Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The garden

I thought I'd better share an update on our garden with you before it gets too far along.  It's almost more interesting to watch the new plants emerging than to simply see the flowers once they're in bloom.  That's especially true for us this year, since this is the first year of having this garden, and many of the plants were newly planted just last fall - especially a lot of Day Lilies and Peonies.

But a couple of flowers are already in bloom, and they're both very pretty.  This is Scilla, a new flower for me so I looked it up.  It's variously known as Scilla, Squills, Bluets, or Bluebells, and there are many varieties, but they're all a beautiful splash of blue in early spring, and they spread very easily, almost invasively.

There's a beautiful royal blue Dwarf Iris out too.  Those out front in full sun bloomed too weeks ago, but this one in the shade is only blooming now.

It was a working day in the garden and the shed door was open.  Our occasional garden helper was there to help Mrs. F.G. with the heavier tasks, and I got down off the deck to supervise.  I was anxious to see all the new plants coming up.

These are just two new Peonies of five.  We're waiting to see what the blooms look like, having had lots of Peonies in the past.

These are three Allium; they sure come up fast in the spring.

A new Rose bush, ...

and our Magnolia.  It should be in bloom shortly.  We're in the middle of some cooler wetter days now, so it'll be awhile before I'm out on the deck again, but I really look forward to seeing the results of this backyard transformation.  This afternoon I'm recording a presentation on 'Spring Wildflowers in the Beaver Valley'.  Looking forward to it.  I'll be posting a link when it's ready in early May.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Driving Home

After we left the marsh it was a peaceful drive home.  We headed east to the village of Kemble, home of the Kemble Maple Syrup Tour (which is cancelled again this year).  Then it was south, with a stop at the Kemble Women's Institute Lookout, a beautiful viewpoint over the bay.

This lookout provides a great view to the Niagara Escarpment on the far shore, though it was a bit hazy by this time.

I always think the combination of the red farm buildings and the bluff in the distance makes a good picture.

The monument celebrates the Kemble Women's Institute which was the third formed in the world.  It's now the oldest operating group in the world.  It takes the form of a huge limestone table set for tea.  Quite appropriate I always think!

I was watching for evidence of spring ploughing and crops coming up, and did see a number of ploughed fields plus this one field of winter wheat.

I've been trying to catch a picture of this old barn right on the edge of Owen Sound where a new subdivision is going in.  Another inevitable demise.

Then a little excitement!  We saw emergency vehicles at the side of the road and slowed down cautiously.  It turned out to be a field fire, as you can see by the blackened hillside.  I only noticed the water being pumped behind the barn when I got the picture up here.

We went by a few days later coming from physio and were able to get a better picture of the damage.  Probably a fire the farmer set and it got away from him, or a bonfire that got out of control  Thank goodness it didn't reach any buildings.  I know of a farmer who died in just such an incident as this.

It looks like all week this week is going to be like this.  Yesterday it rained all day, and today it's less rain and more of a foggy drizzle, with rain forecast right through to Friday.  A lot of plants will benefit, and the grass has turned green overnight!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Trumpeter Swans!?

We drove to the next corner and actually turned and drove back through the wetland to see what else we could see, and so I'd be on the other side of the car.  The first thing we saw was a pair of swans, one sitting on a nest and one swimming nearby.

It certainly wasn't a very clear view, but I did get out the binocs and I could see that these were not the common Mute Swans; they had black beaks, not orange, so they were Tundra or Trumpeter Swans.  The Tundra Swans pass through southern Ontario in large numbers in late March, on their way to their nesting grounds in the Arctic, but the recently reintroduced Trumpeter Swans are still quite rare around here/

Trumpeter Swans, the largest waterfowl in the world, were almost extirpated from North America by the late 1800s, but thanks to Harry Lumsden, an MNR  biologist, a breeding program was established at the Wye Marsh in southern Ontario in the early '80s.  They have grown and established themselves in the wild, but I never expected them to nest around here.  So I assumed that these were the much more common Tundra Swan and put a post out on a local birding Facebook page.

Lo and behold Lynne Richardson, one of the leaders among the local birding community, and a much more accomplished birder than I, indicated that they would be Trumpeter Swans!  Pretty nice to see!  And thanks Lynne for identifying them.

We continued slowly down through the wetland, hoping at least to see a few ducks or a goose, but no luck.  We only had one sighting, a kayaker heading out for an early spring paddle.  Those swans certainly were the highlight here!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Marsh

We continued our drive west after spotting the Sandhill Cranes (the highlight of our drive), and ended up in the wetland northeast of Shallow Lake.  The road goes right through it, so there's open marsh on both sides. the sunny, totally blue sky continued all day!

Our drive took us to the corner I know as Squire, but many refer to as Mennonite corners.  There was a small frame church on the southwest corner for many years when I was a child; I'm told that my great-grandfather went there to worship with the 'Holy Rollers'.  Only a monument is left to mark the pioneer church.  These are the new grain elevators at the corner.

There's a really nice farm just before the corner which has always been very well maintained.  Since one of my grandparents lived a mile to the west in Kilsyth, and the others 4 miles to the northeast in Owen Sound, I've been going past this corner all my life.

