Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Purple Barn!

I was driving into Flesherton the other day and was surprised to see a barn being carefully dismantled.  And even more surprising, I saw a purple barn and driveshed further north, driving back to Markdale!

This farm has been for sale for awhile, but this day there was a gang of men working at taking it down.  They already had all the outer boards removed.  It appeared that everything was being salvaged.

You could see one fellow walking around on the beams. Hope he's got a good sense of balance!

I've always been fascinated with exactly how barns are framed, with all the joints and dowels and braces and unusual names for different timbers.  You can see a lot of it in this view of the side of the barn.  Probably no nails and it's held together for over 100 years.

But driving down the road, this barn and driveshed was what really surprised me.  I've never seen a barn painted purple before!

This has been done this summer, because I drive this road regularly and haven't seen it before.  I thought they chose a great shade of real purple too!

The sign on the barn says 'Fools Paradise', and the figure painted below & beside it is that of an old-fashioned court jester!

Linking to:

The Barn Rendezvous


Celebrating William

I'll be away from blogging for a few days while we attend two more memorial services for our son William, who died while fighting a forest fire in Alberta last spring.  He was a water bomber pilot.  These services waited until after forest fire-fighting had finished, so those folks could join us.  If you haven't read about William, you can read about him here, and in the posts that follow that one.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Migrating Salmon in Owen Sound

Every year the Chinook Salmon and Rainbow Trout return to spawn in the Sydenham, Bighead and Beaver Rivers, which enter Georgian Bay in Owen Sound, Meaford and Thornbury respectively.  We were in Owen Sound yesterday and stopped to have a quick look in Harrison Park.  At this time of year, it's the Chinook Salmon you'll see.

The Sydenham Sportsmen's Association has been one of the most active in Ontario, working to protect and improve salmon habitat, and holding a major Salmon Derby in early September.  They also supported the construction of the first fish ladder in Ontario.

Here are three more on the far side of the river, two right beside each other.  They will float in the current for several minutes at a time, even though they have to work to stay there.

Then with a few trashes of their tail, they'll move upstream a short distance.  These ones have already climbed the challenging fish ladder downstream to get here.

Viewing the salmon is pop ular enough that Owen Sound promotes the 'Great Salmon Tour', with several spots where you can see salmon over a few miles of the river, along with educational interpretive signs.  But they can't get beyond Inglis Falls, which is only a couple of miles south of this point.  I've featured it in this blog several times.

This is the part of the river where we saw the salmon; I'm standing on the bridge right beside the restaurant in Harrison Park.

Nearby there's a small waterfowl sanctuary, and wild ducks invade it for the easy meals.  These ducks were thrashing madly, mostly upside down, after someone threw handfuls of corn into the creek.

It was a duck feeding frenzy, their little orange feet paddling like mad to help them reach down to the bottom to grab the feed, splashing like children.

Linking to:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Valley Views

We've had one of the nicest runs of beautiful fall weather I can remember.  Constant sunny cloudless days that warm up to be comfortable for shorts and T-shirts but cool down overnight for sleeping.  Just beautiful.

I've seen our local flock of Ring-billed Gulls several times, in different farm fields, sometimes broken into smaller flocks, and sometimes one huge flock that must now be several hundred large.  Try counting the birds here - and this was only about 1/3 of the flock.

They rose into the air when I was taking a picture of this barn.  It's been repainted, and re-roofed as well by the new farm owners.

I just like this view, it goes such a long way over 3 or 4 fencerows to a tiny 4th field in the distance.

And I stopped at the top of Talisman Hill to take a few pictures of the clear blue sky over the valley.  This view looks a little southeast, and shows the cliffs of Old Baldy in the upper right, and the 7th Sideroad.

This view still shows the 7th Sideroad, but extends north, showing the escarpment cliffs on the far side.  Talisman Mountain Springs Resort, due to re-open soon (we hope), is in the lower centre, and the sewage lagoons on the left.

