Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Fern on the Cliff

This is another fern that grows on the vertical rock face of the Niagara Escarpment, the smooth cliffbrake. But this one grows on the dry limestone out in the sun rather than on the shaded walls of a crevice. You can see clearly how it grows in a 'break' in the cliff - actually a pretty small crack.

In the picture below, the cliffbrake ferns are the two plants in the lower right of the picture, right on the rock face. I walked in to Old Baldy and climbed down below the cliff to get these pictures - right beside the rock climbers climbing up! It was a busy place today, with lots of people walking in to see the view with the beautiful fall colours, which are just nearing their best.

A closer view shows a reddish-brown wiry stem, and the few leaflets that make up a single leaf, the leaflets quite separated, unlike most ferns. It's only about 3 inches tall.

Looking at the underside of the leaflets, you can see how the sides curl in, and a line of brownish spore cases forms under the curl.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ferns in the Crevices

The deep limestone crevices along the escarpment provide perfect habitat for several ferns that like both the limestone and the cooler-than-normal microclimate, and survive in the sometimes dim light. Among these are the common maidenhair spleenwort, found all along the escarpment, and the much rarer green spleenwort, a more northerly species that specifically needs the cooler temperatures and shade.

The maidenhair spleenwort is often seen in its small clumps of fronds, growing directly out of the vertical rock face. Fronds are only a few inches long, and leaves might be a quarter inch.

This close-up taken looking up the cliff from beneath, shows both the characteristic black wiry stem down the middle, and the linear spore cases on the back of the leaves.

The green spleenwort has slightly more irregular shaped leaves, but is particularly characterized by a green stem down the middle. It was so shaded in this crevice that I had to use a flash at mid-day to get a clear picture, resulting in the slightly shiny leaves.

A closer look clearly shows the green stem of the green spleenwort. So take a closer look next time you're along the trail deep in a crevice, and see if you can find this one.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Crevice Caves Along the Trail

One of the most fascinating features along the Bruce Trail are the crevice caves. These narrow deep canyons are formed between huge blocks of limestone along the escarpment. Occasionally, as on the Boyd property near Owen Sound, the Bruce Trail goes directly through a crevice.

The crevices only get a little light, perhaps no direct sunlight at all, so they form a cooler-than-normal microclimate. The limestone walls are covered by mosses and ferns, and sometimes liverworts. Definitely a different experience!

It is thought that crevices formed because sometimes huge fractured blocks of limestone along the escarpment slipped forward ever so slightly, on the saturated clay of the geological layer below the limestone, leaving an open crevice, anything from a few inches to several metres wide.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Late Summer Flowers

The leaves are already turning, but there are still lots of fall flowers in the garden. This is the time of year for dahlias, among other things, and they come in a bewildering variety of colours and styles. Some of them leave me wondering if they are dahlias at all.

The brilliant pink ones with the large ball of petals are my favourite, though they do grow tall and lanky, and a lot of them fall over.

The single round of petals (above) didn't even look like a dahlia to me, but I'm assured by the Head Gardener that it is. Very pretty in any case.

And another of a different colour. Dahlias need to be dug up in the late fall, and the roots kept indoors over the winter, as they can't stand to be frozen. It seems like a lot of work to me, but I guess the flowers at this time of year are worth it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A New Meteorological Phenomenon - Lake Effect Rain

For more than 24 hours now, it's been raining on and off.  I think it stopped and started 18 times yesterday, all of course while I was wanting to get outside and do some work.  It rained overnight, and it's raining this morning, though the dog and I managed a 4 minute break to get outside briefly.

I watch the radar regularly on rainy days, as you can watch the rain approach and later disappear.  You can judge quite accurately when to get outside, and how long you have til the next rain, or whether it's going to rain.  Most rains appear as a line of clouds passing over, or individual storms; they come; it rains, and then they're gone.  But for the last two days the clouds simply keep emerging out over the lake, and come onward in an endless stream all day long.  I've been referring to it as 'emergent rain', 'cause I can actually see the clouds emerging out of nothing on the radar.

So I started googling this morning, and discovered that 'lake effect rain' is just as common as 'lake effect snow', which we get all winter.  And it peaks in late Sept, through Oct, into Nov, in other words, right now.  At this time of year the water in Lake Huron (and the other Great Lakes) is still relatively warm, but we're feeling the first blast of cold arctic air from the north (4 degrees this morning).  The cold air passes over the warm water, and just sucks it up, dropping it again once it passes over the land - lake effect rain, just what I should expect at this time of year.