And this is the beginning of the marsh, parts of it open enough to almost be a lake.

Off to one side was what looked like an old hunting blind, built for hunting ducks perhaps.  It looks like the end of an old dock that it's built on.

A muskrat house was visible, but no Muskrat.

Certainly lots of cattails around the edge/

And several bushes of Pussy Willows along the edge.  More on the other side of the road tomorrow.

It's another beautiful sunny day here and Mrs. F.G. was out gardening all morning, with the help of our occasional gardener.  I've been out for a ride, starting to accumulate mileage again for the summer season, and gathering pictures to share.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Sandhill Cranes!

Driving along this road we almost always watch for Sandhill Cranes; this is the area where we've seen them most often.  They've become part of our personal bird-watching habit, and if you see one close they are certainly spectacular birds.  And if you hear one they're even more notable.

This was our first view of the cranes.  Can you spot them, large brown birds at least 3-4 feet tall?  Do you have eyes as sharp as Mrs. F.G.?

This cropped picture might help you.

And here they are.  These two photos are cropped from the first picture, just for your viewing enjoyment.  Just for my own enjoyment, I went back over our past photos of the cranes, to gather together the times we've seen these birds.

We saw a pair near here just two years ago, when the soybeans were growing well, slowly working their way through the field eating what grubs they could find.  This was late June, 2020.

Perhaps our most interesting sighting was 10 years ago, when we saw this pair with a young one, a little later in the season, and further west on the same road.  Can you see the tiny light brown chick, in between the two adult birds?  This was in mid-May, 2012.

And of course there was our spectacular sighting of Sandhill Cranes gathering together for migration in November.  We estimated that we saw close to 2000 all within one large concession, feeding on leftover corn in the fields.  From what I've read they return to specific sites year after year to gather into larger flocks during migration, and this field appears to be just such a site, about an hour east of here.

And here's back to the pair we sighted on Sunday, the best phot I could get this time without cropping til it gets blurry.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

An April Sunday Afternoon Drive

On Sunday we took off for a long drive through the countryside.  Wanting something different this time we drove west around Owen Sound and north to the village of Kemble.  We're missing their maple syrup festival which has now been cancelled two years in a row.

This is the Bighead River at our first crossing.  We now live in the Bighead River valley.  The 'valley' in my blog title actually refers to the Beaver Valley, one small watershed to the east, where we used to live and where most of my good photos come from, but I often refer to the whole area as the Beaver Valley 'region'.

This is the second crossing, a couple of concessions west.  I once joined a canoe/kayak group putting in here and floating downstream for several miles in early April.  Obviously the water was higher that year; we could easily float across that line of stones across the river.

It's not uncommon around here to find curves in roads like this, going around hills rather than over them, although this curve was rebuilt a few years back so you don't even have to slow down anymore.  But there are still lots of roads that don't go through at all, either because of large wetlands or the Niagara Escarpment.

It's a rolling agricultural landscape, often half forested, a lot of it just used for pasture (or not used at all anymore). but the point of the picture is the three Turkey Vultures.  Uncommon 20 years ago, they've become one of our most common birds; there's often one in sight, soaring overhead hardly ever flapping their huge wings.  They have nearly a 6 foot wingspan held in a very shallow 'V', unlike large hawks which hold their wings flat.

These fences reflect both a well-off landowner, and cattle, the most common farm use around here, almost always beef cattle.

I'm always struck by this farm as we drive by, high on the slope of a drumlin with little around it.  Looks pretty exposed to the winter winds to me.

And here is another.  We've actually been into this farm.  He used to make the most ornate fancy birdhouses, like Disney castles.  These fields are smooth enough for copping, almost the only crop fields on this road all the way to Owen Sound, though it's a pretty steep slope.  They're probably rented out now.

We saw the flashing lights first and we thought it was an accident.  It's a bad corner.  But it was just a 'ride check'.  I couldn't believe people would be drinking in the middle of Easter Sunday afternoon!  Maybe they were after those folks who feel a bottle of wine with dinner is fine.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Continuing Construction

Across the golf course I watch the continuing construction of a road which will be followed by houses on both sides, splitting the golf course nearly in half (or 2/3-1/3).  I find it interesting to try to follow the steps they're going through.

First they had these dump trucks going back and forth, and then I began to see a bulldozer slowly moving each direction.  I think they may be bringing in gravel for the roadbed.

Then the big red excavators appeared, apparently putting in the underground services.  If it's like our street they put in water, storm and sanitary sewer pipes (you can see them lying on the ground), gas, hydro, phone and internet lines to every lot before the first house gets built.

They've been working at this a long time, though it does mean laying down the main runs along the street, and all the short junction runs to house lots on each side of the street.  Must take a lot of coordination.

The piles of dirt kept getting bigger and then smaller again.  They had four separate excavators working on this.

After they finished all that you could see these vertical white stand pipes, presumably marking every lot.  This picture was taken in the rain and is a little distorted, especially the roofline of those homes.  

Steadily warmer days here and I'm hoping to get outside a bit.