Thursday, April 17, 2014

American Bittern!

I was lucky enough yesterday to spot the movement of a larger bird on the edge of the marsh as I was driving down the 7th Line.  My brain slowly connected realizing this was something unusual, and I braked to a stop, then backed up 100 yards.  It was an American Bittern!  Though it may have been the movement of the two ducks that I spotted.

 In comparison to the duck swimming away, you can hardly see the bittern against the brown vegetation.

Remarkably, it stayed put as I took several pictures.  I got a much better view as it walked out into the water a little, still following the ducks.

The bittern has the most interesting bird call I"ve ever heard, a deep 'galumpf' that sounds for all the world like someone pounding a stake into the ground.  One of its names is 'Stakedriver'. you're much more likely to hear it in the distance than see it.

This photo shows you the bird in its habitat - still a little snow from the 3" we got on Tuesday.

Unbeknownst to the readers of this blog, I've been teaching an on-line university course this semester, just for fun.  It's on the Landscape of Scotland.  Anyway, I need to take a few days off to wrap up a large pile of marking.  Be back next week sometime.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

'Falling Water' Waterfalls

Just a week ago on a beautiful sunny day I hiked up to see a small un-named waterfalls along the part of the Bruce Trail known as the 'Falling Water Trail' - so known for all it's little streams tumbling down the escarpment slope, and several falls.

The snow was still 1-2 feet deep in the woods as I followed this tumbling stream uphill from the road.  The snow was soft, so I still sank in even with snowshoes.  I fell several times as my feet slipped off hidden stumps or logs under the snow.

You don't have to go very far, but you have to be careful getting pictures, because the stream forms a steep-sided shallow ravine, making it tricky getting down at all to get a view of the falls - especially in winter.

This is just a small waterfalls, but a pretty one, and in a beautiful setting.  Other than those who hike the trail, I expect no-one ever sees it.

I continued up beside the falls to get this view from above, although the boulders along the stream cut off some of the picture I would have liked.

The stream continues a long distance uphill, eventually crossing the road we drive regularly.  I'm standing on the Bruce Trail here, which crosses on stepping stones just above the falls.

With this much snow on the ground, I didn't find any spring plants, but these last-year's fronds of the Marginal Shield Fern decorated some mossy boulders along the slope.

At the base of the very scaly fronds, this years fiddleheads are just waiting to unfurl, still protected under the brown scales in the centre of the rootstock.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Meanwhile, ... Upstream...

While the ephemeral waterfall is a mad torrent of roaring water, the main sinkholes of Wodehouse Creek, 2.5 km (1,6 mi.) upstream have overflowed and flooded, creating the ephemeral Wodehouse Lake.  The water at the next bridge upstream is at least 18" higher than I have ever seen, and the backed-up lake extends nearly 4 km. along the creek.

This is the view down the lake, from the first upstream bridge.  Check the elm tree in the distance and compare it to the photo below taken only two weeks ago, after the stream had opened up, but before it started to flood.

I find it fascinating to stop by here, only 2 sideroads away from our place, to watch the water levels fluctuate at this time of year.

Turning and looking north, this is the view, as the typically narrow little creek is now a lake 200 yards wide, and probably 10 feet deep here at the bridge.   Check that tall tree on the left and compare it to below, again taken two weeks ago.

This little creek, which eventually flows over that ephemeral waterfall, has to be one of the most dynamic, changing drainage systems in Ontario, if not Canada.  Such a unique pattern of change, simply because all the water at this time of year can't fit down the sinkholes.

Meanwhile, in case you haven't heard, we woke to minus temperatures and a fresh 3" of snow, a fairly typical event for mid-April here, but the subject of a lot of moans and groans today!  But the white snow served to highlight the numerous little temporary streams flowing downhill in the neighbourhood.  This ditch will be dry again til next spring in a few weeks.

