Sunday, 8 March 2015

Oshawa Second Marsh
March 8th, 2015

One thing about a wicked stretch of frigid weather, is that when it finally breaks, it lifts the spirits like little else does.

Since it was such a glorious day, Jane & I went to Second Marsh to feed the Chickadees. There were lots there, as always, but the most welcome sight was about 30 Brown-headed Cowbirds—a sure sign of spring. They were perched in the bushes, singing their hearts out, enjoying the warm day as much as we were. 

I didn't even need to wear gloves, so working the camera was a piece of cake.

Here's a link to their joyful welcome to spring. 

There were Cardinals, Mourning Doves, a Goldfinch and Blue-Jays too.

This is probably the shortest post you'll ever see from me, but I just had to share a sign of spring. 

The Friends of Second Marsh web site...
A direct link to a map of the paths/trails in the marsh...

A link to a page that has my past posts re the marsh, in one place rather than scattered throughout this blog...

- fini -

Monday, 16 February 2015

On the Path... a winter walk
February 16th, 2014

The cold weather we've had of late has kept me indoors more than I should let it. Today was more bearable so I went for my walk. A camera in hand gives more reason to go, though today there was little that caught my eye.

Not many weeks from now, this will be one of the tree tunnels on the path. Sun and a bright blue sky make any day more pleasing.

Silver Maple tree bundled buds are biding their time... ready to burst open at their appointed time. They're one of the earliest trees in our area to bloom.

We take our seasons for granted, but it really is remarkable how they come & go on schedule. Astronomers tell us that the earth travels around the sun at about 66,000 miles per hour, or about one and a half million miles per day. 

That means we're about 50 million miles from spring. It's all mind boggling when you think about it. 

It also brings to mind a quote I always got a kick out of:
"Life on earth can be hard, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year".

Silver Maple buds...

There are a number of things I check on my walks. One is this log with fungus on its end. The fungi have melded into a frozen mass.

In the woods at the top of the path there are Birch, Hemlock, Oak and Maples. Young Birch hold their leaves through winter. Many Oak do too.

I didn't see any squirrels today. Some are probably tucked away in these two nests. They both looked to be in good shape and a good size.

Looking like decorated frosting on a cake, these Cedar leaves were no doubt weaker ones, brought down by the strong winds we had a few days ago.

Nature sculpted this small figurine of a woman, wrapped in a blanket, having an afternoon snooze.

Whiter than white. I thought the snow looked white until I saw this Birch. The lenticles are clearly visible and the bark looks even fresher than the new fallen snow.

This looked very unusual. I think it's two trees joined by a lateral branch to form an 'H'. I'll have a much closer look when the snow around them isn't so deep.

This leaf caught my eye. With its stem caught in the snow, it was pirouetting in a very slight breeze. Maybe I should shoot a video now & then.

It's always a joy to meet friends on the path. The gentleman happens to be my barber. We always stop for a brief chat.

Another result of the strong wind we had... snow, pounded into the grooves of the bark. I don't remember seeing it quite like this before. That's why it caught my eye.

The majority of Black Locust seed pods hang on the trees through winter, but inevitably some fall to the ground. In spring, the rest will. Which of the thousands of seeds that eventually fall will become a tree? Some for sure. The stand of Black Locusts across the street is slowly spreading.

Nothing I captured today could be called particularly exciting, but it reminded me once again, on this cold winter day, of how important nature is in my life. 

It's beyond words. It's a feeling. As some wise soul once said, "Thoughts run deeper than words, feelings run deeper than thoughts".

- fini -

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Oshawa 2nd Marsh
February 3rd, 2015

We didn't get a January thaw this year. We didn't get much snow in January either. But the month made up for the lack of snow with frigid temperatures. For most of the month it felt like we were living on the steppes of Russia, a la the Dr. Zhivago movie. Freezing temperatures, bitter winds. 

February started with a good fall of snow. Since today was a balmy -10° C, I thought I'd go to the marsh—it had been a while. Not all our decisions are good ones. 

Even though I wore a parka, toque, etc. and took hand-warmers, I still found myself wondering why I was traipsing around in the snow, camera in hand, with a bitterly cold wind blowing off the lake. But then, I always try to make it to the marsh at least once in each calendar month, and since I missed January, I thought it was mild enough to venture out. 

I know it's always colder at the lake—the marsh is on its north shore—than it is in the driveway, I just wasn't expecting the difference to be as pronounced as it was today. It's the damn wind. It's always the damn wind. 

Enough griping. I did get a few shots, but nothing to write home about. 

