Monday, 25 March 2013

2nd Marsh & Ganaraska Forest
March 24th, 2013

I thought I'd combine these two from the last few days.

On Saturday, a group of us went to the Ganaraska Forest Centre, north of Port Hope, for a winter hike (with cameras of course) followed by a pancake & maple syrup brunch back at the main building. Then on Sunday, I went down to the marsh for a somewhat late 'early spring' visit.

I fully expected to see an early Coltsfoot or some early greens poking through last years leaves on the forest floor, but it wasn't to be.

Spring is at last in the air though. After our past several cold weeks it's a very welcome change. There were ten or so fishermen (and one 'fisher-family' of 4) plus a few couples, with or without kids, and a few people just on their own as well... as many people as I've ever seen at the marsh. The size of the marsh is such though that it never feels busy.

You can always count on moss for some green but it can't be considered a sign of spring. It's always around somewhere. But when you look at it closely, even moss is interesting, and it comes in a variety of species.

Fungus is something else you can count on seeing any time of year... certain species at least. And I'm a fan of any fungus, as those of you that follow my blog already know.

This was one obvious sign of spring. There were 2,000 to 3,000 Canada Geese at the marsh today and I could hear their calls and chatter for the 3 hours I was at the marsh, no matter what section I was in. It's one of many sounds of nature that I love. I still pause wherever I am if a flock is flying over, just to watch and listen to them. It's something I never tire of.

Here's one very small section of the bay where most of them were. Just looking at this shot brings the sound of them to mind again. Some are probably our locals but I think most of them are just passing through.

The beavers were out today too. My first shot was just of the rings in the water after a tail-slap. I raised the camera for a shot, saw & heard the slap (they're quite loud), but I missed the shot. I waited for about five minutes to see if he'd reappear but no luck, so I went beach-combing for a while.

When I returned I ended up seeing 3 adults and 2 kits. Even this time of year the reeds get in the way at times.

The light was a real challenge today. I should have tried my polarizer filter, but since I left it in the car that wasn't an option. Next time, Bob! I made the results a bit better in Photoshop but I don't have the patience to fuss, so the water colour in most of the beaver shots isn't good.

As it turned out, I caught this one as he was preparing for a tail-slap. Next time maybe I'll be more watchful and try to actually catch a slap.

It hardly looks an entrance to a lodge, but one of the beavers quietly swam into this small v-shaped area and slipped below the water. I assume it was one of their entrances. Who'd have guessed? I couldn't even see a lodge. No obvious pile of twigs & branches. But they definitely live here.

Enjoying a snack. Doesn't look very appetizing, but it obviously is to him. I must take my binoculars next time... and my polarizer.

Some richly colored rocks on the lake's edge.

This one in particular caught my eye. I don't recall seeing many large, mostly white rocks at the lake before. This one is roughly 2 ft. But the white, rust colors (usually iron) and especially the bluish-green bands in one rock can't be very common. I'd love to hear a geologist's explanation of this one.


I just took a break from the blog and went for my walk on the path. At the top end I heard the honking of geese and saw 3 good-sized flocks fly over. They were high so maybe they were migrating further north rather than just going to the fields north of town. Maybe they were some of the ones I saw at the marsh. Beautiful to watch and listen to.
Ganaraska Forest

The Ganaraska Forest is all forest, unlike the marsh with its variety. The day started off pretty cool but by the time we went for pancakes it was sunny shirt-sleeve temperatures.

It's almost a joke with photographers... a red canoe in a lake shot, a red coat in a landscape shot. So I had to grab this shot.

You can see a few Beech trees in the image. The young ones hold some of their leaves all winter.

Their veined, rust-colored leaves make for some nice close-ups.

Fungi in the forest... Shelf Fungus with shelves full of snow.

When Woodpeckers find a productive tree, they don't fool around.The bottom hole is about a foot-and-a-half long. How many hours did it/they spend at this tree?

Update: As was pointed out to me (thanks Gerry), these holes were made by a Pileated Woodpecker which was what I was guessing based on their size. The following image & comments from the web leave no doubt I'd say:

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. 

(Photographer credit at bottom of image.)

Soft wood or not, it can't be easy. And even though nature has designed them for the head-pounding work, they must get a headache now & then wouldn't you think?

Tree shadows on a small hillock.
Does the longer format look better?

Tinder Polypore fungus (aka Hoof fungus, Fire-starter mushroom, etc.) is very common on Birch trees.

It can't be called pretty but the story goes that it can be used to light tinder to get a fire started. When lit, apparently it will smoulder for a long time, making it an ideal fire-starter and hence the name.

I've seen lots of it but have pretty much ignored it up 'til now, but next time I come across it, I plan to gather some and try its fire-starting ability. I'll let you know how I make out.

This one on the other hand is a pretty one. If I was given the job of naming it, I'd call it White-leaf fungus. Or maybe Oak-leaf fungus.

This web was in another tree cavity that woodpeckers had made. Cobweb or spider web? My curiosity took me to Google once more. From what I read a cobweb is an abandoned spider web that's gathered dust, etc. but other sources said the 'cobweb' type is in fact a proper web of a certain family of spiders.

