Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Solstice

It was an icy day on the 21st when I took the above picture. You can see the crows are still passing by every evening on their way east. Not in as large numbers as before, perhaps a couple of hundred crows flew over my head as I was visiting the trees. Not much was moving on that icy day except the cars and the crows. Crows fly at about 40km/hr so they may have been the faster of the two. I hope the city didn't put salt on the roads or else it was just the sort of weather for the spray from the road to mingle with the misty freezing rain and cling to every surface of the trees. Hopefully the heavy rain that finished the day washed it all away.

It was looking like it was going to be a green Christmas until this morning of the 23rd when a light dusting of snow covered the ground. We just got the south western edge of a snowstorm set to hit the Maritimes tonight.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Creatures of habbit

Crows and geese aren't the only creatures of habit that can be found regularly in the same spot. Rabbits also have their favourite spots. Take for instance this rabbit I passed along Kimdale St. yesterday. He must really like that hole in the cedar hedge because I took the below picture of him at the same spot 10 days earlier.

One thing I've noticed this past year is that there hasn't been rabbits in residence on the eastern side of the triangle area. Last year and the year before I regularly passed a pair of rabbits hanging out at the end of Kimdale St. and then would spot another rabbit along the path at the north eastern corner of the square. Not to say that there are no rabbits around, just that their regular hangout spots aren't the same as before. For instance, there were quite regularly some rabbits hanging out along the forest edge by the crab apples this past summer.

Cottontail rabbits are a relative newcomer to the area. 25 years ago there weren't any around. I remember going to the University in Waterloo in the early 90s and being excited to see all the rabbits on campus. They started appearing in the Manordale area in the 90s and quickly became quite common. As I understand it, there are several species of cottontail rabbits. Ottawa is on the very northern edge of the eastern cottontail range. The Fletcher wildlife garden has a good page describing the habits of our rabbits.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Marching into the sunset

I have a new Fuji F550 camera that I'm still learning how to use. Here is the best picture I took today of the pylons marching into the sunset. It is surprisingly difficult to get the colours right. The pink of the sky is about right but the ground wasn't as dark as it looks.

These pylons are actually quite impressive if you think about them. They're about 150ft high and 200 to 300m apart. That means there are over a thousand transmission towers involved in carrying the electricity from the nearest large power plant to Ottawa. They carry the main 500kV transmission lines from the Lennox generating station into Ottawa. They also carry an older 230kV transmission line that goes on a more direct route through Almonte from Toronto to Ottawa. A third more local distribution line carries power at 115kV to Kanata.(map pdf)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The crows

Crows have been congregating along Hunt Club for the past few days. This is the third year I have noticed them about this time of year. The above picture is just a small fraction of the flock. I could see over 500 crows all at one time resting in the branches of the woodlot south of Hunt Club and more were coming and going all the time. They were flying south east from Ben Franklin Park to the woodlot in the experimental farm and then leaving the woodlot at the east end.

Yesterday was the first significant snowfall of the season and today when I visited the berm area the square that was planted in 2009 was covered with crow tracks. They had been looking for food and you can see in the picture below where one of them has stripped bark of a dead tree looking for a meal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A squirrel eating hawthorn berries

I went for a walk with my new camera to see what I could photograph on this nice sunny day. Here is a squirrel eating a hawthorn berry. There are three types of hawthorns growing on the south east corner of the triangle area. Here the squirrel is having a meal of washington hawthorn berries. Below is a closeup of the berries. They are quite juicy and unlike the other hawthorn berries (haws) that have flesh more like a berry than an apple. They grow in umbles of small berries with multiple seed segments in the center of the berry. They are supposed to be edible but not very tasty.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Canada Geese

Thousands of Canada Geese have been flying overhead every evening for the past few weeks. They eat their dinner in the fields of the experimental farm and then go roost along the Ottawa river. This migration is an incredible sight and I am always amazed how much we ignore it. Sometimes along Hunt Club road, wave after wave of geese in their thousands can be seen flying over in just a couple of minutes and no one bats an eye. This didn't happen 30 years ago when I was young. You just didn't see the geese hanging out in the fields around Ottawa. There also weren't any resident Canada geese in the parks and beeches back then. This recovery in the numbers of geese has been incredible. According to the Ottawa Duck Club they helped introduce Canada geese back to the Ottawa area by bringing some from the Morrisburg bird sanctuary to the Shirley's Bay reserve in the 70s. Presumably this was a resident flock that then went on to stay and multiply in the area.

