Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Yet Another Walk in the Woods

The other day I joined a friend at his own place out in the country for another snowshoe walk.  It was a short and peaceful walk in a very different sort of woods, but it still took us over an hour.  And I enjoyed the wildlife!

The property backs onto the Bighead River, which was mostly frozen, but we had to step gingerly over this small stream to start our walk.

There were Wild Turkey tracks all over the place, and I thought we might see at least one.  They often walk in single-file, so leave more of a track than individual birds. 

A number of the spruce trees had piles of shavings from squirrels tearing the cones apart for the seeds.

I think this magnificent old Beech tree is one of the most beautiful trees I've seen.

And this enormous old Hemlock, now dead, is home to a Porcupine.  We actually saw it in the back of that open hollow, but it snuggled down lower so I couldn't get a picture.

 We tramped around the back corner of the woods, to the fence that used to separate it from a pasture.  A line of big old Sugar Maples marks the edge.

And then into the White Pine plantation, which my friend planted about 25 years ago.

There's something about all the bits of snow caught up in the branches of pine trees after a light fluffy snowfall!

Then we saw the first Turkey - but at a distance.  Can you see it behind the trees, walking along the edge of the field?  We ended up seeing two more cross the trail in front of us in the distance.  I also caught a glimpse of a big owl fly away out of the top of a tree.  We had heard one a few nights ago; they've started nesting here.

Then it was back down to the river, gently across the stream, and home.  A long and peaceful walk because we stopped often and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.


Tomorrow we head for my next enforced medical 'vacation' in London.  This is the big one; I'm sure I'll have an interesting story to tell after I recover.  all thoughts, prayers, and crossed toes will be gratefully accepted.  I'll be gone for a week or ten days, and maybe back here in two weeks.  Try not to miss me too much!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

More from the Woods

A few more photos from my three walks through the Hemlock bush over the past week.  I think I'll be exploring this place a lot more in the future.

Some very nice big Hemlock in this forest gave a dark appearance in places, though obviously the snow brightened it up.

These weren't huge Hemlock, but a few of them were a good size, tall and straight.  I've read that half the original barns in southern Ontario were built of Hemlock, and the rest of the Hemlock were cut for tannin used in the tanning industry.

Another of those low branches that dumps snow down your neck if you brush the low end of the branch.

Lots of Beech saplings in the understory.

I also spotted a patch of the fertile fronds of Ostrich Fern in the distance, down in the lower area by the creek.  They stand up above the snow all winter.

I was glad I had a friend to lead me in the first time.  When we got through to the back part of the woods there were few Hemlock or Beech left, and it was mostly a deciduous forest of Sugar Maple.

But I did spot one big old double-trunked Yellow Birch.

At one point I did see what I thought was a huge big Hemlock in the distance, but as I tramped toward it, it dissolved into two separate smaller trees.  And they're not Hemlock either, just poplar.

How's this for some distorted wood grain on that big old gnarly Beech.

And these are some of the fungus that attacks the Beech trees.

How's this for a pattern!?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another Walk in the Woods

Over the past week I have discovered another beautiful woodlot to walk through, led initially down the trail by a friend.  It's a larger woodlot, not far away, and very interesting to walk around.  I've actually been there three times over the past week, on snowshoes each time of course.

It turned out to have a large patch of Hemlock-Beech forest, a forest type I don't see very often here in the valley.  I can't think of another example as nice as this one.

Those tiny Hemlock needles are easy to identify once you learn them, at least on the shorter saplings where they're close to ground level.

There's also a lot of Yellow Birch, making this woodlot even more interesting.  This is like an undisturbed old climax forest for southern Ontario.  Can you recognize the large trunk to the right of centre with it's curlicues of paper hanging off the bark?

Surprisingly, there isn't much Sugar Maple, although this one is a great specimen - tall and straight.  Sugar Maple is usually the most common tree in our deciduous woodlots.

Another big tree, a White Ash.

There were a lot of American Beech, but they're often not looking very healthy, attacked by the beech bark disease, a combination of an insect and fungus that usually kills off the large trees first.  There seems to be little that can be done about it.

While the leaves are still hanging on on the smaller saplings, the unique long sharp buds are already there, waiting for spring.

There's a stream flowing through the woods, closer to the north side, with quite a steep embankment where you can look down on the stream from above.  I think we need a bridge someplace!

If you get through to the back of the woodlot there's a large pond that's been created which looked very inviting.  I expect it's a great place for wildlife in the spring.

The beech bark disease causes severe cankering and results in misshapen tree trunks.  This one was a classic example!  Can you see right through?  Must be a big hollow in here.  This is a woodlot I'll be back to regularly, and sharing more photos of sooner rather than later.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Lichens on the Tombstones

Last week I showed you a few of the lichens I've seen on trees at the cemetery.  How about the tombstones?  Actually very few of them have any lichens at all, but on a few there are some quite neat orange lichens.  Obviously the type of stone used makes a difference.

These are three of very few tombstones that I've seen lichens on.  Come summer I'm going to have to have a closer look at the differences.

Here's a small patch at the base of one monument.

And have a closer look - remarkable pattern!

Another two patches on another monument.  All of the lichens on gravestones seem to be bright orange.  After Woody, of 'In Forest and Field' suggested it, I found I did have on my shelf the Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski.  And I think I've successfully identified these lichens as the 'Elegant Sunburst Lichen' Xanthoria elegans.  Thanks for reminding me Woody!

In contrast, this is another of lichens on a Sugar Maple, just so you remember the difference.

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