Thursday, December 28, 2006

Muskrat Town

During my walk on the the ice-covered marsh several weeks ago I came across at least two dozen muskrat houses or lodges all located fairly close together. This is only what I witnessed on my short walk so there are likely many more. In past years the lodges were few possibly because the water level was much lower. In fact there was very little if any open water and mostly bog. The water must be at least a 30 cm. [1 foot] higher now allowing for all this open water and now ice.

The muskrat [Ondatra zibethicus] is a very large rodent and according to there can be as many as a dozen inhabitants in one of these lodges. If this is so then there could be over several hundred individual muskrats in this marsh area.

Several years ago I blogged that I trapped, or rather cornered, a fisher - a very large member of the weasel family - up a tree. The tree looked over open water and I did see a muskrat swiming in it. It would seem that the fisher was then stalking the muskrat.

Although an omnivor - eats both plants and animals - the muskrat is mainly a herbivor and thrives best on cattails of which there are many as you can see in the picture.

With respect to the food chain it is obvious from the many internet websites that the muskrat is prey for a large number of predators as is the snowshoe hare.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Swamp Rose.

A couple of weeks ago we had a relative cold snap where the temperatures plummeted to minus 15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) for the entire night. Next morning there was also a light dusting of snow on the ground so I thought that this would be an ideal time to walk the woods to seek out some animal tracks, but alas none were found. The temperatures dropped enough mind you to freeze the ice on marsh at the back of the property; solid enough to allow me to walk on. There was nary a crack in the ice other than right next to shore where there was some running water.

While walking on the marsh ice I found a rose as pictured here. According to “Shrubs of Ontario” by Soper and Heimburger ISBN 0-88854-283-6, published by the Royal Ontario Museum, 1982, this is the Swamp Rose [Rosa palustris Marsh] and its range includes all of Southern Ontario. According to various websites it is also common in all of eastern United States, southern Quebec and the Maritimes.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Stores for the Red Squirrel

This is the second year now that I have witnessed these small piles of Sw (white spruce) cones throughout the forest under the Sw tree of course. It is a rather unusual sight. I know that when we lived in town we had black squirrels that contributed immensely to the random planting of crocus and tulip bulbs, chestnuts, and acorns, as they cached their winter supplies. There was no other explanation for how the tulips and crocuses grew among our bushes. I have yet to figure out how these rodents ever found their hidden treasures. The numbers of successfully sprouted tulips would belie that they were not that successful.

The only settled tree dwellers found here are red squirrels [Tamiasciurus hudsonicus] who regularly chatter and chirp as they announce to all other forest dwellers your imminent arrival. There was once a black squirrel seen on the property but I am guessing that the food supply for it was not sufficiently abundant. It seems that the black squirrel, - which is actually a black phase of the eastern gray squirrel [Sciurus carolinensis], according to Burt and Grossenheider* - is only interested in “The big sugar” provided by bird feeds in the suburbs and not this paltry fare of the native forest.

So these small piles of cones must be the work of red squirrels as they set up their winter food caches. This squirrel must also have regular eating places. One will often find piles of cone shucks under a tree or on a prominent rock.

The range of the Red Squirrel tends to be to the north and west of here whereas the Grey or Gray Squirrel ranges south down all the way to Florida.

Burt and Grossenheider, “A Field Guide to The Mammals, 1964, The Peterson Field Guide Series, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Greeting Cards are Available with FSC Certified Stock

We recently received junk mail from a charity that included ‘free’ greeting cards. The cards had the FSC Mark on them which looks like the mark pictured here. This is great news and also very important news. We – you and I – can now choose to buy card stock that originates from properly managed woodlots and through an approved chain of custody. It also encourages us certified woodlot owners to continue this practice and helps sell the concept to the other more sceptic or uninformed woodlot owners.

We, greeting card consumers can now opt to make one more purchasing decision that will protect the environment for our future generations – our grandchildren.

You are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. Here is an opportunity to be part of the solution.

When you look under the symbol on the cards you will see a certification code. For example the card that we happened to receive had the certificate code: sw-coc-1356. I am guessing that SW stands for Smartwood. COC stands for chain of custody. If one looks up this code on you will find out that the card was printed by Primrose Printing Inc. O/A as Allegra Print & Imaging, located at 278 Albert Street Ottawa, Ontario K1P_5G8, Canada.

We should patronise these companies.

The interesting fact is that the FSC site is an international organisation. Participants include countries with rainforests like Bolivia.