Monday, July 21, 2008

I haven't seen the spider since yesterday's heavy rain, but the milkweed is never without activity. I've found several monarch eggs and a teeny new monarch caterpillar, along with many moths, bees, and ants. I don't know why I try to grow anything else in my garden, really.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Check out the pretty spider on a milkweed plant in my garden. Any spider experts reading? Is it a crab spider? I'm guessing yes. I thought the body was too rounded, but it could be swollen with eggs. This may be a female staking out a spot for her egg sac. There was also a dead (or paralyzed?) moth on the leaf below this one, no doubt for the spider's dinner.
Burning Silo always has useful information and wonderful pictures. You can read more about crab spiders here. I'll keep an eye on this one (still in the same position half a day later) and we'll see what develops.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A combination of heat and cold kept me away from Beechwood this week. The heat was outside, while the cold was in my head. Since I was having enough trouble breathing through my stuffed nose at home, I decided not to challenge myself further with humid smoggy air and exertion. Keep an eye on this space, though. Coming soon -- a guest blogger!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Plan B: SOS soap pad. I was worried about taking the finish right off the sign, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Even though there's still a faint trace of the tag, I think this will be good enough.

Our busy yellow jacket continues to build in the equipment box.
Another interesting fungus on the mulch pile.
Something is attacking the DSV. Fingers crossed that it works!
And now, some gratuitous shots of pretty flowers. Purple-flowering raspberry:
And some wild roses:

There's trouble a-brewing in Owen Sound, where the locals are battling a noxious weed. Or are they? The story begins here and the plot twist is here. Stay tuned for further developments, and remember kids, know your weeds!
Cow parsnip (I hope):

Friday, July 04, 2008

Last week I had company and couldn't attend our usual outing, so I missed a frenzy of planting. I'm also having company next week and will be absent again. (This company thing must stop.) This week, however, I managed to join the group and spent an evening digging up dog-strangling vine. Other stewards were busy trimming around the sumacs we planted last fall:

Is it just me or is all the milkweed extra-flowery this year? I'm not complaining! The ants aren't either:

In honour of our recent Canada Day:

A new grape leaf, shiny as a copper penny:

Some doughhead tagged one of our signs, so I went down tonight to clean up. Before:


OK, I wasn't very successful. I didn't have anything suitable at home so I tried a paste of liquid soap and baking soda, but it just wasn't strong enough. The evening wasn't a total waste, though: while I was scrubbing, some younger kids rode up on bikes. One girl had a cut on her leg and I broke open our first aid kit and gave her a bandaid. Then I flew off into the night in search of more good deeds.

(Oh, and I saw a mink -- I think. It was streamlined, large-ish, and appeared to be all brown, but it didn't pose for pictures so I can't be certain. It came from the pond area and ran across the path ahead of me.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I have done a spectacular job over the last two nights, if I do say so myself:

(That's a mountain of garlic mustard from the once-mighty patch at the north end. It may not take me all summer after all.) This gets me out of pollinator monitoring for the rest of the season, okay?
This spider is guarding its egg sac in the equipment box:

To round out my evening, I scored a beaver near Pottery Road. It swam around a bit, got out and explored the bank, then checked out that little inlet just north of the bridge. It didn't like what it found, and swam off downriver again.

Some day I'll bag a beaver when there's enough light for a picture.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A lovely feather.

I was complaining the other night that I hadn't seen a rabbit yet this year. Naturally, I saw one on my way home, and now they're everywhere I look. No sign of a muskrat at the pond yet, but there are ducks and frogs, and the blue flags are always worth a look:
Tonight I made a start on a giant patch of garlic mustard near the north end of the site. Wow, there's my summer's work cut out for me right there. It certainly likes that location! Some of the plants are more like shrubs. At least they're easy to pull when they're that size, and you quickly have a good pile to show for your efforts.
For a while I couldn't figure out what all the rustling was nearby as I worked. Then a tiny baby bunny appeared (sorry, much too small and cute to be called a rabbit), and then another and another until there was a whole flock of them bouncing around. They were very small and not too skilled at jumping yet, but they dashed back and forth and hid under burdock leaves while I tried not to think about hawks, foxes and snapping turtles. Eventually Mama Rabbit showed herself. It's nice when the birds and animals get used to you and just go about their business while you work. I sang Tools Was a Baby Rabbit for them. Everybody likes John Denver.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I was out of town last Wednesday but I managed to make it to Beechwood a couple of times later in the week. I do try to put in my hours somehow! The group removed some honeysuckle and Japanese knotweed while I was away, I believe, and I continued the assault on garlic mustard. It's started to go to seed, so it's crunch time. (By the way, I can report that garlic mustard is spreading through the Owen Sound area as well. It's everywhere.)

