Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Six days after Deborah Dale gave a city-sponsored seminar on growing natural gardens filled with native species, the garden that is her front lawn in Scarborough was razed – clipped to the stem by the city after neighbours complained the plants were weeds. "

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Last week we busied ourselves cutting flower heads off the phragmites. (The flowers are called panicles. According to that article, the pesky reeds also have ligules, glumes and culms. Wikipedians are so hardcore.)

It's an interesting experience to make your way into the phragmites patch, as the stalks are about twelve feet tall (even taller in metric) and you can't see much else. It feels like some kind of tropical forest. Bamboo?

Look down:

Look up:

Look straight ahead:

Turns out, a phragmites flower is a gorgeous thing, all subtle colours and flowing tresses. (Phragmites was the Greek god of really nice hair.)
Here's a little bunch of them:

If they weren't full of viable seeds they'd be a lovely thing for a flower arrangement. The reeds were also chock-full of snails and katydids.

Elderberries ripening:

A beetle checks out the great height of the goldenrod:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I've been out of town and haven't attended a Beechwood stewardship evening for weeks. I offer instead these lovely photos of beach wood.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I played hooky from stewardship last night. With an extreme heat alert and the humidex approaching (or reaching?) 40, this delicate flower recognizes her limits and stays inside. Hats off to anyone who showed up. No, wait, keep your hats on if you're in the sun!

Last week we found a gypsy moth in our equipment box. No surprise, as this is where I found a lot of gypsy moth caterpillars several weeks ago. This is a male:

Dude is a bit menacing up close:

Some of our plantings from earlier in the season, coming along nicely:

Joe Pye weed brings a welcome change of colour amidst all the green and yellow:


Friday, July 20, 2007

We got a lot of rain in less than 24 hours, so when the sun came out yesterday afternoon I couldn't resist going down to take a look at the river. It was running fast and high, carrying branches, tires, and other debris:

The Log Ness Monster:

I hope nobody was riding this:

This whole tree was no match for the current:

With the return of fair weather, some of the locals went about their business ...

... while others just rested up after the excitement:

The pond level at Beechwood rose markedly. These plants had been out of the water the day before:

While I was at the river I ran into Don Watcher, also documenting the effects of the rainfall. Check out the great before-and-after videos at his site.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My main stewardship activity this morning was cleaning up the remains of another party. Beechwood is a hopping place on a Friday or Saturday night, it seems. As I muttered my way through the cigarette butts, shredded Styrofoam cups and plastic bags, I was startled to come across evidence of some kind of weird bird sacrifice:

I managed to revive the poor creature. I propose a mascot for our site:

If this doesn't keep intruders away, I don't know what will. Say, do I get to add "eagle" to my Beechwood bird list?

Last week the team planted some stuff like this in the pond:

I wasn't there that night, but I'm guessing sweet white clover was the target du jour:

Baby bunny:

(Watch out for the eagle, kiddo.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

From today's Toronto Star: wouldn't it be great if we all took responsibility for one small part of our natural environment?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Don Watcher wrote recently about removing a safe as part of a trail clean-up event. I think we have another little challenge for you, DW. This one's under the bridge at Pottery Road:

Sumac flowers pinking up:

I had read that gypsy moth caterpillars grow to the size of a finger, but I hadn't seen any that big until today. Eek.


Here's a juvenile black-crowned night heron. I just can't take these birds seriously. They look like cartoons to me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Just in case anyone is relying on this blog instead of checking their e-mail (seems extremely unlikely), here's the breaking news: tonight's outing has been cancelled due to impending thunderstorms. We'll get back on track next week with what we'd planned for tonight. Here's a hint: if you're into wearing rubber, you'll want to join us ...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The weather does not sound at all promising for tomorrow night's outing. In case we have to cancel because of thunderstorms, here are some random pictures to give you a little Beechwood fix.

The blackeyed susans have started blooming:

This is what the blue flags do after they flower:

A clump of milkweed in flower. That looks like a hummingbird above them, in the distance, or maybe it's a hummingbird moth.

Crown vetch got its name because the flower looks like a crown:

Similarly, cow vetch got its name because its flowers look like ... well, no, that doesn't look much like a cow:

I don't know this gorgeous little flower, but isn't it perfect? I didn't quite capture the delicate pale yellow colour of the heart-shaped petals.

This is a bit closer to the colour:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My loyal and brainy readers quickly identified the caterpillars I saw recently. It's bad news: they're gypsy moth caterpillars, a "regulated pest" in this part of the world. They were first discovered in Canada in 1924 and have been spreading ever since. The larvae prefer oak and aspen trees but will eat many other kinds as well. Mississauga mounted an aerial spraying campaign last year to deal with an infestation, and a few areas in Etobicoke were sprayed this spring.
A major infestation can defoliate a significant area, and the hairs and droppings (frass) of the larvae can cause rashes and respiratory problems in people. I've seen the caterpillars in a few places now, but the biggest gathering was right within our own stewardship equipment box. Talk about rubbing our noses in it! I'm afraid the ones pictured here met with a tragic end shortly after the photo was taken. Hey, they were filling our box with frass.
("Frass" makes a good swear word, almost as good as "vetch." Try it.)
These are big, meaty caterpillars, and small mammals and some birds like to eat them. Other dangers for them include viruses, fungi, and newly enlightened stewards.
My question now is, how did I not already know about these things? Have I just not been paying attention? I spent ages poring over caterpillar images online, trying to make an ID without success. (I did find them at after I knew what to search for.) Shouldn't there be WANTED posters on every corner to educate people about gypsy moths? It's the same story with invasive plants like dog-strangling vine and garlic mustard: after a session of removing them from Beechwood I walk back through my neighbourhood and see them growing in flower gardens. People just have no idea what they are, so they don't get rid of them. How do we spread the word?
Sometimes the best thing to do at Beechwood is nothing at all. The other day I stopped to watch the activity in a dead tree which was providing a perch for a couple of cedar waxwings, several robins, a downy woodpecker, and a pair of goldfinches. There are always some bumblebees and other interesting insects at work if you take the time to look.

If you hang out by the pond quietly for a few minutes you start to notice that there are loads of frogs. Frog ...

... after frog ...

... after frog ...