The Letter “P X 3”

The Letter “P X 3” – Can you name the “P” creatures?

The first “P” has chewed the bark off of at least 57 Red Pine tress in a small area of the Alton Grange. Interesting that numerous Hemlock and scattered deciduous saplings were untouched except for one sapling.

The second “P” was calling throughout the Hockley Valley Nature Preserve. This very large excavation was found this past Monday before the snow arrived.

The third “P” at least 36 of them took over our bird feeders once the temperatures dropped accompanied by the falling snow.

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Rockin’ the roads of Headwaters: Touring the landscapes of Headwaters

Our next field trip will be a Geology and Geomorphology Field Trip on Saturday Feb 13th. If you are a member of the Upper Credit Field Naturalists Club, you should have received a more detailed notice. If you are not a member … well …

Our goal is to help us all learn how to see our local landscape in a way that’s more inter-connected and explicable than just seeing it as pretty and hilly.

We’re going to look first at the general area of the old Orangeville brickworks, and get some idea of how that mix of clay and marl was deposited some 12,000 years ago. That involves learning about the Alton moraine plug that was dropped by the last glacial advance in this area when a lobe of ice temporarily moved back northwest across what is now Lake Ontario during a brief period of regrowth of the otherwise retreating glaciers. Then we’ll wander across that moraine plug of hummocky hills north and west of Alton, training our eyes to the particular look of end moraines.

So far, this will be studying geomorphology, here focusing on the effects of glaciers in this area. Our next major stop will be down in the Belfountain area, when we take a brief hike across remarkable bouldery terrain to the Devil’s Pulpit overlook for a stunning look at how the glaciers roughly carved the solid escarpment. This valley will be our first look at a re-entrant valley, though later on in the trip we’ll traverse the much larger Hockley Valley which was also partly gouged out by the glacier.

From there, we’ll take a look at the Cheltenham Badlands. Although this is now closed off, we’ll be able to see it from the side of the road. Among other topics here, will be how this feature is actually the direct result of recent human activity and is not really a natural landscape. Which of course, raises questions about how it should be preserved.
Then we’ll continue ahead to look at the most dramatic impact of humans on our local landscape — the Caledon gravel pits. That economically essential sand and gravel deposit was left by the glaciers. Here, we’ll think about the various impacts of our human actions, and then think ahead to what this area could become — and how we might influence that process.
We’ll then head up Kennedy Road, turning east along Highway 9 to climb up the eastern side of the Orangeville Moraine. This feature forks around Orangeville and reasonably clearly shows where three lobes of the ice sheet met overtop of present-day Orangeville. We’ll then head up the Third Line, dropping down into the Hockley Valley, perhaps looking at another exposure of what is in our area the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment at the Red Mud Cliffs. From there, we’ll head further up the Third Line and switch over to the Fourth Line, tracing the dramatic spillway where huge amounts of water flowed off the melting ice lobes, and drained across Orangeville, and down through Hillsburgh into what is now the Grand River and into the present-day Lake Erie.
This brings us back to the beginning feature of our tour, because it was the interruption of this spillway that led to the marl beds southwest of Orangeville and the subsequent re-routing of the meltwaters down the present Credit River.

(Mark Whitcombe)

The Devil's Pulpit overlook of the re-entrant valley near Belfountain

The Devil’s Pulpit overlook of the re-entrant valley near Belfountain

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.

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 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

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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

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(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)