Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our Very Own Vernal Pool

If it wasn't for a lecture at one of the Ontario Woodlot Association meetings, I would likely never have found out about the vernal pool. Vernal is commonly used since these pools typically fill up in spring from snow melt and runoff. The pool in this picture is definitely vernal, since by summer time it will be completely dry.

The periodic drying up of the pool is what makes this pool special. It will not support fish and other predators which allows certain woodland creatures to lay eggs etc in relative safety. Next time I am back to this spot I will wear some rubber boots which will allow me to wade in a ways to observe the pool from a closer vantage point. These sneakers were keeping me away and confined to high and dry ground.

It would be interesting to see some salamanders. The only such amphibian I have ever seen was the quite common redbacked salamander up on the mountain in Ile Perrot where I grew up west of Montreal Quebec.

Dust to dust (What is left of Lefty)

In my short evening walk today I found the skeletal remains of Lefty, the porcupine that died near my house. I had reported on this porcupine in several earlier posts. I called it lefty because it had broken one of its toes on its left front paw and the bone had reset with the toe pointing up. It was easy this way to identify Lefty even way up in a tree. Being so close to the house I grabbed some rubber gloves and picked up the carcass and moved it to a spot further inside the woodlot and away from our trails. The plan was of course to let the wild predators have at it. Oddly enough, this carcass, unlike others, was never preyed upon. I gather that the turkey vulture did not like to feed on carrion located in the woods since it is less safe than in a clearing. The coyotes, raccoons etc. possibly were wary of my scent on it.

I recall when I carried the carcass that one of the needles went right through the glove and into my finger. It was a strange feeling trying to pull the needle out. It stuck like glue. Apparently the barbs on the needles are extremely fine and barely visible even under a regular microscope. There was no easy way to pull it out but mere force. It drew no blood and never festered so all was well.

In the photo, the skull is clearly visible as well as a smattering of odd bones. Maybe the animals did get into it after all since the bones dispersed over time. And the rest went back to the earth whence it came.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Turkey Vulture and Global Warming

On my way to a friend's cottage at White Lake, Ontario, I drove by this field where I spotted a crow and several turkey vultures [Cathartes aura] huddled around this dark object. By the time I opened the car window and had the camera ready the crow had flown away. These vultures were feeding on the carcass of a fairly large raccoon that the right-most vulture, in the picture, is standing on.

My first bird book, Birds of North America, Robbins, Bruun, and Zim, (1966) showed the range of the Turkey Vulture to be no farther north than a latitude of the middle of Lake Erie or about 400 km (250 mi.) south of here. As a youth and active birdwatcher back in the 60's and 70's I had never witnessed a Turkey Vulture anywhere in the area around Montreal where I grew up. The newer bird books -- and I referred to four; Stokes, Royal Ontario Museum, Kaufman and Sibley -- consistently show the Turkey Vulture range is now well north of North Bay, Ontario to a point over 200 km (125 mi.) north of here. I have personally seen them as far north as Otter Lake, Quebec on one of my drives there. I would say that this is real evidence of global temperature change wouldn't you say?