Sunday, March 19, 2006

A brief Report on the OWA AGM 2006 Our Forests our Legacy

Carroll and I attended the 2006 Annual General Meeting of the OWA (Ontario Woodlot Association). This year’s theme title was “Our Forests – Our Legacy” a conference for woodlot owners and managers of Ontario's private forests. It was held on March 18, 2006 in Peterborough, ON.

Some personal observations, I found the talk on “The Value of Natural Capital in Settled Areas of Canada“ particularly interesting. Much of the estimates of the Values were not very rigorously calculated however there were some very good examples given. One is New York City’s dilemma where it has to decide to invest eight billion dollars in a water treatment plant, or invest in protecting green space in the Catskill mountains where the water supply currently originates. The second option examined the cost of encouraging area farms to use natural friendly practices such as natural buffers along watercourses etc. The entire presentation is available on the Internet. If and when I find it I will post the URL here.
There were also many other titbits provided in the other presentations which I will blog post on later.

The Meeting Program as published follows:

Ontario Woodlot Association
13th Annual General Meeting and Woodlot Conference
Our Forests – Our Legacy

You are invited to attend the Ontario Woodlot Association’s annual general meeting and woodlot conference, Our Forests – Our Legacy, to be held on Saturday, March 18, 2006, in Peterborough, Ontario.

Conference Details

This year’s annual general meeting and conference will feature topics that are relevant to woodlot owners and managers from all walks of life. We’ve invited presenters who will capture your imagination and provide you with a range of information about managing your woodlot.

Here are some of the features of this year’s event.

The Value of Natural Capital in Settled Areas of Canada (Jim Anderson, Ducks Unlimited)

Natural areas provide numerous benefits that have economic value, not only for people living near these areas, but also for other communities further away. Natural areas contribute to clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, recreation, biodiversity, erosion control, aesthetics, cultural pursuits, etc. This presentation will provide some insight into a case study where economic estimates of the values of natural areas -- natural capital -- have been developed.

Woodland Amphibians and Vernal Pools (Janine McLeod, Biologist)

Vernal pools are fascinating ecosystems with unique habitat. Fairy shrimp, wood frogs and mole salamanders are some of the species that would not survive without these small, temporary wetlands. Learn what you can do as a landowner to help conserve these important natural niches in your woodlot.

Agroforestry Opportunities for Landowners (Dr. Andrew Gordon, University of Guelph and Neil Thomas, Landowner)

Dr. Andrew Gordon will discuss some of the agroforestry options available to landowners in Ontario. Agroforestry is a way to enhance already productive agricultural operations by providing farmers with a second commodity to grow and harvest -- trees. The second part of this presentation will feature eastern Ontario landowner Neil Thomas who will tell about his personal experience with agroforestry.

Forest Songbirds in Southern Ontario (Erica Nol, Trent University)

Forest songbirds are an integral part of our forest ecosystems. The range and abundance of songbirds is determined to a large extent by the availability of suitable breeding habitat. Come and learn about some of the common forest songbirds found in southern Ontario woodlots, their habitat requirements and some of the pressures impacting their habitat and populations.

Careful Logging Practices (Martin Streit, Upper Canada Forestry Services)

One of the important steps in managing your woodlot (and in maximizing your future financial returns) is to use logging methods that will minimize the damage to residual trees and the site. This presentation will introduce landowners to a variety of careful logging practices that will help protect their woodlots.

When: Saturday, March 18, 2006

Where: Ervinrude Centre, 911 Monaghan Road, Peterborough, ON

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Registration: We are requesting that you pre-register for the conference. To register or to get more information, please call Rhonda at the Ontario Woodlot Association at 1-888-791-1103 ext. #221 or e-mail us at before March 1, 2006.

Registration fee: OWA members $20.00 and non-members $25.00 (includes lunch).

Supporters of this year’s conference include: Ferguson Forest Centre, Model Forest Network, K.H. Kesso & Sons Ltd., Nelson Paint Company of Canada, and the Peterborough County Stewardship Council.

As always, guests are welcome… so bring a friend!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Yellow Birch

There are several mature yellow birches [Betula alleghaniensis Britt.] in the Heartwood woodlot. This tree is located to the north of a clearing in Area C of the Woodlot Management Plan. I have always been fond of the weird and different birch tree. Birches are normally white while this birch is a beautiful coppery bronze.