According to the net the sub species of Canada Geese that tends to be resident year round in the south is the Giant Canada Goose. It was thought to be extinct in the late 50s but a small population was discovered that was then bred and used to repopulate the resident sub-species. Canada geese, I've learned, are highly variable in size with several sub-species. The sub-species are hard to tell apart but in general they are geographically based with different subspecies having different breeding grounds that they fly to year after year. The resident populations we have now that are undergoing a population explosion may not be the Giant Canada Goose but may instead be a mixed breed that was intentionally released after having been in captivity. Since the migratory path is passed down through the generations from parents to offspring as they lead their charges along the migration, the birds bred in captivity would have lost that history. The migratory sub-species we mainly have here in Ottawa would be the Atlantic sub-species that makes a round trip from Ungava in Northern Quebec down to the eastern seaboard around the Chesapeake Bay area. The Atlantic Canada Goose is also quite a large goose. Those that breed even further north and to the west can be even smaller.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Frost at midday

There was frost on the ground on the north slope even at midday yesterday. The above picture is of the linden tree that my Mom planted so it gets a little extra attention.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last of the grasshoppers

I walked through the long grass today and only noticed one small grasshopper hop out of my way. Winter is coming. The grasshoppers die with the first frost and overwinter as eggs. In late summer and early September they are everywhere hopping out of your way. Now in late October they have mostly disappeared.

I took these photographs earlier in the year. Grasshoppers are usually fairly hard to photograph because you mostly see them when they jump but you don't see where they land as they'll be hidden in the long grass only to jump again when you approach their hiding spot. The two striped fellow was easy though as I found him early in the morning before it had warmed up. He had no interest in moving at all.

October fields

The above is a picture of the Square taken in mid October. It is amazing to me how low the grass looks. It looks almost like the grass was last cut three weeks ago not 3 years ago. Grass seems to have a renewed growth period in the fall after the summer plants have died back. This area in the middle of summer was covered in purple vetch and other climbing plants now those have all died back dragging the tall dead summer growth down with them.

The small spruce seedling that can be seen in the middle distance is three years old. It is one of the lucky ones that I have been able to save from being over grown by the grass. Others that got lost over the summers would not get enough sunlight to grow vigorously. I think this seedling is now out of danger of being overgrown by the grass. The vetch can still be a problem though even for larger spruce trees.

It is interesting to compare the above 3 year old field to the picture below of the 1 year old Newhaven Extension planting area. There you can see there is a lot of dead standing grass. My general observation is that the first year after planting an area that has been frequently cut the plant communities that dominate are grasses and trefoil, stichwort, yarrow and clover that either can withstand frequent cutting or does well growing close to the ground but also can climb when the grass grows taller. In the second year the grasses do less well and the climbing plants including purple vetch become more prominent. On the third year the climbers continue to do well but there is an increasing diversity with tall plants such as Goldenrod, Bull Thistle, Queen Anne's Lace, St. John's Wort, Milkweed and Aster gaining footholds.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bluejay in flight

I was taking a picture of the trees when a blue jay flew over my head. Blue jays often travel in small family groups and as I had seen the one, I was not too surprised when I caught the second in frame.

