Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mice, those cursed rodents

There is no shortage of mice in the fields and forests of this woodlot. Our cat leaves us mice part offerings on an almost daily basis during summer and fall. In this picture, the hole in the snow is a ventilation or observation hole for some mice burrowing in the snow. That is likely why we see as many fox and raptors -- that prey on mice -- in this area.

There are a number of varieties of mice in this area.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Invasion of the Common Reed

I had the occasion recently to drive between Quebec City and Montreal and during that drive I was astonished at the continuous growth of Phragmites Australis a.k.a. the Common Reed, for, I would guess, at least 100 solid kilometres. I had to stop the car, get out and take the these pictures of this biological phenomenon. The plant literally coated both sides of the 4 lane highway and the median for many many kilometres without interruption.

Phragmites is a recent but known invasive weed in eastern Ontario. It was first brought to my attention by Fred and Aleta when I visited the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre, located less than half an hour from here. For more on the centre see

My neighbour has a very large 2 to 3 acre pond and its north west shore is covered with the plant. He told me once that he lost balance and fell into the weed and its was so sturdy that it broke his fall and held him up.

Around here there appears to be two types of Phragmites. There is the dark very thick tassel variety and a silky white thinner tassel variety. The dark tassel appears notably more invasive in that its stands are typically large and dense and like the type pictured here. The white variant appears to be much less aggressive in its growth and not as dense. The white variety is also often seen as a landscaping plant now in the suburban gardens of Ottawa.

For a fairly thorough study of the plant see:

In a later post, I hope to compare pictures of both types side-by-side.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The ever busy Bumblebee

The bumblebees pictured here characteristically have the dark shiny hump on their backs. There was a citizen article that described a parasite of the Bumblebee which seemed to have a similar appearance. Every bumblebee seen here have that same characteristic hump.

False Dragonhead or Obedient Plant

Found this lovely flower growing along our driveway[Physostegia virginiana]. It turns out to be False Dragonhead or Obedient plant. It is growing among other tall plants including grasses and golden rod.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

An Trillium Fruit

During my butternut survey I found a couple of trilliums as pictured here with a red fruit. At first by the leaves one would guess possibly a Jack-in-the-Pulpit but its fruit is a cluster of red berries. After considerable research-- there is lots about the flower but not much about the fruit -- I have determined that it is definitely the fruit of a trillium. According to the internet literature the fruit body actually contains many seeds. In nature the fruit over time would drop to the ground and ants would then excavate into the fruit and take the seeds back to their nests; hence carry out one of the trilliums means of propagation in nature.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Natural Butternut Tree near our Residence

I have prepared a new blog to track the lovely natural butternut tree nearby. Click on the title.

Update and wrap up of Canker Resistant Butternut Report

Completed observing and logging the position and condition of the remaining unreported butternut trees.

Status of each tree can be found at separate blogs as follows.

Tree #1 is planted in field area i and can be found at:
Tree #2 is at
Tree #7 is found and reported at

- 30 -

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Follow up Inspection of Canker Resistant Butternuts

There was some unfinished business to attend to. Some of the trees still had to be tagged and I found that some of the geographic coordinates were inaccurate.

Also I found tree number seven so this means we have a 9 out of 10 survival rate.

I will be updating each of the individual tree blogs.

I also found additional butternut trees for which I will be creating individual blogs as well. It is becoming apparent that I will have quite a time tracking all the blogs.

How to conveniently label trees

To uniquely label special and noteworthy trees in the woodlot and to track them with a blog they need to be labeled. The label has to be durable enough to last many years. I thought that a plastic square cut from a Javex bleach bottle, or joghurt tub might do. After all these plastic bottles are known to last for up to 30 years in a landfill. The identification information would then be marked on it with an indelible marker. I noticed however that the permanent markers will fade completely when exposed to the sun after only one season. So instead I found the aluminum cat food can lid quite suitable and there is a plentiful supply. Using a punch set - bought from Princess Auto and hoping one day to find a use for it - I could punch the tree code on the lid. I could then tie this to the tree trunk while it is still small with a bit of wire or screw it into the trunk when it is larger. Aluminum corrodes very slowly and will last much longer than 30 years and more like 50 years.

Survey of Canker Resistant Butternut Trees

I visited six of the butternut trees today, took measurements, and tagged them.
Of the trees all survived the summer except: Tree #3 was uprooted and Tree #7 was not found today but may still be healthy and alive.
I still have to measure and report on trees #1 & 2.
For the remaining healthy and measured trees I have created blogs as follows:

Visit these sites to view photographs, geographic coordinates or pictures of the subject trees.
Not all photographs are posted yet.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

New Blog for Butternut Tree CRB1I

This is the first of the butternut trees that are confirmed to have survived the planting and the summer. The code CRB1I for numbering tree means Canker Resistant Butternut #1 in Area I of our woodlot. Click on title to see the blog.

George and Sean Planted the Black Walnut

The Walnut tree has survived the trip to Campbellton. In this picture, see link, my Grandson Sean and Father-in-law /good friend George are planting the tree.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

More about the Black Walnut

At the end of the woodlot tour on Lalandes property, which was held on October 14th, 2006, one of the members was giving away walnuts that he collected from a tree on his property. He gave use about 50 walnuts, which I planned to plant here at Heartwood.

