island Lake to hope for clear skies — and we were in luck! Clouds covered the moonrise to the east, but the cloud-free western skies for sunset gave us hope. In the meantime, 5 cormorants flew to roost nearby in a remarkably flimsy dead tree, swaying in the light breezes. Muskrats dove in front of us, surfacing with winter vegetative clumps on which they munched while lying on the surface. At least three Killdeer called repetitively amongst themselves. Two Great Blue Herons foraged successfully in the shallows right beside us long into darkness.

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The clouds stayed off low along the horizon to the east as the Moon rose above them. Shafts of high thin altocumulus rose westwards out of the bank of clouds. These shafts of cloud alternately covered and uncovered the eclipsing Moon, providing some gorgeous opportunities for photos. My trusty smartphone was pushed to its limits in this low light, but this next photo at least partly captures the atmosphere.

Streaks of clouds lit by the eclipsing Moon at Island Lake

Streaks of clouds lit by the eclipsing Moon at Island Lake (photo by Mark Whitcombe)

A surprising number of people were still out, even at 10 P.M. when the clouds finally eclipsed the slightly-over-half eclipsed Moon. So we saw the reddening as the cloud entered the umbral shadow of the Earth beginning at 9:11 P.M.  But we didn’t see the full eclipse. The clouds ultimately won …

The clouds won the eclipse show …

The clouds won the eclipse show …  (photo by Mark Whitcombe)

When I asked at the UCFNC meeting the next Tuesday, about 20 people put up their hands to say that they had seen at least some part of this impressive natural event, almost all directly from their homes. Nice!

(by Mark Whitcombe)

 

 

 

 

Supermoon Eclipse this Sunday September 27th!

There is a special eclipse of the Moon Sunday evening, and despite the forecast of some cloud during the early evening hours, and the possibility of rain overnight, I’m going to head out to see it! Perhaps it will be cloudy, perhaps there may even be some showers, but I’m hopeful that there’s going to be either light enough cloud to see something worthwhile, or that there may actually be a break in the clouds during the critical hours just after dark as some weather models show.

You are invited to join me. I’m going to park at Home Hardware and walk across Highway #10 at the lights. Once across the road, I go through the ‘gates’ and turn left along the new path that heads northwards parallel to the highway. I’m going to go close to the end of the first long bridge, which is about half a kilometre of easy flat walking.

Sunset is at 7:09 pm local time, and the full moon will rise at 7:01 pm and we’ll be looking at it across the lake — which should be quite lovely. As you can see from the attached graphic, at 9:07 pm, the Moon will begin to be eclipsed by the umbra of the Earth (the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow. This will likely be the first time that noticeable changes to the Moon will occur. Perigee, the closest approach of the Moon to the Earth, is at 9:46 pm. The Moon is full, i.e., in direct opposition to the Sun, at 10:50 pm, and totality will begin ending at 11:23 pm, with all visible changes likely gone by 12:27 am on Monday morning.

SupermoonEclipse

Fred Espinak’s excellent graphic of the Supermoon Eclipse

I’m aiming to be out at the lake by about 7:00 pm, warmly enough dressed and with a lawn chair, binoculars, camera, tripod, and several flashlights. I’ll stay until conditions are too poor to see anything — or until the eclipse is over … You are welcome to come any time, and to leave any time. You will be responsible for getting yourself to where I’ll be viewing the eclipse. I’ll not be waiting anywhere other than at my chosen viewing position. The peak time will be from 9 pm to midnight. Perhaps you might poke your head out the door several times as the evening progresses, and make your decisions to whether to wander out and join me!

A Naturalist in the Maritimes

It’s a large world; it’s a small world; it’s a diverse world; it’s a connected world.

We’re a third of our way through our tour of the eastern provinces, presently staying in Nova Scotia with friends from university and before.
Turns out that “D” was the statistics advisor to Troy Macmillan, whom you might remember as our lichen speaker and field trip guide from several years back. It’s a small interwoven world!