This past Thanksgiving weekend has been warm and sunny and as you can see in the above picture many of the trees still have green leaves. We've had a frost, but not so hard a frost that it has killed the insect life. There are still grasshoppers in the long grass and there are still wasps hanging about. The other day I had to beat a quick retreat when I removed a mulch circle from a tree and realized there was an entrance to a wasp's nest underneath it. I don't see too many garden spiders about anymore though. In late August it is hard not to get tangled in their webs when walking in the tall grass, by late September they are quite rare.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A short tailed shrew

This past week I have been spending about an hour a day getting the trees planted this spring ready for winter. That involves pulling back the grass, removing the mulch circles and fixing the planing job if they were planted in appropriately. I received a hundred white spiral tree protectors from the city forester last monday to put around the tree trunks. I have gone through about half of them cutting them in two to protect twice as many trees.

Today as I was attempting to fix a particularly bad planting job where a maple tree had been planted several inches too deep, I heard a squeek and the soil I had been carefully digging started moving. I thought I must have disturbed a meadow vole but then a pink snout pushed out of the ground. What ever it was, it was apparently digging its way out. I quickly got my camera out, to at least get a shot of the little guy's snout. As soon as he spied me he ducked back under again. But with a little coaxing and patience I eventually got the above picture of him just before he scooted away intoo the long grass.

I believe he (or she) is a short tailed shrew. The pink rather pointed snout, the pale grey sleak fur, the size and shape, the small ears and eyes all lead me to believe this was actually a short tailed shrew.

The northern short tailed shrew is a small carnivore that eats insects, worms, mice and voles. They have a reputation as voracious eaters and are also noted as one of the few venomous mammals. Their venomous bite allows them to incapacitate larger prey such as voles. Since they are active throughout the year and are just about an ideal size to be able to use the meadow vole's runways under the snow, I imagine voles make up a significant portion of their winter diet.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spined Assassin Bugs

Two spined assassin bugs fighting over a meal. Not the best picture but I think Spined assassin bugs are pretty cool. They are a beneficial predator that can take down quite large insect prey.

Asters and bumble bees

You know it is fall when the asters are in bloom. Here is a lovely bunch of asters with some brilliant red sumac behind them. The bumble bees were busy feeding on the asters; a couple of them are visible in the picture if you zoom in on the flowers on the right.

woolly alder aphids

A couple of weeks ago I took a picture of a bald faced hornet feeding on some sort of white fungus. It turns out I was entirely wrong and it wasn't a fungus at all. It was a colony of the woolly alder aphids (Prociphilus tessellatus ) feeding on a speckled alder. Above is another picture of them. The colony is almost entirely gone now but I inspected the remaining pieces to see the actual aphids. The white fluff is a waxy material that protects the aphids from predators. What was attracting all the attention from the wasps and the hornets was probably honeydew.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 Growing Season Recap

This year the naturalization area was extended to the area south of Kirkstall that was accessed from the end of Newhaven. The above picture is looking east from the west end of the new planting. The trees were planted on a warm dry day in a couple of hours and for the first two months there were very good prospects that most of the tree would survive. May was wet but not cold and June also had consistent rain. By mid June the grasses were tall and it was necessary to pull back the grass from the new trees.

July was hot and dry with some days in the high 30s. The only trees in the new area that didn't seem to suffer from the heat were the invading suckers from the adjacent poplars. The newly planted trees suffered under these conditions and by the end of July some of the new trees were losing their leaves. The burr oaks and the speckled alders in particular seem to not survive the dry conditions well. Some oaks survived better than others, about a third look like they are dead and the rest only look mostly dead.

The dry spell didn't end until halfway through August, but with the rain the temperature cooled and few of the new trees attempted to recover from the heat wave. The more established trees from the 2009 and 2010 plantings did not suffer very much from the heat wave at all. Even those newly planted trees that had a bit of shade did ok, but the Newhaven Extension area that had the south east facing hillside exposure, with poorly developed soil were hit hard.

