Monday, October 16, 2017

Bumble Bees and Lady Bugs

Back in mid-September I passed by the Japanese Knotweed as it was in flower and noticed an incredible number of bees attracted to the flowers. The bush was just covered in a swarm of insects. I never knew it was so incredibly popular.

There is just one bunch of invasive Japanese Knotweed in the area; it is along the fence line and the mower that comes by each fall keeps it in check. In terms of invasives, it isn't the worst out there as it rarely produces viable seeds and the most common way for a knew bush to get started is through a piece of root being moved either by humans or by some other natural agency. Dog Strangling Vine is the worst, I had just as much of it to clear this year from the patch at the end of Newhaven as I had in the previous two years, and noticed another patch about 20 meters further along the forest border.

The bird house I put up last fall wasn't a great success this year. I saw a woodpecker check it out and she increased the size of the hole, but she didn't stick around. This fall I made a couple of modifications in hopes that it is more successful next year. I gave the inside of the house a flatter floor, previously I thought it was a good idea to have a sloping floor so that there would be good drainage but perhaps birds want a flat floor for their nests. I also put a new piece of wood over the hole to reestablish the old smaller hole size and added a perch in front. Birds might not need a perch but I figure it might give the house a bit of "curb appeal".

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More from the test plots

Cross Orb-weaver on lamb's quarters

This cross orb-weaver hanging out in the test plots is a pretty guy. Let nature take over a small plot for a year and that is where you will find all sorts of fantastic beasts like this.

A katydid on ragweed

Lamb's Quarters and Ragweed are two more really common roadside weeds that I haven't mentioned in this blog before because they just don't show up much unless you have a disturbed site like the test plots where the ground is bare. One interesting fact I learned about lamb's quarters is that it was one of the foundations of eastern north america's prehistoric agricultural revolution and is still commonly cultivated in some areas of India.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Small pink flowers found in the testplots

Pennsylvania Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum)

Northern willow herb(Epilobium ciliatum)

The testplot area by the road is really helping me extend my knowledge of roadside plants. Getting rid of the grass allowed all sorts of disturbed site weeds to thrive which don't usually grow along here because of the competition from the grass. I find Pennsylvania Smartweed growing sometimes in the crack between the curb and the pavement along my street, but I haven't until now taken the time to identify it. I hadn't noticed Northern Willow Herb before. The plant in the testplot area was small and low to the ground but I later saw another one down by the Manotick Locks that was 4 feet tall and holding its own amongst the wild parsnip and goldenrod.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Prickly Lettuce

Prickly lettuce flowers

The Prickly lettuce plant looks quite similar to a sow-thistle before the flower heads start to appear, the big difference at that point is the row of spines down the midrib of each leaf. Once the flowers start to emerge it looks quite different, as instead of a few upright dandelion-like flowers they have several nodding pannicles of buds that once they flower stand upright in a wide spray of flowers and seed heads(see picture at bottom). The flowers close-up shop early in the day so when I usually come by in the later afternoon they are all closed up. I had to go out to the test-plot area at midday on purpose to see the actual blooms.

Prickly lettuce leaf with spines down the rib

According to the wikipedia article, this is the closest wild relative of our cultivated lettuce although it doesn't look very similar. It is supposed to be edible, but has a milky white sap that is quite bitter. I wouldn't put it in my salad.

A couple more july flowers


Narrow-leaf plantain

Monday, July 31, 2017

A few native wildflowers

Most roadside wildflowers aren't native to North America so it makes a nice change of pace to point out a few that are actually natives

Canada Fleabane(Conyza canadensis)

Spreading Dogbane(Apocynum androsaemifolium)

Milkweed(Asclepias syriaca)

Some Pink and Purple July Flowers

Himalayan Balsam(Impatiens glandulifera) likes moist areas like the banks of Pinecrest creek

Deptford Pink(Dianthus_armeria) is a delicate little flower

Bitter-sweet Nightshade(Solanum dulcamara) is quite poisonous

Lady Bells(Campanula rapunculoides) are pretty but very hard to manage

Burdock(Arctium minus) have pretty flowers but are better known for their very large leaves

Chicory(Cichorium intybus)

Thursday, July 27, 2017



Gray catbird

These guys make quite a racket when you go by.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Three Clovers

There are three common clovers along the average roadside. White clover is the common clover in mowed grass with white flowers and a white chevron on the leaflets. Red clover which to my eyes really has purple flowers is much larger and grows in unmowed areas and verges. the leaflets of red clover is more diamond shape and a more irregular blotch in place of the clear chevron of white clover. The third clover is called Alsike clover, but I think of it just as pink clover as its flowers are pink. It also grows best in unmowed areas but it isn't as large as red clover. Its leaflets do not have a white mark on them

