Saturday, February 26, 2005

Ontario Woodlot Association Conference and Annual General Meeting

Today Carroll and I attended the OWA Conference and AGM in Acton Ontario. Acton is a lovely small town just west of Toronto. The conference consisted of five presentations.

The first was entitled Land Trusts and Conservation Easements. I found it interesting as is spoke about the legal vehicles that exist by which one can ensure that one’s property is preserved in a particular way with certain conditions. For example a common wish is to conserve the property for perpetuity. This usually means that an agreement is established with a recipient stewardship organisation such as Ducks Unlimited or the Nature Conservancy.

Several excellent examples i.e. Mud Lake in or near Oak Ridges Moraine north of Toronto were presented.

It was an interesting talk since the content was well balanced and realistic demonstrating the advantages i.e. potential income tax benefits etc. as well as the risks.

The second paper was on Tree Marking. By Martin Streit of Domtar, Cornwall (soon to close apparently).
This was a very practical and informative session. It was basically an introduction to forestry practices and touched upon what I would call rules of thumb about timber harvesting. It was an ideal paper for the small woodlot owner who would not normally be able to hire a forester.

The third presentation was about Old Growth Forests presented by a very enthusiastic Bruce Kershner, Botanist from Manhattan who has been studying and seeking old growth trees for over 20 years. Near Niagara Falls he found 280 year old trees in Clifton Hills. As we go north we tend to find more old growth trees. He distinguished primary old growth from secondary, secondary being forests than have grown where land was once settled. He found OG pine trees that generated seed that grew faster and healthier than seed from younger trees, leading to the argument that preserving OG protects the gene pool and also has economic benefits.

The fourth presentation was entitled Building a Case for Sustainable Management of Private Woodlands.
This was quite revealing with the most prominent point being that a well managed forest can provide considerably more income per acre per year than farming. Several actual case studies were presented and the economics of each woodlots harvest compared to comparable farms in the area.

The fifth and last session was on Forest Health. The more prominent recent pests and diseases were presented. These included:
The emerald ash borer – a devastating pest to all ash trees, of which I have many
The Long horned beetle
Pine shoot beetle
Beech Bark disease
Hickory Bark beetle,
Pine false webworm
Spruce budworm,
Redhumped Oakworm
Ash anthiacnose (spelling not sure)
And the Butternut Canker.

The conference and AGM was interesting with a very good turn out, apparently more than in previous years.

There you have it. Carroll and I took Friday off to travel down and made a long weekend of it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Turkey's and local seed supplies.

We had the pleasure of another visit of 12 turkeys. This is great - the numbers are increasing. Last year it was 8, now we have 12. In the past we were not able to discern any males among them, but this year there is definitely one tom with the characteristic "beard". This beard is a rather odd looking tuft of stiff thick hairs , sort of like the tip of a big paintbrush. He is also quite a bit larger than the others whom I presume are all hens. The turkeys love the cracked corn that we spread out on the snow for them.

We used to get our birdseed, - usually sunflower seeds and cracked corn - from a local feed store called Agri-West in North Gower, about 6 km distant, but unfortunately it is now permanently closed. The Agri-West store in Kemptville has also been closed but was bought out by a new owner so the service is still there, but 16 km away. A 50lb bag (yes this was still measured out in imperial units) of black sunflower seeds is a reasonable $19.95 ea. Fifty lbs is 22.73 kg. Now a 40KG. (88lb.) of cracked corn is $9.65. We found that these two types of seed were the most popular with the birds so we do not buy the mixes anymore since many of the other seeds remain behind in the feeder.