You learn something new every day.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Wild Chervil - a Nasty Plant

Wild Chervil is one of our worst invasive plants, and the heart of its invasion seems to be Grey County. It blooms in late May or June, but it's very easy to identify at this time of year as well.

The dried flower heads and dark linear seeds, as in the picture above, are quite distinctive. The dried stalks, about 3 feet tall, are what is left of the plants from earlier this summer. But wild chervil is a biennial, so it is already growing its basil leaves for next year, and they form big patches of bright green, about a foot deep, as in the last picture below.

The leaves are very lacy, cut into fern-like patterns, and quite bright green. If you watch for them at this time of year, you will know where to watch out for the flowers in June. There is no easy method of control, as it grows a very deep tap root, so the recommended approach until more research is done is to cut them before they flower or go to seed, to at least prevent the seeds from spreading.

A patch of wild chervil in a county forest on the 7th line.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's Cold!

Suddenly, it's a cold fall day. Only 4 degrees out this morning when the dog and I went for our walk. It almost felt like gloves and toque weather - far too soon for me! Trees are started turning, with a lot of yellows and a little orange, but in two weeks it will be a different world. Many birds have disappeared for warmer climes; we only heard blue jays and chickadees this morning. The heat has come on in the house, and the view in the early morning is clouded with mist, rising in the morning sun. Early fall is over, and the real fall is here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sunflowers in Bloom

Out for a drive the other day, and spotted a beautiful field of sunflowers. We've seen quite a lot of them this fall. Another reminder of the coming winter, when the birds will feast on sunflowers seeds.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Talking Crow

We get crows around here all the time, and a few ravens. But this one was different. It sat in the top of the dead elm and 'talked' on and off for half an hour!

Its 'talking' was a guttural chattering sound of a few notes, the most unusual thing I've heard from a bird in a long time. It reminded me for all the world of a tree frog and its barky cough. It really did make me think it was talking to another crow someplace hidden in the lower trees.

Of course a raven's hoarse 'gronk' is very different from a crow's 'caw', sounding much more gutteral too. I've seen crows attacking a raven sitting in a tree not far away, and the size difference surprised me - the raven was nearly twice as big as the crows. At first I thought it was a turkey vulture.

But I did enjoy hearing this crow chattering away for a while.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


We've had a hummingbird or two buzzing around the pots of flowers outside all summer long. It is of course particularly attracted to the red flowers, but it comes to a lot of different flowers.

But I've managed only one picture, and this a black silhouette against the white garage door, taken from 30 feet away.

On the other hand, I've had several other close encounters with the hummingbird, without my camera near at hand. I've been up a ladder with a red paint can in my hand, and been buzzed closely by the hummingbird on four different occasions. A little disconcerting when you're up a 20 foot ladder - but it obviously likes the colour red!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Photography Outing

We had an interesting walk up the valley slope yesterday as part of a photography outing. Most easily accessible viewpoints over the valley are on the west side, so you're looking at the east slope. And of course the stunning high cliffs of Old Baldy are probably the most common single thing photographed in the valley - see one of my very first posts, Thanksgiving 2010.

But this walk was up through an old farm on the east side, where we got several views west. We missed the first one, above, on the walk uphill, but coming back downhill it just struck me as the nicest view we'd had all day.

These next two photos actually show approximately the same part of the western valley slope. But the second is taken at more of a telephoto setting, giving quite a different impression. I find it interesting to look across the valley and try and pick out what you're looking at, and where. The second photo encompasses about the upper left quarter of the first one.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Views of the Valley

One of the nicest things about the Beaver Valley region is the views that you come upon in many locations. The height of the Niagara Escarpment, with the Beaver Valley here and the Bighead Valley further north, provides lots of places to see distant views, either wide open like these, or glimpses through the trees.

This photo is taken from the Bruce Trail just east of the 7th Line, looking toward Georgian Bay and the old Meaford Tank Range, now officially known as the Land Force Central Area Training Centre. You're actually looking across the Bighead River valley here.

And this one is looking west from a new Bruce Trail property known as Webwood Falls. It's located east of Grey Rd. 7, along Sideroad 25, on the west side of the Beaver Valley.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Markdale Fair

Enjoyed a visit to the Markdale Fair last week, a good old-fashioned farm fair, with horses and cows on show, and hundreds of indoor exhibits - from photos to veggies to baking to crafts, there was something for everyone.

As you can see by the pictures, we enjoyed the horse show - magnificent teams of clydesdales and percherons. These pictures are from the single horse and cart event.

Few things are more inspiring than seeing a huge, powerful and beautifully harnessed clydesdale coming straight towards you!