Friday, December 30, 2005

Glistening Ash Trees

With the cooling weather, mother nature is again decorating our trees and just on time for Christmas. This photo is of the tops of a grove of very tall ash trees can be seen from our house. This photo was taken in the morning from our house looking east into the sun. This type of ice coating could be seen on trees throughout the entire area. On that morning we drove through the countryside to Vars where we caught the highway 417 on our way to New Brunswick. We could still see the same decorations for a good 50 kilometres (30 mi.) away from home.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Return of the Snow Buntings

Just this week while driving home I was fortunate to observe several large flocks of snow buntings [Plectrophenax nivalis] out in the open fields near here. They were around last winter too but appear to be more abundant this year that before. Back the 70’s when I was posted in the Arctic I frequently observed them there during the summer. According to the literature in winter they come down to these latitudes almost right across North America. They have a very white patch on their wings which is very visible as they swirl over the fields. I could see them land in areas where the snow layer is thin and usually wind swept, presumably to feed on the seeds exposed on the bare earth. They are quite the site to see.

Friday, December 09, 2005

American Bittersweet

In earlier posts I mentioned finding several occurrences of a vine along the northern woodlot boundary next to the snake fence. The vine is very woody and it spirals clockwise up around tree saplings. The identification of the vine from the ground was difficult up to now because they reached up at least 10 metres (30 feet) and well into the canopy before it produced any leaves or flowers or berries. The leaves were also hidden by tree foliage. There are at least two relatively large vines with a base trunk diameter of nearly 3 cm. (one inch plus). The vine wraps around the trunk of the trees and in many cases the host tree died from mere physical strangulation. The vine trunk has a characteristically grey and relatively smooth bark.

During my walk in the clearing area G at the north-eastern corner of the woodlot I found American Bittersweet [Celastrus scandens L] which I was able to positively identify by its beautiful red berries and orange shells which (according to the various websites), is only produced by the female plant. I would venture to say that the woody trunk of this plant was identical in description to the vines noted above. I feel quite confident that the above vines are also American bittersweet.

Years ago while we were still preteens, my mother would take my bother and me, for walks in the woods. In a forest across what was then the old #2 highway (today it is the 2 and 20), and also across the CN and CP railway tracks which ran parallel to the highway – we found one patch of bushes that had berries just like these. I remember fondly how our mother used them with coniferous boughs to make beautiful Christmas wreaths. I recall though that these plants appeared to grow as bushes and not vines like those above.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Remnants of the BA British American Oil Company in the Woodlot

During my visit to Area G in the woodlot, I found several rusty oil cans. I thought then that if I was able to determine the dates of the oil cans I would be able to establish when much of the logging activity was carried out. It also would help date the age of the new tree growth.

On several of the oil cans I was able to make out the familiar-to-me BA symbol which stood for the British American Oil Company. The symbol was very familiar to me since as a youth we lived right next to a BA Gas Station in the Montreal outskirts. During our hot summer vacation days, my brother and I often washed car windshields and pumped gas there as volunteers anxiously anticipating a 10-cent tip. We usually made enough for an ice cream at the Dairy Queen which was several miles down the highway. So after making enough money for an ice cream my brother and I would bicycle off for our reward of our labours.

In the interest of dating the cans, I web-browsed and found an interesting and pleasantly designed website about BA memorabilia. I particularly liked the historical essay of BA. To cut to the chase, BA was bought out by Gulf Canada and continued under the same name until 1969 when the Gulf Canada name replaced the BA symbol. Gulf Canada later became Petro Canada which still exists today.

So we can now safely estimate that Area G was logged for its cedar trees before 1969.