During one of my wetland visits there was a turkey vulture circling over the valley; I tried to look alive at all times. I also saw one of our most elegant birds, a cedar waxwing:

Before reaching the wetland I set down my bag to pull out my camera and happened to witness a violent struggle taking place nearby. A daring jumping spider (that's really its name!) had seized a caterpillar. The victim flailed around desperately but it was no match for the spider, which gave a couple of mighty tugs and dragged it off for dinner. By the time my camera was operational this was all I could capture:

Scene from the mulch pile:

Meanwhile, back at the equipment box, that yellow jacket/wasp is still hard at work, but it doesn't seem to be making much progress. I also surprised a whole mess of flying ants. They didn't appreciate the light of day, and soon disappeared.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Let's ignore the fact that I skipped the third Beechwood evening because it was raining and extra cold -- although several stalwart stewards did show up and defeat more garlic mustard -- and turn our attention to this week, when Sarah from LEAF came to teach us about identifying trees. Being fairly hopeless at this, I was happy to attend the workshop, and I learned some useful things (which I will have forgotten by June if I don't write them down here):

*MADHORSE: This reminds me that the trees I'm most likely to see around here with opposite (as opposed to alternate) leaves are Maple, Ash, Dogwood and Horse Chestnut.

*That big tree by the Beechwood signs is an American Elm. Huh!

*Leaves from red oaks have pointy lobes -- remember the devil with those red pointy horns -- and leaves from white oaks have rounded lobes. Here's an example of some pointy oak leaves:

If only I had thought to snap some rounded ones to illustrate the difference. Another day. Many thanks to Sarah and LEAF for the great info. I'll have to start carrying my Trees of Ontario with me and actually using it.

I went back this morning to continue a little project I started last year, clearing "the point" (properly called "Marnie's Point," just waiting for the official plaque) of garlic mustard. I spent a lot of time at this last spring, and was curious about what I'd find this year. Would it be GM-free, or completely overrun? Somewhere in the middle, I discovered, with enough of the stuff to keep me busy for an hour and a half, but certainly much less than last year. I'm optimistic. I also cut down a lot of Japanese knotweed here last year, and of course it's returning as thick as ever, but I'll keep at it.

This little guy kept me company as I worked:

The sumacs we planted last fall are coming along pretty well:

Alas, so is the Japanese knotweed forest we keep cutting down:

There's a yellow jacket hard at work in the always-entertaining equipment box. I'm thinking this spells trouble for us later in the season:

Stay tuned for exciting updates!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another rainy night, another small group of people who don't have the sense to come in out of it. We pulled more garlic mustard, spurred on by our leader's promise of one air mile per pound. I don't think we're going to be flying very far.

I saw the great blue heron in the river again. For a water bird, it sure does look miserable in the rain. I studied an animal on the bank for a while, hoping it would turn into a beaver, but it was just a groundhog. (You can tell the beavers -- they're the ones with the cellphones.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

First outing: I joined half a dozen team members for a session of garlic mustard removal. It rained steadily all evening, but I didn't find it unpleasant; in fact, it softened the earth and made the pulling easier. An oriole came to supervise and serenade us, and there was a great blue heron in the river along with the usual gulls, mallards, cormorants and black-crowned night herons. I didn't take my camera because of the rain, so you'll have to use your imaginations.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's time to get back to work! Tomorrow night will be our first Beechwood outing of the season. We're off to a good early start this year, so beware, all you clumps of garlic mustard. Anyone interested is welcome to join us at Beechwood Wetland, Wednesday nights at 6.
Remember the gypsy moths from last year? The city is planning a helicopter spraying of several locations (Moore Park and Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Bayview and Lawrence E., Sunnybrook Park) to control the pests. More info here.
Stay tuned for a report on tomorrow's stewardship work. Until then, here's a picture of the oven-bird that was walking around in my garden last night. A first for me!

Monday, April 07, 2008

I went to Beechwood yesterday to see how things are progressing. As you can see, there's still a bit of ice on the pond, but the snow is gone. A lot of the smaller trees have been nipped off or stripped of bark by creatures needing something to eat during that hard winter. The sumacs we sweated over last fall are sad little stubs, but the poplars we planted "next door" seem to have survived well and are just thinking about budding.

Damage to a berry cane inflicted by a ... rabbit? Deer? Very tall mouse?

Exploded cattail. Maybe something will line its nest with that fluff?

It's always interesting to see what's living in the equipment box. This time I found a whack of grey spiders right where there was an interesting cocoon last fall:
Mostly things are still brown and dull, but there's some lurid colour to be found in the ditches!
The river is running a little high but nothing serious. Still, please keep an eye on your children:

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring at last! It's really astonishing how quickly things start growing when the weather warms up a little and the snow disappears. Some of the usual plants and flowers are showing up at Beechwood already:

The creatures are out and about too, and if you get there early in the morning and stand quietly for a while you can often catch a glimpse of them:

(Don't get too close to that last one.)

April Fool!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We've been getting a healthy dose of winter this year. I took a walk to Beechwood the other day to see how it looks under all the snow.

The path is a little harder to negotiate, but the skiers have been enjoying the conditions.

Tracking critters is a lot easier right now.
Look, no sign of garlic mustard anywhere!
But oops, we missed some Queen's Anne's Lace.

Bird report: for most of my walk I was surprised at the lack of bird activity. Finally, when I was nearly back to the road again, a redtailed hawk flew away. Immediately the chickadees started chirping all around me and this downy woodpecker worked over a tree a few feet away. I also saw a mockingbird and a kingfisher that was diving repeatedly for something in the river.