Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Few Stops on the Way to the Highlands and Lake Charlotte

Bits of May and June 2017, our rainiest in memory....

In fact, so rainy, most of my container plants drowned notwithstanding repeated attempts at draining the containers. Mosquitoes and under-story plants flourished all summer, even in dry areas. On the upside, we rented a cottage at Lake Charlotte for late June and most of July. The rains kept visits and large motors on over-sized boats to a minimum, enabling frequent canoe and kayak fishing outings and quiet nature observation.

Pleasing to see a huge colourful bud of a Shagbark Hickory while exploring the Prince Edward County.  A May trip to "The County" includes a visit to the Prince Edward Point Banding Station (covered in a previous Blog edition).  We found this Yellow-rumped Warbler hanging around, awaiting the banding volunteer. Birds are handled so very carefully by trained volunteers, who pride themselves on their banding talents.Getting to the early morning mist nets does afford the learning bird enthusiast to get some nice close ups of difficult to see birds in glorious spring plumage.  Beware of some very nasty stares back from the "misted" birds.

I was dealing with a back ailment (you know the drill, physiotherapy, exercises, and tough slogging on most walks) which limited photographic moments.  One flower always beckons, its unusual 7 glowing white petals contrast with the shiny green whorled leaves.  It is worth the slog and the bend! This is Starflower (well named), Trientalis borealis.   Borealis, in a Latin name, refers to the north.  Trientalis means a third of a foot, which is about the height of most Starflowers.

I joined the Board of the Mississippi-Madawaska Land Trust in 2017. This is a charitable organization which seeks to conserve and protect land through agreement and ownership in the Mississippi and Madawaska River valleys of Eastern Ontario. One of our flagship properties is called High Lonesome, which is in the Pakenham Highlands, just to the west of our home in Arnprior, Ontario.

You can learn all of the details here:

High Lonesome Nature Reserve


Above is the new Welcome Centre, built mostly through volunteer contribution.  Below is the crowd gathered for the opening of the Centre, including many of my fellow Board members, and volunteers, and Lolly, Shaun and Amelia's loyal pet.




The ceremony is hosted by Mary (Vice President) and Michael (hard-working former Board member).
And gathering our things, we are off to the cottage at Charlotte Lake, where the dragonflies abound at the end of June. Above, a Chalk-fronted Corporal, Ladona julia.  Below, the first, if not the finest, of many canoe fishing experiences over the month.
The Ottawa Valley is home to a great diversity of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), due to it svaried wetland habitats. It is also home to a diversity of ferns.  The number of species of both of these organisms creates an identification challenge, and also reminds me of the special ecological significance of the place I have chosen to live. Scroll down to sample a few of the living things found around our cottage:
Above is a freshly-minted, just out of the water,  damselfly. Identification of these is a challenge, since this is an immature male Powedered Dancer, Argie svelte which has yet to develop the "powder" that would easily ID him.  Thanks to the WEB, I am able to connect to experts all over North America who helped me.  The Internet CAN be useful!!
This American Toad, (Bufo) Anaxyrus americanus,  rubbed up against something blue.

One of North America's most successful songbirds is the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), which can be found wherever there is a shrub.  I learned on a recent trip to Vancouver Island and the Yukon that western populations of this bird are larger and more reddish brown in colour. There are 24 sub-species of this bird on the continenet. It is well-named, as its songs welcome most of us at dawn in spring.

Yes, I did mention FERNS. Here are the first two of this cottage stay:  the common Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis (so named because it browns and withers at the first hint of frost)
and the less common Cut-leaved Grape Fern, Botrychium dissectum, growing happily just centimetres away from the Sensitive Fern.I could just make out the latter uttering weak complaints about its sturdy neighbour.
Two commonly seen related flowers are the Yellow, Hieracium caespitosum,   and Orange, Hieracium aurantiacum,  Hawkweeds.  Both are European invaders which have found a home here and there.  The field guides say that these tow plants are found in fields and roadsides.  These were growing happily in a rocky area just jup from the shore of the lake.

What is an Ontario cottage without a dock and the impressive Dock or Fishing Spider? There are two species, and even the experts won't try to differentiate them based on a photo: Dolomedes tenebrosus and Dolomedes scriptus.  They are Canada's largest spiders.  On our recent trip to Yukon, two of our friends recounted their life in Canberra, Australia where Donna had an "incident" with the world's largest spider, the Giant Huntsman, which has a legspan of 30 cms. Indeed, authorities in Canberra, upon viewing this particular spider guessed it to be even larger than 30 cms!  No wonder Donna was a bit nervous seeing it in the window.
Another view of the ubiquitous Chalk-fronted Corporal (there were hundreds of them at lakeside at end of June) and another damselfly which illustrates the fun of being a biologist....identifiying these critters!  The BLUE species of Bluet Damselflies are numerous and they look very much alike. Identification of these species requires a close up of the last few segments of the insect. Males and females are easily distinguished. Males of a half dozen species are only distinguished by the shape of their claspers (the very end of the last segment shown here).  I could not make out enough detail, but the experts could and told me that this (next two photos) is likely a male Hagen's Bluet, Enallagma hageni(quite common around marshes and lakes).

A Lancet Clubtail, Gomphus exilis, below, takes a break from chewing on mosquitoes. One of my FAVOURITE experiences, rivalled only by the OPP taking down that idiot who was tail-gating me, is having a Clubtail or other large dragonfly catching a mosquito, or, even BETTER, a DEER fly, and noisily chomping away at it as it rests on my shoulder.
Finally, two more Chalk-fronted Corporals holding down some granite.
More cottage tales next time.