White Clover(Trifolium repens)

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Alsike Clover(Trifolium hybridum)

The roadside test-plots look to be testing Alsike clover as a roadside ground cover. Currently the area is left unmowed and many of the test-plots are rather weedy. The plots really look like a bit of a mess with a load of weedy flowers growing up to man height and some of the clover is turning brown. Perhaps some of the particulary weedy plots are control test plots. The nicest bit of the test plots are along the edge of the test-plots where the unmowed yarrow is blooming and smells like honey. In the picture below the honey bee is really appreciating the banquet the test plot is providing.

Honey Bee on Alsike Clover in test plot area

Friday, July 21, 2017


I've been meaning to find out the identity of these tall dandelion like flowers for years. They are a very common road-side flower and on the way up to the Laurentians last week the roadside was covered in them. The one in the above photo is growing in the experimental area beside Hunt-club, but there has been a patch of them by the 2011 planting area for years. They don't seem to spread easily into established grass or meadows as they haven't expanded into the 2011 planting area since the mowing stopped

Flowers of Smooth Perennial Sow-thistle(Sonchus arvensis) with Sow-thistle Aphids

Lower leaves of the perennial sow-thistle

As can be seen in the top photo they grow quite tall. There is another shorter spiny annual sow-thistle species that is less than a meter tall and has smaller flowers. A whole bunch of it is growing in one section of the experimental area but it has already finished flowering so I didn't get a picture. A picture of the leaves is below.

Leaves of the Spiny annual sow-thistle(Sonchus asper)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Misidentified flowers

This blog is really a journal of my progress learning about the natural world around me. Sometimes I make basic errors, thinking I know more than I actually do. Looking at the above picture I would have said I could identify all the flowers there, as I see them all the time. They are the common mix for god's roadside garden in July: Queen-Anne's Lace, purple vetch, birds-foot trefoil,philadelphia fleabane, and yarrow. But I wasn't quite right on at least two of those IDs. My field guide is sometimes quite stingy with pictures and the main page on fleabanes highlights the philadelphia fleabane not the Annual fleabane(Erigeron Annuus) which is a better match for the common flower around here. As for purple vetch, well that is what I've always called that since I was a young lad, which is a perfectly good descriptive name, unfortunately that name is taken by another species of vetch and the common vetch we have around here is called Tufted vetch(Vicia cracca). I've still got lots to learn.

Annual fleabane(Erigeron Annuus)

A bumble bee on Tufted vetch(Vicia cracca)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Black Medic

I've never been exactly confident on my identification of this common lawn plant as Black Medic(Medicago lupulina) since my guide book doesn't give a good sense of its size and there is another common flower that is very similar but with flowers that are 2 to 3 times larger. So in the above photo notice the tiny syrphid fly; those little guys are a bit smaller than mosquitoes. Around here, this is a "weed" in lawns that thrives where the grass doesn't do well, like by the sidewalk in my lawn. As it's green and can be mown, it is welcome in my lawn any time.

I finally took the time to go through and figure out what it was using the web. There are 3 species of hop clover that are very similar to black medic. Since it isn't the right time of year to see the seedpods the identifying feature that nailed it for me was the tiny spike at the end of each leaflet on Black Medic. A couple of websites pointed this out as a way to distinguish black medic from its look-alikes. The look-alike I find around here (that really doesn't look very similar when you compare the real thing side by side) is Hop Clover(Trifolium aureum). Below are close-ups of the two flowers

Black Medic (Medicago lupulina)

Hop Clover (Trifolium aureum)

Friday, July 7, 2017

More rain

I visited the north side of the berm today for the first time in a few weeks and got caught in a sudden thunderstorm while wandering around checking out all the new growth. This has been a very wet spring and for about a week at the end of June there wasn't a day without a good rain. I'm sure the trees aren't complaining but I'm ready for a dry spell. In one particularly damp, mosquitoey area there is a bumper crop of buttercups flowering.

Buttercups as far as the eye can see

The timothy grass was in bloom and it was attracting some sort of fly. About half the grass stalks had their own fly hanging out on them, presumably feeding. In previous years I've noticed that this grass is very popular with the two-spotted plant bugs (one is out of focus at bottom of photo) , but I hadn't noticed these flies before.