Now in September I am spending some time preparing the new trees for winter. In order to minimize the loses due to field mice I am removing the mulch circles and pulling the grasses back from the base of the trees. The mulch circles hid a lot of problems. Quite a few trees are poorly planted, and the field mice are making themselves at home under the circles. Hopefully removing their cover will convince the field mice to not make their home under the new trees this winter.

Meadow vole damage

The above is a picture of some Meadow vole damage in the 2011 planting area. The trees in this area had a manufactured circle of mulch placed around the base of the tree. This helped with preserving soil moisture around the newly planted root balls. However they produce a convenient location for field mice to hide. As the night time temperature goes down they will extend their burrows underground around the tree roots. Once their food runs low they will start eating the roots killing the tree. They like the taste of some trees better than others. The above sugar maple would probably be killed this winter if no action is taken.

I attempted to collapse the burrow entrances by punching down the soil around the roots. I then added soil to bring the soil back up to the original level. There was a tag left on the tree that might have damaged the tree in a few years as it grew. I removed this tag and added a tree protector to keep the meadow voles from girdling the tree at the base of the trunk. Hopefully these steps help the tree to survive the coming winter.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More Orb Web Spiders

Here is a Banded Garden Spider (Argiope Trifasciata) and a Cross Orbweaver (Araneus Diadematus) The picture of the Cross Orbweaver was taken in low light conditions so you can't see the white cross she has on her back (I thought it looked a bit like a bumble bee) but you can see here lovely web. I hope she didn't mind the flash too much. The Banded Garden Spider is a cousin to the Black and Yellow Garden Spider which is much more common around here (see earlier entry).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yellow Jackets and hornets

I noticed a couple of wasp nests recently. One is in a hole in the ground at the base of a maple tree. There were yellow jackets coming and going every other second. Some yellow jacket wasps make their nests in trees and some occupy a borrow in the ground made by some other animal. Judging by the number of yellow jackets coming and going from the nest the nest must be a substantial size. Wasps only occupy a nest for one year. The young fertilized queen over winters in a sheltered location in the earth or in a rotten log and starts their hive by themselves raising their first brood in the spring. Once the first brood is raised they start doing all the work taking care of the nest and foraging for food. The nest then grows quickly until by the end of summer there can be thousands of wasps in a nest. At the end of summer the next generation of fertile queens and male drones are produced and then the hive dies.

The bald faced hornet nest is always in a tree or somewhere above ground. They are quite a bit bigger than the yellow jackets being close to an inch long. I have never been stung by them and they don't seem to be too upset by me being close to their nest but they have a fierce reputation for defending their nests with a powerful sting. They are a type of wasp and have a similar life cycle of annually producing a new football sized nest with the hive dying out before winter comes.

Above is a picture of three bald faced hornets feeding on some sort of powder coming off a white fungus. Yellow jackets were also vigorously coming and going from the trunk of this alder bush that was covered by this powdery and downy fungus. The wasps didn't seem to be feeding directly on the fungus but looked like they were licking the twigs close by. I suspect they like the taste of the spores that visibly covered the ground below the bush. Evidently according to various articles the adult wasps like sweet carbohydrate rich foods (such as soda pop) but that they are also predators attacking and killing insects that they then feed to the larvae. Interestingly, the larvae are suposed to secrete a carbohydrate rich nectar that the wasps then eat.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baby spruce

This spruce seedling was planted 3 years ago as a single sprig. It has come a long way and this year really grew well. It even had a set of buds that were formed this year open up for a second spurt of growth.

Halfway down the seedling you can see an egg sack of a yellow and black garden spider.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Black and Yellow Orb Web Spider

Walking through a late summer meadow one of the most common things you find are the webs of the Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Black and Yellow Argiope). These guys are pretty conspicuous. The web is a nice regular spiral design hung from tall shrubs or weeds. These big guys are easy to spot as they sit out in the middle of their web waiting for a grasshopper to get caught. The one above was about 2inches across with the thorax about as big as a large raspberry. I wouldn't want one of these guys crawling on me so I have to be careful to avoid walking through their webs.