All the little (and big) wetlands are flooded with run-off, this one along another stream nearby.  Wetlands will retain water longer than the open flooded ditches, contributing to creek flow later through the season.

Another temporary stream just down the road - in this case draining into another smaller flooded sinkhole you can see in the background.  This sinkhole does not feed a waterfall, but flows entirely underground, feeding a spring that bursts out of the rocky cliff about a half a mile to the east.

A wild time of year for water draining across the landscape, and a wilder year than normal, given our excessive snowfall that all needs to melt!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ephemeral Waterfall Found!

I did manage to get down to see the ephemeral waterfall where lower Wodehouse Creek plunges over the Niagara Escarpment cliff on the weekend.  It was quite an expedition!  I wrote about the sinkhole a short distance upstream overflowing last Thursday and Friday, and by Saturday it was much more than a roaring torrent from the spring melt.

I could hear the roar as soon as I headed down the ski run to get there, and when I arrived, it was like being at the base of a 6 foot wide piece of Niagara Falls!  There was water spraying everywhere as it smashed off the boulders at the bottom, and runoff tumbling down, around and over the boulders in a wide circle below the cliff.  It was the most rip-roaring waterfall I have ever stood beside, and it will probably only last 2-3 weeks.

I could not get anyplace close to out in front for a full view of the falls, there was so much water headed downhill below it.  And you're only looking at the bottom half of the falls here.  I had to really watch my footing as I crept as close as possible for pictures.

When I climbed down to see the falls last November, I was standing on top of all these rocks, just to the left of centre in this picture.  The falls actually fills a crevice in the cliff 6-8 feet deep (see 2nd picture below); here it is exploding out far beyond that   I had to wipe off the camera lens between shots from the spray.

I did creep down the slope and around below a little to see if I could get a more complete view.  This is most of the falls, but hidden behind trees.  The picture below, taken last November, was taken from a point amidst all that white spray at the base of the falls in the photo above!

The falls flowed for about three days last November, after 3 weeks of heavy rain.  I thought it was amazing at the time, but now I realize that this was just a trickle compared to today during spring run-off!  I was much more confident going down this time because I knew what I was getting myself in for, and though it's a challenging climb down, it isn't far.

The biggest challenge getting there was traversing across Avalanche ski run, an extremely steep 'double black diamond' slope that you would never catch me on on skiis!  I had both my snowshoes and ski poles, and crossed this slope step by step with the poles planted firmly in the packed snow.  It seemed like about a 45° slope.  You're looking down into Bowles Gully in the upper Beaver Valley here, a gully carved by this waterfall in post-glacial times.

After that it wasn't too difficult, although there were some boulders to climb over.   It's about a 60-80 foot vertical cliff of Amabel dolostone, with a number of obvious vertical cracks and some looser layers of rock flaking off near the bottom from the frost.

I've mentioned the cracks in this bedrock which the sinkholes drain into before.  This was one I passed at the base of the cliff, with a small tumbling waterfall right inside the crack.

I really enjoyed the challenge of this expedition, and walked away with the roar of the waterfall in my ears, a memory I won't quickly forget.  I will now watch to see how long the waterfall lasts this year, and report back.  I may even go down for some comparison shots after it is finished for the season.  Thanks for joining me on this expedition!

Linking to:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

First Flowers of Spring

It's not just the critters returning and waking that celebrate spring; the flowers are popping up quickly too.  Just a few days after the snow melted on top of them, the tiny dwarf iris (iris reticulata) were in bloom, two days ago.  They have to be my favourite flower, and they are the very first blooms in our own garden in the spring.

This iris only stands about 6" tall, and ours is planted in the scree garden.  These are the green stems I posted coming up through the gravel a few days ago - my suspicions were right, they were the iris.

It's the brilliant yellow and white pattern in the royal blue flowers, taken from above, that fascinates me.

In the veggie garden, literally under the blanket of snow, ready to show up as soon as the snow evaporated, is my rhubarb.  Not everyone likes rhubarb, but I love it, and have several large healthy plants.