For the best price in town for these two seeds see Kemptville Feed & Seed Ltd. 306 Van Buren St. Kemptville, ON, K0G 1J0. (613) 258-0585.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Gray Owls In Wisconsin

My thirteenth cousin, - yes that is true, found this out through a genealogy study on the internet - and name sake, brought to my attention this link to an interesting website describing the unusually high number of sightings of the subject owls in Wisconsin and the reason for this unusual migration.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Grey Coloured Owl

Arriving into a clearing in area 10A I heard an owl launch from a branch, that is I could hear the claws releasing the branch - it may be that it was attempting to turn on its perch to fly in a direction away from me. Once aloft it flew ever so silently away. The body was a noticeable and strikingly even grey. It was too far away to detect any better detail. The body was about 30 cm (1 foot) long but other than that there was insufficient information to confirm which species it was. I have heard that there have been more than normal sightings of Great Grey Owls in the area. The Great Grey was previously quite uncommon in this area 20 odd years ago and existed in more northern latitudes in western Canada.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Large Tooth Aspen

Huge aspens heavily wood the areas 10A and 10B at the very back of the property right next to the swamp. There are many fallen trees that have either blown over and have most of their roots pulled out of the ground or have the trunks snapped off. These create many obstructions and make the area quite difficult to walk through. The diameters of these trees are quite considerable. I released a white spruce by cutting one of these giants. With the setting sun I had to quit for the day, and tomorrow I plan to return and get the age of the tree by counting the rings and measure the length; and yet this was not the tallest of the trees - others were easily 6 metres (20 feet) taller. It seems that once trees reach a certain size then tend to slow down in growth in crown and height. These trees tend to exhibit an increase in girth and yet have a very small size for its canopy, as did this tree.

I was puzzled as to why there were almost all aspens in this area and no maple trees. There is one huge maple tree in the 10D area that is extraordinarily large in girth and very tall. This maple was noticeably tapered while the aspens tended to maintain the smaller decrease in girth with the height. One would think that this maple tree would have provided a suitable seed source for the area. According to a forester this is likely that a past farmer on this land had let his cattle graze in the forest. Since maple shoots are sweet and poplars bitter, the maples were selectively picked while the poplars remained untouched. This would be a prime example of unintentional genetic cleansing.

So with yellow hardhat, goggles, ear protectors, trusty Model 026 Stihl Chainsaw, and steel-toed boots, off I went clearing several hundred metres of trail along the snake rail fence I was at last weekend, as well as in the back. The back area remains very difficult to walk through for the dense underbrush made up of mainly glossy and European Buckthorn, and some ash saplings.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Sensitive Fern and Hoarfrost

In area block D10, picked some fertile leaves (also called frondes) of the Sensitive Fern, [Onoclea sensibilis L.] that were sticking out of the snow. The ferns have either infertile or fertile leaves. Infertile would be like regular leaves of any plant, and the fertile leaves are like a seedpod but in this case bearing spores rather than seeds. Indeed this " fertile leaf" which looks more like a brown stick with a bunch of beads stuck to its branches in rows. It drops small brown specks, which can be seen when taped onto a sheet of white paper. I presume that these are spores.

This morning we have ice fog that leaves hoarfrost on all the trees. Looks like lacework among the branches, quite beautiful really. I imagine that this is caused by high humidity, and indeed it is currently at around 95% relative humidity outside, and the temperature well below the freezing mark which is now at –10 degrees Celsius or 14 Fahrenheit.
For an example of hoarfrost that is very similar to what we are looking at today see:

Reference: A Field Guide to the Ferns and Their Related Families of Northeastern and Central North America with a section on species also found in the British Isles and Western Europe by Boughton Cobb, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1963.
This is Number 10 in the Peterson Field Guide Series at the time of printing.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Speckled Alder and Cattails

Took a walk all the way to the far property line, which is across the old riverbed. This is area D10 in the grid plan described earlier. The whole area is frozen over and thus easy to walk. The snow was only about 4 to 6 cm (2-3 in.) deep over the ice. The entire river bed section that I walked was covered in cattails which indicates that the swamp is shallow. Cattails do not tend to grow in deep water. I also came across speckled alder [Alnus incana ssp. rugosa] along the shoreline where the water is too deep for the buckthorn. Otherwise buckthorn tended to dominate. Came across tracks in the snow of man [Homo sapiens] on foot following the shoreline of the swamp. There were two sets of tracks and one was much larger than the other.

Came across frequent Fisher tracks even near our house right up to the bird feeder wich is no more than a dozen metres from our door. It was probably in pursuit of the red squirrel that enjoys the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder. There is still one red squirrel feeding today, so it is one (life) for the squirrel and zero (meals) for the fisher, this time.