And this view picks up at that point and extends all the way to Georgian Bay over the top of the old ski lift.  If you look at the silhouette of the distant shore you can see the outline of Christian Island, nearly 60 km. away.  It's been one of the most beautiful weeks I can remember.

Linking to:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seiche 'Tide' on Dorcas Bay

While further exploring the west shore of the Bruce Peninsula, on another evening we drove up to Dorcas Bay, part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park.  It's probably the best beach with public access on the northern peninsula.  And my pictures revealed a 'seiche'!

Dorcas Bay is probably the flattest beach I've ever seen.  Can you spot the people on the far distant left, not even up to their knees in the water?  It's an amazing place to take young kids wading!

It was evening and I hoped we might get a nice sunset, but this was about the nicest it got.  One reason I had been looking for public access points on the west shore was to take sunset photos.

But take a careful look at these two pictures.  I took the one above, and stood there for 10 minutes hoping for the sunset to change.  Then I suddenly realized the sand around my feet was getting drier, and the open water was further away.

So I took a comparison shot, not perfect, but almost the same shot.  You can see how much sand is exposed compared to the photo above.  This very small oscillation in water levels on large bodies of water like the Great Lakes, is called a 'seiche', and it's very like the tide coming in, but on a very small scale, only a change of a few inches.  It happens regularly,  just because the vast amount of water in Lake Huron is not perfectly flat, but sloshing back and forth ever so slightly.

Behind us on the beach there were lots of interesting plants too, though the evening light didn't capture them well.  These are one of the Ladies'-Tresses, probably Nodding Ladies'-Tresses.

These are the flowers of Grass of Parnassus, which as you can see isn't a grass at all, but a member of the Saxifrage Family.

It loves the wet sand habitat, and shows up as little white lights all over the low sands here.

And there were more Fringed Gentians, though they were mostly closed blooms in the evening.

And beyond the low sand ridge and small parking lot, is a large 'fen', a shallow wetland that is very unusual for this far south, and botanically very diverse.  But that's another story.

Dorcas Bay has a very interesting history, which I've played a small part in, as I first came here in 1962!  It was rescued from cottage development by Ontario Nature (then the Federation of Ontario Naturalists) in that year, and managed as a nature reserve for many years.  I was Chair of the committee that cared for it for a few years, and brought students here numerous times.  It was eventually sold to Parks Canada when the national park was established.  Perhaps I'll tell the story in more detail next year when I can get more pictures.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fringed Gentian and Another Monarch

We kept exploring up the shoreline around French Harbour and Little Pine Tree Harbour, and did find one more small spot of public access.  Even though it was small, it had some interesting plants.

This is pretty typical west shoreline on the Bruce Peninsula, broken rocks lying on the flat bedrock, and a few struggling plants at the water's edge.  A very flat landscape in the distance.

The water is mostly shallow, but there can be deeper pockets in the bedrock, perhaps carved out by winter ice, like the dark patch here.

Immediately behind, looking inland, the sand has accumulated over the bedrock.  There's a zone of shrubs (mostly Shrubby Cinquefoil) on the open sand, and then the Cedar trees begin.

And there, right on the sand there was another Monarch fluttering around.

And it sat still while I got quite a clear shot of it.  I wonder what mineral it was picking up from the sand?

But the best find was a Fringed Gentian, a beautiful blue September flower along this shoreline.

It was my mother who first brought me up here and took me exploring in 1962.  We joined some botanists on a walk and I've been hooked ever since.  These flowers were blowing in the breeze; it took a careful balance of speed and aperture to get it clear!

Further in, amongst the Cedars, Creeping Juniper covers the ground, and at the edge of the plants on the sand, you can actually see its tendrils creeping.  This is 'Juniperus horizontalis', a Latin name I always thought was particularly appropriate.