They first emerge with a thin light brown 'skin' covering and protecting the leaves.  This leaf, 2" across, is all ready to unfurl, when it will probably grow to nearly 2 feet across (if I don't pick it first).

And the first flower in the woods and swamps around here is the skunk cabbage, here poking its mottled red protective sheath out of the water.  The flower is out of sight down inside, and the green spikes are emerging leaves.

Skunk cabbage grows to this stage under the snow in the spring, and is revealed as the snow melts.

Tomorrow, back to Wodehouse Creek and the ephemeral waterfall.  I did get down to see it this weekend, and have some pictures.  Amazing, and quite a hair-raising expedition to get there!

These flowers are nowhere near the flowers usually posted on 'Today's Flowers', but because they're the very first flowers of spring here, I hope the qualify, so I'm linking to:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Signs of Spring

While I'm out chasing sinkholes, disappearing streams and the ephemeral waterfall, spring is arriving fast.  I've always felt that the morning chorus of birdsong is the real mark of spring, and it's here - at least a dozen species echoing through the trees as I walked the dog this morning.  It's a challenge to sort out the songs in my mind, but one year I did listen to bird tapes, so I can recognize a lot of them.

This Great  Blue Heron was standing at the edge of a farm pond when I drove by yesterday.  I've been inspired by some of the other bloggers I read (you know who you are), who feature great bird pictures, so I'm going to try and do that more this year.

I'm using my wife's camera with a longer digital zoom for the bird pictures, and it seems to work well.  Here the heron flew almost as soon as I stopped the car, and I only had time to put the camera on 'sports' setting, and snap away, but this picture turned out ok.

The doves are nesting under our eave as always; they started this nest at least two weeks ago, when the ground was still totally snow-covered.  I hear them cooing as I sit inside the house reading the other blogs I follow and enjoying my morning coffee..

This morning I heard my first Song Sparrow, so I stopped and looked around til I spotted it high in a tree.  I've also heard the Cardinal and Flickers recentlly.  I usually hear birds before I see them, and I always carry binoculars on my walks at this time of year.

We headed out for Saturday breakfast (destination a fabric shop), driving across the causeway at Lake Eugenia on the way.  The Osprey are back!  Two were sitting on the nest, but one had left by the time I got the picture.

And the chipmunks have been visiting the deck, cleaning up under the winter birdfeeders.  This guy's cheeks are stuffed to bursting!

With all these 'critter' photos, I'm linking to:

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Overflowing Sinkhole - Continued!

The overflow of water from the sinkhole filling up the dry stream bed I posted yesterday seemed to get stalled under the bridge, and I could hear it gurgling away as if it was going down another sinkhole.  So I left and returned in about half an hour - by that point the flow had broken through and was starting to fill up the stream bed downstream of the bridge.

It proceeded downstream here more slowly, but these four pictures were all taken in about 20 minutes.  I did meet a nearby chalet owner who said sometimes the stream only does flow as far as the bridge, and disappears underneath.  They assume there's another sinkhole under there.

If that sinkhole was capturing part of the flow, that would account for this part filling up more slowly.

It's not far from the cliff here.  The chalet in the background sits quite close to the edge of the cliff, with a view over Bowles Gully as it's known, where the ephemeral waterfall is located (along with Avalanche ski run, reputedly the steepest in Ontario).

The creek bends to the right in the distance, and then it will bend abruptly left to flow over to the cliff, behind those cedar trees in the back left of the picture.  Soon that waterfall will be flowing - even though it's very difficult to ever get a view of it.

A day later the stream was a torrent of water, charging down the formerly dry stream bed toward the falls.  This is another look upstream 48 hours after the flow started.

And this is the flow downstream a day later too.  I'm sure the waterfall is thundering over the edge now.  I'll try to get down there for pictures over the weekend.  It's a challenging hike/climb/walk to say the least, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that I can get there.