Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Musing on the Month of April

I've been musing about how fast the seasonal changes happen in April.  I've always noticed this, but now that I'm thinking about describing what I see and take photographs of, I notice it more.  And this is a blog about the seasons in the Beaver Valley after all, so keeping track of these changes in the seasons is why I'm here.

April started out this year snowy; the landscape was still white.  But the streams and the spots where seepage emerged at the edge of fields were opening up.  It was still like winter, but with a hint of things to come in the open bits of water.

The snow was refreshed when we had a snowfall, as we almost always do in April, but the water was starting to run.  All kinds of small streams started flowing, ditches were filling, and wetlands were flooding while the snow was still here.  That's the first phase of the season in April - starting to melt, but still a white landscape.

Then the snow started seriously melting, and we went through 2 weeks of a patchy brown and white landscape.  Wherever the snow was thicker it stayed longer, but fields were quickly turning to brown.

Within a remarkably short time considering the winter we had and the amount of snow on the ground, the white landscape was largely gone.  Only a few patches of deeper snow now remain on the lee side of hills and roadsides.  And the water from all that melting snow has to go somewhere.

So for a short while in the middle of April this year, the landscape was just saturated.  Much of the snow actually evaporates, but enough melts to make things VERY wet for awhile.  This is our own backyard, with water in places where I've never seen it before - though it dried up (well at least the surface water disappeared) in only a week.

Temporary puddles formed in low spots all over the landscape.  You can hardly drive down a road without seeing large ponds in low corners of farm fields; some of these will take a long time to disappear this year! 

And the floodplains along all our streams were inundated.  We call this 'flooding', but it's a totally natural process, and as long as there is no development in the way, this sort of flooding does no harm.  In fact, ecologically, it's very beneficial.  These temporary shallow pools along floodplains are where Wood Frogs,  Chorus Frogs and others breed, leaving their eggs in the water waiting to hatch as tadpoles. This time when the landscape is totally saturated, and water is everywhere is the second stage of the April season.

That saturated landscape with water everywhere only lasts a short 2-3 weeks though, and then streams subside back into their natural channels, what a hydrologist would call the 'bank full' stage of flow.  This stream was briefly as wide as the photo 3 weeks ago, and you can see that part of the floodplain is still a little wet.  

There is still lots of water around, but already on this last day of April we're starting to see a drier landscape.  I can get out in the yard to start gardening, and in the flooded wetlands and fields the water is retreating.  So this is the third stage of the seasons in April - we move from streams starting to flow in a still snowy landscape, through a very wet period of spring melt, to the beginning of normal drier conditions and the final disappearance of snow.  Spring flowers and more migrating birds won't be far behind.

These photos don't compare to the bright spring flowers and blue skies, but these are part of 'seasonsinthevalley' too, so I hope you appreciate my musings!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cirrus Skies

I love the appearance of wispy cirrus clouds against a bright blue sky.  Yesterday by the time we finished our paddling the sky was decorated with beautiful thin cirrus clouds, so I couldn't resist sharing them.  No need for further comments.

This last one was my favourite.  Of course they presaged a day of wind and rain today, but we won't talk about that.

Monday, April 28, 2014

First Canoe Expedition of 2014!

A friend and I got out today for my first paddle of the season, the earliest I think I've ever paddled, in spite of the late cold winter.  We paddled down the flooded Wodehouse Creek, into the ephemeral Wodehouse Lake, where the sinkholes back up and the creek overflows.  It creates quite a lake that only lasts for a few weeks in the early spring.

I paddled my small pack canoe, and my friend his kayak.  This flooded lake is the overflow that creates the ephemeral waterfall 2 km. downstream which I featured in a post two weeks ago.  Note the bit of snow still left, on the northeast lee slope of the hill where it only disappears slowly.

We started from the flooded bridge on the 7th Sideroad, just east of the hamlet of Wodeshouse.  All of this is just a small stream for the other 10 or more months a year, and it felt very strange to paddle straight between the trees while we knew the creek underneath us was winding back and forth.

Soon we were down into the wider 'lake', and here we're paddling directly on top of three of the main sinkholes - nearly 20 feet beneath us at this point. You can see pictures of these sinkholes and the flooded fields below in my post from last October - the 7 first photos in that post are all underwater in these pictures!

The back-up of water is so high that you can paddle past the sinkholes, through the old fence, and south over the flooded fields downstream.  At this point I'm paddling right on top of a walking trail that is about 4 feet beneath me!