The purple vetch is going to seed now with the goldenrod and queen anne's lace at their prime.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nitrogen deficiency

Here is a maple where you can see that the leaves are yellowing between the veins showing it is lacking nitrogen. In the grass around the maple you can see the purple vetch a nitrogen fixing legume is doing exceedingly well. These two facts may be related. It seems like the purple vetch is doing better this year than either of the previous two years. In the previous years birdfoot trefoil seemed to be the dominant legume creating large mats but now in the square where the trefoil has been uncut for the third year now, the trefoil is losing out to the vetch. On the westside where this is only the second year without mowing the treefoil is still going strong.

Here is a link discussing the use of trefoil as a pasture crop. One thing they note is that while it is a perennial it needs to self seed if it is to become permanently established. I think we might have a situation where the trefoil needs a more disturbed and open location to get established than the vetch and that when young can't compete in the long term with the faster growing grasses and the weeds.


I was thrilled to see this monarch flitting about yesterday. I think they are so beautiful and know that their numbers are declining. This is the first I have seen this summer. I saw him in the long grass on the north side of the berm.

Japanese Beetle

A group of Japanese Beetles on a Glossy Buckthorn. Both the plant and the insects are invasive species. The Japanese Beetles are a large slow beetle that like to hang out in groups on the top of leaves. They spend their grub stage in lawns eating grass roots but here you see them too busy mating to care about predators. They must not taste very good to birds as they are easily spotted with their shiny armour and their habit of hanging out on the top of a leaf in broad daylight munching away. Here you see the lace like evidence of them eating the leaves of the bush. They are a bit of a generalist in what they eat but I have noticed them to be fond of raspberries.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Common Ringlet

Here is a common butterfly found in early June flying around the square. They are a small brown nondescript butterfly commonly found in long grass in sunny areas. They are also called the Large Heath.

In Bloom:
St. Johns Wort
Purple vetch
white clover
purple clover
wild carrot

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where there is life there is a chance

This spring the trees planted close to the road on the West Side had a really hard winter. In the front row were 4 maples and a fir tree. In the second row was a sumac, a hazel, a fir tree and two maples. Further back there was a couple of hackberries, a sumac, a linden and a gap where a couple of spruce trees had been that failed to successfully recover from the transplantation and where a couple of maples were cut down by some animal last summer.

In early May, only one of the maples in the front row looked alive. Three other small maples looked like they had been girdled by rodents. The fir tree in the front row looked healthy but there was no sign of bud growth. In the second row only the fir tree and one of the maples looked alive. Further back the linden and the sumac had a couple of buds each but the hackberries had not yet shown signs of life. On May 7th we planted a hackberry and an alder up front to replace the missing maples. At the time only 6 of the 14 named trees in the first four rows of the West Side showed signs of life.

One maple in the second row in particular was particularly worrisome. It had no rodent damage and it looked like it should have viable buds but there was no growth. Eventually on the 23rd of May I decided to take off the wrap around the trunk that protects it from rodents. Suprisingly there were tiny leaves growing on the trunk( first picture). A few days later I finally saw the fir tree in the front row showing green growth on the buds and noticed that a couple of the maples in the front row were regrowing from the roots (second picture is one of them from today).

Eventually the lindens started growing too. One of them in particular only showed green growth in June, again, only after I took the wrap off the trunk and found growth close to the base of the tree. As of today 11 of the 14 named trees are growing. One maple in the front row never recovered from the rodent damage, the hazel failed and one of the sumacs failed. The hazel is unsuprising as many of the hazels died or had severe die back over winter. However the sumac is the only instance I know of where a sumac died over winter. It demonstrates how difficult a location it is for trees. You can also see in neighbouring areas of the 1995 planting that the trees in the front directly exposed to the road are having a hard time surviving. You wouldn`t think that a road 25m away would have that large an impact on a tree but it dooes seem to be the case.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Blinded Sphinx Moth