There was also a patch of Ant Lion traps.  They back down the holes, throwing out sand to create an unstable little crater, and lurk in the sand below to catch unwary ants.

There were several other interesting plants around, including Harebell, Yellow Lady's Slippers, and False Solomon's Seal, but they had all gone to seed like this orchid.  I'm not sure what it is, but it hints at more interesting botanizing next spring.  It may be the Long-bracted Orchis, Habenaria viridis, but only seeing it in bloom will tell.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Exploring the Lake Huron Shore

The Lake Huron shore of the Bruce Peninsula is about as different from the Georgian Bay shore as it's possible to get!  Instead of steep cliffs, boulders and crashing waves, the west shoreline dips very gently into the lake, creating numerous very shallow bays.  We went exploring that shoreline another day, trying to find places for public access (there aren't many).

In some spots at least, it's perfectly flat limestone bedrock dipping gradually into the bay.  This was a small public access point on Pleasant Bay.

Along the sides of these bays, it's often gravel along the shoreline; in the other direction it was sand, and people were swimming.

But take a close look at this picture.  Notice the sedges and grasses that are growing out in the water?  The level of Lake Huron has risen several inches this year, flooding plants that were growing on dry land last year.

 Here's a Shrubby Cinquefoil, growing right in the water.  Plants won't last many seasons like this!

And these are actually some small trees, birch trees I think.

There were a few wildflowers onshore too, like this pale mauve Aster.  We had better luck at other spots up the coast for plants, but this shoreline is known as a botanist's paradise.

We headed on, looking for other interesting spots, and my wife spotted a flutter among the Joe-Pye Weed 30 feet away.  I don't know how she does it!

Yes, it was another Monarch.  We've now seen several more this summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cabot Head Lighthouse

At the end of the 9 km. of potholes, we finally came to the Cabot Head Lighthouse.  Cabot Head itself, the bulging northeast corner of the Bruce Peninsula, is named after John Cabot, the early Italian explorer who reached North America shortly after Columbus, in 1497.

The lighthouse was built in 1895, and included the light and a house for the light-keeper in one building.  The original tower was a little higher, but the old light has been replaced by the automated light on the steel tower to the left.

The lighthouse was saved and restored by the volunteer group, the Friends of Cabot Head, and they operate a small museum inside the light station.  There are both one staff person and a volunteer or two on site all summer, as well as a gift shop.

The reason for the light station is obvious once you read about the shipwrecks.  In the 19th century, a lot of shipping went from ports on Georgian Bay to locations west and south, through Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior.  Between 1854 and 1896, at least 7 ships were wrecked nearby, almost all in the gales of October, November and December.  Many more were lost further west around Tobermory.

This light and foghorn became a very important navigation marker in this part of the Great Lakes.  Today you can climb right up into the observation platform at the top, which was originally the base of the light.  You get a 360° view!

There is a light on display inside, but it's not the original type that was used here.

Looking straight out into Georgian Bay, you can imagine the wreckage of those ships spread in the waters nearby.

Looking west over the railing, you can see corner beyond which is the entrance to Wingfield Basin on the left.  It's an enclosed bay with a very narrow shallow entrance.  Often ships were wrecked when they were making a run for shelter in the bay during a storm.  It's the only sheltered harbour in many many miles, and it's often used by sailboats today.

And looking inland you see today's cabin used for staff and volunteers, as well as two of the three large bluffs that mark Cabot Head.  These ones are Middle Bluff on the left, and West Bluff on the right.

The museum inside the lighthouse was quite well done.  I usually judge these small museums by how suitable they would be for a family with children.  This one would do quite well - if only the road to get here was a little easier!!

This is another of those examples of government co-operating with non-government groups in order to maintain facilities.  Or, looked at it from the other side, an example of a local community coming together and volunteering to maintain a historic site, and persuading the government to be supportive.  In any case, I'm very glad it's happened and they didn't just demolish the old lighthouse!