During my high school years in the late '60's, I lived some 4 kilometres (2½ miles) out in the country west of the Island of Montreal in Quebec. During the winter and right after school and just before supper, I used to regularly step into my snowshoes and traipse out to the woods past the fields behind our house. The snow was typically 60 centimetres (2 feet) deep those days. Being mid winter I would head out when the sun was still up but by the time I was heading home it would be dark.

Armed with a small hand axe, pocket-knife and a few matches, once I reached my sheltered favourite spot in the woods, I would lay down a small mat of criss-crossed branches on top of the snow and build a small campfire upon it. Using the same spot all winter, over time the small fireplace would develop into a large hole in the snow about 2 metres (6 feet) wide. The snow inside this circle would be melted down to the earth layer.

I would place a log on the snow at the edge of the hole to sit on where I would frequently sit and gaze silently into the flame and listen to the crackling of the fire, the snapping of the frozen branches and distant sounds. This was one of my ways of dealing with turbulent teenage and high school years. In later years I remember my mother saying that I always came home relaxed from these walks. I have learnt since that indeed the characteristics of the flicker of a fire are known to be natural rhythms and relaxing and therapeutic to the brain and is recognised as a meditation and relaxation exercise.

The yellow birch bark as with all the other birches provided an excellent fire starter. The ribbons of bark would light even when wet. I would always only remove the loose flags of bark but never injured the core bark of the tree. This made fire starting easy and after a while I was able to start fires at any outside temperature and even in rain. In time you learned tricks such as to use the small dead branches at the base of coniferous trees as kindling. These were usually dry even after a heavy rain.

What I recall of that forest was that the yellow birches tended to be isolated trees among other species. This forest was a sugar bush dominated by the sugar maple [Acer Saccharum] and ash with poplar along the clearing edges. The forest must have been tapped for maple sugar at one time, since there were remains of a sugar cabin in the forest. The remains included a damaged 3 metre (10 feet) long maple sap steaming pan or kettle. This rubble must have already been at least 10 years old and thus dated back to the '50s.

After about an hour I would slowly let the fire die out and head home in the dark, striding back on my snowshoes in the blue glistening snow, which often sparkled in the moon light against the backdrop of the black silhouetted trees. That was all part of the experience.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Second Visit from a not-so-Shy Great Gray

This afternoon, as we drove up our driveway this big staring Owl welcomed us home. It was probably the same Great Gray Owl [Strix Nebulosa] that visited us last weekend. The owl was perched in the tallest Manitoba maple in our back yard. This tree died just this summer but it was for exactly this purpose that I did not take it down. It make a great perch for birds. Anyway, I thought that we would spook the bird as we busily exited the vehicle and entered the house, but instead, I was able to enter the house, return with a camera, take several pictures from up close - about 10 metres (30 ft.) away. We then unloaded the trunk and entered the house. All the while the owl remained unphased and instead attentively inspected all of our activities. Only about 15 minutes later after turning on the dryer – which caused air to blow out of the dryer vent – did the owl disappear. This is the best of the pictures I took.
All winter, we we been broadcasting cracked corn on the snow at the front of our house for the wild turkeys and I suspect that this is likely also attracted field mice, which in turn is attracting this owl.

A Feather on Crusty Snow

Yesterday was a beautiful day with a bright sun and clear blue sky. The air was cool, hovering around the freezing mark, and the mild west wind made the humid air nippy. The snow is not very deep at about 15 cm (half a foot). There is a thick crust of ice on top of old snow and a light wisp of new snow on top of the ice. The wispy layer is blown off the ice in the windy clearings. When walking one noisily breaks through the crust, so any ideas of startling and sighting some wildlife were out. Indeed I did not flush out any wildlife as they were well forewarned by this noisy operation.

This snow and ice strata allowed for easy observing of animal tracks and the dramas told. Snowshoe hare tracks were plentiful as were those of fisher, coyote and fox. There were also some ruffed grouse tracks. The ice layer must make it hard for the herbivores to forage. The snowshoe hares have completely eaten and stripped all the bark from one branch that broke off of a poplar tree along one of the trails. Poplar is not a tasty food so the supply must be getting scarce. Is that possibly why the hares are moving around so much and all the tracks?

Halfway out I came across a handsome feather that fell on the snow. It is pictured above. From the down at the base of the feather it is likely a breast feather and the colour pattern makes me think that it could be form a ruffed grouse; but there is considerably more brown than is typical of a ruffed grouse and it is quite large so it could also be from a hawk or owl.