Noticed this guy hanging on the side of a branch of the large oak tree the other day. It was so well camouflaged I thought it was a bit of bark initially. He was a very large moth, and would be more than a mouthful for any bat. When I got back home I found him on the net as a Blinded Sphinx. What a great name for a moth. According to the article they like oak and popular trees so he should have been right at home on the berm.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crab apples to apples

Here is a picture of an apple tree that has grown up from the roots of a crabapple. This picture was taken a week or so ago as the flowers are gone now. But I thought it was interesting how the crabapples must have been grafted on to the rootstock of an apple tree. Many of the crabapples have suckers coming up from the base. The crabapples are rather sickly and it is not uncommon for one of them to fall down. One fell down this spring. The result depending on the mood of the mower is either a gap in the grid pattern or a bushy crabapple or apple tree. The above picture is the largest apple tree among the crabapples.

In Bloom:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Winter Damage on the Red Osier Dogwood

The dogwoods are a good example of how hard the road side is on trees and bushes. On the North slope (see first image) all the dogwoods look healthy with vigorous growth. In the square on the southside of the berm that is over 40m from the road the red osier dogwoods are just surviving with significant winter die-back(see second image). The Pagoda dogwoods are doing even worse in the square with some dead and others only budding along the main trunk. In the bush area closest to the road but still over 25m away from the cars, the dogwoods only show signs of growth low down on the branches (see third image). Since there was little snow build up last winter in this exposed location, the limit of growth along the branches probably represents the snow depth for much of the winter.

Lilacs and rabbit

Went for a walk along the berm this Victoria day to inspect the trees. This past week has been very good for the trees, with lots of rain and warm days. The newly planted trees in the Newhaven Extension are doing great. Most of the trees are growing vigorously, even the Burr Oaks that take a long time to get started are starting to leaf out. There are about 20 Burr Oaks in the new planting and only 2 or 3 do not show signs of life yet. The only tree that does not yet have signs of life are the shagbark hickories. I still have some hope, but because they tend to form a tap root they have a reputation of not transplanting well.

I snapped the above picture when walking along the northern fence.

In Bloom:
Garlic Mustard
Solomon's seal

Monday, May 16, 2011

A raccoon?

This past week all the trees leafed out. There were 4-5 days of warm weather and then this past weekend it was rainy giving the newly planted trees a good soaking. As I was walking along the back fence on Sunday looking at the interesting flowering bushes (see the Canada plum flowers in the above picture) I noticed a beast scurry a way in a neighbouring backyard. I only saw it for a second and from the back but I believe it was the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It was the size of a small dog but had the heavy body and overall body shape of a raccoon. There are many paths such as the one below between the backyards and the berm so I'll count this sighting as one raccoon for the berm.

In bloom:
winter cress
common speedwell
Canada plum
Downy serviceberry
choke cherry
daffodil (escapee)
solomon's seal

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The 2011 Planting

It was a beautiful day for planting on Saturday, almost shorts weather. There was a good turnout with about a hundred volunteers coming out to help including our local MPP Lisa McLeod. The soil was very wet because of the large amount of rain we have had over the past few weeks. One of the city trucks got stuck in the mud trying to drive over the grass. This year the city provided mulch for around the base of the trees so we will see how that helps them with the rodent problem.

The 440 trees and bushes were in the ground by lunch time. As before it is a real mix of deciduous and conifers. New for this year are Burr Oaks; we received about a dozen of them. I am not entirely sure they were Burr Oaks. The trees are about 6 feet tall and have only a few thick twigs. The twigs are thick with a corky ridged bark. There are few signs of them budding yet so they are a couple of weeks at least behind the maples.

Yesterday afternoon while walking along the top of the berm I noticed a loud rustling among the dead leaves of the 1995 planting. When I got closer I spied a large brown bird with a long tail and its mate close by. It seemed to be deliberately moving the leaf litter about in order to find bugs under the leaves. There were also grackles and robins about but the noise was mostly coming from the brown birds. The other birds had a quieter feeding strategy. After consulting my bird book I believe they were brown thrashers. The pair were quite timid and I couldn't get near them for a good look but they were about the size of a grackle, with a brown back and lighter front.