A fly on timothy grass

Rough-fruited Cinquefoil(Sulfur Cinquefoil)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Trip Down Pinecrest Creek

Manordale and Huntclub Road is at the southern edge of the Pinecrest Creek Watershed, so a drop of rain that falls here has a fair chance of eventually getting into the creek. It is a highly urbanized creek and it only emerges from the storm sewers north of Baseline road. Last weekend I went for a bike ride down the creek to the Ottawa River and snapped the above picture. My real agenda for writing this blog post however are the white flowers in the foreground. I can never remember what they are called, they superficially look like Queen Anne's Lace or Wild Carrot but on closer inspection turn out to be Cow Parsley, also called Wild Chervil. A couple of closeup pictures with my new camera below:

Monday, May 22, 2017

Flower Time

The trees and bushes are in flower and I went out with a new (to me) camera to try it out.

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)

In Flower

  • Redbud
  • Pin Cherry
  • Trilliums
  • Creeping charlie
  • Violets
  • Daffodils
  • Lilac
  • Honeysuckle
  • Dandelions
  • Forget-me-not
  • Elderberry
  • Common speedwell
  • Yellow archangel
  • Self-heal
  • Crabapple
  • Apple

The trilliums that were planted back in 2009 haven't expanded very much, this year there were 10 blooms.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Turkeys and Turkey Vultures

This past weekend I saw both a turkey and a turkey vulture flying along the berm. I startled the turkey in the field north of the berm; it lumbered into the sky and flew off getting no higher than the rooftops of the bungalows along Kelvin. A couple of days later I saw the turkey vulture in the same spot (well 100 feet higher up) soaring effortlessly. Both turkeys and turkey vultures are relatively recent arrivals to Ottawa. I remember around 2000 hearing reports of turkeys just to the south in Leeds-Grenville and being excited as I hadn't seen one yet in Eastern Ontario. As it happens, this weekend I also got my first taste of wild Eastern Ontario turkey and I'm happy to see them on my plate as well as in the field.

I took advantage of the heavy rain this weekend to transplant a couple of seedlings into the berm area to fill in some gaps. One of them was a seedling of the white spruce I had to take out of my back yard a couple of years ago. The other was a small Manitoba maple that wasn't welcome in the flower bed. I also tried sticking a few willow twigs in the ground to see if they would take. I've heard that is supposed to work but I have my doubts.

It snowed a bit on Sunday but hopefully that is the last of winter for us. I figure the last of the chill left the ground a little over three weeks ago. I snapped this picture of a garter snake three weeks ago as I was picking up garbage in Ben Franklin Wood. I was surprised to see him as it wasn't exactly warm yet, but I guess it was warm enough for him in the strong spring sun.

Monday, March 27, 2017

winter skiing

It has been quite a good year for cross-country skiing with one final hurrah of fresh powder in the middle of March. Now of course we are in the middle of the great melt with the rest of the week predicted to be above freezing. I feel very lucky to have this nice long stretch of open space for skiing any time I please. It isn't exactly quiet as the rumble from Hunt Club is ever present but it feels quite private as there is rarely anyone else about.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A peculiar fence

The old tumble-down fence at the end of Newhaven St. is, I believe, quite unique in Ottawa. It is the only dead-end in all of Ottawa where access is blocked to city owned open green space. I asked Keith Egli, the city councilor, about opening an access point there, so that people might have a convenient place to walk. He in turn asked the city staff and they said no-can-do. Why you might ask, well according to the accessibility rules they can't just remove a fence to allow people to access the green space without making it wheelchair accessible. To make it wheelchair accessible would require they create a paved path, and there isn't the money for that.

I wouldn't really want a paved path there either because, in order to connect it to the multi-user path on the other side of the berm, you would have plow a hole through the berm. If this was a new subdivision, I'm sure a fence would never have been installed there in the first place, the fence however was errected back in the 60s when Manordale bordered the experimental farm so we are stuck with it I guess. As you can see, the snowplows damaged the fence a few years ago and nobody has bothered to repair it. That doesn't really speak very highly of the civic pride in Manordale, but it is a bit of an orphaned fence that nobody really has a use for anymore.

There is something ironic about the accessibility rules preventing accessibility. There is another head-scratcher at the end of Cheryl road. There they have relatively recently put in a paved path along the hydro easement but failed to make it conveniently wheelchair accessible from Cheryl by leaving a rough patch of gravel between the paved surface of the road and the paved surface of the multi-user path. I'm sure there is some sort of rule there where they need a curb to divide the road from the path and as the end of the road is unfinished they couldn't pave up to a curb. Nothing is ever simple in government.