One source (link below) said that scientists once thought the symmetrical webs we often see are a more recent evolutionary result of spider web design, but they've since reversed their ideas and now think that the 'messy' cobweb type like this one are the more recently evolved ones.
I guess we don't really know.

On the road leaving the forest, I stopped for a snake-fence shot. I usually stop for snake fences... in winter at least when you can get a shot against the snow. Often there isn't a good vantage point or spot to pull over. Today there was.

My ideal snake-fence shot is one winding up a hillside. Maybe the next one will be, but with spring now here, I'll have to wait 'til at least next winter. But that's fine.

The Robins are back, the Cardinals are singing and the bulk of the snow is gone. How boring it would be living in Florida or the tropics where there is so little change in nature to look forward to and enjoy.

Soon the wildflowers and other signs of spring will surround us. The land reawakens. We can all come out of our caves more often now and experience nature in her time of growth. Enjoy!

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...

Search my Blog...
- fini -

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Monday, 11 March 2013

Long Point & Lasalle Park
March 9th, 2013

A group of us went down to Long Point on Lake Erie in the hope of seeing some of the thousands of Tundra Swans that migrate through the area on their way to the Arctic. If you time it right you may see tens of thousands apparently. We saw several hundred but we didn't catch a big day. Such is nature.

We saw a few 100 along a treeline in a farmer's field but they were a few 100 yards away so I didn't even try for a shot. Our closest view was several small flocks that flew overhead.

They're a beautiful bird and with their haunting call as they fly, it makes for a wonderful sight.

Abandoned houses always catch my eye, especially interesting ones like this. How long did someone live here? Why did they leave? Why didn't someone else buy the place? The placement of the bay window seems a bit odd. Was the portion of the house behind the spruce tree added after the bay window was in?

We combed the backroads in the area for a couple hours hoping to find a huge gathering of swans but it wasn't to be.

It was time for lunch so we stopped at a highway restaurant where the "famous" B.E.L.T.C.H. sandwich is served... Bacon, Egg, Lettuce, Tomato, Cheese, Ham. Apparently a former chef came up with the idea. It makes a B.L.T. sound like simple fare. I chose their all-day breakfast. It was delicious.

A Bald Eagle flew by at one point and perched in this tree, sharing it with some of his smaller cousins. If I had a 600mm lens, maybe I could have got a decent shot of him.

After lunch our group leader took us back to where they had seen some Tundras and Sandhill Cranes. The cranes were a couple 100 yards into a field and and the swans were behind them, another few hundred yards further back against a treeline. I didn't take any shots... they were too far away for any good shots I thought. But we did get a good view in our binoculars and scopes.

We concluded that we weren't likely to see any better views of Tundras so our leader suggested we leave for home, but stop at Lasalle Park in Burlington to see what was there. It's a popular stopping point for waterfowl and they didn't disappoint today.

When we first arrived I spotted this small bridge on the opposite side of where the 'action' was.

Got one!

Checking the shot...

The action was on the 'east side' as my daughter calls it. A good mix of swans & ducks. The Hamilton steel plant is across the bay.

It's US Steel now. Stelco went bankrupt a few years back.

We arrived at Lasalle just in time to see the last few geese and swans flying about, before they settled in for the night.

Greater Scaup. Their brilliant yellow eyes stand out well in photos.

The silky smooth water made a good background.

It looked like the three adults were teaching the juvenile some synchronized swimming techniques. The Coot in the foreground was the judge.

Unlike the yellow eyes of the Greater Scaup, the darker eyes of Coots almost disappear in shots that don't pick up catchlights in the eyes. Sometimes I add a catchlight in Photoshop. A simple name for a 'simple' bird but I think they're attractive.

Many swans are tagged. Something else you can fix in Photoshop if you want to bother.

Someone started feeding the swans, so many left the water for an easier meal.

This Wood Duck stole the show. He was the only one there tonight, amidst the swans, geese and other ducks. I'd guess he had his picture taken about 2,000 times or so in the half-hour that I was watching him and all the other action. They're definitely gorgeous... almost looking unreal.

One of our group noticed that he had taken a shine to this female Mallard. He was following her everywhere.

As beautiful as the Wood Duck was, this Red-Breasted Merganser was my favourite of the day. He was at the end of the pier by himself, getting very little  attention from the other photographers that were there.

With his teenage haircut, red eyes and beak, colorful markings, and proud pose, drifting slowly by in the silky water... I love it.

This was the second time that I joined the group going to Long Point hoping to time it right to 'hit it big' with the Tundras. You have to be lucky with nature, or persistent or both. Maybe next time.

But with the Tundras and Sandhills that we did see and the stop as Lasalle Park, it was a great day anyway. Most days out in nature are.

P.S. A note for photographers:
All these shots were taken at 1/160th of a second. That's why some of the shots aren't as sharp as they should be. I couldn't change the speed. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with the camera.

When I got home, I checked the manual, even went on-line looking for ideas. I finally figured out what had happened. The switch on my battery pack had been moved slightly when I put the camera in my camera bag the night before (I assume) so I was able to change the aperture but not the speed. I shoot manual most of the time.

Just thought I'd mention this in case it happened to you, and like me, you were baffled by the camera's behaviour. I'll know better next time if it happens again.

- fini -
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