In Bloom:
scilla (escapee by north fence)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


It was nice short sleeve weather this past weekend. When I went out and visited the berm the insects were out but so were the insectivores. There were many small dark brown spiders scurrying over the grass. I'm not sure if this type of spider creates a web but I did notice the grassy slopes were practically covered in thin strands of silk. The late afternoon sunlight shimmered off the gently swaying strands as the light breeze caressed the grass.

At this time of year there is also a light brown spider that likes to cast a tangled web from the tips of the highest twigs on the saplings. I suspect they might also be responsible for the strands covering the grass. I wish I could identify these common spiders, the internet is of limited use when you ask it what is that light brown spider I saw on a twig today?

On Sunday I went out for an evening walk along the berm. It was a pleasant evening and the road traffic was quiet. Towards dusk as I was walking towards the Newhaven gap, I heard frogs croaking from across the road where there is a bit of a marshy area in the experimental farm. Then I noticed something flutter over my head and realized there were bats flying around. I crossed over the berm to exit at Newhaven and saw even more bats flying around the small glade at the end of Newhaven. So all in all I saw arachnid insectivores, mammalian insectivores and heard amphibian insectivores. A good showing from the insectivores.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Early Flowers

The spring wild flowers are taking their time this spring. It has been a very rainy and cool April. Here is a picture of a bloodroot and some trilliums that were rescued from the beaver pond area of Kanata last summer. The area was cut over this winter in preparation for blasting and a new housing development. It's nice to see a tiny bit of the South March Highlands survive. In the picture with the trilliums is some garlic mustard, a shade loving invasive species that also flowers in the spring time. It is widespread under the trees of the 1995 planting on the east side and in the northeast corner.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Winter Damage

Rabbits and rodents aren't the only sources of winter damage for the trees on the berm. The spray from the road is also a problem. In winter the city occasionally puts salts on the road to keep ice from forming. The wind and the tires can then pick up this salty water and carry the spray over onto the trees. The trees closest to the road will get hit the hardest. This spring some of the small spruce seedlings seem to have gotten hit especially hard. It seems(See picture below) like on some of the seedlings the side facing the road got hit worse than the side away from the road.

The city forester said this is especially a problem for evergreen trees as they keep their foliage on through the winter and so it will get coated by the salty water. Other than the seedlings though the pine, spruce and fir trees don't seem too badly off. Perhaps I am wrong to ascribe the damage to salt spray. The trees are more than 10m from the road and there was little evidence on the snow of salt spray over the winter (you might expect sand and other particulates from the road to be blown with the spray). An alternative reason for the damage could be that the seedlings got too much sun. Many of the seedlings would have been partially shaded by the grass over the late summer and fall. Perhaps they weren't prepared for the intense sun when the grass was matted down by the snow. If the snow layer had been thick enough the snow would have covered the seedlings as well but last winter we did not get a lot of snow and the seedling spruce trees probably were poking out from the snow cover for much of the winter.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Speckled Alder

The buds on many trees have been swelling this past week. The speckled alder gets a really early jump on the season. Their catkins are out. The catkins are developed in the fall but stay closed until spring when they swell up. A single catkin can produce a large amount of yellow powdery pollen. Close by the showy yellow pollen producing catkins are the much smaller fertile catkins that look like a very small red pine cone.
In the picture below there are some open yellow catkins, some brown catkins that are not yet open and above them on the same twig the small red pine cone like female flowers. There are also a few buds that are just about to open in the picture. The bud of the speckled alder stays covered in a protective brown covering until it is quite large (1cm long) and then opens up rapidly into a large toothed leaf. If you want to learn more this link contains more information. One interesting thing about the alder is that it fixes nitrogen and thus improves soil fertility.