We paddled across the flooded fields, scaring some ducks and geese in the process (see the first picture above), and then paddled back through the old fence and into the one area of this unusual system that retains water all year.  Ahead of us is the perched pond of about an acre, sitting 18 feet higher that the nearby sinkhole.  Obviously there is no hydrological connection between them - except right now, when the flood connects them.

And this is the picture that answers one of my key questions about how this system works.  I'm sitting on the perched pond, looking out toward the flooded sinkholes (the water drops to about 20+ feet deep just beyond those trees).  The trees and shrubs are growing on a ridge of land between the pond and the much lower sinkholes, where I have stood to get pictures of the sinkholes in the summer.  Currently it's under about 3 feet of water.  So I have proven to myself at least that this pond gets recharged during the spring flood.

Pretty soon we were headed back up the creek to our vehicles, on a very beautiful afternoon for paddling.  The sky just got more spectacular as we went, so maybe I'll add some sky photos tomorrow.

By the way, my canoe (one of them anyway), is a very small lightweight model, only 13' long, and only about 36 pounds.  You paddle it in a kayak seat, with a kayak paddle (keeping my camera out and ready for use in front of me).  It's just a dream to paddle!

Linking to:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lichens Along the Fencerow

It was a drizzly morning the other day, and the lichens on the boulders along our old fencerow were calling me to come for a closer look.  An early spring chance to get out the macro lens and see what I could capture.  So here are a few of the interesting lichens I found.  I really must find a book that would help me learn to identify these - recommendations would be welcome!

Many of the lichens grow in a circular pattern on the rocks, with what look like fruiting bodies in the centre, and the foliose scales reaching outwards.

These structures in the centre of some of the lichen patches are fascinating, though you don't see them until you take a very close look!

Some of the lichens are very foliose, with tiny scale-like leaves making a thick patch on the rock.

 Others are very thin and plain, just a light grey crust on the rock.

This is one of my favourite big boulders with its lichen garden.  Standing back from the fencerow, this is what attracts me to come and have a closer look.

And in other corners on the boulders, once I was really close and hunting for different lichens, I found these pixie cups.  In fact I found whole tiny forests of pixie cups in several places, though they're a challenge to get a clear picture of, needing a tripod to provide enough depth of field for a clear focus.  I'm going to have to try a few more of these.

Linking to:

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Flooded Reflections

Just as the many flooded streams around here provide for interesting lines of fences running through the water, at least on calm days they also provide lots of reflections.  These are a few I captured 2 weeks ago when there was still a bit of snow around, all taken along the flooded margins of the upper Rocky Saugeen where it's still a fairly small stream most of the year.

I liked the way the clouds as well as the trees were captured in these two shots.  These are taken just around the other side of the rural concession block we live in.
These two are taken a couple of kilometres upstream to the southwest of our place, where the stream crosses under the East Back Line.  With the dogwoods (below), it's hard to tell where the reflection ends, and where the real plant begins.

Just off to the side were these tall soft maples, casting stark shadows in the water.  Note the flooded culvert below water in the lower right corner, a small whirpool showing where the water is being sucked down into it.
All just part of the April seasons here in the valley.

Linking to:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flooded Fences

With all the snow melt, run-off and flooded creeks, we have a lot of fences that are currently standing in water.  They always seem particularly picturesque to me, so here are a few I found while driving around a week or 10 days ago.  We still had a fair bit of snow, and it was snowing heavily in the final photo.

This is the first time I've had the opportunity, so I'm  linking to 'Good Fences'.

And in case you're wondering, yes I got all my marking done and handed in.  I actually enjoyed reading 56 different articles on Scotland.  Today's students write some remarkable stuff.  We got in a quick break too, but now it's back to regular blogging - so many things to take pictures of now.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Early Spring Flowers

The snow is almost all gone now, and in spite of temperatures that are still quite cold, flowers are coming up in the garden on schedule as the last snow melts.

The fern leaf peony is one of the earliest peonies to arise from the earth, and I'm always fascinated by how it looks and how fast it grows.  Watch for more pix of this one in the coming days.

 A few more of the dwarf iris, these ones a lighter blue, backlit in the sun.

We only have a few snowdrops, and they're along the fencerow where the snow lasts a long time.  So for snowdrops, they actually bloom quite late.

A bright clump of miniature daffodils in the scree garden.

This is the last little patch of snow at our place.

Elsewhere there are still lots of snow patches, along fencerows where the warmer afternoon sun doesn't shine much, or where huge snowbanks were.  Not too long now til it's all gone.

Linking to:

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.