The Chickadees are always a treat. They land on your hand with their gentle touch, pick out a tasty looking seed, look you in the eye to say thanks, and then fly to a nearby branch to enjoy it. No matter how cold it may feel to us, nature has given them the wherewithal to snub their beaks at cold temperatures. They always seem to be as happy as a kid in a candy store.

It was too cold to feed them by hand for long, so I cleared a spot and spread some seeds on the snow.

They have an uncanny sense of timing. Often as not, by the time I get them in the frame and hit the autofocus, they're gone... milliseconds before I was going to press the shutter button. I've had more shots than I can count of empty branches, where a split second before there was a Chickadee. They have a serious case of ADD, or an overload of caffeine. Contrast them with Mourning Doves.

Even in this weather, others drop by the feeders in the marsh and add seeds for our feathered friends.

One White-breasted Nuthatch was with the Chickadees. He was a shier one. The Chickadees were 'pushing him around'. He seemed intimidated. Caught him with his beak at an odd angle.

This Chickadee was doing 'the Nuthatch thing', clinging to the bark, half upside-down.

Snow sticking to the trees does make a pretty sight.

In Ghost Road Bush. Tall, straight trees... mostly Ash I think. They'd make good ship masts, which is where a lot of them were used in earlier times. I always think of Robert Frost's poem when I see a scene like this.

Here's the poem if you haven't seen it in a while. It's one of my favourites.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

                         by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

White-throated Sparrow. Thanks Gerry. He was amongst another group of Chickadees. Snow can make for a simple background.

Milkweed poking through the snow. Hard to see with the snow behind it, but it had a few seeds clinging on. 

Cold Lake Ontario. The water was 35° F today.

Despite my griping about the cold, I was glad to get down to the marsh to check it out. It was good to get back to a warm home with all fingers & toes intact though.

The Friends of Second Marsh web site...
A direct link to a map of the paths/trails in the marsh...

A link to a page that has my past posts re the marsh, in one place rather than scattered throughout this blog...

- fini -

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Samuel Wilmot CA
January 15th, 2015

It was a cold day but I had cabin fever so I drove down to Samuel Wilmot for a different perspective of the lake. It was much colder than I expected. I was dressed for it and had hand-warmers in my gloves, but it still felt like I was on the Arctic tundra. There was a bitterly cold, strong wind coming off the lake. My nose & face were feeling the full brunt of it.
'Ice volcanoes' form along the shoreline of Lake Ontario in winter. As ice is pushed ashore, water sometimes works its way under the ice, and comes up through cracks or holes and freezes. Over time, a cone-shaped 'volcano' can form with water erupting out of the cone as the waves come in. The volcanoes are only a few feet high but it's quite a sight.

There are usually lots of them.

Something that's easy to spot in the winter—Black Knot fungus on shrubs & trees. If you're curious:

Milkweed seed pods with a couple seeds that are hanging on through the winter. Not many do.

On the walk back to the car I was facing the bitter wind. My face hasn't been that cold since I was a kid. I was walking backwards into the wind for a ways—something I haven't done since growing up on the prairies. 'Colder than a witch's kiss' as they say.

I think I'll pick up a balaclava.

- fini -

Monday, 29 December 2014

Lynde Shores CA
December 28th, 2015

“Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed. We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.”
                                                        ― Wallace Stegner

With Christmas behind us, I grabbed the camera and went to Lynde Shores to see what was out & about in nature there.  The squirrels and birds there are very friendly, and there are always young families with seed to feed them... some adults on their own too though.

There were dozens of Chickadees, a couple Blue Jays, lots of Mourning Doves and a Hairy Woodpecker. I was told that this particular Hairy eats from your hand — first one I'd heard of that would do that. Downy Woodpeckers are more likely to.

I've always liked the coloring of Mourning Doves — the soft browns, with the slightest bluish tinge, and the black spots to add a bit of contrast. The pink legs & feet complement the browns.

Besides the birds, there were black & grey colorations of Eastern grey squirrels and a couple of Red Squirrels.

The shier ones slip behind trees and check you out.

Some people are very generous with their seed.

Not many fungi have color this time of year, so those that do stand out.

I've seen areas of cattails flattened before, but I still don't know the explanation. A strong downdraft of wind? The crop circle folks? :-)

How many thousands of female Mallards have I seen, and I can't say that I ever really noticed how different their beaks are from the males. I like to think I'm pretty observant of nature but I find that I still notice things that I think I should have noticed before. Maybe I saw the difference but it didn't register. Maybe.

A visit to Lynde Shores almost guarantees that you'll see some of nature's creatures. It's easy to see why it's the most popular nature area in our neck of the woods — especially to take children to.

- fini -

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