In the mean time we had the nuts stored in a basket outside, and by the time we were ready for planting on December 24th 2006 -- it was a very mild fall -- the squirrels had raided the basket and left us with 36.

We laid out a 6 metre by 6 metre grid and planted the nuts at each one metre intersection. The ground was very soft and wet so to plant them we simply pushed the nut into the ground with the heel of our boots.

Next spring 7 of the nuts sprouted. I cut squares out of old carpet and cut a slit from the middle out and placed the carpets around the nuts that survived. This was to control the weeds around them which worked very well.

The following year we had 14. Yay! seven more nuts sprouted. So what are we going to do with them all?

The previous trees did not do so well and were late putting out leaves. From this website I see now that it might be the high moisture that has delayed the trees. We have had a record number of rainy days this year in this area.

The referenced website also describes the process for transplanting walnuts. It appears that the nut produces a large tap root, so one can not wait too long to transplant them. They should be less than one metre (3 feet) tall. I might have another year yet since these seedlings are only about half a metre (16in.) tall.

This weekend I potted one of the walnuts as a gift for my father in-law who lives in northern New Brunswick. Some members of my family were going up to see him and took it with them. It is much colder up there and the winters are much longer. We are already at the northern edge of the Walnut habitat. I wonder how it will do.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Regarding Walnut and Butternut Toxicity

There is an excellent article provided by the Purdue University on this subject at:

Monday, May 05, 2008

Canker Resistant Butternut Tree Planting

As part of the Butternut Recovery Program, I accepted delivery and planted 10 butternut trees that are selected as being resistant to the butternut Canker. These were planted today. I will report on them again near the end of summer.

Friday, April 11, 2008


This Warning affects our area and is a result of the exceptional amout of snow we received this winter.

Local rivers and streams in the Rideau Valley peaked overnight; however, today’s precipitation will extend the peak flows over the next 24 to 36 hours. If most of the precipitation falls as expected by midnight Friday, water level could increase again, rising as much as another 15 to 25 centimetres (6 to 10 inches) above current water levels in flood vulnerable areas.

Thursday night’s peak was close to “1 in 5 year” spring flood levels — which means there is a 20% chance, each and every spring, of these conditions being reached or exceeded as a result of snowmelt and rainfall runoff.

High water conditions can be expected to persist for several days.

The snow cover is largely, but not yet entirely, gone from open areas. Forested areas of the watershed continue to hold snow.

Environment Canada weather forecasters advise that up to 20 mm of mixed precipitation can be expected in our region over the next 48 hours, most of it falling between noon and midnight today.

This Flood Warning will be terminated when rivers and streams have crested and there is no significant rainfall in the short-term.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A walk ON the snow

This is a record year for snow. According to the weather channel, we are around 35 cm. (~14 in.) short of reaching the record of the winter of 1970-1971 which was 444 cm. (~14.5 ft.) Trudging through the bush has been quite a work out even on snowshoes. About a week later we had some heavy thawing followed by a freeze so the snow has become rock solid, though still not solid enough to walk on. The boots still go down a good 50 cm into the snow. But on snowshoes it is like walking on solid ground.

Being so high – I would say about a metre ( 3 feet) above the ground, the paths are virtually not recognizable. What one was able to walk under at ground level when there is no snow is now a mere crawl space. But on the plus side I can walk right over much of the brush.

One would suspect that the deep snow would be hard on wildlife as it tries to forage for food. Indeed there were no deer tracks to be found so the deer that have survived have likely moved to their “deer yards” – protected areas where the deer keep paths open and where there may be some food. When desperate enough, deer are known to eat cedar and there is lots of cedar in this area.

The snowshoe hare seems to be doing ok, as there were a number of their tracks to be found. Also there are very many fisher tracks. There were no coyote tracks. I was advised that a neighbour has been shooting them.

In this morning’s walk I found a new butternut tree in the woodlot which I will add to my database. I have walked by it before but never identified it. It must look different when one is standing a metre off the ground.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Butternut Blogs

In this area, butternut trees are becoming endangered due to a fungus that is killing off many of our trees. There is considerable interest now to find and track butternut trees that exhibit a resistance to this disease. Just under 20 butternut trees have been identified on this property and there are likely a few more. To enable the tracking of the progress of individual trees, I intend to create a blog for each individual butternut tree that I am aware of in this woodlot. I will identify each tree by a code. The code will start with a letter which denotes the area or zone in the woodlot management plan and then number the trees in the order that they are found. For each tree I will attempt to post a picture of that tree at least once a year. I will also from time to time take a measurement of the tree being the height and the DBH diameter. I will pay particular attention to scars on the tree or any signs of disease.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Visit from a Cottontail

Being the early bird or morning lark, just after I get up, I often will take a quick look through the windows outside in the dark before I turn the lights on and consequently scare off any wildlife that may have ventured near the house. For the last couple of mornings I have witnessed a small bunny eating the cracked corn that I have spread out on top of the snow near the bird feeder. This is likely an eastern cottontail [Sylvilagus floridanus] the only wild rabbit common to this area. The only other similar species here is the ever common snowshoe hare [Lepus americanus] which is technically a hare, not a rabbit. The snowshoe however in winter changes to a white coat thus clearly distinguishing it from the cottontail at this time of year.