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?

The Upper Credit Field Naturalists Club

The Upper Credit Field Naturalists Club is made up of people who share a common interest in the natural environment: enjoying it, preserving it, and learning more about it, in all of its incredible complexity and beauty.

  • We organize a variety of activities throughout the year, including the ever-popular Spring and Christmas bird counts, wildflower walks and other field trips.
  • We hold regular monthly meetings which are our cornerstone activity.
  • We also publish to members as quarterly members’ newsletter, The Bluebird, which contains club news, details of upcoming speakers and field trips, and articles on wildlife and the environment.
  • The membership form is here.

For more about us, check our ABOUT page.

Dragonfly exuvia BeechLake

Dragonfly exuvia, from a Swift River Cruiser, Macromia illinoiensis.  The white tubes are the trachea which connect the developing body of the adult inside the nymphal case through to the outside air as the nymph ceases to use its gills while it comes out of the water to emerge. I had the wonderful privilege of watching and filming thIs take more than 4 hours to come out of the lake, find a spot to anchor itself, and go through the slow orderly sequence of emergence, finally flying away as an adult.   (Photo by Mark Whitcombe)

Are our Chimney Swifts already gone?

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On Wednesday, sale August 12th, I couldn’t see or hear any Chimney Swifts above downtown Shelburne during about 15 minutes of noon-time observation near the church where I had previously seen them diving into a roosting chimney during the daytime.  On Thursday and again today, August 14th, I couldn’t see or hear any Chimney Swifts above downtown Orangeville after 30 minutes of observation around the two chimneys (Broadway, and Mill Street) I’d previously seen them using during daylight hours.

It seems quite possible that they have they left already on their migration. That’s within the standard timeframe of mid-August onwards.

We first saw them on June 2nd, and our interpretation was that they had only recently arrived. On July 29th, I and others twice observed birds diving into and leaving the Broadway chimney, spending less than a minute inside the chimney each time. That’s typical behaviour for feeding pre-fledglings.  If so, then from recent fledgling to migrating bird takes place in about 2 weeks.  Impressive!

The last Chimney Swifts I have seen this year were 4 flying above downtown Orangeville on August 4th.

We do not know the breeding success of the three roosts being used in our area.  It would take considerable attentive field work to determine that!

I’m amazed that about 10+ weeks is all the time they spend on their breeding grounds. Their breeding success is now so constrained simply by a lack of suitable chimneys in which to nest. That’s why it’s so important to identify and protect suitable chimney, as well as to better census Chimney Swift populations.

Citizen science is worthwhile!

Chimney Swift leaving chimney roost

Chimney Swift leaving chimney roost on Broadway in Orangeville