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We’re staying with “D&L” at their cottage on a lake in the interior of Nova Scotia. We could be on any Algonquin area lake, with rich brown humus-y water, Common Loons, Lake Trout, Ospreys and Poison Ivy. But something is subtly and significantly different. Red Maples predominate, not Sugar Maples which are rare. There’s Grey Birch as well as the more familiar Silver and Yellow species. The American Beechs almost all have fungal infection that makes their mature bark look more like a maple than the elephant’s leg we admire. There’s copious shaggy wisps of Usnea lichen on the trees. It’s a diverse world. (And we’ve not really been on the sea coast yet!)

Cantharellus minor (?), small red chanterelle

Cantharellus minor (?), small red chanterelle

I’m struck by the rich palette of paints used on the wooden house sidings. (“L” has a fondness for Maud Lewis!) Nothing to do with natural history, you say! However … perhaps there’s a relationship between damp maritime climates, available housing materials and skills, and a human desire for colour … It’s a connected world.

Passing through the well-treed city of Fredricton — gorgeous American Elms! — we stopped to see the chimney where an estimated 200 Chimney Swifts rooster earlier this year.

 

Fredricton Chimney Swift roost — 200+this year!

Fredricton Chimney Swift roost — 200+this year!

The slow-moving line of heavy storms we pierced as we left Orangeville hammered us in Arnprior that night, blasted us in Québec City a couple of days later, and then blinded us as we drove at night down the Saint John River valley in New Brunswick. That same line of heavy weather passed back and forth above us for more than a week! It’s a small inter-connected world.

Thunderstorm over the upper Saint John River Valley

Thunderstorm over the upper Saint John River Valley

A Bald Eagle, an adult with a magnificent white tail, just glided over me as I write this. It’s a magnificent world. And seeing all of this through a naturalist’s ‘eye’ is wondrous!

Watching Saturn & waiting for Tiangong, the Chinese space station

Watching Saturn & waiting for Tiangong, the Chinese space station

A Great Egret song

Great Egrets

Great Egrets on Island Lake, August 15, 2015     (photo by Mark Whitcombe)

On an increasingly warm morning, Linda and Chris led us on an exploration of the impressive new trail & boardwalk that completes the circle around Orangeville’s Island Lake. The finished trail is a wonderful tribute to the volunteers of the Credit Valley Conservation Foundation! The many walkers, joggers, families (… and perhaps too many fast bike riders…) speak to the value of this addition to the community.

We saw lots of Canada Geese and Mallards, many Cedar Waxwings, several Kingfishers, some Kingbirds, two Great Blue Herons, a still-enthusiastic Red-eyed Vireo, as well as a Caspian Tern. There were Painted Turtles galore in some spots, sunning on stumps, basking in the shallows, and ploughing lanes through the water plants. I saw at least three species of dragonfly that I couldn’t identify over the open water. I only saw 3 butterflies, all Cabbage Whites. The hit of the trip for me was seeing three Great Egrets, so graceful in their pure whites and their gently swooping flight.

Chris and Linda said this was their ‘swan song’ after 3 years as our field trip organizers. I prefer to link to the graceful egrets, species that Linda in particular has a solid history of working with. I thanked Chris and Linda for their wonderful efforts in providing the club with so many regular and diverse opportunities. We owe them our deepest respect and thanks!

This highlights the need of our club to arrange and offer field trips for the coming year. As I think about fulfilling this, I wonder how we could do this differently.

There are several different components — which could/should involve different people. There is the publicity aspect, involving the writing of emails and sending them out after clarifying details. There is the actual leading of the trips, something that should be separate from the other aspects of field trips. It is not our expectation that those who organize field trips actually lead them (though they are welcome to). There is the component of deciding which field trips to offer and who might actually lead particular excursions. For all  these aspects, there’s a wealth of knowledge and expertise and help within the club.

How can we accomplish this organization and delivery of field trips differently than relying on one or two stalwarts to give so much of their time and effort? Please use the Comments form to share feedback. (I read and approve everything before publishing comments, so if you wish to make your comments private, please indicate this.)

(By the way, Linda has officially reached 163 species for her Big Dufferin Year, her concerted work to find as many species of bird in one year in Dufferin County. Congratulations!)

Once again, thanks to Chris and Linda for giving us so much these last few years!

Now how many of us will step up to offer to move us forward?